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Understanding Your Home Appraisal

by Tucker Robbins


During the selling/buying process, after the purchase agreement contract is signed, lenders order a home appraisal.  They want to be sure that the property is worth the mortgage they are getting ready to issue to the buyer, or in case of refinancing,
 the owner.  An appraisal is different from the home inspection, which should have already taken place.   

 

  • - The lender typically schedules the appraisal with a licensed professional, who contacts the homeowner to schedule a time.  Some appraisers don’t mind the owner being present, but usually work alone. 
     

  • - Sellers should have a few things readily available:  recent tax information, property survey, a list of what is being sold with the house, any addition construction information, including cost and construction date. 
     

  • - The assessment can begin before the appraiser even steps onto the property, as they do market information about the house, as well as research comparable sales in the neighborhood, much like the listing agent did for setting the price for the house. 
     

  • - Like someone viewing the house for purchase, the appraiser takes in the exterior appearance, curb appeal, looks for upgrades or additions, as well as the appearance of surrounding homes. 

  • The appraiser takes note of how many rooms are in the house, as well as size, building materials and finishes. 
     

  • - Condition of everything is taken into consideration, including the foundation, exterior finishes, wear on flooring, what shape the windows are in, and all home systems. 
     

  • - The appraiser will also access the basement, attic and crawlspace to check for water or insect damage. 
     

  • - Most of the time, the appraisal fee is set in the loan agreement, but in case it is not, the buyer pays the fee in the closing costs. 

 

Although the actual property inspection may take a few hours, the appraisal itself is normally given to the lender in an average of seven business days. Appraisers commonly use the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. If everyone has done their homework, literally and figuratively, the value of the home will meet the selling price, and the new buyers will soon be on their way to home ownership! 

 

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

Photo credit: Homelight

Spruce Up Your Curb Appeal in a Weekend!

by Tucker Robbins


Most home sellers work full time, and getting the house prepped to be put on the market can be a second full-time job, depending on their to-do list.  As most every seller knows, curb appeal is vital for a great first impression, and carving extra time is 
a luxury, but with these tips and ideas, it can go from zero to fabulous in a weekend! 

 

  • Cleaning Pressure wash the exterior siding, fencing, the porch floor, concrete walkway and driveway, and as dreadful as it may be, clean out gutters. 
     

  • Painting These exterior items may need paint:  front door, shutters, window sills, exterior trim, garage doors, porch floor and railings, mailbox and address numbers. 
     

  • Replace Lighting fixtures that are dated or weathered should be replaced, and put up new address numbers, or mailbox if paint doesn’t improve their appearance, and get a new welcome mat. 
     

  • Inspect Go around the house and look closely at exterior trim, shutters, and window sills.  Examine concrete for damage, and make sure walkway pavers are stable and in perfect condition.  Make certain that all landscape lighting or irrigation systems are in working order. 
     

  • Lawn Care Not only should the lawn be mowed but using an edge trimmer to neaten up the walkways, driveway and planting beds makes a big difference.  Seed any dead areas of the lawn. 
     
     

  • Landscaping Weed flower beds, add seasonal easy-care plantings (annuals are best for season-long blooms!) and new mulch.  If a tree needs more than minor pruning, call a tree specialist. 
     

  • Decorative Remove personal yard flags, add some potted plants on the porch, highlight a shady spot with a simple outdoor bench and a few plants, and clean up outdoor furniture cushions or replace them. 

 

Much like the interior of the home, the outside should be clean, in working order, and clutter-free.  Before you get outside, go online and search recently sold homes in your market for some curb appeal inspiration, then put in a weekend’s time, and get that house sold!  

 

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

Photo credit: hometips.com

Open House Etiquette

by Tucker Robbins


The house you’ve had your eye on has advertised an Open House, and though you haven’t started your official house hunt, you’re dying to see it.  If you’ve never been to an open house, there are a few things you need to know before you visit--you want to ma
ke as good an impression as the house! 

 

  • - Dress casually, and maybe even wear slip-on shoes, as some homeowners prefer guests to remove their shoes.  

  • - Be on time (maybe even early so you can be the first ones there):  unless there’s an absolute emergency, you don’t want to get there when lots of others are in attendance, nor do you want to get there as the agent is locking up to go home. 

  • - Let yourself in!  An agent may greet you at the door, or they may be waiting for visitors in a central room.  Remember that different agents have a different method, so be prepared for a self-tour, or an agent who would like to give you a tour. 

  • - Signing in is sometimes optional, but some homeowners require it for their protection, and if you’re ready to start looking for a home, the attending agent can have your contact information so you can talk with them about your needs. 

  • - If you already have a buyer’s agent, the polite thing to do would be to let the attending agent know who your agent is. 

  • - While others are looking around, wait until they’re out of a room before you go in, giving them space and privacy. 

  • - Most houses on the market don’t have closed access, but if you come to a closed door at an open house, ask the broker if it’s okay to go in and look around.  Sometimes another guest has mistakenly closed a door. 

  • - At the same time, don’t open medicine cabinets or anything else that could have the seller’s sensitive personal items, and make sure it’s okay to check out closet space before you go into the bedrooms. 

  • - Only take photos with permission.  Most of what you need to know is already provided in the open house flyer and online. 

 

Take the brochure or flyer the agent has available and take notes on it as you tour the house. Once you’re finished with the walkthrough, stop and ask the agent any questions you may have about the house, and write those answers down. This is especially helpful if you’ve taken a day to visit several houses and will make any discussions with your significant other or your agent much easier. 

 

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

Photo credit: lightersideofrealestate.com

Ready to Sell Your New Castle County DE Home?

by Tucker Robbins


Whatever the reason behind the desire to sell your home, it’s not as simple as hiring an agent to put up a For Sale sign in the front yard.  If you want a successful sale, there are things you need to know and do!  Follow these tips for smooth sale-ing:
 

 

  • - Do a bit of local research and choose at least three real estate agents to meet with and interview to find the best agent for you and your home’s sale.  

  • - Gather every bit of “official” information about the house and property:  major appliance and home system ages, dates and permits for any renovations or additions made to the house, warranty paperwork that still applies for any part of your house, including the roof, and any information about your mortgage, if you still have one. 

  • - Be open to fully trusting your agent about when to list the house, as well as pricing.  Selling homes is their business, and they know about the market, what homes in your area are selling for, as well as knowing buyers who are ready to purchase a new home. 

  • - Emotionally speaking, you have to “check out” of your home.  You must step back and begin to look at it as a house, and someone else’s future home. 

  • - Familiarize yourself for what you will need as a seller at closing, so everything will be in order when the time comes. 

  • - Get ready for some work!  Your house needs to be thoroughly cleaned, decluttered, depersonalized and may need some cosmetic work, such as painting, new carpet, or fresh landscaping.  Remember that first impressions are important when it comes to selling your house. 

  • - Do you plan to move before the house is sold?  If so, you need to add the cost of staging to your budget, because you want potential buyers to see it as a home, and not an empty shell. 

  • - Realize that your family’s schedule will be interrupted during the showing process.  The more home-seekers who come through your door, the more your chances are of selling.   

  • - Having a pre-sale inspection done on the house is a wise decision to make.  Once it’s complete, make sure you address any problems the inspector finds, or discuss your options with your RealtorⓇ, such as lowering your asking price, or offering a repair credit. 

  • - Before making any upgrades in your house, such as installing a steam shower to the master bath, or integrating smart home features, talk with your agent to make sure they will be worth it in the end.  They will know what is desirable in homes in your market, and it could save you a bundle. 

 

Last of all, be patient; unless you get lucky with a quick offer, houses can take a while to sell, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Talk to your RealtorⓇ about the ins and outs of selling--they’ve usually been involved in every situation imaginable.   

 

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

Photo credit: mortgage.info

Protecting Yourself From Moving Scams

by Tucker Robbins


It appears
 every week, we’re reading about a new scam to be watchful for, and sadly, moving scams are out there.  Some news reports have shown interviews with families who have never found their belongings months after a move!  Protect yourself by keeping these tips in mind when hiring movers: 

 

  • - Reputable moving companies charge a fee based on weight, along with their base fee.  If you’ve talked with someone who has given you a basic price without coming to your home to estimate, or who doesn’t look at everything you have, they may throw an extra fee on your balance before they’ll move your items into the new home. 

  • - If the movers ask for a deposit, find another company.  Paying money up front takes away your control over having your belongings delivered where and when you want them.   

  • - Before you or the movers start packing, take a written inventory of your things, and take photos of fragile, expensive, or irreplaceable items. 

  • - Get a contract, go over it with a fine-tooth comb, and once it’s signed, make your own copy so you won’t have and edited version with added charges once it’s time to deliver to the new home. 

  • - If you’re moving to another state, movers are required to give you a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” according to the Office of Inspector General. If the company you’re interested in doesn’t offer it to you, ask for it, and if they don’t have it, find another mover. 

  • - Once things are packed, number your boxes and list them on your inventory, and once you’re moved in, unpack or at least look in every single box.  Your time for filing damages is limited, and the sooner you get that done, the better. 

  • - Most mover’s insurance only covers damage to items that they packed.  If you insist on packing some things yourself, take them with you in your vehicle or rental. 

  • - Stumped on finding a reputable company?  Head over to the American Moving and Storage Association’s website, where it’s easier to find a mover in your area. 

 

Remember, your RealtorⓇ knows all about the ins and outs of moving and can help you locate a good company who will take care of your worldly goods and treat you right. 

 

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

Photo credit: fewmoves.com

For Sale By Owner for Sellers and Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Some homeowners think they’ll be saving a ton of money by choosing to sell their home themselves, and unless they’re a real estate agent, that may be so.  If you are interested in a house that is offered for sale by the owner (FSBO) what’s the risk for you
?  Read on to find out why it’s not a good idea for seller or buyer: 

 

Sellers 

  • According to realtor.comⓇ, the listing agent and buyer’s agent split about 6% of the home’s sale price.  You’ll need to calculate how much it costs you to stage and photograph your home, get an MLS number, market the house, take time from work to schedule showings as well as host the showings, do all of the paperwork involved, and contact and pay attorneys and others who are involved in a home sale, and compare it to the commission you believe you’ll give up to an agent.   

  • - To be fair, the seller should offer a 3% commission to the buyer’s agent.  Otherwise, most agents won’t bring anyone who’s interested to your home for a showing. 

  • - Sellers are responsible for any mistakes that have occurred once the transaction is in motion.  If you don’t purchase errors and omissions insurance, you may end up paying out of pocket in court or settle out of court for those mistakes. 

  • - Pricing your home takes more than just an online search for sold homes in your area, and not only can you overprice your house, but you can lose thousands by underpricing. 

  • - Scammers abound and can cost you in many ways.  These criminals target FSBO homeowners, because the scammers are savvy enough to make their offer look legitimate.   

 

Buyers 

  • - Beware the owner’s asking price.  Since the majority of FSBO sellers don’t have the experience to set a good market value on their home, their quote will likely be too high. 

  • - Be prepared to wait some time to see the home.  Most homeowners have full-time jobs, and you’ll have to view the home on their time, with them as your host. 

  • - If a seller tells you their house is in perfect condition, and you can save money by not hiring an inspector, walk away.  Every house even brand-new houses should be inspected before changing hands. 

  • - Ask the seller what fees they plan on paying, and in the case that they ask to share the costs with you, it’s time to find another house. 

  • - Do your own research on the house, make sure the person you’ve talked with is the actual owner, and proceed with caution.  There are scams that involve an empty house, FSBO signs, and scammers who will take your money and run, because they aren’t the rightful owner. 

 

The best advice: hire a RealtorⓇ.  Not only are they the ones taking the risk in selling your home (or not), licensed real estate agents know everything you don’t know about selling and purchasing, devote all their working hours to home-buying, and can protect your investment as well as a buyer’s interests. 
 

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

Before You List Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


It’s time to get ready to put your home on the market, and there are some things to think about before you have it listed.  There’s work to be done, and some dos and don'ts that should be taken into consideration if you want your home to sell!
 

 

  • - The exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer sees; paint the siding, if necessary, and make sure the roof is in great shape.   

  • - Clean up the yard, front and back, and add some seasonal plantings for color. 

  • - A deep clean inside is necessary.  Wash windows, (inside and out), walls, draperies, scrub the bathroom’s every cranny, and shampoo the carpets. 

  • - If you have pets or a smoker in the home, a professional clean may be necessary, or even a new coat of paint on the walls. Pet odors and cigarette tar stay on everything.  Ask a friend or neighbor to come in and do a smell test and tackle any issues that they share with you. 

  • - Deciding what colors to paint the walls shouldn’t be of your personal taste.  Choosing neutral colors is best, and don’t stop at the living areas walls--paint every room. 

  • - Check all the doorknobs, and if any are sticking or simply not working, replace with similar hardware, or replace all of them.  It’s also important for all the exterior door locks to be in proper working order and replace any that aren’t. 

  • - Major repairs or restoration should be done by a pro or an experienced DIYer.  If you choose not to make a repair that you know is needed, you’ll have to be up front to your agent, make the needed fix is listed in your disclosure, and be ready to lower your selling price. 

  • - Sellers want their home to stand out, but don’t overdo it!  Using generally popular fixtures and finishes is better than going with the latest trend. 

  • - Even if your storage space is limited, make it appear like there’s plenty of room.  Remove seasonal clothing from closets, as well as occasionally used kitchen gadgets from cabinets and counters, and put them in storage with the rest of your things. 

  • - Consider staging, and if you can’t afford to go full scale, find a designer that will use your furniture and decorative pieces to maximize space, as well as have it looking its best. 

 

Lastly, don’t go it alone; find a RealtorⓇ that knows all that you don’t about selling your home.  Using an agent gets your home “out there,” and will make the process easier for you as well as for the buyer.  
 

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

Photo credit: homie.com

Real Estate Disclosures and You

by Tucker Robbins

Zillow.com defines the term disclosure as “...the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.”  In most states, this simply means that the seller must let the buyer know about problems that they are aware of.  Whether you’re selling or buying a house, disclosing issues with the house is an extremely important part of the process.  

 

What Disclosure Means for the Seller 

  • - Your listing agent will provide a form for you to fill out, answering questions with either yes, no or I don’t know about different aspects of the house.  This form should be filled out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. 

  • - Items that most states ask you to disclose to the buyer:  lead paint or asbestos, previous repairs or additions, mold or water damage, pest issues, drainage problems, foundation cracks, problems with HVAC and other appliances, and if the roof is leaky. 

  • - If you think there might be a problem, say possible mold in the crawlspace, have an inspector come and have a look.  It’s better to be safe than sorry here. 

  • - While you’re going over the disclosure form, if you’re not sure if you should report something, report it anyway.  It’s best to err on the side of caution. 

  • - Have the disclosure ready before you’ve accepted an offer for your own protection. 

  • - Your listing agent will be aware of all government disclosure requirements--federal, state, and local--so be prepared to report all that these laws ask of you. 

 

Disclosure and the Buyer 

  • - Once you receive the disclosure statement, go over it carefully and ask questions if you’re not sure about anything listed, because you must sign the disclosure. 

  • - The extra expense of having an official inspection done on the house is vital to this part of the sale.  Have the disclosure form information with you when you meet the inspector at the house, so you can go over the problem places with a pro. 

  • - In the case of any additions to the home, check the local government building permit and zoning information to make sure the addition was done the legal way by licensed people. 

  • - If you have any issues with the seller’s answers on the disclosure statement, and don’t want to make the repairs, and can’t come to an agreement with the seller, it may be best to walk away and look for another house. 

  • - Once you are satisfied with the disclosure and have the peace of mind that the sale should go through, sign off on the disclosure. 

 

A disclosure should be a seller’s protection plan, and smart sellers will be completely honest, and maybe even over-disclose.  Also, be aware that some states even ask sellers to disclose things like traffic noise, and even paranormal activity!  Your Realtor will know everything you need to provide to buyers, so the sale of your home goes smoothly.

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

Photo credit: davesellsmetrodenver.com

Adding Value or Not?

by Tucker Robbins

Almost every homeowner has some upgrades or small projects on their to-do list, from installing new gutters to new landscaping.  What they aren’t always thinking is if the next small project will add value to their home.  Not every home improvement increases the value of a property, whether they’re a necessity or not.  
 

  • Roofing While a new roof looks great, it is considered a maintenance issue, so unless your roof needs replacing, or you have damaged shingles, this job rarely adds value.  On the other hand, depending on where you live, a metal roof can add some value to your home, lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums, and may save on the electric bill. 

  • Landscaping Keeping your yard trim and weed-free doesn’t decrease or increase your home’s value, and some landscaping certainly helps if you’re trying to sell. Adding a small fish pond with waterfall, however, isn’t necessarily going to add to add value.   

  • Electric/Plumbing In older homes, an upgrade here is something that’s necessary, and even if you used top-of-the-line products and the most expensive plumbers and electricians in the area, it won’t add value. 

  • Swimming Pool Putting in a pool is simply a personal choice--you have it done because you want to enjoy some refreshment and relaxation on a hot day.  Rarely does an added pool or spa put money in your pocket if you sell. 

  • High-End Upgrades In order for upgrades to add resale value, they must be consistent.  Don’t add imported tile to one bathroom, and then leave vinyl and Formica in the half bath.  

  • HVAC A new A/C unit or heating system is another maintenance item, and though someone looking for a home may find some relief in knowing that there’s a brand-new unit attached to the home, they’re not going to pay more for it because it’s new. 

  • Carpet If you’re thinking about installing new carpet to prep your house for the market, talk to your RealtorⓇ.  Going to the expense of new carpeting may be less desirable to house-hunters in your area.  If you want to make that money back, then consider another type of flooring for your house. 

 

These items don’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have them done, but it does mean that you likely won’t get the extra money they cost back in case you sell your home.  What it will help is the home sale itself--someone on the search for a new house will be more likely to purchase a home that has a new roof or new flooring.  Nolo.com has some excellent information on what will add value to your home, as well as some other home improvement tips.  When in doubt, do some research, and give your RealtorⓇ a call, as they know exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your house. 

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

Photo credit: NationalCashOffer.com

For Sale and Secure in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Sometimes it’s necessary to leave your old home before it sells, and even if it’s in a safe community, there are steps that should be taken to make sure the home and its components are secure.  Criminals are pretty savvy these days, and you don’t want your home compromised, especially when potential buyers are there for a showing. 

 

  • - First and foremost, make sure all your doors and windows are locked.  Most of those who are looking for easy access will find it.  They don’t care to draw attention to themselves by smashing windows and creating a lot of noise. 

  • - Check with your insurance agent and make sure you’re covered properly for a vacant house. 

  • - Talk to your RealtorⓇ about the lockbox that will be placed on your entryway.  Make certain it’s electronic, because the agent can not only get in without a key, but can keep track of who’s used the lockbox to enter, and when. 

  • - If you don’t already, have motion sensor floodlights installed around the perimeter of your home.  This will help deter anyone who is creeping around after dark. 

  • - Ask a relative, trusted neighbor or hire someone with good references to keep an eye on things, especially if you’ve moved more than a short drive away.   If you have a neighbor whose driveway is close by, ask if they would be willing to use your driveway to park in. 

  • - The landscaping should be maintained to keep any suspicion that you’re not there, and it should be taken care of by a reputable landscaper.  Your RealtorⓇ should be able to help you find someone for this job.   

  • - Secure outdoor components--your light fixtures and even the HVAC unit can be stolen, and it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. The light fixtures can be motion-detection activated, and the HVAC unit circuit box can be locked, and make it more difficult to get to with fencing or a security cage. 

  • - A home security system is now more affordable than ever, and you don’t have to pay a monthly service fee to a company. Do some online research and find a system that connects wirelessly and has a coordinating smartphone app.  You can keep an eye on things yourself, and if there’s anything suspicious, call your contact and ask them to check your house for you.   

 

The cost of keeping your electricity and Wi-Fi connected to the vacant house can’t compare to the peace of mind and protection it can offer while selling your home.  That doesn’t count the money you would save from repairs for damage or stolen items to be replaced.  Protect your investment by protecting your vacant house while it waits for new owners. 

 

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

Photo credit: protecsecuritysystems.com

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