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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

Going on a "Stay-Cation"

by Tucker Robbins


So, you need to use your vacation days, but the kids are taking part in activities all Summer, gas prices have you down, or the cost is simply not in the budget.  Why not plan a stay-at-home vacation?  You may not live in a tourist destination town, but yo
u can still take a week off work so you can enjoy some warm weather down time: 

 

Going Places? 

  • - If you are truly wanting an away from home experience, book a room in a local hotel for a few days during the week when rates are lower.  A luxury hotel or bed and breakfast would make it feel more like a vacation, if you can afford it. 
     

  • - Exploring your local area can not only be fun, but educational for the family!  Before your time off, call your local tourism office, and learn about the destinations you’re not aware of, as well as those you do.  Make a list and decide where you’d like to visit. 
     

  • - The weekend before your break, get everyone involved in getting the house cleaned up and the laundry done.  Purchase eco-friendly disposable kitchen items, so you don’t have dishes to do every night, or plan budget-friendly take out. 
     

  • - When you have young children, planning day trips is less difficult on them; spending the day at a nearby museum or state park, then coming home to sleep in their own beds can help keep them in their routine when your time off is over. 

 

Relaxing at Home? 

  • - Imagine yourself as a guest in your own home and treat yourself as such.  Vacations are meant to break routines, and you might have to make a conscious effort to stay in a getaway state of mind. 
     

  • - Spend an entire day at your local park, splash pad, or other fun spot that you normally take advantage of for an hour or so.  Pack a picnic lunch. 
     

  • - Plan some out-of-the-ordinary things to do at home.  “Camp out” in the living room, or even the backyard!  Throw yourselves an ice cream party, or some other celebration that is normally reserved for birthdays and holidays. 
     

  • - Some projects, such as cleaning out the garage, can take a couple of days.  If you must do something, plan as many days of fun or relaxing as you spend working. 

 

Most importantly, unplug yourself!  Turn off notifications for all your smartphone apps, resolve to check personal email every other day, and let family and friends know you’re taking time off, and, unless you’re planning on a get-together, only available for emergencies.  Vacation days are a precious commodity, and if you’re not taking a long-distance trip, make the most of it, and make memories in the process. 

 

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

Photo credit: moneysense

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

10 Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

by Tucker Robbins


Spring cleaning, decluttering, moving--these are all great reasons to make some extra cash by holding a yard sale!  It will take a little extra work for organizing and set up, but make it worth your effort with these tips:
 

 

  • - If your home isn’t in a convenient location, consider asking a family member or friend if you can hold the sale at their house, or look for a spot that is in a high-traffic area in your community, and get permission before you set up. 

  •  

  • - Talk to your neighbors!  A neighborhood sale is a big draw for those seeking good deals. 
     

  • - Make certain any packaging doesn’t have old receipts or anything with personal information on it.  If you still have manual for an item, keep it handy for the new owner. 
     

  • - Check everything for cleanliness, stains, or cracks.  Most people don’t care to pay for dirty, or items that aren’t in good condition. 
     

  • - If you do want to get rid of things that aren’t in the best state, have a separate table for them with a “FREE” sign. Some people pick them up for parts or art projects. 
     

  • - When you start pricing, set them low to move things quickly and avoid bargaining!  Not pricing your items will take up your time at the sale and may turn some people away. 
     

  • - Advertise!  DIY or have someone make some attention-grabbing signs, using either large permanent markers or a computer design.   
     

  • - When there’s not enough room in the driveway, your sale will need to be on your lawn, so make sure the grass is trimmed, any holes are filled, and any pet issues are taken care of.  For yard art that isn’t for sale, make certain you have a “Not for Sale” sign in place. 
     

  • - High-interest or large items should be placed closest to the street to drawn in shoppers. 
     

  • - Place your “cash register” next to the sidewalk or end of the driveway so people can pay on their way out.  Get plenty of small change at the bank the day before.  Keep your money in a fanny pack for safety; never leave it unattended. 

 

On the day of your yard sale, be sure to have everything ready to go at your advertised time, play some upbeat music for background noise, and make it a pleasant experience for everyone.  When the day is over, be ready to haul some things to a thrift store, or schedule pick up by a non-profit that will take your things away for free.  Find more yard sale tips at Wholefully.com! 

 

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

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

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