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Home Improvements for Seniors in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whether you are simply making your elderly father’s home a little safer, or if you plan on moving your parents in because then don’t need to be living along anymore, a few changes in the house need to take place.  While every family is unique, most needs of our aging parents are the same.  Let’s see how we can make some small improvements that have big impact on their safety and comfort. 

 

  • - Since it isn’t always possible to add a full “in-law” suite to your home, you may decide to give Mom and Dad the master suite, so they can have their own private bathroom. 

  • - Change out the door knobs to lever-type handles for easier opening for those with arthritis or other small motor skill issues. 

  • - Install grab-bars to the shower, bath and toilet walls, for those who need assistance in moving around in the bathroom.  This will offer some independence for the elderly person who hates to ask for assistance. 

  • - For the wheelchair-bound parent, or one who needs to use a walker, consider adding an accessibility ramp to your most-used entry.  Costs vary on this job, but a contractor that specializes in the construction of a ramp will take care of this job swiftly and efficiently. 

  • - Widening doorways is something you may need to do if you anticipate wheelchair use in your parent’s future.  Enlarging them to 36” is the general width for ease of use. 

  • - The type of flooring in the home can impact whether it’s a fall risk for someone who has trouble getting around.  Consider installing low-pile carpeting, but in areas of hard flooring, where carpet isn’t necessarily an option, secure low-pile area rugs with double-sided carpet tape, or no-slip rug padding. 

  • - Remodeling the bathroom may be an option, and a walk-in or wheelchair-accessible shower with a “curbless” entry is a safe choice.  A built-in shower seat and adjustable showerhead are added benefits. 

  • - Changing faucets in the kitchen and bath with a single-lever handle for ease of use, or even a faucet with a motion sensor or touch off-and-on upgrade. 

  • - Electrical issues to consider:  light switches that can be pressed for turning off and on, electrical outlets placed higher than the standard height, and adding more lighting. 

  • - Privacy may be an issue for a still-independent older person, especially if there are children in the home.  Providing a sound-proof door will cut down on noise when Mom wants to sleep in, or if Dad would like to watch the game without interruption. 

 

Having your parents or grandparents move in is life-changing for everyone in the family home.  AARP offers a guide to multi-generational living, with questions to ask yourself as well as your aging parents before you finalize your decision.  Don’t look at this stage of life as a challenge, but rather a way to be a watchful eye over your parents while they maintain their sense of independence and quality of life. 

 

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

Gardening with Fewer Chemicals

by Tucker Robbins

When it comes to gardening, going organic can be difficult, especially when there are so many manufactured products to keep weeds and insects at bay. It’s not uncommon knowledge that the fewer chemicals we use in our lawns and gardens, the better it is for everyone.  Follow these tried-and-true tips to get you started on a more natural approach to a healthy garden. 

 

  • - Make sure your garden soil is enriched with natural compost, and one way to do that is with grass clippings!  According to Mother Earth News, a mulch of 1”-2” of cut grass can feed your garden for the season.   

  • - Another way to get free compost is saving vegetable scraps from your kitchen. When you’re prepping for dinner, keep the parts you would normally throw away in a small bucket or jar with a lid nearby, and throw it in your compost pile or worm bed. 

  • - Speaking of earthworms:  vermicomposting is one very beneficial thing you can do to improve your soil.  Learn how to have your own worm beds from gardeningknowhow.com.  Kids love this project! 

  • - The little tags in the cell packs of plants aren’t there for nothing.  They have important and necessary planting information on them.  Put your plants in the right place, in the right amount of sun, and it will reward you with good growth. 

  • - When and how you water your garden plays an important part in keeping diseases and pests at bay.  A morning shower with a water hose can rid your plants of nasty aphids.  - Watering your plants in the evenings can cause fungi and mildew to grow, and neither is easy to get rid of once they set in. 

  • - Learn the difference between detrimental and beneficial insects.  We don’t want to be bitten, but many stinging insects are taking care of the bad ones that are eating up our vegetables.  The Sod God offers some excellent information as well as infographics to help you distinguish between the good and the bad. 

  • - Row covers are a great and chemical-free way to keep not only insects away, but veggie-loving birds as well.  As long as they cover your plants completely as they grow, they will provide a barrier between your plants and the bad guys. 

  • - If your plants are being taken over by soft-bodied insects like aphids and whiteflies, make your own insecticidal soap--it’s easy with these instructions from Horticulture magazine. 

 

Whether you’re interested in going completely organic in your gardening, or just trying to cut back on man-made chemical use, it takes knowledge and a little extra work.  Growing a Greener World is an excellent television source for all things natural, and there are many books and magazines on the subject.  Look for sources that have been certified as an organic entity or is written or produced by someone who has been gardening the natural way and has lots of experience.  Reap the rewards of not only a great vegetable harvest, but the rewards of keeping chemicals out of the ground, and our water sources. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: thegreatcourses.com

Backyard Getaways in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

Many of us have seen the “she shed” photos on social media, where an outdoor building has been made into an outdoor spot for Mom to unwind--the counter to the basement man cave.  With these ideas, you can take your garden shed, gazebo or covered porch to many levels to provide a place to relax, entertain, or watch the children play in the sprinkler.   
 

Outdoor Oasis Plan 

  • - First, check with your municipal codes for accessory buildings, garden sheds, and see what permits you need to add one to your yard. If you already have one, you’re one step closer to your party hut. 

  • - Decide on what will fit in your space, then shop pre-fab shed distributors, Pinterest for DIY material-repurposing ideas, or online for downloadable building plans.  

  • - How do you want to use your space?  Will it be an entertaining area, a place to relax, or a low-budget pool house? Make a budget for decorating and extras, and stick to it. 

  •  

  • - Once you have your building in place, choose your decor and paint scheme:   

  • - Beach-inspired colors are bright, and you can include an old surfboard, vintage buoys and signal flags found at tag sales. 

  • - Rocking chairs, light colored walls, natural elements, and floral seat cushions make for a country retreat. 

  • - Go modern with simple folding chairs, which offer a storage bonus, simple green succulent plants in sleep pots, neutral colors, and a sleek bar of polished wood. 

  • - Send guests a message of fun in the sun with a palm-frond roof, tiki torches, lots of wood elements and an open-air bar for a tropical feel. 

  • - Create a small pool house with space for lounge chairs, as well as hardware for hanging clothes and towels, and storage for pool toys.   

 

Outdoor Entertaining with Conveniences 

  • - Lighting can be tricky if you don’t have electricity running to your outdoor structure.  If you decide to fully wire the place, have an electrician take care of this aspect.  You want it well-lit, but not a shining beacon--soft lighting is perfect for Summer night entertaining. 

  • - Give self-charging solar lights a try.  LED’s associated with solar lighting have come a long way, and can be bright without being harsh. 

  • - Battery-operated LED lights are an excellent alternative, and come in many designs to complement your decor.  Strings of Chinese lanterns and vintage-style bulb covers can be found in many styles in home centers and online. 

  • - You may not want to deal with the cost of a hiring an electrician to wire your new party pad, but using solar power on your small building is easier than you may think.  Home improvement centers have small solar kits that you’ll need to light the night without adding to your utility bill. 

  • - Solar-powered ceiling fans for outdoor use are easily found online, as well as stand-alone units.  Moving air will keep you and any guests comfortable.   

 

With so many products and ideas available at our fingertips, thanks to the internet, an outdoor gathering place can be outfitted as simply or luxuriously as we want--there’s no need to break the bank.  Create a haven that fits the needs for your family, and make fun-filled Summer memories without leaving your backyard! 

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

Photo credit: porch.com

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For June 2018

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE active listings are down 20% from last year and up 8% from the previous month. The median listing price was just over $274,200 and the median sales price was just over $234,900. Compared to last year, the average days on market is down 15%. The number of units sold increased 1% year-over-year and increased 22% month-over-month. 

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

From Tenants to Homeowners in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whatever the reason you’ve decided that it’s time to go from renting a place to live to purchasing a home of your own, there is plenty to consider.  From down payments to paint, many factors of home ownership are different than when you’re a tenant in someone else’s home.   

 

  • - Begin budgeting now, if you do not already.  Homeownership has more expenses involved than renting, and you need to be able to manage your money properly. 

  • - Check your credit score and correct any mistakes, or do what it takes to bring your numbers up. 

  • - Start saving towards your down payment.  

  • - Be realistic.  You know about how much you can afford, so don’t start your initial search in the luxury homes sections. 

  • - Once your financial things are in good working order, shop around for a loan, and talk with the lender about your pre-approval amount.  Knowing how much you can afford will help keep you in check when it comes to the house searching. 

  • - Don’t balk at browsing other homes besides houses--there are affordable townhomes and condominiums that could be perfect for you as your first home purchase. 

  • - Think about your community options--do you want to live in a managed community (HOA), a rural area, new construction in a planned community, or an older suburban neighborhood?  Each can affect how much you pay in HOA fees, taxes, or maintenance costs. 

  • - If you have renter’s insurance, and you should, you’ll note that a homeowner’s policy costs more, because it covers much more than just your belongings.  Speak with your insurance agent about a quote so you can budget accordingly. 

  • - On the chance that you decide to relocate, you can choose to rent your property and become a landlord yourself.  You will have money from the rent to pay towards your mortgage payment, or, if the house is paid for, begin building a nest egg. 

  • - Purchasing a newer house than what you’re renting can save money in the end, because of less up-front maintenance, as well as being more energy efficient, thus having lower utility bills. 

 

Think about the freedom to paint your living room teal blue if you like, and feeling like dancing and not having to tiptoe because there are no neighbor’s downstairs.  As soon as you are ready, contacting a Realtor to help you get started is the first step you’ll need to take, as they are your guide during the whole home-buying process.   

 

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

Photo credit: financetypes.net

Pet Summertime Safety in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

When we’re enjoying the warm weather, our pets usually are, too.  When we’re spending time outdoors with family and friends, we usually include our pets.  Keeping our furry family members safe should always be a priority, and these tips may be a refresher course for some, but it never hurts to make sure all our loved ones are kept out of harm’s way. 

 

In the Backyard 

  • - Fencing should be examined to make sure there are no gaps at the bottom, and that all materials are in place and secure.  You don’t want Fluffy taking a neighborhood excursion by himself. 

  • - The garden and landscaping bring us great satisfaction, and animals like to take a bite of growing things occasionally.  Check these lists for cats and dogs from ASPCA to make sure you keep your pets from chewing on them. 

  • - Keep any swimming pool chemicals and mechanical lawn tools sealed and out of your pets’ way.  Some of these products have a scent that is enticing to animals, and they wouldn’t hesitate to give them a try.   

  • - It may sound sensational, but if you have an animal that is a toy breed, or weighs five pounds or less, keep an eye and ear out for any predatory birds.  Owls, hawks, and eagles have been known to attack small pets, mistaking them for a wild meal. 

  • - Sometimes it’s necessary to leave your dog or cat outside while you’re gone for a while.  Make sure they have adequate shelter to keep them cool, and plenty of cool water to prevent heat stroke or dehydration. 

  • - Allowing your cat to roam in the yard is great for them, as they are natural hunters, and they find great pleasure in all the sights and sounds.  Keep an eye on them in case they see a bird they’d like to get to know better, or find a snake in the flower bed.  Protecting wildlife and your feline friend go hand-in-hand. 

 

Out and About 

  • - Does your dog go with you for exercise while you’re biking or jogging?  Some active pet owners take a water bowl with them, so they can offer a cool drink to their pet, and you can train them to drink directly from the bottle using an adaptor created especially for dogs. 

  • - Going fishing or water skiing?  Make sure you have a life jacket for them, as well as an overboard plan.  If you think Fido would enjoy jumping into the water, maybe you should leave them at home or at the kennel for their safety as well as your own. 

  • - vetSTREET offers some great tips for taking your dog to the beach.  Heat, waves, and hot sand can all play a role in just how much fun everyone will have--or not. 

  • - It’s vacation time, and you’d like to bring your pet with you, so call ahead for information on pet-friendly lodging, and where they can stay for events where pets aren’t welcome. Make sure you have a vehicle safety harness or seat belt for them or their carrier while you’re traveling. 

 

Summertime brings water fun, cookouts, and don’t forget the insects!  Keep your pets safe from biting insects, and be sure they get a flea and tick repellent treatment and heartworm prevention to avoid any diseases these insects can cause down the road. Pets need to be kept as safe as small children, so take preventive measures so you can have a fun and healthy Summer with the whole family.   

 

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

Photo credit: Pets Animal Hospital 

Easy Updates Before You Sell in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Once you decide to sell your home, you want it to look its best, and a total remodel may be out of your budget.  Thankfully, there are some quick and affordable updates to add to your home to give it some extra style and character, not to mention the added value! 

 

  • - You can add crown molding to your rooms with little carpentry know-how.  Plaster-covered foam molding is available in many styles, and anyone with a measuring tape, hand saw and some paint can install it.  This Old House has a how-to for this easy update. 

  • - Clean up and, if necessary, paint your front entry door.  Add a new light sconce, and get a new welcome mat. 

  • - Electrical outlets are usually not something you think about upgrading, but outlets with a built-in USB port are available at home centers, and are impressive to potential home buyers because of the convenience they offer.  Put them near the kitchen counter, and a few in the bedrooms for easy access. 

  • - Cleaning the grout in the bathrooms, or even re-grouting can make your floor and tile look shiny-new. 

  • - Upgrade your doors’ and cabinets’ hardware for every room if it’s outdated. 

  • - Paint rooms a neutral color; grey and beige--even a mix called “greige”--are trendy right now if you don’t want all-white walls. 

  • - Add potted flowers or plants to your front entry for a welcome sight--just don’t forget to water them! 

  • - Check your crawl space for any falling insulation, and replace it. 

  • - Change out any dated light sconces and chandeliers. 

  • - A new shower curtain and decorative towels can do wonders for your bathroom. 

  • - The right backsplash in the kitchen can really make it stand out and look like new.  There are many DIY options, and the self-stick products on the market now make this task go much faster for the novice. 

  • - A chair rail and wainscoting in the dining area adds a nice eye-catching architectural detail. 

  • Most experts advise taking down your window curtains while your home is on the market, but you want some color on the windows.  A cornice box is an easy project to try, and cover them with your (now) old curtain fabric. 

 

You want your home to make a great impression as soon as a possible new owner walks to the front door.  Small details can make a big impact on their decision, and as the seller, it’s your call on what makes your home sell.  Walk through with your Realtor, and ask for suggestions from them, as they are the expert.  Tackle what projects are within your budget, and hopefully you’ll soon be reaping the rewards! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: alabamanewscenter.com

Warm Weather Water Savers in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

Days of lounging by the pool or in a hammock with a good book while the children play in the sprinkler are on the horizon, and you can’t wait to wash the pollen off the car, not to mention the grime from Winter on the car tires.  Spring and Summer is probably when we use more water than other times of the year, and there are ways we can conserve and avoid a high water bill for the next few months. 

 

  • - We shower more in the Summer, so conserve by shortening your shower time by just two minutes, and save 150 gallons of water per month! 

  • - Keeping our landscaping green uses a great deal of water, and if you have a sprinkler system, make sure the timer is set for morning or evening, and that the showers aren’t falling on the driveway.  Pay close attention to the weather, and turn off the timer whenever a good chance of rain is predicted. 

  • - Keep a pitcher filled with water inside the fridge for a thirst quencher instead of running the water from the faucet and waiting for it to get cold. 

  • - Cut your grass on a higher setting, because the longer blades help shade the turf, and in turn, holds water better, so you’ll have to water it less. 

  • - For the garden, landscaping and lawn, use a drip irrigation system instead of sprinklers or hand-watering with the hose.  Water is directed to the roots, where it needs to be. 

  • - When the car needs cleaning, take the bucket and sponge to a car wash instead of washing it at home, and save about one hundred gallons of water!  

  • - Purchase and set up rain barrels under gutter spouts or areas of the house where water runs off the roof.  You can get some very sophisticated barrels with faucet attachments for gravity-watering with the hose, and covers to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs. 

  • - Placing a cover on your pool not only helps keep it clean, but it can save the pool water from evaporating.  The Spruce lists several swimming pool water-saving tips. 

  • Instead of washing fresh vegetables from your garden under running water, fill a large bowl with water, and give them a bath.  Once they’re clean, use the leftover water for houseplants or potted plants outside. 

  • - Growing native plants will help cut down on water usage, as they are adapted to your local climate.  Contact your local cooperative extension agent to find out how to plant a native plant garden. 

  • - Place a five-gallon bucket with small holes in the bottom near plants or a tree that need a drink, and fill it with water.  The holes will allow the water to trickle out at a slow pace, and soak the soil, where the water should be, instead of the leaves. 

 

Water conservation isn’t just good for your wallet, it’s good for the environment. If you’re interested in learning more about using less water year round, check out the Water Calculator website to calculate your water footprint, and what you can do to use water more efficiently. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: segurgent.com​

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For May 2018

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE active listings are down 22% from last year and up 4% from the previous month. The median listing price was just over $270,000 and the median sales price was just over $210,000. Compared to last year, the average days on market is down 21%. The number of units sold decreased 17% year-over-year and decreased 4% month-over-month. 

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

Seven Internet Privacy Check-Up Tips

by Tucker Robbins

With the revelations from Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg about how the social media giant utilizes user data, many people are wondering how they can protect any personal information they have on social media and the internet. Using an ad-based website--or anything on the internet, for that matter--isn’t totally private, but there are some things you can do to help keep your personal data from getting into the hands of the wrong people. 

 

  • - If you’re reading this, odds are you are a Facebook user, and your personal data may have been used by an outside data analysis firm.  Gain some insight into your privacy settings, and how to change them and your personal data information from trustedreviews.com. 

  • - Using Facebook to log into websites like Pinterest, GoodReads, and other social media sites is convenient for you, but it also makes that website privy to your connections’ information as well.  Set up one email account for use on social media, and don’t use it for anything that requires signing up with personal information.  

  • - Almost every website now has an info window that pops up that informs you that they use cookies to store your activity.  Some cookies can embed trackers that gather info as you surf the internet.  Take a few seconds every time you browse by clearing them from your browser settings. Digital Trends shows you how to delete them from the most popular internet browsers, including your mobile browsers. 

  • - Whenever you’re using free WIFI in public places, their internet service providers can see what you’re doing while using their connection.  A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can protect your personal information from being seen by encrypting it.  While there are free VPNs available, some will cost you.  PCMag lists their favorites according to your usage--from general browsers to world travelers. 

  • - Once you’ve finished using a website where you have an account, log out.  If you’re out and about, and the data you’ve stored on whatever device you’re using is sensitive, opt out of the free WIFI and use your data instead.   

  • - Did you know you could browse privately?  Click on your browser’s menu and choose “Private Window” or, in the case of Google Chrome, “Incognito Mode.”  While using this feature, nothing you do will be stored in the browser’s history. 

  • - Some browsers don’t share any of your personal information, or at least, share a limited amount.  Mozilla FirefoxOpera and Tor are free, and are always doing their best to keep surfing the internet safe for their users.  Mobile browser apps are available as well. 

 

To sum it up, don’t share anything on the internet that you don’t want a data analysis company or a hacker finding out.  Lifehacker offers tips on several other ways you can protect your personal data such as two-factor authentication and email encryption.  Most of us can’t avoid using the internet completely, but we choose what sites we use, and what information we share.  Short of signing off the world wide web for good, being proactive is the best way to protect ourselves. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: mycustomer.com

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