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Terms First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know!

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Photo credit: activerain

Preventing and Getting Rid of Mold

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

Photo credit: mnn.com

Giving Locally in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

Photo credit: tymhomes.com

About Reverse Mortgages

by Tucker Robbins


Retirement is a time in our lives that we should be looking forward to having time to do what we’ve been wanting to do:  spending time with family and friends, traveling, learning new things, or just enjoying days without a set routine.  Some retirees have
 found that, even though their home is paid for, the financial end of retirement may not be going to smoothly.  Ads for Home Equity Conversion Reverse Mortgage (HECM), or reverse mortgages, fill magazines and daytime television, but there are things you need to know before you’re tempted to go this route to help you meet a financial need.  

 

  • - If you’re considering applying for a reverse mortgage, talk to a financial counselor to see if there’s another route that you can take.  Don’t wait until you’re feeling desperate and signing a contract for something you’re not sure about. 

  • - HECM’s are government insured if you go through an FHA-approved lender.  Find more information from the Housing and Urban Development website. 

  • - Doing research on the internet it great but be wary of every website that is sponsored by a financial-looking institution.  It’s best to call a person in the financial business that you trust to give you correct and accurate information. 

  • - Two things you should consider before you take out a reverse mortgage are whether you plan to live in your home for a long time, or if your spouse or someone else is still living with you in the home.  Investopedia has more information about reverse mortgage requirements that may make it a poor option for you, and why. 

  • - If you are planning on leaving the house to your heirs when you pass away, and you opt for a reverse mortgage, the heirs will be responsible for the paying back of the loan in full or 95% of the balance within six months. 

  • - Property taxes can be a real burden on a retired homeowner and is a reason one would consider a reverse mortgage.  Call your local municipality and find out about any programs that will assist you with paying your taxes without fear of tax liens and foreclosure. 

  • - Consider your health as well.  When you acquire a reverse mortgage, but at some point, become unable to care for yourself and must move in with family or into assisted living for twelve months or more, the loan will have to be repaid. 

 

The Federal Trade Commission has plenty of information and links to non-biased websites for more information, to help you find a government-approved housing counseling agent, and information from AARP.  Making the decision to get a reverse mortgage isn’t one to make without a great deal of considering other options to help you through a tough time.  

 

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

Photo credit: EInsurance

Keeping Your Packages Safe

by Tucker Robbins


With online shopping having become so popular, this time of year brings stories on the news about package thieves, as well as new gadgets to help deter someone from walking away with packages delivered while someone isn’t home.  There are several options we have that can help keep our deliveries secure, as well as help from online retailers.  
 

 

  • - Talk to neighbors that may be home during the days you’re expecting a package, and ask them to be on the lookout for a delivery to your home so they can hold it for you or stash it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - There are simple ways to hide an unattended package: have a large plant to hide boxes behind, or use a lockbox at your doorstep, with key instructions for the carrier in your delivery details. 

  • - Most large retailers will give you a “ship to store” option, and all you have to do is pick it up at the Customer Service desk.   

  • - If your package is coming via USPS, there are several ways to divert package delivery, as well as ask a carrier to leave it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - When you place your order, if you know you’re going to be at work, make sure your boss doesn’t mind if you have your items delivered to your workplace, and use that address for shipping. 

  • - Your local pack-and-ship store will receive deliveries for you for a fee.  

  • - Installing a visible security camera at your front door can deter some thieves, and some cameras come with motion-sensor options to set off a siren or other alert if someone gets too close to your front door. 

  • - Amazon is offering several delivery options:  Amazon LockerKey Smart Lock KitKey In-Car Delivery, and Hub by Amazon. 

  • - UPS offers My Choice to customize your deliveries. For FedEx deliveries, go to their Delivery Manager, create and account, and manage your deliveries. 

 

The best way to prevent “package Grinches” from stealing your deliveries is to be proactive.  Use text message and email alerts, as well as specific delivery company smartphone apps to notify you when a package is left at your door.  

 

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

Photo credit: Best Buy

Removing Carpet

by Tucker Robbins

Homeowners of houses built in the wall-to-wall carpet phase may be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is hardwood flooring beneath rug.  If you’ve pulled up a corner of the carpeting and found just that, or simply want to remove the old carpet before new is installed, DIY’ing this job is a good idea, but be ready--here are a few tips for removing wall-to-wall carpeting: 

 

  • - You’ll need a few things--heavy duty trash bags, protective gloves, sharp utility knife, dust mask, and a crowbar, and for removing padding glue or staples, a flat floor scraper or padding adhesive remover. 

  • - Remove all the furniture from the room, as well as floor vents, and any under shoe molding.  Vacuum very well to remove as much dirt and dust as possible. 

  • - If there is a room door that swings inward, take the door off the hinges to keep it out of the way. 

  • - Suit up with the dust mask and the work gloves, and start in a corner, pulling a section back with the crowbar, taking care to be mindful of the tack strips that can be holding down the carpet around the perimeter of the room. 

  • - Once you’ve pulled the carpet back, fold it over, and, using the utility knife, cut a section of carpet from the back side for easier going. (Cutting the large rug into sections makes it much more manageable than rolling up the whole piece.)  

  • - Remove the tack strips with the crowbar if you have hardwood floors under the padding that you plan on refinishing.  Start in the middle of the strip, loosening the nails, and work towards the ends. 

  • - After the tack strips are out, tackle the padding.  Pull it up, cutting into sections the same way the carpet was cut. 

  • - Some padding is installed with adhesive, and some is stapled to the floor.  If there is glue remaining on the floor, follow the instructions on the carpet padding adhesive remover to get the glue off the flooring. The staples can be removed with the floor scraper. 

  • - Remember that if you’re planning on recarpeting the floor, leave the tack strips in place, and remove the padding anyway, as most installers require new padding to be put down.

 

Call your local municipality to find out how they would like for you to dispose of the old carpet, because the large amount may not be able to be picked up by the regular truck.  Don’t hesitate to ask about recycling programs that are available, as virtually all carpeting can be recycled.  

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

Photo credit: realitydaydream.com

Creating a Restful Bedroom

by Tucker Robbins

Ah, rest--it is probably one thing that many people will say that they don’t get enough of.  Something we may not realize that’s vital to a good night’s sleep is a calm atmosphere in the bedroom.  Let’s look at what we can do to create a restful bedroom. 

 

  • - Keep the room free of clutter: use storage containers under the bed for clothes you may not have room for, keep jewelry neatly hanging or in a jewelry box, have a hamper tucked away for clothing that needs to be washed, and shoes should be tucked away. 

  • - Some smaller homes don’t have a designated room for an office, and it’s important to keep the two separate, even in the same room.  Face the work area away from the bed and use a screen if you like.  Keep the desk tidy, so you’re not looking at work that needs to be done while you’re preparing to go to bed.  Turn off any electronics that can disturb the quiet of the room when you’re not using them. 

  • - Low lighting is important, so use a low-wattage bulb in the bedside lamp and add a timer for it to come one just before bedtime so you won’t have to turn on the bright ceiling light when it’s time to get ready for sleep. 

  • - Sleep experts will tell you that the bedroom is no place for a television!  If sleep is an issue for you, keep the tv in the family room, as the light and noise will keep you from truly resting.  

  • - On that note, if you need some sort of noise to help you sleep, there are many white noise machines and smartphone apps, as well as playlists on many music streaming services that have a variety of relaxing background noise.  Ditch the tv and use white or “pink” noise to help you drift off. 

  • - Room-darkening shades can be very helpful in blocking city lights and help those who must work at night sleep during the day.   

  • - Pets are like family for most of us but allowing them to sleep in bed with you may not be such a good idea.   Have a special bed or crate for Spot to sleep in, so their nighttime movements won’t disturb your deep sleep cycles.  

  • - Room temperature is very important to rest.  If it’s in the budget, have a separate heating and cooling system for the bedroom, and keep it between 60° and 67°, and if that’s not possible, use a fan to keep you cool. 

  • - Choosing the color for decorating is important, as colors influence us when it comes to different activities.  Most of us know that blues, greens and grays are relaxing colors, but if you like to make a bold statement, light colors won’t work.  Royal blue, shades of teal, and browns can still make a room feel calm and add bright style to the room. 

  • - Obviously, your bedding is one of the most vital parts of getting a good night’s rest.  Have a comfortable mattress with good pillows and bedding appropriate for keeping you comfortable.   

 

Sleeping well is so important to many aspects of life, not to mention your health, and if your bedroom isn’t helping you get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to make some changes.  The Better Sleep Foundation has some other tips and information on how your bedroom can help you get the rest you need. 

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

Photo credit: Pinterest

Brighten the Dark

by Tucker Robbins

Daylight is becoming noticeably shorter this time of year, and since Daylight Savings Time ended, most people will be coming home from work in the dark.  Options for lighting have come so far, you can customize your lighting inside and outside for safety, convenience and aesthetics.   

 

  • - Motion-sensor lighting has come a long way, and many have bright, long-lasting LED’s, timers, and motion sensitivity settings.  Battery-operated lights are the easiest to install and can be placed virtually anywhere.  Use them where you park when you come home, near walkways, as well as the entryway.  Stylish motion sensor lamp posts are perfect for integrating into the landscaping, as they look great besides offering some security. 

  • - For your garage entry, install wall sconces on either side of the door, or one light over the door, shining downwards.  Motion sensors or smart lighting that come on when you drive up are best. 

  • - Solar stake lights are perfect for your landscaping or walkway, but instead of a straight line of lights, place them in various places among plantings to add some interest.  When it’s dark, the low wattage of the solar lights will provide enough light for you to see well. 

  • - Install step or stair lights for the amazing look, as well as safety.  Add them along the sides to the railing, or on the risers.   

  • - If your entryway is covered with a porch, place a lamppost near the steps or install lighting on the porch posts closest to the steps, or consider adding an overhead fixture to the porch ceiling to light up the entire area. 

  • - Depending on the placement of your light fixtures, make certain the types you choose are going to be able to take the elements.  A light with a UL damp rating is best under a covered area, and one with the UL wet rating can handle harsh weather conditions like direct sunlight, rain and even saltwater spray. 

  • - As noted above, some lighting needs to be motion-sensored, but others can be managed by timers, while solar lighting usually has sensors to come on when it’s dark and turn off at daylight.   

  • - The type of bulb you use is a personal choice, but keep in mind that if you’re going to be using the lights all night, LED’s use far less energy, and last much longer than other types, saving you money and time.  Don’t let the memory of the harsh glare LED’s gave off when they were first produced; their technology has come a long way and the industry has taken great strides to give consumers softer, more pleasing light. 

 

Before adding bright security lighting that can affect the homes next door, talk with your neighbors, as they’ll appreciate you consulting with them.  You need to make certain you won’t be disturbing their rest or have your lights shining into their windows.  Not only do you want to have lighting outside for security, but for the ambience as well.  A nicely-lit home looks inviting and adds to the style of your home. 

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

Photo credit: Youtube

Carve, Drill or Sculpt a Pumpkin!

by Tucker Robbins

Gone are the days of using Mom’s best kitchen knife to carve a simple jack o’ lantern with triangle-shaped eyes and a toothy grin.  Pumpkin carving is an art for many, but even those who aren’t so talented in that department can create original and fun lanterns to light our front steps for Halloween! 
 

  • - Cleaning out the pumpkin is messy, and best done on a paper-covered table or done outside.  Once the inside is clean of seeds and pulp, use a spray bleach cleaner such as Clorox Clean Up to spray the inside of the pumpkin to help stop it from molding quickly. 

  • - Pumpkin carving kits can be bought for just a few dollars, and they usually contain a utility saw, hand “drill,” and scraper.  Some kits offer templates to choose from. 

  • - The amount of free printable templates are almost overwhelming, and you’ll probably end up with more than one jack o’ lantern if you go through this list of available templates from The Spruce Crafts! 

  • - Find a template that compliments your skills, or find an easy one that children can help with, and print.  Tape it to your cleaned-out pumpkin, and use a pointy object to trace around the line drawing, poking through the paper and into the pumpkin. Cut the pattern using a small saw, and spray the newly cut areas with the bleach cleaner, and your piece of art should last for several days! 

  • - Metal cookie cutters can also be used for a different look for your pumpkins:  using a mallet, gently tap the cookie cutter through the carved pumpkin shell.  Go around the pumpkin using this method, or place the cutter in random places for a less-structured look. 

  • - A power drill can make creating a pumpkin lantern a breeze!  Use different bit sizes to make your pumpkin sparkle, like these from onelittleproject.com. 

  • - For the more advanced pumpkin artist, grab a linoleum cutter at your local home center, and follow these directions from FromChinaVillage.com for a different approach to “carving.” 

  • - Battery-operated tea lights are perfect for lighting your jack o’ lantern, and last for several hours, as well as being safer than a traditional candle.  Once you purchase an inexpensive pack, replace the batteries when the old ones die, as the LED bulbs inside last much longer than any wax tealight candle. 

  • - For more festive and different approaches to decorating your porch with other members of the squash and vegetable family, check out these ideas from The Garden Glove. 

 

Keep the pumpkin-carving safe:  supervise younger children, and even help them when they want to use tools to cut the pumpkin’s new face.  Most children love cleaning out the “guts” of the pumpkin, so have them pick out some seeds for cleaning and roasting later for a healthy treat.  Most of all, have fun, and make memories!

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

Photo credit: thesprucecrafts.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)