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Neighborly Advice in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

In days gone by, when someone moved into the neighborhood, casseroles, cookies, local information and cookout invites were offered by residents up and down the street.  With so many differences in today’s society, some people never even see their neighbors, let alone know their names.  Even if we don’t have “good” neighbors, let’s see how we can be one: 

 

Generally Speaking 

  • - First and foremost, keep your lawn and home maintained.  Don’t spend your first Saturday morning in the neighborhood mowing grass or hammering away at a project at dawn, but keeping your yard neat and your home looking good will let the other residents know you care about your home and community. 

  • - Noise plays a factor, especially if homes in the neighborhood are close together.  Keep music, children and animals quiet after 10 PM, and if you’re having a backyard gathering, take it inside if guests are still with you late into the evening. 

  • - Pets are a part of our families, but not everyone loves your frisky pup like you do. Keep dogs and cats off your neighbors’ property, and install fencing in the backyard if it’s not already there.  Clean up after your pet on walks. 

  • - Find out when trash pick-up is and take your cans to the curb on time.  No one wants to see (or smell!) overflowing cans or bags of garbage piled along the curbside.
     

Getting to Know You 

  • - Once you’ve gotten partially settled, if you see someone outside, introduce yourself.  Even if the neighbor doesn’t seem to want to be best friends, you can at least share what you do for a living, your name and phone number, so they’ll know your general schedule and how to get in touch with you if necessary. 

  • - Weather permitting, host a front porch gathering, and invite your neighborhood.  Offer light refreshments for the meet-and-greet, and have it in the afternoon before dinner time so no one feels pressured to stay.   

  • - Create a social media neighborhood group or join an existing one.  It’s a good way to see what’s going on, as well as getting to know those who don’t live in your immediate vicinity.   

  • - Communication is key when it comes to your neighborhood.  Let your closest neighbors know when you’ll be away, having a tree removed, planning on new construction, when you’re having a party, (invite them, whether they show up or not!), garage sale, or any other activity that can affect them and their surroundings. 

 

When you’re on a friendly basis with everyone on your street, it sure makes living there a lot easier.  Keep in mind the golden rule to treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and others will see that you’re respectful and friendly.  You’ll be helping not only keeping your community a great place to live, but living peacefully amongst your neighbors.

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

Photo credit: cbjenihomes.com

Back-to-School Routine

by Tucker Robbins

In most parts of the US this time of year, there is a lot of groaning by kids who are heading back to school, and some parents as well, because they dread the busyness of the school being in session.  Take the dread out by getting organized and staying organized so that it becomes a routine for you and your kids. 
 

  • - With sales and coupons abounding at every store this time of year, we usually end up with more school supplies than we need.  Have a dedicated storage spot for everything for easy access when it’s time to replenish.  Donating some of those extra supplies to the school or organization who help kids in need is a good thing, too. 

  • - If your school requires uniforms, go through old ones, and if they’re not worn or stained, take them to your school office so other students have a change of clothing in case of spills or accidents.  

  • - Getting ready for school begins the night before.  Set a bedtime, get a good routine going, and stick to it.  It can help reset your child’s body clock so that even when things get busy, they’ll be ready for sleep at their set time. 

  • - Even if they haven’t yet learned to tell time, get your child an alarm clock.  Set the alarm and help them be responsible for getting themselves up.   

  • - Have all their school clothes for the week hanging on a wreath hanger on the back of their bedroom or closet door or folded on their dresser.  This way, they can decide what to wear each day without staring at a closetful of clothes. 

  • - Let the kids pitch in with lunch prep.  Have their lunchboxes, storage containers, plastic bags and drink containers all in one easily-accessed spot in a kitchen cabinet. Good Housekeeping has a video with some great tips for packing up lunches. 

  • - Breakfast on the go can be so much more than a toaster pastry and juice box.  Mique from Thirty Handmade Days has compiled a list of links of 31 healthy make-ahead meals that kids will love! 

  • - Whether you have a mudroom or not, place some baskets or totes near the door for shoes, bookbags and sports bags.  It certainly helps with “I can’t find…” when it’s time to get them out the door. 

  • - After-school routines can vary, with extracurricular activities, sports, and lessons.  Keep a white board in a prominent place and have everyone’s schedule listed by days of the week.  Have the kids go over their schedule the night before so they’ll be prepared for their activities the next day. 

  • - Sometimes children come home from school and can’t wait till dinner and want to eat a full meal.  Have some snack bags of sliced fruit or veggies keeping cold in the fridge.  Add some fruit dip or ranch, and they’ll have a yummy snack that will tide them over until meal time. 

 

Getting in a routine doesn’t mean there won’t be mishaps or struggles or lost socks.  Go with the flow and remind the kids of the importance of putting things in their place or having things ready to go.  When they see you getting things ready beforehand, they’ll pick up your habits, get used to it, and it will soon be second nature.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: 01 Insurance

Ready to Buy a Home?

by Tucker Robbins

Buying a home is likely the largest investment you will ever make.  There is plenty of preparation before you start house-hunting, so make the process as smooth as possible with this guide to buying a home. 

 

  • - We can’t say it enough:  mind your credit!  Unless you have the funds to pay for a house in cash, then you need to keep an eye on your credit. Get a report from all three credit reporting agencies from the Annual Credit Report website. 

  • - Know what you can afford.  Make a budget and stick to it, recording everything on paper or using budgeting software.  Once you see where your money is going, it’s easier to cut some unnecessary things to put towards your down payment. 

  • - That said, start saving now, not only for your down payment, but any other expenses associated with a home purchase:  inspections, closing costs, and taxes are a few to expect. 

  • - Once you are close to having all of your down payment, start shopping for the best mortgages, and get pre-approved.  Being pre-qualified is great, but it’s not much help if you’re not approved for the loan. 

  • - Be ready to compromise on certain home aspects:  square footage, having to make minor repairs, or even living on a busy street.  If the price is right, the house fits your needs and wants, then put the it on your possibilities list. 

  • - Just because you’re approved for a certain home loan amount doesn’t mean you have to max that budget.  You need as much leeway in your finances for emergencies and unexpected costs. 

  • - Prepare yourself for possible let-downs:  some perfect-for-you homes are also perfect for others who are on the search for a new house.  If there are several offers on a house, you may have to walk away from it and keep hunting. 

  • - Don’t go through it alone!  Find a Realtor that you trust and like.  These real estate professionals are your ultimate guide through the home-buying process, and will make it so much easier for you.   

 

The house-buying process for most Americans takes a bit longer than what we see on the home-buying television shows. It takes planning and patience to find what you need and want.  So, do your “home” work, and you’ll soon be on your way to being homeowners! 

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

Photo credit: Realtor.com 

Summer Remedies From Your Pantry

by Tucker Robbins

A day in the sun is over, and you notice that the white straps on your bathing suit have turned an ugly light brown or orange color, stained by the sunscreen we all need.  You might have just what you need to remove those stains in your cleaning supplies, and many remedies for Summer maladies can be found in your kitchen and bathroom.  Save some money with these home remedies! 
 

  • - Powdered cleansers that contain oxalic acid, like Bar Keeper’s Friend, are perfect for sunscreen-stained swimsuits and clothing.  Wet the stain, apply the cleanser, and let it sit for a few minutes.  - - The stain may take some rubbing, or reapplication, but it usually comes out and your suit isn’t ruined! 

  • - Bee stings are a common ailment, especially for those who like to be barefoot.  In the case of a minor allergic reaction, such as pain, itching and swelling, apply an ice pack for several minutes.  If the symptoms return, reapply the ice.  

  • - Baking soda has a long list of uses, and add “soothing heat rash” to that list.  Add one cup of baking soda to a tepid bath, and soak for at least twenty minutes.  The alkalinity of the soda will help dry the affected areas. 

  • - Spending a lot of time at the beach may inevitably mean getting too close to a jellyfish.  White vinegar poured on the wound will dissolve the stingers that the jellyfish leaves on the skin, allowing the pain to subside.  Fill a small spray bottle with vinegar and add it to your beach bag, just in case. 

  • - Your hair can suffer from hot wind, sun, and chlorine in swimming pools.  Rehydrate it with a coconut oil treatment!  Apply it from root to ends, wrap your hair in a warm towel, and allow to soak in for a half hour.  Wash it with your regular shampoo to remove the excess oil. 

  • - Mosquitos, biting flies, and fleas are the most common insect bites in the summer.  Dab bites with peppermint oil to cool the skin and reduce the itch. Do not apply to a bite that’s been scratched red nor to broken skin--the result will not be cooling at all! 

  • - Many gardeners and hikers come across poison ivy in spite of the “leaves of three, let it be” mantra.  An oatmeal bath will soothe itchy, irritated skin:  pulse one cup of oats in a blender or food processor until they’re ground, and add it directly to a warm bath. 

 

Use common sense with any side effects from bites, stings, or any other skin issue:  if the problem persists, by all means seek medical attention.  Don’t let your warm weather fun turn into a recuperating period!  Summertime ailments don’t always require a trip to the drug store, so look in your pantry for items you need in a pinch, and enjoy your time in the sun! 

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

Photo credit: Free People Blog

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 

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​

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

Improve Your Credit Score

by Tucker Robbins

The main consideration in a home-buying decision is financials. In order for a lender to see you as a good prospect, the first thing they look at is your credit score.  No one is perfect, and even if your score isn’t ideal, you can (and should!) take the time to improve it before you start looking at prospective homes. 

 

  • - To see what your credit score is, request a free credit report from all three reporting agencies.  Check each report for errors, and report them to both the credit bureau and company that reported it. 

  • - If there is a legitimate collection on your credit report, pay it as soon as you can, but it will not be removed from your credit history for seven years, although it will be marked as paid. 

  • - Old debt on your report that was paid in full and on time is better for your score than having it removed.  So if you’ve paid off an account in good standing, leave it as long as possible. 

  • - If you have a history of keeping your payments on time, that’s great, because late payments hurt your score.  Stay current by setting reminders to mail payments before their due date, or set up automatic payments through your bank. 

  • - Pay off your credit cards!  This is so important, because the more outstanding debt you have, the lower your score.  Pay off the smallest balance first, and the larger balances can be paid off sooner by increasing your payments, or send equal payments twice per month if the creditor allows. 

  • - Canceling a credit card that you’re trying to pay down sounds like a great idea, but it isn’t, according to FICO™.  It’s better to simply pay off the card, and use it as minimally as possible--charging to it once a month for a take-out dinner keeps it active. 

  • - Don’t have a credit card?  Shop around for one with a good interest rate, and apply.  Having at least one credit account in good standing is better than none at all for those who haven’t really started establishing a credit history. 

  • - Applying for loans or credit with multiple agencies can hurt your score.  Avoid new credit accounts while you’re trying to bring your score up. 

  • - If you are truly hurting financially, and don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, contact a reputable credit repair agency that can assist you in getting your bills paid, manage your finances, and increase your home purchase chances. 

 

There is no hurrying when it comes to improving your credit rating, so plan on taking several months to a year to bring your score up to a number that will impress lenders.  It’s not all about the loan, it’s also about getting a good interest rate.  Much like taking up jogging to get into shape, take it slow, increase your efforts every month, and you’ll soon be showing off the results! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: nationaldebtrelief.com

Questions to Ask When Searching For A Realtor

by Tucker Robbins

All your life, you have seen For Sale signs in front yards, and there’s always a Realtor’s name, and in these modern times, a photo of them.  How did the seller decide on that Realtor?  Did they open the paper to the classifieds, close their eyes, and point to a spot in the Homes for Sale section?  That’s very unlikely, and it may take a few interviews, but you and your Realtor should be a good fit.  

 

  • Any friends that have recently bought or sold their home can get you started on a reference list.  Ask them what they liked most/least, and what they would do differently. 

  • Look to the internet for initial research.  Go down your list and search for each Realtor’s listings, blogs, and testimonials. Record contact information of Realtors you’re most interested in. 

  • Call each Realtor and set up an appointment to meet for a Q&A session. 

  • Before your first meeting, familiarize yourself with real estate professionals terms, as each title has a different job. 

  •  

  • Have this list of questions to ask on hand at every meeting: 

  • - How long have you been in real estate? 

  • - Are you in the real estate business full-time or part-time? 

  • - Do have more buying or selling experience? 

  • - How many homes have you sold in the past twelve months? 

  • - Do you specialize in any certain neighborhoods or locations? 

  • - How many clients are you working with now? 

  • - What’s the best mode of communication for you? 

  • - Do you utilize the internet and social media to list your homes for sale? 

  • - What makes you stand out in our local market? 

  • - What should I know as a seller/buyer? 

  •  

  • - A good Realtor welcomes these questions and will be honest with you when they answer them. 

  • - Don’t be surprised if the real estate pro interviews you as well! They need to know about you as much as you need to know about them. 

  • - Meeting with potential Realtors help you see their personalities, and having good chemistry is essential to your Realtor-client relationship.  You will be spending a lot of time with each other. 

  • - References with contact information are essential and can help you seal the deal with the right real estate professional for you and your needs. 

  • - If the Realtor is new in the field, don’t count inexperience against them.  They should be eager to add your sale to their portfolio and want to offer you a great experience. 

 

Once again, you will be spending a great deal of time with your Realtor, on the phone as well as in person.  Rismedia has more qualities and information for Realtor-hunting before the home hunting begins.  You will be sharing a lot of personal information with them, and a good relationship is vital to the sale or purchase of your home.  All your research could lead to a long-term relationship, not just a real estate agent. 

 

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

Home Decorating and Design Trends for 2018 for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

A new year means that new home decorating and design trends are being featured in magazines, on blogs, and at home shows.  If you like to stay on top of the newest ideas and get an itch to get to the paint store when you see the most recent magazine layouts, here are just a few of things that are trending now. 

 

  • - In spite of what we see on house flipping television shows, the open floor plan is losing some popularity.  People are starting to define their open spaces with small partitions, paint, and other clever ways. 
     

  • - Natural things like wood, botanical prints and florals are still hot.  Wood is still king in the flooring department, and wallpapers and fabrics will be featuring natural prints. 
     

  • - For kitchen countertops, quartz is moving up the ranks because of its beauty and ease of care--it doesn’t need sealing like marble and granite, and it’s also heat resistant. 
     

  • - Accent walls are painted in bold colors, or covered with wood or bold-printed wallpapers. 
     

  • - Metallic pieces are making a comeback.  Finishes in brass and even stainless black are taking over stainless steel and brushed nickel.  Good thing that mixed metals are an acceptable look. 
     

  • - Larger tile on floors and backsplashes are coming in style, but the classic subway tile is still number one because of the clean, classic look it has. 
     

  • - Concrete is showing up in unusual places, like flooring and walls.   
     

  • - Smart technology is being integrated into almost every room of the house, including the bathroom

     

    -Vanity mirrors with smart screens built in, chromatherapy, and touch-free fixtures are becoming more popular and affordable.   

     

    - Trends in lighting are still leaning towards the vintage look, but pendants are especially stylish, and brass is the new brushed nickel. 

     

    The definition of trend, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a prevailing tendency or inclination; a general movement.”  In other words, trends are temporary, even if they last for years. Make it easy on yourself if you love a new look, and try a few ideas in your home, but don’t undergo a complete remodeling to meet today’s en vogue styles.  Stick to easily changeable trends, such as throw pillows, slipcovers, paint, and wall coverings.

     

     

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

  •  

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    Photo credit: lampsplus.com

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