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Get These Fall Jobs Done

by Tucker Robbins

The weather is cooler, but the days are still long enough to get some regular Fall maintenance done.  Get your home prepped for cooler weather now so it won’t be a problem later.   
 

  • - Clean gutters before the leaves fall so they won’t get clogged.  Consider installing some gutter protectors so the coming leaf drop won’t cause further problems. 

  • - Raking leaves is a job many don’t care for, but if you do, and plan on burning them, check with your local government offices or HOA guidelines to make certain it’s allowed.  If not, it’s best to bag them for curbside pick-up, or find a gardening neighbor that would appreciate the extra composting material. 

  • - After you’ve mowed and raked one last time, fertilize the lawn.  The roots are still active, and the extra nutrients will help the grass overwinter safely. 

  • - Speaking of using the lawnmower one last time, drain the fuel and oil from gas-powered equipment, and clean them well.  This Old House offers some excellent tips on putting up the lawn mower for Winter. 

  • - Give the roof a good look and replace broken or missing shingles. 

  • - Check windows and doors--inside and out--for drafts and apply weather-stripping or caulking where it’s needed.  Today’s Homeowner has a video that shows us how to apply caulk around our windows. 

  • - Call your HVAC serviceperson, and have the heater checked and serviced, if necessary.  Go ahead and make sure your filters are new--buying them in bulk keeps you from having to remember to get one every couple of months and saves you money. 

  • - If you use wood for heating, hopefully it’s already cut and seasoned.  Store it at least 30 feet from the house, covered, unless you bring it in a few days before you burn it. 

  • - Turn off your sprinkler system timer, shut water off at the main, and drain the system. If you’re not able to drain it yourself, it may be worth the money to hire a pro to blow the pipes out and drain the sprinkler heads. 

 

It may take a couple of weekends to get all of these done, but all are important to do, and hopefully save you from a headache and spending a lot of money later in the Winter.  Some of these chores could be done by a teenager looking to earn a few extra dollars, and they can learn something in the process. You’re never too young to learn about taking care of your home.

 

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

 

Photo credit: perrycarroll.com

National Fire Prevention Month

by Tucker Robbins

It’s the time of year to check not only your battery-operated smoke alarm, but anything you have in your home that could start a fire if not properly used and maintained.  This is also the time to talk with your family about your emergency plan in case of a fire.  These tips will get you started: 

 

  • - Every kitchen should have an easily-accessed fire extinguisher.  If you don’t have one, purchase one, and if your old one hasn’t been serviced recently, call an official inspector to make sure yours is in good working order. 

  • - Smoke alarms are a must!  Older smoke detectors can be sensitive and go off while someone is cooking, and we inadvertently disconnect the battery to stop that, and forget to reconnect them.  - More recently-produced types have a sensitivity button that can reduce that problem for a set period of time and return to normal after the time is up. 

  • - Homes with more than one story should have an escape ladder close to an easily-accessed window on the upper floor.  Safewise.com has a list of their best-rated ladders, and offers tips for choosing the right ladder for your home. 

  • - Don’t overload electrical outlets, and use extension cords only on a temporary basis.  If you need more outlets, call an electrician to install them.  The cost of this greatly outweighs the cost of a fire. 

  • - A visit from an electrician is also warranted if you have outlets that spark when you use them, lights that flicker, or a circuit breaker that trips regularly. 

  • - Clean your dryer’s lint screen after each load, and keep the vent and back of the dryer clean from lint build-up. 

  • - Have chimneys and furnaces checked out before you use them to make sure they’re clean and in good working order.  If you use a wood fireplace, make sure the screen protector has no holes, and use only a flame-retardant rug in front of the hearth. 

  • - While cooking, don’t leave the kitchen, and even though your children may like to help, have their station set up far from any hot items. Keep towels and paper products away from anything hot, and don’t leave cooking oil unattended. 

  • - Although it isn’t very common, lightning can cause a house fire.  Lightning rods may seem like an outdated tool, but they are not only helpful for redirecting lightning and prohibiting a fire, they can save your electronics from lightning damage.  Lovetoknow.com describes several different types of home lightning protection styles, and how they all work. 

 

Most importantly, you need a family fire plan, and everyone should be familiar with this plan.  For tips and a guideline to setting up your own fire escape plan, consult this page from the National Fire Protection Association, where you can find free printable tools to make your planning process go smoothly.  No amount of time taken to put a plan into place and practice is too much when it comes to protecting your home and family from a fire.
 

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

 

Photo credit: servproclifton.com

Getting Ready for Houseguest Season

by Tucker Robbins

It may be just the beginning of Autumn, but many are already thinking ahead to the holidays and having guests over.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the guest room except to create a pile of things that should be stored somewhere else, it’s time to get in there and make it ready for anyone who may be coming to visit.  
 

The Guest Room 

  • - Tackle the cleaning of the guest room first.  Anything that you’ve stashed on the bed, closet or dresser that should be stored elsewhere, get that done.  Use under-bed storage containers to get some things out of the way, or store on the closet shelf. 

  • -Go through the closet and remove things that haven’t been worn in a year or more and donate those.  Guests will appreciate some empty hangers in the closet to keep their clothes from staying folded in a suitcase. 

  • - On the same token, open the top two dresser drawers, and purge anything inside that isn’t being used, and empty at least one drawer.  Use a sachet of cedar chips for a nice fresh-smelling place for your guests to keep their belongings. 

  • - Clean the room as if you were Spring-cleaning:  wash all the bedding, vacuum the whole room, including under the bed, and dust all wood surfaces well.   

  • - Have extra pillows and blanket on the bed, especially if the room is on the cooler side of the house.  Once you have the big things done, getting the room ready just before they arrive will go more quickly. 

 

No Guest Room? 

  • - If you don’t have the extra bedroom, consider investing in a futon, sofa bed or even a twin chairbed for your living area.  Even a good quality air mattress can be made into a comfortable overnight sleeping spot, and can be put wherever you want, and is easier to use for some privacy for your guests. 

  • - Your couch is a bit “lumpy,” or you simply want to make it comfier in case of needing it for extra beds, and a feather bed is perfect for this.  Featherbeds are easily stored, and will certainly offer some comfort when placed on top of the sofa cushions. 

  • - You will need a small table or other flat surface for guests to keep their luggage--anything that will make them feel like they have space of their own.   

  • - If your guest space will be in a living area, give them a feeling of privacy with a screen to block off the sleeping area.  Deciding to use a screen can give you an excuse to make one, and apartmenttherapy.com has a great tutorial for a screen made from hollow-core doors. 

 

Extras 

  • - Start stocking up now on trial- and travel-size toiletries, and purchase a couple of new towels to keep tucked away for guests. 

  • - Make sure the lighting in the bedroom is good, and all the lightbulbs are working. 

  • - Have a new house key made and hang it on a special keyring and use solely for guests. 

 

Getting the big things done now won’t have you scrambling during the busy holiday season to get ready for any overnight visits.  Most of the time, the whole point of having friends and family spend a few days in your home is to enjoy them!  Preparing now will mean less stress and plenty of enjoyment later!

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

Photo credit: hofmeisterrealty.com

Adding Value or Not?

by Tucker Robbins

Almost every homeowner has some upgrades or small projects on their to-do list, from installing new gutters to new landscaping.  What they aren’t always thinking is if the next small project will add value to their home.  Not every home improvement increases the value of a property, whether they’re a necessity or not.  
 

  • Roofing While a new roof looks great, it is considered a maintenance issue, so unless your roof needs replacing, or you have damaged shingles, this job rarely adds value.  On the other hand, depending on where you live, a metal roof can add some value to your home, lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums, and may save on the electric bill. 

  • Landscaping Keeping your yard trim and weed-free doesn’t decrease or increase your home’s value, and some landscaping certainly helps if you’re trying to sell. Adding a small fish pond with waterfall, however, isn’t necessarily going to add to add value.   

  • Electric/Plumbing In older homes, an upgrade here is something that’s necessary, and even if you used top-of-the-line products and the most expensive plumbers and electricians in the area, it won’t add value. 

  • Swimming Pool Putting in a pool is simply a personal choice--you have it done because you want to enjoy some refreshment and relaxation on a hot day.  Rarely does an added pool or spa put money in your pocket if you sell. 

  • High-End Upgrades In order for upgrades to add resale value, they must be consistent.  Don’t add imported tile to one bathroom, and then leave vinyl and Formica in the half bath.  

  • HVAC A new A/C unit or heating system is another maintenance item, and though someone looking for a home may find some relief in knowing that there’s a brand-new unit attached to the home, they’re not going to pay more for it because it’s new. 

  • Carpet If you’re thinking about installing new carpet to prep your house for the market, talk to your RealtorⓇ.  Going to the expense of new carpeting may be less desirable to house-hunters in your area.  If you want to make that money back, then consider another type of flooring for your house. 

 

These items don’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have them done, but it does mean that you likely won’t get the extra money they cost back in case you sell your home.  What it will help is the home sale itself--someone on the search for a new house will be more likely to purchase a home that has a new roof or new flooring.  Nolo.com has some excellent information on what will add value to your home, as well as some other home improvement tips.  When in doubt, do some research, and give your RealtorⓇ a call, as they know exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your house. 

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

Photo credit: NationalCashOffer.com

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

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

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.   

From Tenants to Homeowners in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whatever the reason you’ve decided that it’s time to go from renting a place to live to purchasing a home of your own, there is plenty to consider.  From down payments to paint, many factors of home ownership are different than when you’re a tenant in someone else’s home.   

 

  • - Begin budgeting now, if you do not already.  Homeownership has more expenses involved than renting, and you need to be able to manage your money properly. 

  • - Check your credit score and correct any mistakes, or do what it takes to bring your numbers up. 

  • - Start saving towards your down payment.  

  • - Be realistic.  You know about how much you can afford, so don’t start your initial search in the luxury homes sections. 

  • - Once your financial things are in good working order, shop around for a loan, and talk with the lender about your pre-approval amount.  Knowing how much you can afford will help keep you in check when it comes to the house searching. 

  • - Don’t balk at browsing other homes besides houses--there are affordable townhomes and condominiums that could be perfect for you as your first home purchase. 

  • - Think about your community options--do you want to live in a managed community (HOA), a rural area, new construction in a planned community, or an older suburban neighborhood?  Each can affect how much you pay in HOA fees, taxes, or maintenance costs. 

  • - If you have renter’s insurance, and you should, you’ll note that a homeowner’s policy costs more, because it covers much more than just your belongings.  Speak with your insurance agent about a quote so you can budget accordingly. 

  • - On the chance that you decide to relocate, you can choose to rent your property and become a landlord yourself.  You will have money from the rent to pay towards your mortgage payment, or, if the house is paid for, begin building a nest egg. 

  • - Purchasing a newer house than what you’re renting can save money in the end, because of less up-front maintenance, as well as being more energy efficient, thus having lower utility bills. 

 

Think about the freedom to paint your living room teal blue if you like, and feeling like dancing and not having to tiptoe because there are no neighbor’s downstairs.  As soon as you are ready, contacting a Realtor to help you get started is the first step you’ll need to take, as they are your guide during the whole home-buying process.   

 

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

Photo credit: financetypes.net

Curb Appeal Tips in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Obviously, the first thing a prospective buyer sees when they drive up to your house is the front outdoor space and exterior.  First impressions can make or break a sale! Bring your curb appeal to life with a few easy and easy-on-the-budget ideas. 

 

  • - Use a long-handled soft brush and mild soap and water to wash the front of your home’s exterior.   

  • - If you don’t own a pressure washer, rent one from your local home store and give the driveways and walkways a good cleaning, paying special attention to stains from fallen leaves. 

  • - Store away any personal items you have in the front garden, like statuary, monogram garden flags, and even the basketball goal over the garage door.  You want the buyers to imagine your yard as their own. 

  • - Trim or remove shrubbery and trees, or large plantings that don’t show off the front of your home.  If the job is too big, a professional may need to be called in. 

  • - Give the front door a fresh coat of paint in a bright inviting color, add a new welcome mat, and if necessary, install new hardware and clean up or add new house numbers. 

  • - Simply changing your old porch or yard light sconces can make a big difference in appearance, as most homes are shown during the day, but many house hunters drive around in the evenings, looking at homes on their want list, so you want the lighting to shine bright. 

  • - If you don’t want to invest in a lot of flowers in the landscape in hopes that you will be moving soon, cover the beds with new mulch.  For some color, place pots and containers in strategic areas filled with flowers and greenery. 

  • - On a large front porch, add a sitting area with an indoor-outdoor rug and casually arranged porch furnishings.   

  • - Fencing adds value to your home, but it needs to be in great condition.  Clean the fence, painting and repairing where needed. 

  • - Don’t forget the mailbox!  Inspect the post and mailbox itself carefully, and give it a good cleaning, or replace it altogether.  Some low maintenance plants around it will make it stand out. 

 

You want your home to give your potential buyers a great impression when they drive up.  They will likely have already scrolled through your home’s photos in the online listing, so it needs to look as great or better than what they’ve already seen.  These tips may seem insignificant to you, but look at your home through a buyer’s eyes, and do whatever is necessary to turn that first impression into a sale! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: kiplinger.com

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