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Protecting Yourself From Moving Scams

by Tucker Robbins


It appears
 every week, we’re reading about a new scam to be watchful for, and sadly, moving scams are out there.  Some news reports have shown interviews with families who have never found their belongings months after a move!  Protect yourself by keeping these tips in mind when hiring movers: 

 

  • - Reputable moving companies charge a fee based on weight, along with their base fee.  If you’ve talked with someone who has given you a basic price without coming to your home to estimate, or who doesn’t look at everything you have, they may throw an extra fee on your balance before they’ll move your items into the new home. 

  • - If the movers ask for a deposit, find another company.  Paying money up front takes away your control over having your belongings delivered where and when you want them.   

  • - Before you or the movers start packing, take a written inventory of your things, and take photos of fragile, expensive, or irreplaceable items. 

  • - Get a contract, go over it with a fine-tooth comb, and once it’s signed, make your own copy so you won’t have and edited version with added charges once it’s time to deliver to the new home. 

  • - If you’re moving to another state, movers are required to give you a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” according to the Office of Inspector General. If the company you’re interested in doesn’t offer it to you, ask for it, and if they don’t have it, find another mover. 

  • - Once things are packed, number your boxes and list them on your inventory, and once you’re moved in, unpack or at least look in every single box.  Your time for filing damages is limited, and the sooner you get that done, the better. 

  • - Most mover’s insurance only covers damage to items that they packed.  If you insist on packing some things yourself, take them with you in your vehicle or rental. 

  • - Stumped on finding a reputable company?  Head over to the American Moving and Storage Association’s website, where it’s easier to find a mover in your area. 

 

Remember, your RealtorⓇ knows all about the ins and outs of moving and can help you locate a good company who will take care of your worldly goods and treat you right. 

 

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

Photo credit: fewmoves.com

For Sale By Owner for Sellers and Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Some homeowners think they’ll be saving a ton of money by choosing to sell their home themselves, and unless they’re a real estate agent, that may be so.  If you are interested in a house that is offered for sale by the owner (FSBO) what’s the risk for you
?  Read on to find out why it’s not a good idea for seller or buyer: 

 

Sellers 

  • According to realtor.comⓇ, the listing agent and buyer’s agent split about 6% of the home’s sale price.  You’ll need to calculate how much it costs you to stage and photograph your home, get an MLS number, market the house, take time from work to schedule showings as well as host the showings, do all of the paperwork involved, and contact and pay attorneys and others who are involved in a home sale, and compare it to the commission you believe you’ll give up to an agent.   

  • - To be fair, the seller should offer a 3% commission to the buyer’s agent.  Otherwise, most agents won’t bring anyone who’s interested to your home for a showing. 

  • - Sellers are responsible for any mistakes that have occurred once the transaction is in motion.  If you don’t purchase errors and omissions insurance, you may end up paying out of pocket in court or settle out of court for those mistakes. 

  • - Pricing your home takes more than just an online search for sold homes in your area, and not only can you overprice your house, but you can lose thousands by underpricing. 

  • - Scammers abound and can cost you in many ways.  These criminals target FSBO homeowners, because the scammers are savvy enough to make their offer look legitimate.   

 

Buyers 

  • - Beware the owner’s asking price.  Since the majority of FSBO sellers don’t have the experience to set a good market value on their home, their quote will likely be too high. 

  • - Be prepared to wait some time to see the home.  Most homeowners have full-time jobs, and you’ll have to view the home on their time, with them as your host. 

  • - If a seller tells you their house is in perfect condition, and you can save money by not hiring an inspector, walk away.  Every house even brand-new houses should be inspected before changing hands. 

  • - Ask the seller what fees they plan on paying, and in the case that they ask to share the costs with you, it’s time to find another house. 

  • - Do your own research on the house, make sure the person you’ve talked with is the actual owner, and proceed with caution.  There are scams that involve an empty house, FSBO signs, and scammers who will take your money and run, because they aren’t the rightful owner. 

 

The best advice: hire a RealtorⓇ.  Not only are they the ones taking the risk in selling your home (or not), licensed real estate agents know everything you don’t know about selling and purchasing, devote all their working hours to home-buying, and can protect your investment as well as a buyer’s interests. 
 

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

Cutting the TV Cable!

by Tucker Robbins


With cable and satellite costs rising constantly, many Americans are finding streaming television the way to go, and old school television antennas are taking the place of satellite dishes on rooftops.  Are you thinking about cutting the cord?  Maybe these
 ideas can help you decide: 

 

Wherever there is high-speed internet, there is the ability to use any streaming device or smart tv.  Most are affordable and have a monthly subscription fee. 

 

  • - Smart tv’s come pre-loaded with different streaming service apps.  Many need subscriptions, and most offer a free trial period to help you determine if their service is right for you. 

  • - Devices that plug into televisions from different streaming companies can be purchased, and for small monthly fees, you can stream movies, and many television series.  PCMag has the most recent information on these plug-ins, as well as cost, features, and reviews of each. 

  • - Major satellite companies are finally offering streaming services at the fraction of the cost of their monthly fees, and you can cancel at any time without fear of being charged for cancelling a contract.  Similar to their satellite services, you choose what channel package that fits your viewing choices, as well as your budget. 

  • - Are you afraid you’ll miss your favorite sports contests if you cut the cord? Don’t worry--you can stream live sports events, and GroundedReason tells you how. 

 

Cancelling your cable or satellite service may have you worried that you won’t be able to watch the major networks.  If you live in a large area with nearby local stations, (within twenty miles), an indoor antenna will work fine.  But for better reception, as well as more channels, you’ll need an outdoor antenna.  Read on to learn how this old-fashioned idea is more modern than ever: 

 

  • - Indoor antennas can be places almost anywhere in your home for good reception, or use a flat one that can be mounted on or near a window, out of direct sunlight. 

  • - Outdoor antennas still look like something from outer space, but are smaller and come with wireless remotes so you can control the direction that you need it to be pointing to pick up different channels. 

  • TechHive offers some advice on choosing an outdoor antenna, as well as their top picks. 

  • Installing an outdoor antenna can be done by anyone with a few tools, who is comfortable with climbing a ladder to get to the roof, making sure the antenna is grounded, and who has a few hours to devote to the job.  Otherwise, a good handyman with antenna installation experience should be hired for the job. 

 

If saving money is on your agenda, then choosing to watch television and movies with streaming services and antenna tv is one way to put money back into your pocket.  Not only will you no longer be paying for channels you never watch, you will be in control of what you watch, and how much you’ll pay.


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

Photo credit: wgno.com

Before You List Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


It’s time to get ready to put your home on the market, and there are some things to think about before you have it listed.  There’s work to be done, and some dos and don'ts that should be taken into consideration if you want your home to sell!
 

 

  • - The exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer sees; paint the siding, if necessary, and make sure the roof is in great shape.   

  • - Clean up the yard, front and back, and add some seasonal plantings for color. 

  • - A deep clean inside is necessary.  Wash windows, (inside and out), walls, draperies, scrub the bathroom’s every cranny, and shampoo the carpets. 

  • - If you have pets or a smoker in the home, a professional clean may be necessary, or even a new coat of paint on the walls. Pet odors and cigarette tar stay on everything.  Ask a friend or neighbor to come in and do a smell test and tackle any issues that they share with you. 

  • - Deciding what colors to paint the walls shouldn’t be of your personal taste.  Choosing neutral colors is best, and don’t stop at the living areas walls--paint every room. 

  • - Check all the doorknobs, and if any are sticking or simply not working, replace with similar hardware, or replace all of them.  It’s also important for all the exterior door locks to be in proper working order and replace any that aren’t. 

  • - Major repairs or restoration should be done by a pro or an experienced DIYer.  If you choose not to make a repair that you know is needed, you’ll have to be up front to your agent, make the needed fix is listed in your disclosure, and be ready to lower your selling price. 

  • - Sellers want their home to stand out, but don’t overdo it!  Using generally popular fixtures and finishes is better than going with the latest trend. 

  • - Even if your storage space is limited, make it appear like there’s plenty of room.  Remove seasonal clothing from closets, as well as occasionally used kitchen gadgets from cabinets and counters, and put them in storage with the rest of your things. 

  • - Consider staging, and if you can’t afford to go full scale, find a designer that will use your furniture and decorative pieces to maximize space, as well as have it looking its best. 

 

Lastly, don’t go it alone; find a RealtorⓇ that knows all that you don’t about selling your home.  Using an agent gets your home “out there,” and will make the process easier for you as well as for the buyer.  
 

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

Photo credit: homie.com

Sprucing Up a Small Bathroom!

by Tucker Robbins


The poor, lowly bathroom.  Many of us don’t really know how to decorate it short of hanging a pretty shower curtain, because there’s very little room for improvement. Or so we believe. Let’s look at some ideas to make a small necessary room a more attracti
ve place to visit: 

 

  • - Just because the room is small doesn’t mean the walls have to be white.  Paint in a color you love, bold or pastel, or wallpaper that makes a statement is as appropriate for a small room as a large one. 

  • - A small bathroom means smaller-sized fixtures and splurging on a nice cabinet or sink won’t hurt the pocketbook as much, while adding style. 

  • - Contrasting shower tile is a great way to add color to a bath and gives you a reason to keep the curtain pulled back, opening up the space, and showing off your colorful shower! 

  • - If your small bath or powder room doesn’t have a window, use decorative lighting for your focal point, and add wall sconces on the wall over the toilet, and on either side of the mirror. 

  • - Floor covers, and adhesive tile is simple to install, is available in endless designs and colors, and can be the feature for your small bathroom.   

  • - When new tile, paint, or wallpaper isn’t in the budget, add color through your accessories. Brightly colored curtain or shade, rug, and artwork can make the room. 

  • - Since most small bathrooms don’t have a lot of storage, you have to be creative and practical, or use functional decor.  Check out these bathroom storage ideas from Good Housekeeping. 

  • - Weekend warriors or those who are confident enough in their skill level can create recessed shelving with this how-to from DIY Network.  If you like the idea but lack the skills, call a reputable carpenter to handle this small job. 

  • - Large mirrors aren’t just for large bathrooms; using them in your small bathroom helps bring in the light, making the room appear larger. 

  • - Keep the less-is-more attitude when adding things to a small bathroom; a small plant, soap, and hand towel are all you need on the counter. 

 

Not only can you make your little bathroom stylish, you can cut down on clutter and keep it organized for smoother mornings or guest use.  Don’t think of this project as a challenge, look for inspiration, and it may end up becoming your favorite retreat!


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

Photo credit: mileyphotos.org

Terms First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know!

by Tucker Robbins


The time has come to begin the steps of buying your first home and looking around the internet and other real estate-related media, you’re finding there’s a lot more to know than finding a house, getting a loan, and signing papers.  There are some key wor
ds that can be unfamiliar to a first-time home buyer, so familiarize yourself with these lesser-known terms so you’ll have fewer questions and stumbles along the way: 

 

  • - In order to be certain that the home is worth the amount of the loan, there will be a home appraisal performed by an unbiased inspector of the lender’s choosing. 

  • - At the final paper-signing, the buyer is required to pay closing costs, which normally include attorney fees, surveyors, inspections, and title insurance, among other things.  Be prepared to have 2-5 percent of the purchase price for closing costs. 

  • - If you’d like to pay less interest over the time of your loan, you can purchase discount or mortgage points.  To learn more about this option, check out these tips from the Nerd Wallet website. 

  • - Earnest money is money that will be paid to the seller to show good faith of the buyer towards the home purchase.  It will be applied to your down payment. 

  • - When you have funds in escrow, you will have given funds to a third party to hold until they have verified that inspections, disclosures or any disputes have been resolved.  Keeping it in escrow protects your deposit before you sign the final contract to buy your new home. 

  • - Pre-approval is very important and differs from being pre-qualified.  If you’re pre-approved for a loan amount, you have a realistic expectation of what you can buy. 

  • - If your down payment is less than twenty percent of the purchase price, you will pay private mortgage insurance typically until that amount reaches twenty percent of the loan or home value. 

  • - Your lender will require the purchase of title insurance, which protects real estate owners and lenders against any property loss or damage for whatever reason.  Learn more about what title insurance is and what it covers from the CFPB. 
     

There are other terms and abbreviations you may find in your search for a house in their descriptions and about real estate in general that you won’t be familiar with.  Here’s a longer, more comprehensive list from realtor.comⓇ.  The more you know before you get started, the smoother the home-buying process will be!


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

Photo credit: activerain

Preventing and Getting Rid of Mold

by Tucker Robbins


Mold is a subject that strikes fear in many people.  Though the toxic form of black mold is rare, there are plenty of other types that invade our bathrooms, basements and other places in our homes. Let’s look at the best ways to get control over any mold p
roblem anywhere we find it. 

 

The bathroom is the most common place for mold, because it has all the right conditions for mold growth:  moisture, a place to grow, and food. 

  • - Use the exhaust fan every time you shower, and if your bathroom isn’t equipped with one, crack the window to allow the steam to escape. 

  • - Wipe down the shower walls and door when you’re finished, leaving the door open until everything is completely dry. 

  • - If you use a shower curtain, use an anti-mold spray, commercial or homemade, to spray the curtain down, and pull the curtain to its fullest length to dry. 

  • - Any leaks should be repaired immediately and inspect under the sink every few weeks to make sure everything is dry in the cabinets. 

  • - If you have a tile bath, give the grout a waterproof seal once a year. 

  • - When you do find mold on hard surfaces, the CDC recommends mixing a solution of no more than 1 cup of household bleach in a gallon of water.  Provide good ventilation, spray on affected areas, leave for five minutes, rinse, and allow to dry. 

  •  

Other common places for molds to grow, especially this time of year when we have the heat on, are closets, window sills, basements, and floors around entryways.

  • - Use washable mats and throw-rugs with waterproof backing at doorways. 

  • - Keep your home’s humidity below 40%.  Using a humidifier is a necessity in Winter, and you may need to use a hygrometer to help you keep moisture levels in check. 

  • - Occasionally inspect your fridge’s drip pan for excessive moisture, and clean according to manufacturer’s instructions. 

  • - Attics can be the first-place mold can start in case of a leaky roof, so get the roof repaired immediately, and clean the mold as soon as you discover it.  Be sure there are no leaves or other obstructions blocking the attic’s vents. 

  • - Having the crawl space of your home encapsulated can be expensive, but it is the only solution to keeping moisture from coming up from the ground and can help you see standing water in case of plumbing leaks. 

  • - The EPA has some tips for mold cleanup, as well as information on when to call in a pro for removal.  

 

There are many products available to help keep moisture in your home at bay.  Desiccant bags containing silica gel are great for hanging in small places such as closets.  Small non-electric dehumidifiers are also available for larger areas, and whole-house dehumidifiers are another option, just more expensive.  While not all molds are toxic, they are allergens, and prevention and action are keys to a healthier, mold-free home.


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

Photo credit: mnn.com

Buying an Older House in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


Many people dream of living in an older home, whether it be a 100-year old farmhouse, or a vintage ranch from the 50’s.  There are certain things that should be taken into consideration, good and bad, when that dream starts to become a reality, and you’re 
on the hunt for an old new home.  

 

  • - If the house was built before 1978, make sure the home inspector looks for lead paint and asbestos, as both can be health hazards. 

  • - Have the foundation thoroughly checked if it is original to the house.  Even the most solidly-built houses can have settling, water damage or corrosion. 

  • - Not only are older mechanical systems likely to fail since they’re at the end of their lifespan, they are less energy-efficient.   

  • - Plumbing and electrical systems can be old enough that they need to be replaced; old pipes can affect water quality and worn out wiring can be a fire hazard. 

  • - Unsafe features that may be charming may not be up to current code.  Check for steep stairs, non-working fireplaces, and laundry chutes, especially if you have younger children. 

 

While all those things are expensive solutions, there are some things that you can’t get with a newer home: 

  • - Older homes are usually in established locations, and are in good school districts, as well as being close to shopping and restaurants. 

  • - Houses built before the 1970’s are generally sturdier, simply because the lumber used to build them was made from old growth hardwoods, something that isn’t available today. 

  • - The lots in areas where you find older homes are usually larger, and that may mean more maintenance, but it also means more room for playing, pet exercise, and outdoor entertaining. 

  • - You just don’t get the charm and character in new construction like you do in an older home, even if the styles are similar. 

  • - Prices of older homes are usually lower, unless there is historical significance to the house itself or to the area. 

 

Do your research, list the pros and cons as they pertain to your life.  No matter what age house you finally decide to buy, the choice should be made because it’s what is best for you and your family. 


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

Photo credit: myoldhouseonline.com

Giving Locally in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


Making the decision to give charitably is a personal thing, because we normally give to organizations that share our beliefs, or support something close to our hearts.  National charities are great, but most of those larger organizations receive funding fr
om large corporations and very wealthy philanthropists.  Have you ever thought about local non-profits that may need your help?  

 

  • - Some veterinarians have funds set aside specifically to assist pet owners who can’t always afford care for their pets. Most accept donations, and this would be a great way for pet-lovers to give to other pets in their community, just in a different way. 

  • - Speaking of pets, most shelters need assistance with everyday things like food, toys, litter and bedding, and will gladly accept these items, too.   

  • - Local schools usually don’t have a lot in their sports, clubs, or extracurricular budgets.  Call your local school system office and find out where you can help the most. 

  • - Free housing for cancer patients (like Hope Lodge) and families of sick children (Ronald McDonald House) is another great way to help those who are going through a tough time.  When you donate through the main websites, you can choose where your donation goes. 

  • - Community centers are a great place for people to take classes of all kinds, play sports, or gather as hobby groups.  Get in touch with your local community center director to see if you can donate to a certain program or help get a new program off the ground. 

  • - Organizations that help protect victims of domestic violence is more than most people realize: they help victims relocate and set up new homes. Cash donations are great, but many accept used household items in good condition, diapers, personal hygiene products, and even gift cards to help their residents have a night out. 

  • - Food pantries and soup kitchens can always use monetary donations besides shelf-stable food items--people are hungry year-round, not just during the holidays. 

  • - Local theater groups are on very tight budgets--they gladly accept donations and volunteers! 

  • - Orphanages are commonly called “children’s homes,” and you may have one in your area and not realize it.  If you find one locally, give them a call and see what they need.   

  • - Government-funded senior centers are great places for those in the retired community to gather and can always use extra for programs that enhance the lives of those who are on fixed incomes. 

 

If you can’t afford a donation once a year, set up a monthly donation program for yourself, choose wisely, and give back to your community.  We all want to live in a happy place, and when we help our fellow citizens, everybody’s happy.

 

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

Photo credit: http://geoffsshorts.blogspot.com

Choosing a Home Security System for Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


The home security business is booming, and with so many different brands, subscriptions, and DIY systems, it’s hard to decide what’s right for you and your home.  Let’s take some confusion out of the process with these tips and suggestions:
 

 

  • - First, decide on whether you need round-the-clock monitoring, or if you want to keep an eye on things yourself using your smart phone. 

  • - Major strides have been made over the past few years with third-party monitoring systems, and many companies offer apps for your phone so that you, as well as the company, can watch over things. 

  • - Most monitoring companies offer a free trial period as well, some up to 30 days.  If you’re not happy, you don’t have to commit to their service and worry about extra fees if you cancel before the trial period is up.  Ask before you commit. 

  • If you’re a renter, and worry about the permanent installation, most companies are offering wireless sensors and cameras that can be moved as you move. 

  • - For the DIYer, you or someone you know should be comfortable with setting up your system, not only the physical installation, but connecting it to your home’s internet or home management system. 

  • Safewise.com ranks their favorite 24-hour, monthly fee-based systems, and gives you all their pros and cons for each company. 

  • - Find the self-monitoring system that will work best for you with safehome.org‘s top systems, as well as their highest-ranked third-party systems. 

  • - Is there an elderly person in your life that lives alone?  Consider purchasing a security system for them, and Safe Home offers their favorites for ease-of-use and cost. 

 

There have been so many improvements to home security systems to accommodate busy families and the ease-of-use for setting and deactivating the alarm system as you come and go, you can find a system that best fits not only your home’s needs, but your family’s needs as well.  If you decide on a third-party service, make sure you budget accordingly, since there is a monthly fee, and usually a cancellation fee if you change your mind mid-contract. 


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

Photo credit: tymhomes.com

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