RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

3 Tips from the Rich to Build Wealth

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


The overwhelming majority of affluent Americans accumulated their wealth not through inheritance, as is commonly believed, but through earned income and investments.

The financial editors at Money Magazine recently interviewed a sample of well-off individuals, coming up with three universal tips that may help average folks to build wealth:

1. Get There Slowly – While some attained wealth fairly quickly by starting the right business at the right time (or developing a killer app), most entrepreneurs say you can amass the better part of $1 million if you start to earn at a young age and remain persistent about saving for the long haul.

A 25-year-old beginning at $40,000 a year, for instance, who gets 2 percent annual raises and contributes 12 percent of his/her salary each year to a 401(k), would end up with an account worth more than $1 million at age 65, assuming a 6 percent annual return and an employer match of 3 percent per year.

2. Stick with the Basics – Many wealthy people own non-traditional investments, including hedge funds, timberland, and art, but when they were asked by Money how they made their greatest investment gains, 89 percent said traditional stocks and bonds.

3. Don’t Try to Out-Guess the Market – With pundits constantly predicting which stocks are heading up or down and which sectors will sizzle or fizzle, it’s easy to get the impression that success lies in shrewdly shifting your money around. The majority of the rich don’t buy that.

Just 14 percent asked by Money said they made the bulk of their investment gains by timing the market; the other 86 percent credited their success to good old buy-and-hold investing. They key, they said, is investing in a diversified mix of stocks and bonds, and riding the long-term upward sweep of the market.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Apply for Disaster Assistance

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


Homeowners recovering from the effects of a disaster may be eligible to receive assistance funds from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Generally, these funds may be used to assist with financing home repairs, moving costs, rental or temporary housing, and more.

To be considered, those seeking assistance must register through FEMA. Applying for assistance is free, and registration is open to those with and without insurance.

Registration can be completed online at DisasterAssistance.gov, by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or at a local disaster recovery center.

Applicants who have been granted assistance will be notified by FEMA through letter, and receive funds either by check or direct deposit. The letter will explain how the funds may be spent. The funds should not be used beyond their intended purpose—if they are, the grantee may be denied funds in the future, and may even be liable for repayment.

FEMA advises keeping all receipts related to spending of the granted funds for at least three years. If the applicant’s insurer later covers the expenses already paid for by FEMA funds, the grantee must reimburse FEMA.

Beyond housing needs, grantees are generally permitted to spend FEMA funds on medical care for a disaster-related injury, “necessary educational materials” and repair or replacement of a “flooded essential vehicle.”

Source: U.S. Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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All in the Family: Boomer Parents House Boomerang Kids

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


Moving back home to live with parents after college no longer carries a stigma.

Boomers housing boomerang kids is the new normal, says blogger Mary Quigley in a recent AARP.org feature on the subject. Quigley cites one survey that found millennials believe it’s acceptable to live with parents for up to five years after completing college.

Mary Dell Harrington, another blogger featured in the AARP story, says the recession made moving home a necessity for unemployed college graduates, many of which continued to return to their folks’ homes after the recession receded. Harrington believes there's a “great practicality” to moving home, especially in high-rent urban areas.

I fall under both boomer and boomerang kid categories, having been born in the '60s and returned to live with, care for, and eventually take on my parents' pride-and-joy historic home. Boomers tend to re-establish independence once children leave the nest, so the prospect of welcoming back one or more “boomerangs” may be daunting.

Blogger Christina Newberry, also featured in the AARP piece, urges boomer parents to have an honest discussion with their adult children before they return or soon thereafter, as well as to draw up an actual contract about expectations. (A contract template is available on her website, AdultChildrenLivingatHome.com.)

Among the points for discussion, says Newberry:

Curfews and Privacy – Will he/she come and go as he/she pleases? Will you keep tabs on where he/she's going? What about overnight guests?

Expenses – Who pays for food, especially if the young adult wants a vegan, organic or other specialized diet? What about cell phones, cable TV, dry cleaning and gas?

Financial Contributions – If the grad has a job, will he/she pay rent? If not, will he/she get part-time work while looking for employment to pay rent and/or living expenses?

Length of Stay – What's the expectation—a few months? A year?

Responsibilities – Will he/she help with cleaning, errands, laundry or carpooling younger siblings?

The end goal, Newberry says, is not to kick them out as soon as possible, but to get them to the point where they're ready to leave.

For more resources on boomerang parenting, visit AARP.org.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Vacationers: Protect Your Dream Trip with Travel Insurance

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Vacation…it’s all we ever wanted!

Nearly $90 billion will be spent on vacations this summer, with the average trip—defined as a one-week leisure excursion at least 100 miles from home—costing travelers $1,798.

Time off is worth every penny—according to the Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, many individuals not only believe a vacation is important, but also feel confident that they can afford one. Most vacationers, the Index found, are allocating their budgets for one memorable getaway, rather than spreading the spend over several trips.

The Index revealed a “Vacation Deficit,” as well—the percentage of individuals who believe a vacation is important but do not feel confident they’ll be able to take one. The Deficit is slightly up this year compared to last.

Those spending more on one dream vacation this summer should consider budgeting for travel insurance, says Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

“With vacation spending up, travel insurance should be near the top of the trip planning checklist,” Durazo said in a statement. “The right travel insurance policy will protect a consumer's pre-paid travel expenses when they have to cancel their trip due to certain unexpected situations, such as a covered illness or injury, and will provide reimbursements for things like medical emergencies, delayed travel and lost or delayed baggage.”

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Not to Buy at Home Improvement Stores

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Many shoppers assume large home improvement stores have the best prices—and they often do, on some products. But not on everything, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com.

According to Shelton, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will net you savings on big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and home repair or remodeling products. A one-stop shopping trip to these stores, however, can do the opposite, Shelton says.

Better buys are available at stores like Costco, Target, Walmart—or online—in these five categories:

Batteries – The proof is in the savings. FatWallet.com data show Costco was selling a 40-battery, 2-pack of AA Duracells for $14.99 (less than 38 cents per battery), while Home Depot’s offering was limited to a 10-pack selling at $7.98 (nearly 80 cents per battery), and Lowe’s a 24-pack for $12.47 (nearly 52 cents per battery).

Cleaning Supplies – It’s tempting to pick up cleaning supplies along with paint and nails at a home improvement store, but products like Clorox wipes or floor cleaner are almost always cheaper at the regular big-box stores. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, for instance, was $10 at Home Depot and Lowe’s, compared to $8.50 at Walmart. Big-box stores also often carry generic alternatives that cost even less, Shelton adds.

Home Décor – If you’re looking for rugs, picture frames, wall art or other décor items, make the trip to stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross. Case in point: Shelton found the same framed piece of art for $31 at Home Depot, $22 at Home Goods.

Small Appliances – Unless they’re on sale at a home improvement store, small appliances like food processors or microwaves are a better buy at any of the warehouse stores or online, where the selection is often bigger. Shelton recommends Amazon.com for these purchases.

Grilling Accessories – Online retailers are your best bet for grilling accessories. A Chef Buddy 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Toolset, for example, came in at $35.22 at Home Depot and $24.95 on Amazon.com, according to FatWallet.com data.

For more savvy shopper secrets for homeowners, visit FatWallet.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buying a Home for the First Time? What You Should Know About Warranties

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period—often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work—a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional—he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dips, Sips and Spills: The Secret Lives of Partygoers

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Every partygoer’s broken the rules of party-dom at one time or another. Turns out, a lot of us have secretly committed a party no-no at gatherings with our families and friends:

• One in four people in a recent poll by Boxed Wholesale admitted to double-dipping chips and crudités at a party. I dip, you dip, we all dip!

• More than one-fifth of people in that same poll admitted to spilling a drink on the floor at a party and not cleaning it up. Classic spill-and-run.

• Forty percent of people in the poll admitted to wiping their hands on something other than a napkin at a party. Caught orange-handed!

• Close to one-third of people in the poll admitted to drinking out of a cup they weren’t sure was their own. Let’s…raise our glasses?

Thankfully, these faux pas haven’t broken us of habits like bringing the host a gift, helping clean up and sending a thank-you note, according to the poll. Courtesies still exist!

Source: Boxed Wholesale
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Living Comfortably in These Cities Will Cost You

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Hankering to wing off to Worcester, or relocate to Rochester? Wherever you’re considering moving, it’s important to know whether your income can sustain a “comfortable” life there.

Finder.com recently crunched the numbers to determine just that in close to 80 cities around the country.

Among the key findings of Finder.com’s analysis—and shocking no one—is San Francisco, Calif. at No. 1, requiring the highest salary of all the cities analyzed, and Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose in the top 10. In these cities, the salary required to obtain a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required for mortgage payments, average debt and average expenditures.

The salary needed to live comfortably in San Francisco, according to the analysis, is $180,600—the average home in the Golden Gate City costs $1,119,500. In Los Angeles, the salary needed to live comfortably is $90,244; in San Jose, $129,864.

The city with the lowest salary requirement is Jackson, Miss., where residents can live comfortably for $43,265.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the average salary was $52,250 in 2013. In the Finder.com analysis, this figure is sufficient income to live in 36 of the 78 cities analyzed.

For its analysis, Finder.com defined living “comfortably” as:

• Having the ability to purchase an average home (with a 20 percent down payment);
• Having the ability to cover average per-person expenditures; and
• Having the ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt.

Using those controls, Finder.com analyzed factors such as the state’s median home price, average interest rate for a 30-year, 20-percent-down mortgage, and average non-housing expenditure.

To learn income requirements for a comfortable life in your desired city, visit Finder.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Behind the Gates? Higher-Priced Homes

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Homeowners behind gates can expect an average $30,000 more for their home come sale—a premium, however, that can be offset by costly community amenities, according to research from the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The premium is due to actual and perceived benefits, such as privacy and safety, on the part of the buyer.

“This [research] provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson in a release. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

The premium may be less in gated communities where amenities like a clubhouse, pool or tennis court drive up maintenance costs for residents, ARES researchers found. Examining a sample of gated communities, researchers discovered a $19,500 decrease in sale price in communities with these types of amenities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” explained Mark A. Sunderman, one of the ARES researchers.

“From the perspective of both the buyer and the seller, this information should help each to better price property,” Sunderman continued. “A good understanding of what adds value and what does not should help create increased marketability of gated homes.”

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson added. "This should set buyers' minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.” 

Source: Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Out There: Rent…or Live on a Cruise Ship?

July 9, 2016 12:43 am


Rents in the U.S. are on the rise, limiting housing options for many. While the industry is working to address affordability concerns, one search engine has developed an alternative solution.

According to a report by CruiseWatch, a cruise search engine, renters in some cities are better off cruising on a ship continuously for a year than paying rent for the same period.

“To go on non-stop cruises and save some money is an impressive proposition,” said Britta Bernhard, co-founder of CruiseWatch, in a statement.

We’ll let that, ahem, sink in.

Using Census Bureau data and their own cruise statistics, the search engine compared cost-of-living expenses to cruise prices.

The average rental household in New York City, for instance, spends approximately $637 a week on living expenses, compared to the $313.25 per-week average for a cruise—a savings of over $16,500 a year.

The average household in Honolulu, on the other hand, would save over $7,500 a year cruising instead of renting. Those in Los Angeles would save $2,058 a year; those in San Francisco would save $7,154 a year; those in Stamford, Conn. would save $3,878 a year.

Cruisers can expect the most savings starting their year-long cruise in winter, when prices are at their lowest, according to the report.

Cruising for an entire year is enticing. Would you pay for a cruise instead of paying for rent?

Source: CruiseWatch
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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