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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

Selling Your Home From Out of State

by Tucker Robbins


When a move out of state is necessary, selling the house your leaving behind may seem scary. A well-thought-out
 plan is an absolute must for the sale to go smoothly.  Read on for some tips to help you get your home-selling plan in place: 

 

  • - Look for a REALTOR® who has experience with long distance sales and is comfortable handling the process with a seller that isn’t local.  Be available for lots of electronic communication with them.
     

  • - Find a tax attorney or accountant with a background in handling out-of-state home sales, because you may have double capital gains taxes to pay.  A professional will be able to walk you through the tax process and let you know if there are any credits you can claim at the end of the year. 
     

  • - Unless your current home is paid for, you will have to pay as if you live in two homes once you move.  Bridge loans are always a possibility, and you’ll need to be certain your home sells within a certain time period, as bridge loans are short-term.  Learn more about bridge loans, and decide if one is the right fit for your budget. 
     

  • - Pricing to sell as soon as possible is imperative, so make certain you and your agent are on the same page.  From realtor.com®: “Your for-sale listing will have the most impact as soon as it is published. That’s when you’re most likely to get fair market value for the home—before people start questioning why your house has sat on the market for so long. 
     

  • - Consider a remote closing, especially if you are so far away that when it comes time to close on the property, you have to spend a lot in travel costs. 
     

  • - Consult your insurance agent before you move, as your homeowner’s insurance will need some changes on your policy, as the house will be vacant. 
     

  • - Leave the electricity on, and have timers on outdoor lighting, and in a few rooms inside.  Keep your security system in place, as well. 

 

Be wary of cash offers that aren’t through your real estate agent, as well as calls from those who call themselves investors.  Smart scammers see an empty house and know that the sellers are eager to move on.  In case the sale doesn’t happen within a certain time frame, talk to your agent about whether leasing or renting is a good idea for you.  Just keep in mind that your situation needs a REALTOR® with experience and confidence to handle the transaction. 
 

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

Photo credit: verani.com

Emergency Home Generator Basics

by Tucker Robbins


Advertisements for full-house generators make you wonder if you really should invest in one, despite
 the high cost.  Having your home in full power during an emergency would be a comfort, but are they worth it?  There are less costly options out there, but only you can decide what’s best for your home and family. 

 

Portable Power 

  • - Portable generators are great for providing electricity to essentials:  lamps, refrigerators, freezers, fans or plug-in heaters. 

  • - Most are fueled by gasoline, and the tank must be filled as it runs, so there is a bit of labor involved.   

  • - The engines on portable generators are noisy (think lawn mower noise).   

  • - Generators that run via a solar panel are available, and the technology is getting better, but the initial cost is higher.  Keep in mind that you’ll save on fuel expenses in the end. 

  • - Prices vary with how many kilowatts you’ll need, and your budget should include enough for appropriate extension cords for each device you plan on connecting to the generator. 

 

Stand-By Energy 

  • - In order to provide power to everything in the house, including HVAC, a stand-by whole house generator is the best choice, as it will be connected to your home’s electrical system. 

  • - A stand-by system can be fueled with natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.  These types of units run more quietly than the portables and are fuel efficient. 

  • - Whole house units will cost the most, as they are ready to go almost the instant you lose utility power, require professional installation, and possibly local permits.   

  • - Installation should be done by a certified electrician, and some offer a package deal that includes the unit and installation in one price. 

 

Whatever type of generator you choose, get the size and type of generator that meets your needs, not exceeds them. There’s no need to waste money!  If you’re unsure of  just how much energy you’ll need, ask-the-electrician.com has some helpful information as well as a sizing  calculator.  Though you’ll only need it during emergencies, you want to know that you’ve made the right choice for your home, your needs, and your wallet. 

 

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

Photo credit: todayshomeowner.com

Keeping Cool Without Turning Down the AC

by Tucker Robbins


Let’s face it:  Summer heat waves can drain the energy from our bodies, but it can also 
drain the money right out of our bank accounts when the energy bill comes due.  Turning the thermostat down seems logical, but not always the best thing to do to cool the house off.  Here are some practical things we can do to help our AC keep the home comfortable: 

 

  • - Keeping shades drawn in rooms where the sun comes streaming in is a great first defense on staying cool inside.  Doing this simple thing can lower the inside temps 30%! 
     

  • - When you’re away, program the thermostat to 80°, and then down to 75° once you are home.  No need to cool an unoccupied house, and leaving it off completely causes not only heat, but humidity, to build up. If those settings seem warm, give it a week, and you’ll find that your body acclimates to the warmer temperatures! 
     

  • - Utilizing fans is an inexpensive way to help stay cool; your ceiling fan should be turning counterclockwise (find the direction toggle switch near the fan speed chain), and floor fans should blow towards you at a comfortable speed. 
     
     

  • - Planting large shrubbery and plants with heavy foliage on the sunny sides of the house not only makes the landscaping attractive, the plants help block the heat, making the outside cooler, thus, the inside will stay cooler. 
     

  • - Permanent awnings and shutters are easy ways to block sun, as are retractable curtain awnings.   
     

  • - Allowing all interior doors to stay open will help the air circulate fully and helps keep hot spots from forming.  Leave air registers open, even in unoccupied rooms, to avoid putting a strain on ductwork over time. 
     

  • - Using a dehumidifier will, obviously, reduce the moisture in the air, making the house feel cooler. 
     

  • - Time your clothes-drying and dishwashing for nighttime hours and keep the house cooler in the daytime and save on your electric bill. Most energy companies have off-peak consumption hours at night and early mornings. 
     

  • - Cooking will heat up the kitchen, so learn how to plan your cooking early or later in the day and make use of a toaster oven creates less heat than turning the oven on. 

 

One of the best things you can do to help your unit running well and keeping things cool is maintenance!  Have a pro come and service it, change filters when they are visibly dirty, make sure the evaporator drain can run freely, and keep the air flowing nicely around the unit. 

 

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

Photo credit: onehourmiamisouth.com

7 Tips for Avoiding Foreclosure

by Tucker Robbins


The loss of a job, divorce, a medical emergency or death of a family member can put homeowners in a financial bind.  You worked hard to buy your house and make it your family’s home.  Don’t let it get to the point of having the bank begin foreclosure proce
edings!  Here are some tips to help you save your home: 

 

  • - First and foremost: call the bank before you begin missing payments!  If you have equity in your home, this is especially important. Once payments are late, or the lender has filed a notice of default, they will be reluctant or unable to work with you.  
     

  • - Several agencies offer free credit counseling and can direct you to someone who can assist you with getting those finances in order.  The HUD website can put you in touch with a local counselor, or find helpful foreclosure information through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling®. 
     

  • - Keeping your mortgage payments current is more important than paying credit card bills!  Sure, late credit card payments will affect your credit score, but a foreclosure will do far more damage to your rating.  Once you get caught up with the house payments, pay off the credit cards as soon as possible. 
     

  • - Do you have any assets you can sell?  Letting go of expensive items that you’re not really taking the time to enjoy--a boat, for instance--can certainly cut monthly expenses, and any proceeds can go to your loan. 
     

  • - In case you’ve already gotten behind, open every piece of mail that comes from your lender.  Many times, they’ll offer options as soon as the first payment is overdue, because they don’t want to foreclose on your loan as much as you don’t want to go into foreclosure. 
     

  • - Resist any “quick-fix” offers you see on the internet, television commercials and junk mail, or even from so-called investors.  These “rescue mortgages” could be a scam and will cost you your home faster than a foreclosure can take place. 
     

  • - If you see that you can simply no longer afford your home, get advice from an attorney whose specialty is foreclosure, as most will do a one-time consult at no cost.  You may also contact Legal Aid for a pro bono lawyer if you can’t afford it.   

 

Don’t be embarrassed about reaching out to your mortgage company and letting them know you’re going through a rough patch.  Being proactive before the installments become overdue will allow more options to be available.  Your house is your most important investment, and its home.  Do what you have to in order to keep it. 
 

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

Photo credit: housingwire.com

Get Your Home in a Good Mood!

by Tucker Robbins


Hopefully, walking in the door of your home after a long day at work starts turning off the stressors of the day so you can recharge for the next.  If there is anything about your house that doesn’t give you a good feeling, it may be time for some redecorating!  Here are 
6 things you can do to create a comfortable atmosphere at home: 

 

  • - An unkempt yard or dirty, cluttered home can keep us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Once a room is cleaned, and piles of mail or schoolwork is organized, try to keep it that way.  If yard work is getting you down, find an affordable landscaping company or neighbor to get the grass mowed, leaves raked, or flower beds weeded. 
     

  • - You may not have had time to paint or do small redecorating projects when first purchased the house, and that outdated wallpaper or color is bringing you down. Color influences us, so when you are dreaming of Tiffany blue dining room walls, but yours are hunter green, take a weekend to get it done!  
     

  • - Light is so important to how we feel!  Keep shades and blinds open to allow sunlight to shine in, and that’s free!  Spending a little to improve poor lighting in a room with lamps, sconces and brighter bulbs is a mood-booster, as we are naturally drawn to light.  Add inexpensive battery-operated LED lighting to the underside of kitchen cabinetry, bookshelves and china cabinets. 
     

  • - According to Healthline, plants can boost our mood and provide many other benefits!  Where real plants aren’t practical, faux greenery will do, and it never needs watering. 
     

  • - One thing that can cause issues is keeping something on display that isn’t everyone’s favorite.  If there’s anything in a room that gives anyone a bad feeling or brings up memories they’d rather forget, remove it.   
     

  • - Aromatherapy is certainly a current trend, but scents do affect us in many ways.  There are so many ways to add a pleasant aroma to your home, so choose the most convenient method, along with a couple of different scents you love, and use them.  When you get used to smelling one, change it out with another.   

 

Finally, and most importantly, decorate with items you love.  Home shouldn’t be making you feel stressed, so hanging a piece of art that was a bargain, but you never really liked, isn’t a good bargain.  Walking into your home filled with things that bring you joy or peace--well, there’s no substitute. 

 

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

Photo credit: quickenloans.com

Allergies and Your Home

by Tucker Robbins


Allergies are something we normally associate with Springtime and pollen, but our homes and yards are sources for allergies year-round.  We can combat all
 the histamine-producing allergens, and it may take some work, but it can certainly cut back on our suffering. 

 

Inside 

  • - Bedrooms are likely the main culprit of allergies.  Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite-proof covers.  Wash bedding weekly in the hot water, and the fewer throw pillows and decorative bedding we have, the better. 
     

  • - Obviously, there are allergens in dust, so while you dust, wear a mask, and clean top-to-bottom.
     

  • - Opt for hard flooring with wool or wool-blend area rugs.  When you must deal with wall-to-wall carpet, vacuum often, and have them steam-cleaned at least twice a year. 
     

  • - Speaking of vacuums, make sure yours has a HEPA filter, and keep the appliance clean. 

  • Start the habit of removing shoes as you come in the door.  Have a pair of indoor-only slip-on shoes to wear around the house.  Having a doormat outside and one inside as people walk in will cut down on pollen and mold being brought inside as well. 
     

  • - Machine washable slipcovers are perfect for upholstery, but on occasion, go over the sofa and any other fabric-covered furniture with the vacuum. 
     

  • - Use bleach or other mold-killers as you clean bathrooms and watch for mold growth anywhere water is used. 

 

Outside 

  • - In Spring, when trees are pollinating, wear a mask while working in the yard. 
     

  • - Another time to wear a mask is while mowing--the blades of your mower are stirring up all types of mold spores, and you may blame it on grass, but your allergies could be coming from the mold.
     

  • - Keeping your grass fertilized will inhibit growth of weeds that can make you sniffle and sneeze.
     

  • - If you love to garden, but not sure what to plant so you won’t feel miserable while you’re working, check out these tips from HGTV. 
     

  • - That morning walk or jog is great for your general health, but if you must deal with allergies, move your exercise time to evenings when pollen is low. 
     

  • - Shower as soon as you come in, or at least, change clothes that pollen and other allergens cling to. 
     

  • - Wipe the pets down with a damp cloth whenever they come in from outside, as their fur is the perfect place for irritants to hitch a ride. 

 

The best tip is not to allow allergies to control your life.  Talk to your doctor about antihistamines that you can take so you can enjoy the great outdoors and so you won’t feel like you should be cleaning every single day.  Allergies can make life miserable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

 

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

Photo credit: atlanticshoresusa.com

Going on a "Stay-Cation"

by Tucker Robbins


So, you need to use your vacation days, but the kids are taking part in activities all Summer, gas prices have you down, or the cost is simply not in the budget.  Why not plan a stay-at-home vacation?  You may not live in a tourist destination town, but yo
u can still take a week off work so you can enjoy some warm weather down time: 

 

Going Places? 

  • - If you are truly wanting an away from home experience, book a room in a local hotel for a few days during the week when rates are lower.  A luxury hotel or bed and breakfast would make it feel more like a vacation, if you can afford it. 
     

  • - Exploring your local area can not only be fun, but educational for the family!  Before your time off, call your local tourism office, and learn about the destinations you’re not aware of, as well as those you do.  Make a list and decide where you’d like to visit. 
     

  • - The weekend before your break, get everyone involved in getting the house cleaned up and the laundry done.  Purchase eco-friendly disposable kitchen items, so you don’t have dishes to do every night, or plan budget-friendly take out. 
     

  • - When you have young children, planning day trips is less difficult on them; spending the day at a nearby museum or state park, then coming home to sleep in their own beds can help keep them in their routine when your time off is over. 

 

Relaxing at Home? 

  • - Imagine yourself as a guest in your own home and treat yourself as such.  Vacations are meant to break routines, and you might have to make a conscious effort to stay in a getaway state of mind. 
     

  • - Spend an entire day at your local park, splash pad, or other fun spot that you normally take advantage of for an hour or so.  Pack a picnic lunch. 
     

  • - Plan some out-of-the-ordinary things to do at home.  “Camp out” in the living room, or even the backyard!  Throw yourselves an ice cream party, or some other celebration that is normally reserved for birthdays and holidays. 
     

  • - Some projects, such as cleaning out the garage, can take a couple of days.  If you must do something, plan as many days of fun or relaxing as you spend working. 

 

Most importantly, unplug yourself!  Turn off notifications for all your smartphone apps, resolve to check personal email every other day, and let family and friends know you’re taking time off, and, unless you’re planning on a get-together, only available for emergencies.  Vacation days are a precious commodity, and if you’re not taking a long-distance trip, make the most of it, and make memories in the process. 

 

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

Photo credit: moneysense

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