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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

Home-Buying After Foreclosure or Bankruptcy

by Tucker Robbins

If foreclosure or bankruptcy has been part of your past, and you’re ready to jump back into buying a new home, welcome to the “boomerang buyer” club!  There are several factors to buying a home after these losses, so before you start house-hunting, make sure you’re not only emotionally ready, but financially ready! 

 

  • - Be absolute certain your credit has been rebuilt by paying all your bills on time and in full. Check your credit score, and keep an eye on it.  Aiming for a minimum score of 580 improves your chances of qualifying for a home loan. 

  • - Get every penny you can into savings! 

  • - Consider taking a course in financial management.  Not only does this help you become more financially stable, it shows a lender that you’re serious about it. 

  • - If your last home went into foreclosure, there are waiting periods for applying for a mortgage: three years for FHA loans, seven years for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loans, two years for Veterans Affairs loans, three years for USDA loans, and other lenders have different waiting periods. 

  • - Buying a home after bankruptcy depends on what type of bankruptcy was filed, so there are different factors when it comes to each situation. 

  • - If you have experienced a short sale with your last home, depending on the lender, the waiting period to apply for a mortgage is two-seven years. 

  • - Some lenders may ask you to write a letter explaining the circumstances for the foreclosure or short sale, as well as what you learned during the process.   

  • - Extenuating circumstances that caused a foreclosure or bankruptcy, such as a major illness or job loss can make a difference in how long you must wait to apply for a mortgage, depending on the lender.  Be prepared with any paperwork that shows your loss of income or increase of debt. 

 

Before you begin this second chance on homeownership, talk to a RealtorⓇ who is experienced with assisting those who have experienced financial hardship and lost a home in the past.  They have a wealth of knowledge to help you every step of the way on the path to a fresh start! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: homes.com

Budget Bathroom Updates

by Tucker Robbins

You love your new home--everything about it.  Well, almost everything.  Your bathroom decor is stuck in 1983 with its gingko leaf-etched shower doors, mauve and Colonial blue wallpaper complete with coordinating border, and ornamented brass fixtures.  If a complete overhaul isn’t in your budget just yet, there are plenty of options that are easy on the wallet.  Check out these tips for inspiration! 

 

  • - Paint over the wallpaper!  Benjamin Moore suggests you start by sealing any peeling spots with adhesive, applying clear caulking around the room where the wallpaper meets the ceiling and floor, then priming the wallpaper with an oil-based primer.  Using your choice of latex interior paint, paint as you would any other wall surface.   

  • - Switching out the dated sink fixtures is as simple as finding the correct pieces to go into the configuration for the existing fixture in a style you like.  Once you’ve made your decision, confident do-it-yourselfers can switch them out themselves, and Home Depot shares this step-by-step video how-to for sink faucet installation. 

  • - Updating your light fixture can be a huge improvement, and the choices are almost endless at local home stores.  Changing the location of the light, or adding wall sconces may require a call to a reputable electrician, so don’t forget to budget those extra costs. 

  • - Ugly linoleum can be covered with adhesive-backed vinyl tile or painted with porch paint, and if you’re feeling creative, you can have a custom look likthis striped floor from 1915 House. Supplies may cost a bit more than other paint jobs, but it beats the expense of replacing the flooring. 

  • - Replacing the cabinet can be expensive between the new cabinet and labor, so the best way to improve it is to paint it and add new hardware.  Countertops, depending on what material they are, can be painted or even tiled for a fresh look. 

  • - Add style to a plain mounted mirror with a frame! Framing kits come with everything you need for this quick update, and are available at home centers and online for less than $100. 

  • - If your budget is tight, just the purchase of a new shower curtain, window treatment, inexpensive framed prints, and one nice coordinating towel set can make a huge improvement to your dated bathroom.   

 

According to homeadvisor.com, the average bathroom remodel costs about $10,000.  If your new home needs updates, choose what you’ll do first according to your budget.  Tiding over with a few inexpensive updates to your bathroom will ease the anxiety of getting it done sooner, because it will be more pleasing to the eye.  Save yourself some stress and money by holding out just a little longer, and when it’s time, you’ll have the perfect bathroom! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: StateFarm

Selling Your Home vs. Renting in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Accepting a new job, moving closer to aging parents, or looking for a fresh start, you’ve decided to relocate. You haven’t chosen a real estate agent to get your house sold, because you’re considering using your house for extra income as a rental.  There are pros and cons to becoming a landlord, so look through these tips to get you started on making the decision. 

 

  • - You need to first look at the financial aspect of renting your house. 

  • - Landlord’s insurance premiums may cost more than your homeowner’s insurance. Talk to your insurance agent about the differences in these policies. 

  • - Do the math--if you have a loss after all your expenses (insurance, repairs, property taxes, etc.) are deducted from the rental payments, it’s a better idea to sell. 

  • - If the money that a home sale would generate will help you buy a new place, by all means, sell. 

  • - One factor to consider is that if your move is temporary--you know you’ll be returning in a few years, and it may be a good idea to lease while you’re away, so you won’t have to house hunt upon your return. 

  • - Take into consideration that in larger areas, there may be times of a vacancy.  Can you handle the old mortgage and the new?  If not, put the house on the market. 

  • - If there are improvements that need to be done to the home before you can sell it, and you’re not financially able to make them, then renting may be a good option.   

  • - Keep in mind that most tenants will not care for your house like you, and, after moving, it could be at a great cost when you have to make the repairs.   

  • - Things can happen, and you may get tenants that can’t pay the rent on time, or stop paying rent, and you’re stuck with the mortgage payment, as well as having to go through the eviction process.  

  • - Do you really want to become a landlord?  Talk to a few people who are experienced in renting and leasing property, writing down questions to ask, and get their thoughts on the process. Experience is the best teacher. 

 

Renting or leasing your home is a big decision to make, especially if you know you may be coming back.  The stress of renting just might be greater than house-hunting when you move back.  Talk to other property managers in your area and look at your financial information before you make the final choice. When you decide to sell, call a trusted RealtorⓇ. 

 

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

Photo credit: homevestors.com

Ready to Buy a Home?

by Tucker Robbins

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Photo credit: Realtor.com 

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For July 2018

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE active listings are down 23% from last year and did not change from the previous month. The median listing price was just over $270,000 and the median sales price was just over $240,000. Compared to last year, the average days on market is down 14%. The number of units sold decreased 2% year-over-year and increased 15% month-over-month. 

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

 

Summer Remedies From Your Pantry

by Tucker Robbins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Photo credit: Free People Blog

How Long Will Your Home Last?

by Tucker Robbins

Unless you’re buying a newly constructed home, you should be aware in your new abode of the ages of different elements. The National Homebuilders Association conducted a survey of different manufacturers to determine just how long components of a house lasted with normal use.  This information can be a very useful guide to every homeowner: 

 

General House Components 

  • - Masonry, including foundations, chimneys and fireplaces can last over 100 years.  If you live in an older or historic home, pay close attention to and repair damage to mason work, especially if it’s in the foundation. 

  • - A house with good bones can last an indefinite amount of time, which is evident when you tour historic neighborhoods.  The framing and roof trusses of a house can last many years with proper care. 

  • - The lifespan of your roof depends on the material; shingles are made to last 20-30 years, determined by material make-up, and stronger materials such as copper and slate can last up to fifty years. 

  • - Most exteriors, vinyl, wood, stucco, etc., and interior walls that are well-maintained can last the life of the house.  Wooden windows have a life expectancy of 30 years, while aluminum windows will survive 15-20 years. 

  • - Floors are normally made of strong wood or wood composites and should last upwards of fifty years. 

 

Kitchen 

  • - Your cabinetry takes a lot of abuse, but well-constructed cabinets will last fifty years. 

  • - The sink’s lifespan depends on the material, and can last a lifetime.  Faucets, however, will work well for fifteen years or so before needing work or replacement. 

  • - A dishwasher used regularly will function well for about nine years. 

  • - A gas stove seems to last longer than electric ranges, about fifteen years versus thirteen years. 

 

Bathroom 

  • - Toilets, bathtubs and sink are made to last a lifetime, even though some of the working part need work or replacement over that lifetime. 

  • - If your tub is enclosed with shower doors, they should serve you well for twenty years. 

  • - A tub with jets will last at least twenty years, once again, depending on use. 

 

Major Appliances 

  • - The whole-house system you use to heat and cool should give fifteen years of service before needing some attention or replacement parts. 

  • - You can expect your hot water heater to last about ten years, but a tankless heater can last twice that long.   

  • - Most washers and dryers will do your laundry for up to ten years. 

 

There are many more components to your new house, and MetroHome’s website offers the full NAHB survey including doors, paint, and specific types of flooring, among other things.  If you’re not sure of the age of an item in your home, call a trustworthy expert who can inspect and offer some advice.  A well-taken care of home can last many years, and not only maintain its value, but shelter you and yours for a lifetime. 

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

Photo credit: sednainsaat.com

Home Improvements for Seniors in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whether you are simply making your elderly father’s home a little safer, or if you plan on moving your parents in because then don’t need to be living along anymore, a few changes in the house need to take place.  While every family is unique, most needs of our aging parents are the same.  Let’s see how we can make some small improvements that have big impact on their safety and comfort. 

 

  • - Since it isn’t always possible to add a full “in-law” suite to your home, you may decide to give Mom and Dad the master suite, so they can have their own private bathroom. 

  • - Change out the door knobs to lever-type handles for easier opening for those with arthritis or other small motor skill issues. 

  • - Install grab-bars to the shower, bath and toilet walls, for those who need assistance in moving around in the bathroom.  This will offer some independence for the elderly person who hates to ask for assistance. 

  • - For the wheelchair-bound parent, or one who needs to use a walker, consider adding an accessibility ramp to your most-used entry.  Costs vary on this job, but a contractor that specializes in the construction of a ramp will take care of this job swiftly and efficiently. 

  • - Widening doorways is something you may need to do if you anticipate wheelchair use in your parent’s future.  Enlarging them to 36” is the general width for ease of use. 

  • - The type of flooring in the home can impact whether it’s a fall risk for someone who has trouble getting around.  Consider installing low-pile carpeting, but in areas of hard flooring, where carpet isn’t necessarily an option, secure low-pile area rugs with double-sided carpet tape, or no-slip rug padding. 

  • - Remodeling the bathroom may be an option, and a walk-in or wheelchair-accessible shower with a “curbless” entry is a safe choice.  A built-in shower seat and adjustable showerhead are added benefits. 

  • - Changing faucets in the kitchen and bath with a single-lever handle for ease of use, or even a faucet with a motion sensor or touch off-and-on upgrade. 

  • - Electrical issues to consider:  light switches that can be pressed for turning off and on, electrical outlets placed higher than the standard height, and adding more lighting. 

  • - Privacy may be an issue for a still-independent older person, especially if there are children in the home.  Providing a sound-proof door will cut down on noise when Mom wants to sleep in, or if Dad would like to watch the game without interruption. 

 

Having your parents or grandparents move in is life-changing for everyone in the family home.  AARP offers a guide to multi-generational living, with questions to ask yourself as well as your aging parents before you finalize your decision.  Don’t look at this stage of life as a challenge, but rather a way to be a watchful eye over your parents while they maintain their sense of independence and quality of life. 

 

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

Gardening with Fewer Chemicals

by Tucker Robbins

When it comes to gardening, going organic can be difficult, especially when there are so many manufactured products to keep weeds and insects at bay. It’s not uncommon knowledge that the fewer chemicals we use in our lawns and gardens, the better it is for everyone.  Follow these tried-and-true tips to get you started on a more natural approach to a healthy garden. 

 

  • - Make sure your garden soil is enriched with natural compost, and one way to do that is with grass clippings!  According to Mother Earth News, a mulch of 1”-2” of cut grass can feed your garden for the season.   

  • - Another way to get free compost is saving vegetable scraps from your kitchen. When you’re prepping for dinner, keep the parts you would normally throw away in a small bucket or jar with a lid nearby, and throw it in your compost pile or worm bed. 

  • - Speaking of earthworms:  vermicomposting is one very beneficial thing you can do to improve your soil.  Learn how to have your own worm beds from gardeningknowhow.com.  Kids love this project! 

  • - The little tags in the cell packs of plants aren’t there for nothing.  They have important and necessary planting information on them.  Put your plants in the right place, in the right amount of sun, and it will reward you with good growth. 

  • - When and how you water your garden plays an important part in keeping diseases and pests at bay.  A morning shower with a water hose can rid your plants of nasty aphids.  - Watering your plants in the evenings can cause fungi and mildew to grow, and neither is easy to get rid of once they set in. 

  • - Learn the difference between detrimental and beneficial insects.  We don’t want to be bitten, but many stinging insects are taking care of the bad ones that are eating up our vegetables.  The Sod God offers some excellent information as well as infographics to help you distinguish between the good and the bad. 

  • - Row covers are a great and chemical-free way to keep not only insects away, but veggie-loving birds as well.  As long as they cover your plants completely as they grow, they will provide a barrier between your plants and the bad guys. 

  • - If your plants are being taken over by soft-bodied insects like aphids and whiteflies, make your own insecticidal soap--it’s easy with these instructions from Horticulture magazine. 

 

Whether you’re interested in going completely organic in your gardening, or just trying to cut back on man-made chemical use, it takes knowledge and a little extra work.  Growing a Greener World is an excellent television source for all things natural, and there are many books and magazines on the subject.  Look for sources that have been certified as an organic entity or is written or produced by someone who has been gardening the natural way and has lots of experience.  Reap the rewards of not only a great vegetable harvest, but the rewards of keeping chemicals out of the ground, and our water sources. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: thegreatcourses.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)