Merlino & Gonzalez January 2018

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January 2018





Meet Michele Santacroce

I know I won’t win any awards for creativity in this description, but I truly think of the team here at Merlino & Gonzalez as a family. In fact, I sometimes joke that John and Ken are my second and third husbands. In the 15 years I’ve been here, I’ve had the chance to develop lasting relationships with my co-workers and our clients. It’s definitely the most rewarding aspect of my work. The difference in approach from my previous job couldn’t be starker. Prior to joining the firm in 2002, I took a few years off when my daughter was born. My last job before that was working at a huge insurance firm in Manhattan. The people I worked with there were great, and I like to think we did good work, but it was an impersonal type of work. We had clients, but they were invisible. Learning little details about their lives like I do now would’ve been regarded as a waste of time. When I decided it was time to return to the workforce, I knew I wanted something a little different. Not only was commuting into the city out of the question — I would’ve never made it to daycare pickup in time — but I also sought an office where I could make a connection with clients. It was a bit like moving from a big city where you feel like a face in the crowd to a small town where everyone knows your name. I get a lot of joy from guiding our clients through real estate and estate planning. I’ve been in their shoes, so I know what it feels like when a client calls us in a tizzy. My goal is always to provide them with assurances and comfort. After they get off the phone with me, I hope they can put their head on the pillow that night

without breaking out in a cold sweat. Whenever I can make someone feel more informed and less stressed, I feel like I’m doing my job. My daughter Emily is now a freshman in college, so I’ve enjoyed the chance to catch up with her over the holidays. These days, she exists more as a long series of text messages than as a physical presence, and a lot of those text messages have to do with money! I’m just kidding. I love Emily so much, and I’m super proud of everything she’s achieved. Aside from work and family, I enjoy volunteering with the Staten Island Board of Realtors’ Young Professionals Network and other worthy groups. Recently, for instance, I was able to participate in an event with Pit Bulls and Addicts, an organization that pairs recovering addicts with rescue pit bulls. In a sense, they work to rehabilitate each other. It was truly inspiring to work with this group, and I feel lucky to live somewhere with no shortage of amazing charities.

Before I go, I want to wish everyone a wonderful 2018. If you’re ever feeling stressed about your real estate transaction or estate planning, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Emily’s latest text can wait a few minutes!

-Michele Santacroce



The Lifelong Benefits of Travel 3 WAYS TRAVEL CAN TRANSFORM YOUR KIDS

M&G IN 2018 New Initiatives for the Office The start of a new year brings the chance for goal-setting and planning. We may have recently launched our new and improved website, but that’s not all we have planned for 2018. Here’s a look at what’s on the horizon for Merlino & Gonzalez in 2018. First on our list is giving our email system a facelift. We communicate a lot with our clients via email, and we want that communication to look as spiffy as possible. It might not seem like a big initiative, but you’d be surprised by how many small decisions go into creating an aesthetically appealing email system that doesn’t skimp on information. Of course, security is another concern. But don’t worry — we’d never use any form of communication that we weren’t 100 percent certain would be protected from prying eyes. We’ll also be taking strides to get some new equipment in the office. The days of simply needing a fax machine and filing cabinets are long gone. With technology always marching forward, we do our best to keep pace. Luckily, we have team members like Eva who keep us plugged into the latest trends. Whenever we pinpoint a product When you go on a trip, whether it’s a quick jaunt to a neighboring town or a weeklong stay in an exotic locale, you interact with new people and cultures. It’s one thing to hear someone talk about the laid-back vibes of the West Coast, but you can’t really feel them for yourself until you’ve meandered through the redwoods or watched the sun set over Puget Sound. Now, imagine the positive effects this kind of cultural awakening could have on a young mind! While we tend to think about the worst- case scenarios and added stresses of traveling with kids, they stand to benefit as much, if not more, from travel as we do. You never know — your son or daughter may realize a passion for a subject that will one day become their career. As you’re plotting destinations for the new year, keep these life-changing possibilities in mind. 1. HISTORY WILL COME TO LIFE. Yes, your kids will read about World War II in school and take state capital quizzes. But in the end, nothing compares to firsthand experiences of culturally significant locations. Imagine showing a child the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin’s famous theory of evolution was conceived, or having the chance to talk about the beginnings of the Revolutionary War while strolling through Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts. If you live in a state with a rich history, make it a point to visit one of the nearby museums. If you’re planning a vacation abroad, incorporate visits to historical sites. Take the opportunity to learn as a family!

2. THEY’LL PICK UP NEW SKILLS. In addition to learning about history, your child may discover a new skill. They may learn a bit of conversational Spanish during a trip to Mexico or they might play soccer with a group of children and realize they have a knack for it. By fostering a sense of healthy curiosity about new places, you’ll help your child feel confident enough to branch out of their comfort zone and make new friends at home and on the road. 2. THEY’LL UNDERSTAND COMPASSION. After a trip to Fiji, Lonely Planet Kids writer Patrick Kinsella found that, long after they returned, his eldest daughter continued to reflect on her experience. “It’s an eye- and mind-opening experience, especially for Ivy, who has never before considered that someone her age might not have a TV, let alone lack electricity,” Kinsella writes. “For many months afterward, Ivy talk[ed] about Po, imagining her Fijian friend’s life.”

Because they’re so open-minded, kids are the perfect sponges for new experiences. At the very least, they’ll be less

likely to take what they have for granted, and they might even develop an expansive and exploratory worldview.

or service that will allow us to improve our processes, we jump at it. We like new gadgets as much as the next firm, but we always adopt new technologies with an eye toward improving client experience. It wouldn’t really make sense for us to provide staff Fitbits, would it?

Finally, and perhaps most exciting, we are looking to expand the Merlino & Gonzalez family this year. We’re growing all the time, and we’ll need another smart, friendly person to help deal with our increased volume. Adding to the team isn’t a decision we take lightly, so we’ll have to make sure we find the right person. Nevertheless, we look forward to it.

2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for us. We’re excited for the surprises it will bring.


HOME INSPECTION 101 Don’t Sign Before You Inspect

We’ve all heard that the three most important factors to consider when you’re buying a home are “location, location, location.” While location is undeniably crucial, right behind it on the list of must-haves is structural condition. After all, you could be on the best block in the world, but that won’t matter much if your new home has substandard heating, plumbing, or electrical systems. That’s why you need to conduct a thorough, independent home inspection before you finalize any real estate purchase. Any deal you make with a seller should be contingent on the inspection report. If the inspection reveals no defects, consider it a hurdle cleared. But if the report is negative, you should have the seller pay for repairs or reduce their offer. Any backlash to this request is a big red flag. Should this happen, you need to reserve the right to cancel the deal entirely. When looking for an inspector, you should make sure that they are duly licensed to conduct inspections in exchange for compensation. The only exceptions are registered architects and professional engineers (PEs). Do note that PE licenses must be for business entities, not individuals.

The inspection itself is generally a standardized procedure. A home inspector observes the systems and structural integrity of the house and prepares a written report. Radon and pest inspections are not included in a standard home inspection. Because of this, you should arrange a separate termite inspection. As the buyer, you don’t need to be present for the inspection. The seller, however, should be on hand to answer questions. After inspection is complete, the real estate agent has an obligation to disclose anything that affects the value or desirability of a property. Additionally, all prospective buyers must be alerted to a negative inspection that has caused a deal to fall through. Otherwise, the real estate agent may be liable. Buying a home is an exciting process. Don’t let that emotion cause you to overlook significant issues. An inspection will allow a professional to look at a property objectively, ensuring that you enjoy your home after you move in.


have a laugh

Looking for a way to prepare a warm treat for the kids while they’re out building snowmen? Break out the slow cooker and enjoy the best hot cocoa you’ve ever had! • 1 cup white chocolate chips • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk • 2 cups heavy cream, divided • 3 cups milk (any variety will do) • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar INGREDIENTS 1. In a slow cooker, combine white chocolate chips, condensed milk, 1 cup cream, and milk. Cover and heat on low about 2 hours. 2. In a large bowl, mix remaining 1 cup cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. DIRECTIONS

• 1 teaspoon vanilla • 4 tablespoons raspberry liqueur or syrup

3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip until stiff peaks form. 4. Serve mugs of hot chocolate with about 1 tablespoon of raspberry liqueur or syrup to taste and a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe inspired by




394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



Always There to Lend a Hand A Trip Will Change Your Child’s Life M&G’s 2018 Resolutions The Necessity of a Home Inspection Warm Up With Some Hot Cocoa The History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

wasn’t important enough. Others opposed the bill because it would cost too much for the federal government to implement the holiday. Finally, on Nov. 3, 1983, President Reagan signed a bill declaring the third Monday of January to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was first observed in 1986. However, several states refused to observe it. Some states preferred to call it Civil Rights Day, while others didn’t observe it at all. The National Football League threatened to move Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona if they voted down a bill to ratify MLK day. It was voted down, and the Super Bowl moved to California. Meanwhile, at the request of Coretta Scott King, President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1994 declaring MLK Day a Day of Service, rather than just remembrance. On May 2, 2000, South Carolina’s governor signed a bill declaring Dr. King’s birthday an official state holiday. Before that, government employees could choose between observing MLK Day or a confederate holiday. Utah became the last state to change Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day that same year. In the spirit of the holiday, we encourage you to find some way to serve your community this MLK Day, just as Dr. King did years ago. MLK DAY The Battle for

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Four days later, a legislative bill was proposed to establish a federal holiday in his honor. It would be the first of many. The battle for a day of remembrance for Martin Luther King Jr. was long — too long, considering his life and legacy. But we ultimately got better than we bargained for: America’s first Day of Service, rather than a day of remembrance. That first bill didn’t come to a vote until 1979. It lost by five votes. Opponents claimed that a holiday honoring a private citizen would break the long-standing tradition of honoring politicians. But the campaign continued. The King Center in Atlanta lobbied heavily, and Stevie Wonder released the single “Happy Birthday” a year later, which calls for the holiday. Six million signatures were collected, the most signatures in favor of an issue in the history of America. Many politicians continued to resist. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina led a filibuster against the bill in 1982, claiming Dr. King had ties to communists and 4

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