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Getting Organized on a Budget for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Your dream closet comes complete with drawers, shoe shelves, a complete vanity and a hefty price tag. Other organizational organizing gadgets and pieces can cost quite a bit as well, but there are a multitude of ways to get organized without spending a lot 

 

Closets 

  • - A chain plant hanger is perfect for hanging shirts and blouses to save valuable room.  Chains also come in a variety of sizes and finishes, and is available year-round at most hardware stores. 

  • - Mount a short curtain rod on the inside of the closet door to hang scarves, and use clip-style curtain rings to hang hats and gloves in the Winter. 

  • - Tension rods placed at top and bottom of your closet can extend your hanging space for lighter items, like blouses and shirts. Or add shower curtain hooks to keep purses, scarves or ties handy.  

  • This use of tension rods for shoe storage is awesome and easy! 

  • - A large piece of sturdy wire mesh from a hardware or farm supply store, and even pegboard cut to fit any spare wall space in your closet can be installed virtually flat. S-hooks make perfect hangers awkward-shaped items, and ties and scarves can be stored flat. 

  • - Closet space can vary, and if you’ve already utilized every inch, consider a wardrobe.  Scan online yard sale groups, flea markets and auctions for inexpensive pieces, add some paint to compliment your decor, and you have a custom wardrobe! 

 

In the Kitchen 

  • - A clean egg carton or small muffin tin is perfect for keeping things organized in the catch-all drawer. 

  • - If your cabinets make it hard to find pots and pans that you need, consider hanging them! Pot racks can be made from many things, and if you’re feeling a project coming on, here’s a great DIY pallet rack to try! 

  • - Use inexpensive dollar store baskets in your pantry for pull-out organization of cans, spices and baking items.  The baskets keep them neat, and easy to get to. 

  • - An unused cookie jar is perfect for keeping cooking utensils handy and out of a junky drawer. 

  • - A wall file-holder attached to the inside of a cabinet door is transformed into a plastic container lid holder. 

  • - Mount a long piece of magnetic tape to your backsplash to hold knives and other often-used utensils for easy access. (Make sure the kids can’t reach them, though!) 

 

Bedrooms 

  • - Use a bookshelf as a headboard to create space for books, (obviously), remotes, glasses, morning medicines or display items. 

  • - Under-the-bed storage is essential for seasonal clothes, shoes, toys, old photos--anything you don’t use daily.  Suitcases, old dresser drawers (with adhesive felt or wheels on the bottom), inexpensive plastic storage containers, and vacuum-sealed storage bags make the most of this space. 

  • - Is your makeup kept in a jumbled drawer or cosmetic bag? This DIY magnetic makeup board is a great way to keep it handy and easy to find. 

  • - The kids’ toys can stay better organized by using baskets in bookshelves, open shelving on their level, and benches with storage.  

 

Getting organized is on many New Year resolution lists, and if you’re serious about it, start by decluttering, and using what you can afford or DIY to make it happen.  Putting the home in order can be pretty, practical, and even cheap! 

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

Photo credit: care2.com

Stay Healthy This Winter

by Tucker Robbins

Winter is a great time to binge-watch our favorite streaming series, read books we haven’t had time to read, gather with friends for dinner and game night, but it’s also a great time for letting our health regimine go by the wayside.  This opens the door for illness, and no one has time for that.  Keep yourself feeling and doing your best with this guideline! 

 

You and Your Home 

  • - If you didn’t get exercise equipment or a gym membership over the holidays, it doesn’t give you an excuse not to exercise.  Walking is really an easy yet important way to burn off those holiday calories.  The cooler temps help you burn more because it takes more energy to stay warm, even while hitting the sidewalk.  A win-win exercise! 

  • - We may not be doing a lot of perspiring, but water is still essential to our good health.  Eight 8 ounce glasses a day will keep you hydrated, and your skin will thank you, too, as water helps battle the dry, itchy skin we get in Winter. 

  • - Keep surfaces in your home wiped down with all-purpose cleaner and warm water.  This is better than using disinfectants, as viruses and bacteria can become resistant to these ingredients, as noted with the FDA banning triclosan, a popular antibacterial additive in hand soaps. 

  • - If you do get sick--stay home and rest! The more you are out and about not only makes you feel worse and lengthens your recovery, the more you spread what you have! 

 

Your Mother Was Right! 

  • - Wash your hands! Using plain soap for forty-five seconds and a warm water rinse is all you need to fight germs.  

  • - Cover sneezes and coughs preferable with a disposable tissue, and if that isn’t available, cover your mouth and nose in the crook of your arm. 

  • - Avoid shaking hands, especially if someone is sick or has been around someone who is sick. 

  • - Take your vitamins! A daily multivitamin at mealtime is a great way to keep you healthy and getting the nutrients you need, especially vitamin D, which goes lacking somewhat in the colder months when we aren’t spending as much time in the sunshine. 

  • - Go to bed! Rest is so important to your overall health, and with the longer nighttime hours, it may be easier for you to get a full 7-8 hours a night.  Your immune system works better when you’re rested up. 

  • - Eat your vegetables--this is a no-brainer, anyway, but leafy greens, beans, and citrus are the best for the antioxidants you need to keep your immune system strong. 

 

Even in Winter, our fast-paced lives can keep us from being diligent about staying healthy when it’s more important than the warm months. The get-togethers in close quarters, die-hards that come to work with a cold, and viruses our kids bring home from school are all standards of germ-sharing this time of year.  Taking care of yourself and your family may take a little extra effort, but you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: www.health.com

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For December 2017

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE listings decreased from 420 new listings in December 2016 down to 389 in December 2017. The average sales price decreased to $248,306, while days on market dropped by 11 days.

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

Before You Remodel...

by Tucker Robbins

Depending on whether you are planning to sell your home in the next year or if you are in your forever home, remodeling is a great way to get what you want out of your home, or what buyers want.  There are things to consider before you jump into remodeling. 

 

  • - Decide on a budget, and how you’ll pay for the upgrade.  Consider hiring a financial planner who can help you choose which way is best. 

  • - If you decide to do this project yourself, and you’re not in the construction business, plan on taking much longer than a professional.  Be realistic about your skills and hire help if you need it. 

  • - Acquiring an architect or designer is a good idea if you’re making major changes.  You don’t want to run into major structural or electrical issues and not know what to do. 

  • - Think about how long you want to stay in your home before you invest in big ticket items, like a six-burner range for the kitchen, or expensive hardwood flooring throughout the house.  If your sole plan is to make money from a sale, or if you want and can afford the upgrades, go ahead. But if you’re not going to enjoy those items while you’re living there, consider a simple refurbishing or using what you have if it’s in good working order and won’t look out of place. 

  • - When looking for a contractor, price isn’t necessarily the important thing.  Ask for references, check their license numbers, and call the former clients and ask to see the work that was done, either in photos or in person. The research will be worth it in the end.  

  • - Once you hire your contractor, start getting your paperwork in order.  The contractor has their own responsibilities, and the homeowner has to take care of other items--check this list from realtor.com to see who is responsible for what. 

  • - Planning a timeline with your contractor is especially important, and make sure you leave room for possible unexpected issues. 

  • - Sit down with your family and figure out logistics, especially if you’re remodeling the kitchen or one of the bathrooms in your home.  Remodeling can cause a lot of stress, but if everyone knows what to do before it all happens, things can flow better. 

  • - As with moving, clean out the room before the renovation, giving away, selling or throwing out what you haven’t used in months.  Wrap and store any items you’re keeping in a spare room. 

  • - Before the construction team comes in to begin the project, sit down with your contractor to set location boundaries for the crew and your family, along with other logistics. The crew doesn’t want your children playing around with tools, and you don’t want your good bathroom towels used for grimy hands.  Everyone needs to know what is okay, and what isn’t.   

 

home remodel is a big undertaking; watching renovation shows on television can give the idea that everything goes off without a hitch.  It takes planning, communication and good all-around management to make the process go smoothly, even if you hit a few bumps along the way.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: www.emagine.us

Winter Decor Ideas

by Tucker Robbins

The Christmas decorations come down, and everything looks so stark and plain, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Try some of these ideas to brighten up your home during the long winter days.  

 

  • - Change your light bulbs to those that give off a blue hue to mimic sunlight. For dark mornings, invest in a sunrise light that comes on and brightens over a period of time to simulate the sun rising. 

  • - Force the flower bulbs you were given as gifts. Their bright colors will bring Springtime early—indoors, anyway.  

  • - Use light, bright colors everywhere you can—cozy throws, pillows, slipcovers, and accent rug—the light colors reflect what natural light we have coming through the windows and help boost our mood.  

  • - Using natural items isn’t just for Christmas. A basket of pine cones with battery operated LED lights woven through them, or a simple wreath of twigs can double as decor for January.  

  • - Use snowflakes, no matter where you live, to brighten up your interior. Get the kids to cut out paper snowflakes, or make these popsicle stick snowflakes. Hang either on clear monofilament and make a mobile or garland and hang them in a window.  

  • - Cut the arms off of old sweaters and use them to wrap around candle holders and vases for a fun, cozy appearance.  

  • - Clip small branches and twigs, spray them with white spray paint, (or leave them natural), and display them in vases with artificial snow, small pine cones, or whole nuts as a filler.  

  • - Hang a mirror, or several, in a dark spot in your home. It will reflect light and brighten the space.  

  • Winter greens joined with a child’s sled, vintage ice skates, or a harness of jingle bells make great front door adornment.  

  • - Use unused scarves wrapped around a foam wreath core for a fun and unique decoration. Hang a pair of mittens in place of a bow. 

  • - Do you or any friends have flowering trees? If so, ask them for a few snipped branches, and force-bloom them with these tips from Fine Gardening.  The Springtime buds will brighten any room. 

 

Decorating for the colder months doesn’t have to scream Santa. Light colors, natural things and cozy pieces are perfect for brightening the long nights, and making your home as inviting as it was during the holidays.  

 

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

 

Photo credit: homebnc.com

Saving Money for Your New Home Down Payment

by Tucker Robbins

With the new year here, many people are thinking about resolutions.  If you’re seriously considering buying a new home, you’ll definitely need to be thinking about having your down payment ready when you find the perfect house.  Follow these ideas for saving as much as you possibly can. 

 

  • - First and foremost, know your house-purchasing budget, and estimate needing 20% of that budget. 

  • - Set up a hands-off down payment high-yield savings or money market account. 

  • - Start cutting out expenses, or find ways to make extra money.  Every little bit counts. 

  • - If you plan on getting an end-of-year bonus or income tax refund, set aside that money to begin your new nest’s egg. 

  • - Sign up with your employer to deposit a portion of your pay into a down payment savings account if you’re not great at putting money into savings.  Most of the time, if you don’t see it, you don’t miss it. 

  • - Receiving gifts from family members towards your down payment require documentation so your  lender, as well as the IRS, knows where the money is coming from, and that the money doesn’t require re-payment.  More information about down payment gifts are here from The Mortgage Reports website. 

  • - Start paying off your credit card debt by paying more than the minimum payment.  Lowering and/or eliminating your card balance also lowers your interest rates, so you can start taking what you’d normally pay on credit cards and depositing it towards your down payment fund. 

  • - If you have investments in stocks or bonds, plan on liquidating those assets when it’s time to purchase your house.  Make sure you document these sales. 

  • - A pay raise at work is great, but if you happen to get one, stay on your old budget, and have the extra pay direct deposited into your down payment account. 

  • - You can always borrow from your 401k or IRA, but make sure you’re not having to pay penalties.  Talk with your account holder before you make any withdrawals. 

 

A down payment, especially at twenty percent, can look daunting.  If it just looks impossible, do your research.  There are many first-time buyer programs available, as well as lower down payment options through the USDA, the VA and state-specific programs.  Zillow has a terrific guide on low down payment guidelines and opportunities. Planning ahead and keeping your eye on your goal will get you well on the way to home ownership. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: www.proptiger.com

DIY Home Staging

by Tucker Robbins

You’ve taken the plunge, and put your home on the market.  How do you stage it for potential buyers, and keep it looking great while living your day-to-day? Follow this guide for some practical ideas. 

 

  • 1. Look at your front entry closely. Paint porch rails and columns, and your front door, if necessary. Replace the door, if necessary.  
     

  • 2. Landscaping is extremely important for first impressions--clean out the flowerbeds, put down some new mulch and fresh plants, if the time of year is right. 
     

  • 3. Get rid of clutter and anything that isn’t necessary. Go ahead and pack these things for your potential move so you’ll have one less thing to do when the time comes. 
     

  • 4. Clean out closets, and throw away, give away or store anything that you’re not using or haven’t used in six months. Buyers will look in closets and cabinets to see how much storage is available. 
     

  • 5. Clean, clean, clean.  Your home needs to be spotless, but once it’s done, it’s easy to keep clean for realtor showings.  If you don’t have time, consider hiring a cleaning agency. 
     

  • 6. Using decorative containers to store things that you need while living in your staged home is a great way to hide extra clutter. Totes, benches with storage, and inexpensive shelving with baskets are great ways to hide your can’t-live-without things. 
     

  • 7. Rearranging furniture to make rooms appear larger is a huge plus--even taking out lesser-used pieces makes a big difference in how open your rooms will look.  If you’re unsure of this step, ask your realtor for the name of a decorator who specializes in rearrangement and using what you have to improve the space. 
     

  • 8. If your decor is bold and bright, go ahead and give the walls a fresh coat of neutral paint colors. 
     
     

  • 9. You don’t need to purchase new furniture once you’ve toned down the wall paint--slipcovers are an inexpensive way to make your pieces look like new. 
     

  • 10. Remove personal artwork/photos from your walls and replace with mirrors, inexpensive prints of landscapes or animals.  

 

Once you’re ready for your realtor to schedule showings, give everyone in the house a responsibility schedule, and stick to it.  Be diligent about keeping furniture dusted, floors vacuumed, countertops wiped off, and dishes stashed in the dishwasher. If you just take out an extra twenty minutes every evening or morning, your home will impress your potential buyers. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: http://styledstagedsold.blogs.realtor.org/

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For November 2017

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE listings decreased from 628 new listings in November 2016 down to 615 in November 2017. The average sales price decreased to $236,593, while days on market dropped by 10 days.

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

Pets and Holiday Food

by Tucker Robbins

The time of year is upon us when we gather together and indulge in our favorite foods.  It’s so easy to slip Fido or Kitty a little scrap now and then, but it may not be such a good idea.  See this list for human foods that may or not be good for your pets. 

 

  • 1. Turkey may be an ingredien.t in some pet foods, and a bite or two of cooked, white meat is a nice treat. The skin, however, contains fat as well as spices that can cause an upset stomach, or worse, pancreatitis.  If they get turkey, remove the skin. 
     

  • 2. If you’re celebrating with prime rib, or ham, a few bites of meat without herbs or spices is a nice snack.  
     

  • 3. Bones of any kind can be a real danger because of splintering, and could cause choking as well as a perforated digestive system. 
     

  • 4. Gravy is a yummy treat poured over their regular food, but limit it to a few tablespoonsful.  Gravies are usually too salty for animals, and are high in fats. 
     

  • 5. Before you turn your baked sweet potatoes or pureed pumpkin into pies, pass a spoonful or two along as a treat.  Both are rich in vitamins and high in fiber, and are a great anytime snack. 
     

  • 6. Onions are a definite no--they contain thiosulphate, which is quite harmful to dogs and cats. 
     

  • 7. Stuffing may not only be too carb-rich, but the onions, garlic and spices that most stuffing’s contain can be toxic your pets. 
     

  • 8. Going sugar free? Make sure your artificial sweetener doesn’t contain xylitol, and if it does, make absolute certain your pet doesn’t eat anything it’s an ingredient in. 
     

  • 9. Baked goods contain too much sugar, or may have chocolate, which shouldn’t be fed to either cats or dogs in the slightest amount.  Call your vet if you think they may have eaten anything containing chocolate. 

 

We usually end up going a bit overboard on Christmas, but it doesn’t have to include our pets.  The extra people in the house and hustle and bustle in the kitchen and can be a bit much for pets, anyway.  Provide a quiet corner for them so they can get away for a while.  When you sit down for your meal, make sure guests know not to feed the four-legged beggars with the sad eyes.  If you really want to include your beloved canine in your family meal, try this little doggy casserole from The Bark, and cats will enjoy these turkey jerky nibblers that are easy to make! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: vetstreet.com

End-Of-Year Giving

by Tucker Robbins

With a little less than a month left in the year, many begin to think about charitable donations.  Once you’ve decided on an amount to give, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

 

  • 1. Did you give last year?  Do a quick check of the organization’s website, or give them a call to see what sort of strides they’ve taken.  If you’re not satisfied, or don’t see progress, consider another charity. 
     

  • 2. As difficult as it can be to narrow your donation to one organization, a larger gift can be more beneficial as one gift, instead of spreading your donations around. 
     

  • 3. Keep in mind that there are thousands of charities who don’t have it in their budgets to advertise.  Consider giving to a local charity, or a national one that’s lesser known. 
     

  • 4. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, call the charities if you can’t find their mission statements online, and ask questions.  It’s the best way to get the information you need. 
     

  • 5. Although there’s nothing wrong with giving to your alma mater or the hospital that took such great care of a family member, find out if your local homeless or domestic violence shelter needs help.  These kinds of organizations usually struggle to make ends meet in providing services. 
     
     

  • 6. Make sure your charity is legitimate, and it’s very important to check their finances. Charity Navigator’s website will let your search a charity’s name and get feedback. 
     

  • 7. Because donations are tax-deductible, the IRS has a search tool that allows you to see what organizations are eligible for tax-deduction gifts. There are other handy options, such as seeing what organizations are no longer allowed to be considered exempt. 
     

  • 8. Avoid scams--charitable giving is at a high at the year’s end, and crooks abound.  Use the above IRS search tool to make sure your charity is legitimate charity. 
     

  • 9. Keep receipts, check stubs or letters of thanks for when you’re filing taxes.  If your donation isn’t monetary, but something valued at over $5,000, the IRS requires an appraisal for your deduction. 
     

  • 10. Do you volunteer? Any out-of-pocket directly related expenses--even mileage--are tax deductible.  
     

  • 11. Keep in mind that last-minute online donations made December 30-31 are eligible for a tax write-off.  

 

Deciding who should benefit from your generosity can be a tough or easy decision, depending on what you already know. Just look for charities that depend on your generosity to keep their doors open, or who need your physical presence to be successful.  Giving isn’t always about money.  

 

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

 

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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)