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Fireplace Prep

by Tucker Robbins


On a cool evening, there’s almost nothing better than sitting by the warmth of a fire with a cup of cocoa.  If you’re a new homeowner who is new to having a fireplace or woodstove, you may be a bit apprehensive about using it.  There are some things you sh
ould know before you fire it up, and this guide will give you the confidence to use this feature during the cold months. 

 

  • - Call a pro to inspect and clean your chimney before using it, especially if this is your first Winter in the house. 
     

  • - Check the damper to be sure it opens and closes properly, and make sure the doors are secure, as well as being certain the glass isn’t loose and has no cracks.
     

  • - Examine a woodstove’s chimney pipe for any loose sections and clean any accumulated soot or ashes.  The door should open easily, close very tight, and the handle should lock into place once the door is shut. 
     

  • - When purchasing a mat or rug to place in front of the hearth, be certain it’s certified fireproof.

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  • -Wood shouldn’t be brought inside until it’s ready for use.  Find out why you should keep it outside and other great tips about storing firewood here. 

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  • - Gas fireplaces require a little less maintenance, but it’s important to be familiar with the operation.  If you can’t find an owner’s manual for your type of fireplace, see if online editions are available, or call the company to have one sent to you. 
     

  • - If you see dust and cobwebs, turn off the gas off, and vacuum using the hose attachment. 

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  • -Ceramic logs or lava rocks inside a gas fireplace may need sprucing up as well. How to Clean Stuff.net guides us through this process in a few simple steps.
     

  • - Soot can collect on the glass doors, and it’s best to keep them clean.  When the doors are cool, spray them with window cleaner, (have newspaper or old towels under them to catch dripping grime), and use a cleaning brush or crumpled newspaper to remove as much of the soot as possible.  Follow up with a soft cloth dampened with clean warm water to remove any film left behind.   

 

If you’re even the slightest bit unsure about prepping your fireplace, don’t hesitate to call a professional!  Many specialty stores know who you should contact and may even have a technician available.  Not only do you want to stay warm, you want your home safe. 


Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: thefamilyhandyman

Making an Offer is a Process

by Tucker Robbins


While you’re on the house hunt, every property you see just might be “the one.”  It’s a good idea to learn the different aspects of buying a house before you get into them.  Many discover that after they’ve made an offer of purchase, the process isn’t exac
tly as they’d envisioned! You’ll feel confident when you get to this step by following this guide: 

 

  • - The offer itself isn’t just a price you’re willing to pay for the property; closing date, closing cost contribution, contingencies, or the earnest money deposit are all things that are normally included when the offer is submitted to the seller. 
     

  • - Talk with your agent before you come to your initial price, because you don’t want to insult the seller with a very low offer, nor do you want to pay too much for the house. 
     

  • - Although you won’t always get a complete answer, knowing why the house is on the market can give you some leverage, so ask anyway. Some sellers are in a time crunch and are eager to sell and may take your first offer. 
     

  • - Keep in mind that there are legal aspects to writing a proposal.  Your Realtor will know all the aspects of this part of the process and will take you through each step. 
     

  • - It is very likely that the seller won’t accept your price if it’s less than what they’re asking.  If they want to sell and have no higher offers, they may choose to send a counteroffer.  The counteroffer step is nothing to worry about, if the negotiations are getting you somewhere.   
     

  • - Some sellers will counteroffer with their original asking price.  If this happens, you may have to walk away, as they have shown they’re not interested in moving away from what they want for the property.
     

  • - Don’t forget that you may not be the only buyers interested in the home!  Realtor.com® offers some advice on how sellers might handle multiple offers and some ideas on how to make your offer stand out. 

 

When your offer is accepted, it’s exciting, but there is still work to do!  Hopefully, you have pre-approval for a mortgage, making the buying process a much smoother one.  There are added costs associated with buying a home, so be sure you have your finances in order.  

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: jetdirectmortgage.com

Trick or Treat Home Safety

by Tucker Robbins


It won’t be long before the streets of your neighborhood are filled with children, and some parents, will be costumed and carrying bags and buckets for Halloween treats!  Since many homeowners don’t regularly use the front entrance to their home, they may 
not think about all the little feet that will be tramping up the path to your door.  Make sure everyone has a safe trip for their candy by following these tips before October 31! 

 

  • - Do your own walk-up to your front door, and examine everything, including the driveway and front steps.  Make sure there are no loose pieces or large cracks that can cause anyone to take a tumble.  Porch railings should be secure. 
     

  • - Yard decor should be fixed securely so the wind can’t blow it over, or curious little hands cannot pull it down. 
     

  • - Battery-operated LED tea lights are inexpensive and much safer to use in place of lighted candles.  Many options are available for LED’s, including a flickering light that is perfect for your jack o’ lantern. 
     

  • - Speaking of lights, make sure that not only is your porch light switched on, but that the path you’ve created is well-lit. 
     

  • - Decor that hangs from the trees is scary and fun, so make certain they are hanging at least ten feet from the walkway, making certain they don’t obstruct anyone’s view. 
     

  • - Take an afternoon close to Halloween to be sure any shrubbery, trees or edging isn’t in the way of where trick-or-treaters must walk.  Inspect for loose branches in nearby trees and remove them. 
     

  • - If you have room in the garage, consider parking the car there.  The folks that are coming and going would likely appreciate the extra room to pass others. 
     

  • - A constantly-ringing doorbell or persistent knocking can cause your pets some distress and a lot of barking.  Confine them to a room, or even better, to their crate.  Check out these other great tips about your pets and Halloween from the ASPCA. 

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Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.  

Photo credit: allstate

Laundry Mistakes You Could Be Making!

by Tucker Robbins


Laundry.  For some, the word causes some dread, for others, it’s just another job, and for the rest--well, it seems as if they went to a laundry boot camp!  With so many different washers and products available, it’s easy to think that the machine will tak
e care of everything, but that’s not always the case.  Are you making any of these mistakes? 

 

  • Load size is important when you’re choosing your wash cycle and amount of detergent.  Too many clothes and they won’t get clean and adding too much detergent can cause the clothes to have more stains and residue.  The Spruce tells you how to figure out how much laundry your washer tub can hold. 
     

  • HE machines are just that--high efficiency.  They use less water and energy, but too much detergent can cause the machine to sense the extra suds and begin a second rinse cycle.  That’s not very efficient. 
     

  • Using fabric softener for all types of clothing isn’t necessary.  Athletic wear doesn’t benefit from the agents in the softener and defeats the purpose of moisture-wicking fibers.  Hang those to dry.  Towels will be just as soft without softener and dried in the dryer.   
     

  • Letting stains dry is never a good idea.  Sure, we have powerful stain-fighters easily accessible, but not every stain comes out.  The American Cleaning Institute Stain Removal Guide has a solution for almost every stain under the sun! 
     

  • Hand washing labels are there for a reason:  those items need gentle treatment. If you don’t have time to soak and swish those pieces in the sink, use a garment bag and the delicate cycle on your machine, and air or hang to dry. 
     

  • Leaving zippers down can cause distress to the zipper and break them.  On the other hand, washing a shirt left buttoned up is more likely to lose those buttons because of the pull on the fabric. 
     

  • Extra bleach sounds like a great idea when items are especially dirty, but it will cause the fabric to yellow and break down much faster.  Use the recommended amount on the bottle. 
     

  • The high heat setting should not be your default drying cycle.  Save that cycle for towels and whites.  Clothes may take longer on the low heat cycle, but the lower temperature helps save your clothes from fading and shrinkage. 

 

Don’t forget to keep your dryer running smoothly by cleaning the lint screen after every load you dry.  Change your way of thinking about doing laundry--instead of a job, it’s a process!  It may add a few minutes to this chore, but you’ll benefit in longer-lasting clothes and less energy use, saving money in the end.

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: sd-appliancerepair.com

Home and Garden Prep Before Cold Weather Arrives

by Tucker Robbins


The signs that Fall is here are obvious in the things we see:  pumpkins, sweaters, and boots in store ads, and slow cooker recipes clog our social media feeds.  It may not feel so cool, but now is the time to get some cold-weather prep done 
before it gets too cold to be out!  Here are eight jobs to DIY while it’s still comfortable outside: 

 

  • - Check smoke/carbon monoxide detector batteries, and test the smoke detector itself to be sure it’s working properly.  If you don’t have a family fire plan in place, please create one and go over the plan at a family meeting. 
     

  • - Get your mudroom ready for wet Winter weather with plastic bins for shoes and boots, and extra hangers for cold-weather clothing.  Creating a mudroom near the entry your family uses most is easy with a sturdy indoor/outdoor area rug, doormats on both sides of the door, and shoe trays to store wet, muddy footwear. 
     

  • - Your air conditioning may still be in use, but have your furnace inspected and serviced now before you need it.   
     

  • - Walkway and driveway cracks should be filled and repaired while it’s still warm; the materials used for this job may not work as well once outside temps drop. 
     

  • - Clean outdoor furniture and leave to dry completely in the warm sun. When it’s time to store it, you’ll have one less thing to do. 
     

  • - Some plants are better off when you divide them in Autumn:  hostas, daylilies, Spring-blooming bulbs, peonies, and shrubbery are just a few that will be happier if divided and replanted now instead of in Spring.   
     

  • - What to do with all the garden trimmings and leaves you’ll be raking soon?  Create a compost pile!  You’ll save on soil improvements and fertilizer next Spring. 
     

  • - If you’re not ready to give up gardening to the elements, plant a Fall garden!  You’ll be rewarded with fresh greens and other vegetables for those slow-cooker recipes! 

 

Don’t wait until a cold snap is bearing down on you before you get these necessary jobs done.  Take a weekend, get everyone involved, and you’ll be set for the Winter. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: thompson-morgan.com

Six Home-Selling Myths

by Tucker Robbins


When the time comes to sell your home, you get all sorts of advice from friends and family, as well as the internet.  Accepting 
all of that information as fact isn’t a good idea, because following all of this advice may end up costing you money and time. Let’s look at some of the myths you may be taking as truths about selling your home: 

 

  • “My house is worth (much more or less than you thought) according to this website!”  Online estimators are not dependable when it comes to assessing the value of your home.  They can’t see the interiors, the condition of the roof, landscaping--you get the idea.  Your REALTOR® is your best source for setting a value for your property. 
     

  • “This kitchen needs remodeling before anyone will even consider buying this place.”  A thorough cleaning, sprucing up of the cabinets with new paint and hardware and installing an inexpensive backsplash and new faucet can make your kitchen a total selling point.  Spending too much on a complete renovation can cost more if you don’t get your return on investment. 
     

  • “If I overprice the house, then negotiate an offer, the buyer will think they’re getting a steal of a deal!”  In today’s world, most homebuyers have done their research, and may overlook your home simply because of the high asking price.  Have confidence in your agent’s ability to price it right.   
     

  • “Weekends are the only days I can have the house available for viewing.”  Setting limits on when an agent can bring potential buyers to the house is like putting up a Not For Sale sign in your yard. If you want the house to sell, it must be accessible even when it’s not convenient for you. 
     

  • “I’ll wait until I get a few more offers.”  Rejecting the first offer for a wait-and-see can leave your house on the market longer, which can lead to fewer offers.  Buyers will wonder if something is wrong with the house when they see the length of time it’s been for sale, leaving your home overlooked in their house hunting. 
     

  • “Hiring a real estate agent is going to cost too much.”  When you contract with a REALTOR®, you’re getting a professional that knows the market, handles the listing, marketing, showing, knows legal aspects of selling a home, and much more.  Taking the risk of selling your house on your own could cost you much more than an agent’s commission in the end. 

 

Discuss your ideas and fears with your REALTOR® and allow them to guide you through the home-selling process.  Choosing a reputable and knowledgeable agent will help with any concerns you may have, helping you debunk the more common myths about selling a home. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: moversatlas.com

Get the Kids Involved in Your DIY Projects!

by Tucker Robbins


Many people assume that children and home projects don’t go together, but why not?  Oh, sure, electric tools and saws don’t necessarily need to be handled by young ones, but there is so much more than can help you with than a major remodel!  
 

 

  • - Start simple:  cleaning is probably the easiest way to begin engaging your children in home-keeping.  Most love to sweep, dust, vacuum and help with dishes.
      
     

  • - Little ones are naturally curious about what’s outside, so gardening can be a lot of fun, as well as being educational.  Not only can they assist with planting projects, but even preschoolers can be handy with a rake or help with weeding. 
     

  • - When you’ve decided that your walls need new paint, sit down with the color chip cards, and let them help you decide on color.  Painting the sample swatches on the wall is a great way to introduce a paintbrush or roller, and simple techniques.   
     

  • - Planning on purchasing a furniture kit?  Let the children help build it; learning how to follow directions that use symbols and handling simple tools is a great start to working those motor skills in a new way. 
     

  • - Any small repair--tightening drawer pulls, replacing a door handle or sink faucet--can easily involve any age child.  Give them an age-appropriate job, such as passing needed tools, shining a flashlight or using simple tools under your watchful eye. 
     

  • - Putting up new curtains or hanging decor on the walls are great ways to teach school-age kids about using a level or measuring tape.  Math skills in DIY?  Absolutely! 
     

  • - Do you perform your car maintenance?  Everyone should know how to check the oil and other fluids, as well as tire pressure.  Showing your children that keeping the family car in good running condition is as necessary as taking care of the house! 

 

Get your family excited about helping, have patience, and keep them safe while you’re working.   You’ll find that while you’re spending time with them, those DIY jobs will start them on a journey of learning how to be a good homeowner and a handy one at that! 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: jenwoodhouse.com

Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

by Tucker Robbins


There are practical
 uses for credit cards, such as rewards points, cash back on purchases, and airline miles to name a few.  Having a credit card can also have drawbacks if you’re not responsible with that piece of plastic.  Read on to see if you’re making any of these mistakes… 

 

  • Paying the minimum payment every month keeps your credit score in check, but the interest added to the balance can make a negative impact on your credit.  Pay as much as you can afford over the minimum billed amount, or, better yet, pay off the balance each month. 
     

  • Late payments not only damage your credit, but if you’re sending it late every month, the late fees and interest on the balance will max that credit card out, and it could take years to pay it off.  Set up an auto-pay plan or mail your payment a week in advance of the due date. 
     

  • Spending just to receive rewards is a good way to get you into credit trouble!  Sure, those rewards are great, but they’re usually a small percentage of your purchases.  The added interest will be far more than any rewards you’re seeking and will cost much more in the end.
     

  • Cash advances may seem like help, but the interest on them starts as soon as that money is in your hand, and there are usually extra fees involved.  Cash advances are essentially cash loans and are treated as such.  Beware of “convenience” checks your card company offers to you because they are cash advances in disguise. 
     

  • Maxing out your balance, or worse, spending over your credit limit, is a good way to reduce your credit score.  The over-balance fees are tremendous, and not having any available credit left on the card will affect the credit utilization ratio. 
     

  • Tossing your statement without reading it can cause you to miss important announcements from the company, as well as fraudulent activity, or changes in your minimum payment due. 
     

  • Using your credit card at the grocery store or to pay utility bills will help in an urgent situation, but only if you can pay the full balance at the end of the month.  If you’re using a credit card for everyday purchases, it’s time to get your finances under control. 

 

Don’t let mistakes cost you money and a good credit rating!  Keep your balance less than 30% of your credit limit, maintain a manageable monthly payment, and your credit report will benefit.  Credit cards are good tools to use to build credit or keep your score high, but only if used wisely.   

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

 

Photo credit: pymnts.com

Controlling Common Weeds

by Tucker Robbins


Having a beautiful lawn or productive veggie garden is not for the faint at heart.  You’ve put plenty of time and effort into your landscaping, so when weeds start sprouting, some of them can take over quickly.  They are, after all, wild plants that have a
dapted to their natural surroundings, and don’t need you to help them grow, so you’ll need to get a handle on them quickly! Let’s look at seven common weeds, and how you can keep them from sabotaging your hard work! 

 

  • - Your garden will benefit from a Fall-planting of clover, as it provides nitrogen to the soil. but most homeowners don’t want it in their landscaped lawn.  Mowing high over the plant will help it from reseeding but pulling them while they’re young is the best preventive. 
     

  • - Crabgrass is a bane to many lawns, and it grows quickly once the rain hits the seeds.  Pulling the roots is the easiest way to remove the plant, and even easier if the soil around it is damp. 
     

  • - If you don’t care to add dandelions to your diet (yes, they are edible!), you’ll need to get them at the roots. Spray them with undiluted white vinegar until they’re thoroughly wet, and they will die within a few hours. 
     

  • - Ground ivy, or creeping Charlie, is another weed that can be pulled effectively from wet soil.  If you allow it to flower, make sure it doesn’t go to seed, or you’ll spend more time pulling new plants. 
     

  • - Oxalis, or wood sorrel, has leaves that are almost clover-like, and purple or yellow blooms.  Catch it early, and it can be pulled up by the roots, or use a soap-based herbicide to kill larger plants. 
     

  • - A plant that has been cultivated in many hybrids, portulaca, can also be an aggressive weed.  - Once you’ve dug them up, allow them to dry before you dispose them in a compost pile or other yard waste.  They easily regenerate from any part of the plant. 
     

  • - The thin, strong-scented single leaves that shoot up in our lawns are wild garlic. Mowing won’t stop them, as they’re sprouting from corms in the soil. Pull or dig them up, and make sure you have the whole corm to avoid new growth. 

 

To avoid a lot of back-breaking weeding, mulch heavily in flower beds, and consider putting new plantings close together.  Some weeds are so well-adapted that it doesn’t matter what you do.  Garden.org has an extensive list of weeds with photos and ideas for controlling them without a lot of chemical intervention. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.  

Photo credit: gardeningknowhow.com

Before You Buy a Foreclosure

by Tucker Robbins


While looking through real estate listings, you might be curious when you see a property up for auction or one that is “real estate owned,” and wonder if the price is too good to be true.  There is a process of buying a foreclosure house, and you need to p
repare yourself, so read on for some pointers on what’s involved before you make your decision: 

 

  • - A “Bank-Owned Home” is just that:  the owner stopped making payments, and the lender is in the process of auctioning the home to try and recover the money they loaned.  Houses that are “Real Estate Owned” mean that the bank’s auction didn’t result in a sale and is being sold through a real estate agent. 
     

  • - Vacant homes can have all sorts of issues: mold, vandalism, pest issues, stolen copper piping, and neglected landscaping are just a few.  Before you make a bid, go and see the home for yourself, and decide if you can afford the sale price plus the cost of repairs. 
     

  • - Hire an inspector to go to the house with you so you’ll have an idea of exactly what needs to be done.  You don’t want to underestimate renovation costs. 
     

  • - When considering the asking price, and you have taken steps to get a contractor bid on all the rehab, use this formula to calculate your offer:  80% of the appraised value minus the cost of repairs. 
     

  • - Investing in a foreclosure as a rental will require less trendy but rugged materials and flipping to resell might be more expensive (and more headache!).  Moving into the home yourself can keep initial costs in check if you’re willing to do what’s necessary before moving in and holding off on upgrades. 
     

  • - Some foreclosure purchases must be made in cash, and that can put investors at an advantage.  In case cash isn’t a requirement for the purchase, have proof of pre-approval from your lender when you make your offer. 

 

Whatever your reason for your interest in buying a foreclosed home, make sure you do your research, and talk to your bank as well as an experienced REALTOR®.  Search for foreclosures by locality and beware of anyone offering to sell “their property” that is in foreclosure.  Con artists are smart enough to find vacant properties to pass off as their own, sell them, and take the money and run. Educating yourself on the foreclosure purchase process will make for a smoother process, less stress, and hopefully an investment that will pay off for you! 
 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: fox-property-investments.com

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Tucker Robbins
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
3838 Kennett Pike
Wilmington DE 19807
(302) 777-7744 (direct)