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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

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

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

Creating Shade in Your Outdoor Areas

by Tucker Robbins


You love your outdoor space, but is the afternoon sun stopping you from using it for more than weekend mornings with a cup of coffee?  Closing in the space may not be in the budget, but there are many ways you can shade the area without putting a hole in y
our wallet! 

 

  • Sail Shades For less than $100, purchase a sail shade, a piece of polyethylene fabric, normally cut into rectangles or triangles and grommeted.  Most come with a good length of rope to anchor it to your roof or attach it to a pole.  It’s practically instant shade, and weather-resistant, so it can be left up all Summer.   
     

  • Cabana A breezy cabana can be made from a simple wooden structure, or even piping!  Check out these ideas from Home Decoration Magazine. 
     

  • Vining Shade Build a vertical trellis wall, making sure it’s facing the direction the sun is shining. Plant fast-growing perennial or evergreen vines and train the plants to grow up the trellis.  The trellis itself will shield your space from the sun, and the plants will help as they grow. 
     

  • Slatted Shade Pergolas are beautiful open structures on their own or covered with trailing plants.  The price tag can be big, depending on how it’s done, but wooden pergola kits are available, as well as metal pergola kits for even less.  These instructions from The Created Home show you how to build a simple attached pergola for about $200. 
     

  • Temporary Shade  Lifehacker has a tutorial for a simple canopy that’s easy to put up, and easy to take down.  
     

  • Living Screen Visit a reputable nursery where you can get advice from a grower about good shade trees to plant as a screen around the perimeter of your patio.  Purchasing 6’-10’ trees may be a bit more expensive, but with the right planting and care, the trees will grow and thrive, providing lush, living shade. 
     

  • Container Shade Bamboo is a hardy plant, and easy to grow in containers. Using several containers together will provide lush greenery for shade or a privacy screen.  Find the best bamboo for screening, as well as what containers are best here. 

 

If building or planting your outdoor canopy isn’t your thing, then an extra-large outdoor umbrella will do the trick.  Many models are available, and have extending possibilities, and can rotate to follow the sun’s path.  No matter what you decide to use, take advantage of your own shady spot to unwind after a busy week, move family meals outside, or just soak in the outdoors.   

 

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

Photo credit: amazon.com

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