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Creating Shade in Your Outdoor Areas

by Tucker Robbins


You love your outdoor space, but is the afternoon sun stopping you from using it for more than weekend mornings with a cup of coffee?  Closing in the space may not be in the budget, but there are many ways you can shade the area without putting a hole in y
our wallet! 

 

  • Sail Shades For less than $100, purchase a sail shade, a piece of polyethylene fabric, normally cut into rectangles or triangles and grommeted.  Most come with a good length of rope to anchor it to your roof or attach it to a pole.  It’s practically instant shade, and weather-resistant, so it can be left up all Summer.   
     

  • Cabana A breezy cabana can be made from a simple wooden structure, or even piping!  Check out these ideas from Home Decoration Magazine. 
     

  • Vining Shade Build a vertical trellis wall, making sure it’s facing the direction the sun is shining. Plant fast-growing perennial or evergreen vines and train the plants to grow up the trellis.  The trellis itself will shield your space from the sun, and the plants will help as they grow. 
     

  • Slatted Shade Pergolas are beautiful open structures on their own or covered with trailing plants.  The price tag can be big, depending on how it’s done, but wooden pergola kits are available, as well as metal pergola kits for even less.  These instructions from The Created Home show you how to build a simple attached pergola for about $200. 
     

  • Temporary Shade  Lifehacker has a tutorial for a simple canopy that’s easy to put up, and easy to take down.  
     

  • Living Screen Visit a reputable nursery where you can get advice from a grower about good shade trees to plant as a screen around the perimeter of your patio.  Purchasing 6’-10’ trees may be a bit more expensive, but with the right planting and care, the trees will grow and thrive, providing lush, living shade. 
     

  • Container Shade Bamboo is a hardy plant, and easy to grow in containers. Using several containers together will provide lush greenery for shade or a privacy screen.  Find the best bamboo for screening, as well as what containers are best here. 

 

If building or planting your outdoor canopy isn’t your thing, then an extra-large outdoor umbrella will do the trick.  Many models are available, and have extending possibilities, and can rotate to follow the sun’s path.  No matter what you decide to use, take advantage of your own shady spot to unwind after a busy week, move family meals outside, or just soak in the outdoors.   

 

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

Photo credit: amazon.com

8 Things Homeowners Should NOT Be Doing

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Photo credit:  5homebest.com

Checklist for New Home Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: newhomesource.com

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

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

Home Projects By Seasons

by Tucker Robbins


Thinking about doing some home improvements?  Whether it’s a kitchen or bathroom remodel, a whole-house painting, or floor refinishing, there’s a time of year when these jobs are easier to get completed, mainly because of how the weather affects not only c
onstruction, but the quality of the finished product as well.  Find the project you’re considering, and see when it’ll be the right time to get to work:  

 

Additions, because of needing a new foundation, could be started in late Winter/early Spring when the ground is still cold and more compact.  It makes for better digging and concrete pouring and setup. 
 

Exterior door replacement would be convenient any time except Winter, just in case there are any issues and the doors aren’t a quick switch. 
 

Exterior painting, for many reasons, is a better idea in early to late Summer, when temperatures are above fifty degrees. 
 

HVAC work, in non-emergency situations, should be done in the off seasons--new heater in warm months, air conditioning before it’s sweltering outside. 
 

Interior remodeling like kitchen and bathroom redo’s, can be done practically any time.  The main thing to keep in mind here is warm months are busier for contractors, and that can mean a job done in a hurry, or higher prices. 
 

Outdoor projects, even though a popular time for construction is the warmer months, should be started in late Winter, simply because you want to be able to spend your Summer enjoying your new outdoor space! 
 

Refinishing hardwoods is probably best completed during the times of year when humidity is low for the best finish, and so windows can be opened to allow air circulation to help get rid of any associated odors. 
 

Roofing, believe it or not, may get better results in hot months of the year, as the most common materials used will need warm temps for the best performance. 
 

Window repair/replacement is managed well during warm months or when frequent rain isn’t a factor. 
 

Keep in mind that Spring and Summer are busiest time for contractors.  If you are hiring your job out, the process should be started long enough in advance that you don’t have to be put on a wait list.  On that same note, during slower months, a contractor may give you a deal on the work, because there aren’t other jobs to be done, and you get their full attention!  Planning is key for a smooth finish on any project, any time of year. 

 

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

Photo credit: readers digest

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

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

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