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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 149

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

8 Things Homeowners Should NOT Be Doing

by Tucker Robbins


Homeowners know that to-do lists are almost always too long, but what about don’t-do lists? Whether you’re a first-time
 homeowner or have been in your home for ten years, here are a few things you shouldn’t be doing: 

 

  • - Testing the smoke detectors incorrectly:  sure, the battery needs to be checked, but so does the smoke detection.  Light a match, preferably a kitchen match, and blow it out, holding it next to the detector.  If the alarm sounds, great; if not, replace the battery.  You may need a new smoke alarm. 
     

  • - Using incandescent light bulbs:  LED and fluorescent light bulb technology is getting better aesthetically speaking, so the extra cost to replace your incandescent bulb will make up for itself in the end.  You won’t be buying new ones for at least one year, plus your energy costs will decrease. 
     

  • - Keeping the old thermostat:  replace it with a programmable, or even better, a smart thermostat.  You will notice a difference in your electric bill! 
     

  • - Not checking gutter guards:  gutter guards are great for keeping leaves, larger twigs or pine straw from clogging the gutters, but dirt, seeds, as well as other smaller materials can still get in and cause problems.  Check your gutters at least every six months. 
     

  • - Ignoring your roof:  just because you’re not seeing it up close and personal every day, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need inspecting occasionally.  Learn more about how to be kind to your roof here.
     

  • - Setting the mower to the lowest cut:  cutting your grass too far down can cause it to die.  It will not keep you from mowing less!  Cutting the grass 1-3 inches in length will keep it beautifully green.
     

  • - Planting trees close to the house:  small trees that can reach thirty feet in height should be planted ten feet or more away from your house, while taller trees need to be at least thirty feet away. 
     

  • - Watering the landscaping in the evening:  your way to relax after a long day may be gardening but giving your plants a drink in the evening can cause mildew and other fungi to grow.   

 

Keeping these don’t-do’s in mind will help you save money, besides keep your home safe and in good living condition!  Also think of it as less to do, thus freeing up your time to enjoy being home with your family. 

 

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

Photo credit:  5homebest.com

Checklist for New Home Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Closing day has finally come and gone - you’re almost finished packing for your move, and let's face it you are BUSY! But, it is important to slow down to take note of a few things that should be done before and soon after you move in.  Go down this list of must-do’s so you’ll be safe, secure and happy in your new home:
 

 

  • - Change all of the entryway locks, keypad codes, and make plans to get a security system set up. 
     

  • - Have utilities turned on in your name, as well as television provider and internet.   
     

  • - Deep clean the new house, even if it looks clean.  This job can be hired out, or you can DIY if time permits.  Keep in mind costs involved with renting any necessary equipment, as well as cleaning product expenses. 
     

  • - Plug in/turn on all appliances, to make sure they’re in working order. 
     

  • - Walk through the house to check for minor things that didn’t warrant repair by the seller. Having your copy of the home inspection in hand will help you find the problem areas that may need to be addressed before they get too big and too costly. 
     

  • - If you want update the home’s color palette with a fresh coat of paint, or do any other small improvement jobs consider getting them done before move in day. This will allow for the painting and repairs to be finished easier and faster before settling in with added obstacles.
     

  • - Typically sellers leave the window treatments, but in case they didn’t be sure to measure the windows. Allow for time and budgeting to purchase and install shades or blinds until curtains or shutters can be hung. 
     

  • - Let everyone know your new address:  relatives and friends, of course, but also medical offices, your employer, schools, and other important people that communicate by mail. 
     

  • - Create a homeowner folder to keep all of your important papers. Be sure to store it in a safe and easily accessible place. 
     

  • - Meet your neighbors!  Once you’ve moved in, introduce yourself and your family by hosting a front porch social, with light refreshments.  Slip invites in mailboxes and simply ask them to stop by to say hello.  

Once you get settled in, you’ll need to get into a homeowner frame of mind.  You will have things to keep an eye on and maintain on a regular basis. Bob Vila’s home checklist gives you an idea of what you’ll need to check regularly. 

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

Photo credit: newhomesource.com

Breaking the Rules of Decorating

by Tucker Robbins


Decorating is the most personal way to express yourself in your home, and sometimes, when you want to try something different--something that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere on the list of design rules--it may be tempting to go with the flow, despite
 what you want to do.  Get design-rebellious with these tips: 

 

Color 

  • - Small room?  It doesn’t have to be a neutral color!  Go bold but create balance with open shelving or smaller furnishings. 

  • - We’re told not to stick with one color in a room, but going monochrome creates a bold, dramatic statement. 

  • - Your ceilings can be considered another wall when it comes to color.  Just remember to keep the walls a neutral color and get samples to paint on the ceiling before you commit to it. 

  • - Trim doesn’t have to be white!  Use high-gloss black for drama, stain that complements wood flooring, or neutrals for a modern twist on a traditional look. 

 

Finishes 

  • - If the metal finish on your kitchen light fixture doesn’t match the drawer pulls, it’s fine!  Mixing metals is perfectly acceptable, and check out this article from the Invaluable blog for inspiration! 

  • - Wood finishes don’t have to be the same throughout the house; create dimension with different stain colors, adding depth to a room or the whole house. 

  • - Who said tile is only for kitchens and bathrooms? Create an accent wall with tile in any room.  Be inspired by using the HGTV photo library search for whatever room you have in mind and add “wile tall” to the search term.   

  • - Speaking of kitchen tile, why not use wallpaper for your backsplash?  Protect it from splashes and oils with mounted plexiglass or a sealant made especially for sealing wallpaper. 

 

Furnishings and Accessories 

  • - Furniture stores have us fooled into thinking that our furniture sets must match, and this logic applies to even pieces like dining chairs. Mixing styles adds interest. 

  • - Mixing more than two patterns can be scary, so start small with accessories in bold patterns that are easily changed.  Staying in the same color family with your patterns will made this decision less daunting. 

  • - If you’d like to add some natural pieces to your space but don’t have a green thumb, then don’t be ashamed to use artificial plants!   

  • - It’s tempting to just scoot furniture to the wall and leave it because you want to follow symmetry.  Go diagonal!  Check out the difference a rearrangement can make by placing the sofa at a slant and give it a try in your living room! 

 

Not all rules of design should be broken, and there are likely rules that tell us why going against the norm with our personal decorating has a great result.  If you want to do something different, try it--you may like it! 

 

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

 

Photo credit:  thespruce.com

Attracting Wildlife to Your Landscape

by Tucker Robbins


Most homeowners landscape their property for aesthetic reasons, and there’s not a thing wrong with wanting your home’s outdoor areas to look beautiful.  Not only can your gardening be pleasing to the eye, you can attract beneficial insects and small mammal
s to your plantings.  Follow these tips if you’d like to create a mini-habitat oasis in your yard. 

 

  • - If you’re not sure where to begin, contact your local USDA Extension office, and they offer a wealth of information to educate you and get your started on your way to attracting wildlife. 

  • - Using native plants is the first step in attracting birds and butterflies, and most of these are perennials that have a short blooming season.  Don’t be afraid of losing color; you can intersperse the native plantings with colorful annuals. 

  • - Purchase or build housing to attract birds, making sure dimensions are correct for certain types of birds, and be sure birdhouse placement is where it will be most attractive to the birds. 

  • - Other man-made shelters can be made or bought to attract wild things:  houses for bats, butterflies, carpenter bees and ladybugs will not only add charm to the landscape, you will be bringing insects that will help you fight the bad bugs. 

  • - To invite frogs to take up residence, take any old clay pot, use ceramic tile cutters to make a doorway around the top edge, and turn the pot upside down on the ground for a frog house. 

  • - Besides placing feeders in different areas, clean water is essential for wildlife, and having small shallow dishes with clean water scattered about (under cover of plantings) will keep little animals coming back to your yard again and again. 

  • - Attracting wildlife can be wonderful and educational, but having deer devour your landscaping isn’t wonderful at all. Keep them at a distance by using this list of plants that don’t appeal to deer from Old Farmer’s Almanac. 

 

One of the first things you need to commit yourself to if you’d like all sorts of beneficial animals to visit and even live in your landscaping is going non-chemical for bad insects and weed control.  Education is the key, so do a lot of reading and learning before you begin this venture.  Landscaping that incorporates plants and animals is landscaping that benefits everyone. 

 

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

Photo credit: naplesnews.com

Renovations and Your Homeowners Insurance

by Tucker Robbins


Making the decision to renovate any room in your home comes after a lot of thought and planning, but don’t forget that changes in your home can create changes in your homeowner’s
 insurance.  Whether the renovations lower or increase the payment depends on the job, so we’re going to look at how a remodel can affect your wallet: 

 

  • Additions:  Whenever you add square footage to your home, your policy will need to be upgraded, likely increasing your premium. 
     

  • Converted Space:  Turning your garage into a home theater or creating a master suite from your attic space may not require changes to the policy if the square footage is already covered, but as replacement value has changed, you will want to increase your coverage. 
     

  • Home System Upgrades: Improving electrical and plumbing systems can lower your premiums, as upgrading them can make your home safer from incidents relating to fire and leaky pipes. 
     

  • Pools:  Installing a pool or hot tub in your backyard will add to the replacement value of your home, and you’ll need to increase liability coverage to protect yourself in case of any accidents.
     

  • Roofing:  A new roof can lower your premium, especially if you upgrade it to the latest standards of protecting your home from natural disasters. 
     

  • Security Systems:  According to Safewise, adding a home security system could lower your homeowners premium by 20%.   
     

  • Solar Panels:  You will want to talk to your insurance agent before installing solar panels to your home.  They may require a separate policy, depending on how they are mounted, which would add to your budget.  
     

  • Upgrades:  Whether you use top-quality building materials for your renovation, upgrade the finishes in your home, or install state-of-the-art appliances in the kitchen, you’ll need to change your policy to reflect the replacement value. 

 

Making changes to your home improve your quality of life in many ways, but it may come at a cost.  Protecting your investment is worth it in the end, but you want to be prepared for anything that will add to your monthly budget. Schedule a meeting with your insurance agent before beginning any major changes in your home so you won’t be surprised when your payment increases. 

 

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

Photo credit: otipinsurance.com

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