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Easy Updates Before You Sell in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Once you decide to sell your home, you want it to look its best, and a total remodel may be out of your budget.  Thankfully, there are some quick and affordable updates to add to your home to give it some extra style and character, not to mention the added value! 

 

  • - You can add crown molding to your rooms with little carpentry know-how.  Plaster-covered foam molding is available in many styles, and anyone with a measuring tape, hand saw and some paint can install it.  This Old House has a how-to for this easy update. 

  • - Clean up and, if necessary, paint your front entry door.  Add a new light sconce, and get a new welcome mat. 

  • - Electrical outlets are usually not something you think about upgrading, but outlets with a built-in USB port are available at home centers, and are impressive to potential home buyers because of the convenience they offer.  Put them near the kitchen counter, and a few in the bedrooms for easy access. 

  • - Cleaning the grout in the bathrooms, or even re-grouting can make your floor and tile look shiny-new. 

  • - Upgrade your doors’ and cabinets’ hardware for every room if it’s outdated. 

  • - Paint rooms a neutral color; grey and beige--even a mix called “greige”--are trendy right now if you don’t want all-white walls. 

  • - Add potted flowers or plants to your front entry for a welcome sight--just don’t forget to water them! 

  • - Check your crawl space for any falling insulation, and replace it. 

  • - Change out any dated light sconces and chandeliers. 

  • - A new shower curtain and decorative towels can do wonders for your bathroom. 

  • - The right backsplash in the kitchen can really make it stand out and look like new.  There are many DIY options, and the self-stick products on the market now make this task go much faster for the novice. 

  • - A chair rail and wainscoting in the dining area adds a nice eye-catching architectural detail. 

  • Most experts advise taking down your window curtains while your home is on the market, but you want some color on the windows.  A cornice box is an easy project to try, and cover them with your (now) old curtain fabric. 

 

You want your home to make a great impression as soon as a possible new owner walks to the front door.  Small details can make a big impact on their decision, and as the seller, it’s your call on what makes your home sell.  Walk through with your Realtor, and ask for suggestions from them, as they are the expert.  Tackle what projects are within your budget, and hopefully you’ll soon be reaping the rewards! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: alabamanewscenter.com

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

Let the Kids Grow - in the Garden!

by Tucker Robbins

Taking time to work in the garden can be turned into family fun when you get the kids involved.  Children are usually fascinated with how things grow, and being a part of the process may even get them to try some new foods!  Try some of these projects to get them interested, and not to mention, free help in the garden! 

 

  • - A bean teepee is a fun and relatively easy project.  Assemble three 8-foot poles in a tepee shape, make sure you give them a good push several inches into the soil, and tie the poles together at the top with jute twine.  Continue using the twine to make a loose net so the vines will have support, just make sure you leave one section open for a doorway.  Plant pole bean seeds at the “base” of the poles and webbing, and watch them grow, and the kids will soon have a little hideaway with fresh beans close by for a snack. 

  • - Once your garden is planted, have the kids paint rocks as decorative row markers. 

  • - Hummingbird feeders are a common sight, but how about butterfly feeders?  Make this one from PBS Parents with a clean ketchup bottle, fake flowers and a few other household items.   

  • - If you don’t have room for a full garden, try a few plants that can be grown in clean five-gallon buckets.  Make sure there’s a drain hole in the bottom, add about an inch of gravel, broken old clay pots or old bricks, and add a good potting soil/compost mix.  Plant cherry tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, or zucchini, following the planting guidelines. 

  • - Plant recipe-specific plants:  have a spaghetti sauce or pizza row with tomatoes, oregano, basil and bell pepper; a salsa row can have tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, peppers and onions; plant chamomile, any type of mint, or lavender and make tea! 

  • - Sunflowers are always an amazement to children because they grow so tall.  These beautiful giants can be grown in many layouts using a garden hose to make the design, leaving room for a path if you’re planting a mini-maze, then planting the seeds along the way, and sunflowers can even be trained to make a little house.   

  • - Grow flowers whose blossoms open at different times of the day:  morning glories, daylilies, four o’clock, evening primrose and moonflowers. 

  • - A garden based on favorite storybooks is another good way to get them to dig in the dirt.  Plants based on The Tales of Peter RabbitStone Soup, and Blueberries for Sal are just a few ways to engage children in growing and eating what they’ve grown. 

  • - Adding a water feature doesn’t have to mean a huge pond with waterfall--small pond containers are available at garden centers, as well as water plants.  Create a mini pond with this guide from Better Homes & GardensⓇ.  

 

There are so many benefits to your family while spending time together outside. Gardening encourages your children to try new things, and gives them a knowledge of where their food comes from, along with a little biology.  You may even be creating life-long gardeners.  Most importantly, you’re making memories. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: care2.com

Getting Ready for Outdoor Time in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Warmer days are on the way, and when the weather cooperates, home owners are outside preparing their yards, gardens and pools for the coming Summer. But is your patio looking a little sad?  Do you want to utilize your front porch more this season?  Your outdoor spaces only need a little TLC and elbow grease! 

 

  • - Sweep patios to remove loose debris.  Use a pressure washer on concrete, or a long-handled stiff brush and warm water mixed with bleach--a 10:1 mixture is strong enough to clean the area well.   

  • - For porches, sweep the flooring, as well as ceilings and posts, and a shower of water from the garden hose should remove the dust and cobwebs.  If something needs more attention, use a soft bristled brush or flat mop dipped in a mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent. 

  • - Wood decks may only need a simple sweeping and washing down with a hose and soft scrub brush. If you’re thinking about staining or painting the woodwork, a pressure washer would be the best tool to prep it for its makeover.  

  • - Screening should be checked for holes and rips that can be eventually be big problems, and is easy to replace for little cost. 

  • - Check for any cracks in cement patios.  Fill them with caulking or even quick-drying concrete.  Many easy and affordable repair kits are in local home stores. If the problem goes deeper than just a crack, call a contractor to come and make sure the problem isn’t structural. 

  • - Bricks and pavers can become loose over time, and filling the spaces between them with sand is one way to sturdy them.  According to Neave Masonry, after filling in between the pavers with sand, use a broom to distribute it evenly, wet the pavers, and once it’s settled, add more sand and repeat.  Continue to add sand until the spaces are filled with sand. 

  • - Keeping outdoor furniture covered when not in use is great, but it still would be a good idea to give it a good cleaning since you’ll be using it soon.  Today’s Homeowner Danny Lipford has great tips for cleaning your pieces, from wrought iron to plastic. 

  • - Get your planters ready for flowers by removing soil from them and clean with a spray from the water hose.  Soak them in a mixture of 9 parts water to one-part household bleach to get rid of any bacteria that could’ve grown in the Winter, and rinse well. 

  • - Outdoor pillows can take a beating, so if yours are looking grim, you can purchase new covers more inexpensively than completely replacing the pillows.  If they have been in outdoor storage, wash them, hang them outside to air dry, and add the new covers. 

  • - Spruce up the seating area with fragrant plants, an outdoor area rug, hang pretty sheets or shower curtains on tension rods to add some drama, and some DIY lighting--check out these ideas from BuzzFeed.   

 

Don’t wait until it gets steaming hot or two hours before your cookout guests arrive to get your yard and outdoor seating area in order.  Doing it now will encourage you and yours to spend more time in the outdoors to dine al fresco, relax with a good book, or spend time winding down after a long day at work.   

 

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

 

Photo Credit: City Farmhouse   

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For April 2018

by Tucker Robbins

 

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

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? 

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  • - 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

Buying New Construction in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

The thought of a brand-new, up-to-date home appeals to many, and if you’re considering buying a new construction, there are few things you should know.


Following these guidelines can make your venture a little easier. 

 

 - Before you make that first visit to the model home, find a real estate agent to accompany you, and keep them involved in every aspect.  If you wait until after you’ve talked to the builder’s agent, you lose the benefit of having buyer’s representation. 

 - Hiring your own real estate professional is wise, because you’ll have someone with your interests at heart. 

 - Shop around for the best loan in advance.  If the builder’s lender has incentives and discounts, consider this if it will benefit you in the end. 

 

Some questions to ask the builder’s agent on that first meeting: 

 - Ask for info about how many lots and homes have been sold. 

 - You need to know about each home site’s size, and how close each house is to each other. 

 - What is the investors ratio allowed in the community? This will tell you the rental the number of homes that are possibly rentals.  

 - What is the projected completion date for the new construction site? 

 - If the completion date isn’t met after we have signed a contract, is there a deposit refund or a cancellation clause? 

 - How long is the home’s warranty, and what does it cover? 

 - Is a garage or deck standard or an extra cost? 

 - Is smart technology wiring included in the basic home package, and is wiring to all bedrooms an extra expense? 

 - How much input do I have on paint colors, flooring, kitchen cabinets and bathroom finishes? 

 - What appliances are included? 

 - Is there a builder’s upgrade credit? 

 - Find out the what the builder’s policy is if they run short of materials. Most builders have the right to substitute, and you don’t want to be surprised to see mosaic tile where you thought subway tile would be in your finished home. 

  - Keep in mind that the model home you are shown has all the upgrades. Don’t assume you’re getting everything in your home that the model has. For instance, shelves and the latest organizational features are in the walk-in at the model home, but all of those could be upgrades.  - -Ask about these features and write everything down as you get answers. 

 - Talk to residents who are already living in the community, and ask them about any concerns they have, and what they love about their new home. 

 - Don’t skip getting a home inspection just because it’s new construction. Humans make mistakes, and it’s better to pay extra for a home inspection to find out everything is fine than deal with something that will cost a lot in the long run. Be sure your purchase contract allows you to hire an inspector outside the building company. 

 - If the model home is one of the last homes left in the neighborhood, ask about buying it! You may not get every finish just as you’d like, but you can paint a room or change the flooring if the cost of the house with all the bells and whistles is comparable to one that’s just been finished. 

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

 

Photo credit: realestate.usnews.com

Roof Inspection Tips in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Winter can be harsh on a roof, between the cold wind, rain, and snow and ice in some areas.  While on your Spring maintenance check, you should look carefully at your home’s roof, and see how it fared the season, and whether you have a DIY patch job to do, or a major roof repair that needs professional attention.  Keep the following in mind while you’re doing your inspection: 

 

  • - Cracked, curling or buckled shingles are an obvious problem. These should be replaced or repaired as soon as possible to prevent water damage and mold infestation. 

  • - Are your shingles dirty? Look in the gutters for tiny bits of the shingle granules.  If you find a lot of them, and not many are left on the shingles themselves, it may be time to re-shingle the roof. 

  • - Check around chimneys, vents, skylights, and anything else that is installed on the roof for any cracks or tears in the flashing beneath the shingles that could be allowing water to leak in. 

  • - Inspect carefully where tree branches could come in contact with the roof, to make sure they haven’t caused any damage from Winter winds. 

  • - Now would be a good time to check the eaves and gutters.  Make sure the wood is in good shape, and that gutters are clean and not loose. 

  • - If you think you may have especially bad soft spots in your roof, call a professional to climb up for a more thorough inspection.  

 

When you’re looking for roof damage, a great place to look is on the underside, and that requires an interior inspection. 

 

  • - Get into the attic and look for dark spots or obvious places where water has run.  Pay close attention if your attic smells musty and look for mold or mildew.  If you see any daylight shining through where it shouldn’t be, you need to check the corresponding area on the roof and get that repaired. 

  • - Check every inch of the top floor interior ceiling plaster or drywall for discoloration, crumbling, cracking or bubbling. 

  • - Don’t forget closets, cabinets, storage areas, and even wallpaper.  Use a very bright flashlight to help you see these hard-to-see places. 

 

Roofing materials can vary from asphalt shingles to stamped tin, and each one has a different way to inspect and repair.  Scott Yancey, real estate instructor and host of the television show Flipping Vegas, offers these tips for inspecting all kinds of roofing.  Your roof is the most important aspect of your home’s construction, and maintaining it is important to prevent costly repairs or replacement or expensive interior damage.   

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

Photo credit: crownhomeinspections.com

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