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Laundry Mistakes You Could Be Making!

by Tucker Robbins


Laundry.  For some, the word causes some dread, for others, it’s just another job, and for the rest--well, it seems as if they went to a laundry boot camp!  With so many different washers and products available, it’s easy to think that the machine will tak
e care of everything, but that’s not always the case.  Are you making any of these mistakes? 

 

  • Load size is important when you’re choosing your wash cycle and amount of detergent.  Too many clothes and they won’t get clean and adding too much detergent can cause the clothes to have more stains and residue.  The Spruce tells you how to figure out how much laundry your washer tub can hold. 
     

  • HE machines are just that--high efficiency.  They use less water and energy, but too much detergent can cause the machine to sense the extra suds and begin a second rinse cycle.  That’s not very efficient. 
     

  • Using fabric softener for all types of clothing isn’t necessary.  Athletic wear doesn’t benefit from the agents in the softener and defeats the purpose of moisture-wicking fibers.  Hang those to dry.  Towels will be just as soft without softener and dried in the dryer.   
     

  • Letting stains dry is never a good idea.  Sure, we have powerful stain-fighters easily accessible, but not every stain comes out.  The American Cleaning Institute Stain Removal Guide has a solution for almost every stain under the sun! 
     

  • Hand washing labels are there for a reason:  those items need gentle treatment. If you don’t have time to soak and swish those pieces in the sink, use a garment bag and the delicate cycle on your machine, and air or hang to dry. 
     

  • Leaving zippers down can cause distress to the zipper and break them.  On the other hand, washing a shirt left buttoned up is more likely to lose those buttons because of the pull on the fabric. 
     

  • Extra bleach sounds like a great idea when items are especially dirty, but it will cause the fabric to yellow and break down much faster.  Use the recommended amount on the bottle. 
     

  • The high heat setting should not be your default drying cycle.  Save that cycle for towels and whites.  Clothes may take longer on the low heat cycle, but the lower temperature helps save your clothes from fading and shrinkage. 

 

Don’t forget to keep your dryer running smoothly by cleaning the lint screen after every load you dry.  Change your way of thinking about doing laundry--instead of a job, it’s a process!  It may add a few minutes to this chore, but you’ll benefit in longer-lasting clothes and less energy use, saving money in the end.

 

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

 

Photo credit: sd-appliancerepair.com

Home and Garden Prep Before Cold Weather Arrives

by Tucker Robbins


The signs that Fall is here are obvious in the things we see:  pumpkins, sweaters, and boots in store ads, and slow cooker recipes clog our social media feeds.  It may not feel so cool, but now is the time to get some cold-weather prep done 
before it gets too cold to be out!  Here are eight jobs to DIY while it’s still comfortable outside: 

 

  • - Check smoke/carbon monoxide detector batteries, and test the smoke detector itself to be sure it’s working properly.  If you don’t have a family fire plan in place, please create one and go over the plan at a family meeting. 
     

  • - Get your mudroom ready for wet Winter weather with plastic bins for shoes and boots, and extra hangers for cold-weather clothing.  Creating a mudroom near the entry your family uses most is easy with a sturdy indoor/outdoor area rug, doormats on both sides of the door, and shoe trays to store wet, muddy footwear. 
     

  • - Your air conditioning may still be in use, but have your furnace inspected and serviced now before you need it.   
     

  • - Walkway and driveway cracks should be filled and repaired while it’s still warm; the materials used for this job may not work as well once outside temps drop. 
     

  • - Clean outdoor furniture and leave to dry completely in the warm sun. When it’s time to store it, you’ll have one less thing to do. 
     

  • - Some plants are better off when you divide them in Autumn:  hostas, daylilies, Spring-blooming bulbs, peonies, and shrubbery are just a few that will be happier if divided and replanted now instead of in Spring.   
     

  • - What to do with all the garden trimmings and leaves you’ll be raking soon?  Create a compost pile!  You’ll save on soil improvements and fertilizer next Spring. 
     

  • - If you’re not ready to give up gardening to the elements, plant a Fall garden!  You’ll be rewarded with fresh greens and other vegetables for those slow-cooker recipes! 

 

Don’t wait until a cold snap is bearing down on you before you get these necessary jobs done.  Take a weekend, get everyone involved, and you’ll be set for the Winter. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: thompson-morgan.com

Six Home-Selling Myths

by Tucker Robbins


When the time comes to sell your home, you get all sorts of advice from friends and family, as well as the internet.  Accepting 
all of that information as fact isn’t a good idea, because following all of this advice may end up costing you money and time. Let’s look at some of the myths you may be taking as truths about selling your home: 

 

  • “My house is worth (much more or less than you thought) according to this website!”  Online estimators are not dependable when it comes to assessing the value of your home.  They can’t see the interiors, the condition of the roof, landscaping--you get the idea.  Your REALTOR® is your best source for setting a value for your property. 
     

  • “This kitchen needs remodeling before anyone will even consider buying this place.”  A thorough cleaning, sprucing up of the cabinets with new paint and hardware and installing an inexpensive backsplash and new faucet can make your kitchen a total selling point.  Spending too much on a complete renovation can cost more if you don’t get your return on investment. 
     

  • “If I overprice the house, then negotiate an offer, the buyer will think they’re getting a steal of a deal!”  In today’s world, most homebuyers have done their research, and may overlook your home simply because of the high asking price.  Have confidence in your agent’s ability to price it right.   
     

  • “Weekends are the only days I can have the house available for viewing.”  Setting limits on when an agent can bring potential buyers to the house is like putting up a Not For Sale sign in your yard. If you want the house to sell, it must be accessible even when it’s not convenient for you. 
     

  • “I’ll wait until I get a few more offers.”  Rejecting the first offer for a wait-and-see can leave your house on the market longer, which can lead to fewer offers.  Buyers will wonder if something is wrong with the house when they see the length of time it’s been for sale, leaving your home overlooked in their house hunting. 
     

  • “Hiring a real estate agent is going to cost too much.”  When you contract with a REALTOR®, you’re getting a professional that knows the market, handles the listing, marketing, showing, knows legal aspects of selling a home, and much more.  Taking the risk of selling your house on your own could cost you much more than an agent’s commission in the end. 

 

Discuss your ideas and fears with your REALTOR® and allow them to guide you through the home-selling process.  Choosing a reputable and knowledgeable agent will help with any concerns you may have, helping you debunk the more common myths about selling a home. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: moversatlas.com

Get the Kids Involved in Your DIY Projects!

by Tucker Robbins


Many people assume that children and home projects don’t go together, but why not?  Oh, sure, electric tools and saws don’t necessarily need to be handled by young ones, but there is so much more than can help you with than a major remodel!  
 

 

  • - Start simple:  cleaning is probably the easiest way to begin engaging your children in home-keeping.  Most love to sweep, dust, vacuum and help with dishes.
      
     

  • - Little ones are naturally curious about what’s outside, so gardening can be a lot of fun, as well as being educational.  Not only can they assist with planting projects, but even preschoolers can be handy with a rake or help with weeding. 
     

  • - When you’ve decided that your walls need new paint, sit down with the color chip cards, and let them help you decide on color.  Painting the sample swatches on the wall is a great way to introduce a paintbrush or roller, and simple techniques.   
     

  • - Planning on purchasing a furniture kit?  Let the children help build it; learning how to follow directions that use symbols and handling simple tools is a great start to working those motor skills in a new way. 
     

  • - Any small repair--tightening drawer pulls, replacing a door handle or sink faucet--can easily involve any age child.  Give them an age-appropriate job, such as passing needed tools, shining a flashlight or using simple tools under your watchful eye. 
     

  • - Putting up new curtains or hanging decor on the walls are great ways to teach school-age kids about using a level or measuring tape.  Math skills in DIY?  Absolutely! 
     

  • - Do you perform your car maintenance?  Everyone should know how to check the oil and other fluids, as well as tire pressure.  Showing your children that keeping the family car in good running condition is as necessary as taking care of the house! 

 

Get your family excited about helping, have patience, and keep them safe while you’re working.   You’ll find that while you’re spending time with them, those DIY jobs will start them on a journey of learning how to be a good homeowner and a handy one at that! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: jenwoodhouse.com

Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

by Tucker Robbins


There are practical
 uses for credit cards, such as rewards points, cash back on purchases, and airline miles to name a few.  Having a credit card can also have drawbacks if you’re not responsible with that piece of plastic.  Read on to see if you’re making any of these mistakes… 

 

  • Paying the minimum payment every month keeps your credit score in check, but the interest added to the balance can make a negative impact on your credit.  Pay as much as you can afford over the minimum billed amount, or, better yet, pay off the balance each month. 
     

  • Late payments not only damage your credit, but if you’re sending it late every month, the late fees and interest on the balance will max that credit card out, and it could take years to pay it off.  Set up an auto-pay plan or mail your payment a week in advance of the due date. 
     

  • Spending just to receive rewards is a good way to get you into credit trouble!  Sure, those rewards are great, but they’re usually a small percentage of your purchases.  The added interest will be far more than any rewards you’re seeking and will cost much more in the end.
     

  • Cash advances may seem like help, but the interest on them starts as soon as that money is in your hand, and there are usually extra fees involved.  Cash advances are essentially cash loans and are treated as such.  Beware of “convenience” checks your card company offers to you because they are cash advances in disguise. 
     

  • Maxing out your balance, or worse, spending over your credit limit, is a good way to reduce your credit score.  The over-balance fees are tremendous, and not having any available credit left on the card will affect the credit utilization ratio. 
     

  • Tossing your statement without reading it can cause you to miss important announcements from the company, as well as fraudulent activity, or changes in your minimum payment due. 
     

  • Using your credit card at the grocery store or to pay utility bills will help in an urgent situation, but only if you can pay the full balance at the end of the month.  If you’re using a credit card for everyday purchases, it’s time to get your finances under control. 

 

Don’t let mistakes cost you money and a good credit rating!  Keep your balance less than 30% of your credit limit, maintain a manageable monthly payment, and your credit report will benefit.  Credit cards are good tools to use to build credit or keep your score high, but only if used wisely.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: pymnts.com

Controlling Common Weeds

by Tucker Robbins


Having a beautiful lawn or productive veggie garden is not for the faint at heart.  You’ve put plenty of time and effort into your landscaping, so when weeds start sprouting, some of them can take over quickly.  They are, after all, wild plants that have a
dapted to their natural surroundings, and don’t need you to help them grow, so you’ll need to get a handle on them quickly! Let’s look at seven common weeds, and how you can keep them from sabotaging your hard work! 

 

  • - Your garden will benefit from a Fall-planting of clover, as it provides nitrogen to the soil. but most homeowners don’t want it in their landscaped lawn.  Mowing high over the plant will help it from reseeding but pulling them while they’re young is the best preventive. 
     

  • - Crabgrass is a bane to many lawns, and it grows quickly once the rain hits the seeds.  Pulling the roots is the easiest way to remove the plant, and even easier if the soil around it is damp. 
     

  • - If you don’t care to add dandelions to your diet (yes, they are edible!), you’ll need to get them at the roots. Spray them with undiluted white vinegar until they’re thoroughly wet, and they will die within a few hours. 
     

  • - Ground ivy, or creeping Charlie, is another weed that can be pulled effectively from wet soil.  If you allow it to flower, make sure it doesn’t go to seed, or you’ll spend more time pulling new plants. 
     

  • - Oxalis, or wood sorrel, has leaves that are almost clover-like, and purple or yellow blooms.  Catch it early, and it can be pulled up by the roots, or use a soap-based herbicide to kill larger plants. 
     

  • - A plant that has been cultivated in many hybrids, portulaca, can also be an aggressive weed.  - Once you’ve dug them up, allow them to dry before you dispose them in a compost pile or other yard waste.  They easily regenerate from any part of the plant. 
     

  • - The thin, strong-scented single leaves that shoot up in our lawns are wild garlic. Mowing won’t stop them, as they’re sprouting from corms in the soil. Pull or dig them up, and make sure you have the whole corm to avoid new growth. 

 

To avoid a lot of back-breaking weeding, mulch heavily in flower beds, and consider putting new plantings close together.  Some weeds are so well-adapted that it doesn’t matter what you do.  Garden.org has an extensive list of weeds with photos and ideas for controlling them without a lot of chemical intervention. 

 

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

Photo credit: gardeningknowhow.com

Before You Buy a Foreclosure

by Tucker Robbins


While looking through real estate listings, you might be curious when you see a property up for auction or one that is “real estate owned,” and wonder if the price is too good to be true.  There is a process of buying a foreclosure house, and you need to p
repare yourself, so read on for some pointers on what’s involved before you make your decision: 

 

  • - A “Bank-Owned Home” is just that:  the owner stopped making payments, and the lender is in the process of auctioning the home to try and recover the money they loaned.  Houses that are “Real Estate Owned” mean that the bank’s auction didn’t result in a sale and is being sold through a real estate agent. 
     

  • - Vacant homes can have all sorts of issues: mold, vandalism, pest issues, stolen copper piping, and neglected landscaping are just a few.  Before you make a bid, go and see the home for yourself, and decide if you can afford the sale price plus the cost of repairs. 
     

  • - Hire an inspector to go to the house with you so you’ll have an idea of exactly what needs to be done.  You don’t want to underestimate renovation costs. 
     

  • - When considering the asking price, and you have taken steps to get a contractor bid on all the rehab, use this formula to calculate your offer:  80% of the appraised value minus the cost of repairs. 
     

  • - Investing in a foreclosure as a rental will require less trendy but rugged materials and flipping to resell might be more expensive (and more headache!).  Moving into the home yourself can keep initial costs in check if you’re willing to do what’s necessary before moving in and holding off on upgrades. 
     

  • - Some foreclosure purchases must be made in cash, and that can put investors at an advantage.  In case cash isn’t a requirement for the purchase, have proof of pre-approval from your lender when you make your offer. 

 

Whatever your reason for your interest in buying a foreclosed home, make sure you do your research, and talk to your bank as well as an experienced REALTOR®.  Search for foreclosures by locality and beware of anyone offering to sell “their property” that is in foreclosure.  Con artists are smart enough to find vacant properties to pass off as their own, sell them, and take the money and run. Educating yourself on the foreclosure purchase process will make for a smoother process, less stress, and hopefully an investment that will pay off for you! 
 

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

Photo credit: fox-property-investments.com

Selling Your Home From Out of State

by Tucker Robbins


When a move out of state is necessary, selling the house your leaving behind may seem scary. A well-thought-out
 plan is an absolute must for the sale to go smoothly.  Read on for some tips to help you get your home-selling plan in place: 

 

  • - Look for a REALTOR® who has experience with long distance sales and is comfortable handling the process with a seller that isn’t local.  Be available for lots of electronic communication with them.
     

  • - Find a tax attorney or accountant with a background in handling out-of-state home sales, because you may have double capital gains taxes to pay.  A professional will be able to walk you through the tax process and let you know if there are any credits you can claim at the end of the year. 
     

  • - Unless your current home is paid for, you will have to pay as if you live in two homes once you move.  Bridge loans are always a possibility, and you’ll need to be certain your home sells within a certain time period, as bridge loans are short-term.  Learn more about bridge loans, and decide if one is the right fit for your budget. 
     

  • - Pricing to sell as soon as possible is imperative, so make certain you and your agent are on the same page.  From realtor.com®: “Your for-sale listing will have the most impact as soon as it is published. That’s when you’re most likely to get fair market value for the home—before people start questioning why your house has sat on the market for so long. 
     

  • - Consider a remote closing, especially if you are so far away that when it comes time to close on the property, you have to spend a lot in travel costs. 
     

  • - Consult your insurance agent before you move, as your homeowner’s insurance will need some changes on your policy, as the house will be vacant. 
     

  • - Leave the electricity on, and have timers on outdoor lighting, and in a few rooms inside.  Keep your security system in place, as well. 

 

Be wary of cash offers that aren’t through your real estate agent, as well as calls from those who call themselves investors.  Smart scammers see an empty house and know that the sellers are eager to move on.  In case the sale doesn’t happen within a certain time frame, talk to your agent about whether leasing or renting is a good idea for you.  Just keep in mind that your situation needs a REALTOR® with experience and confidence to handle the transaction. 
 

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

Photo credit: verani.com

Emergency Home Generator Basics

by Tucker Robbins


Advertisements for full-house generators make you wonder if you really should invest in one, despite
 the high cost.  Having your home in full power during an emergency would be a comfort, but are they worth it?  There are less costly options out there, but only you can decide what’s best for your home and family. 

 

Portable Power 

  • - Portable generators are great for providing electricity to essentials:  lamps, refrigerators, freezers, fans or plug-in heaters. 

  • - Most are fueled by gasoline, and the tank must be filled as it runs, so there is a bit of labor involved.   

  • - The engines on portable generators are noisy (think lawn mower noise).   

  • - Generators that run via a solar panel are available, and the technology is getting better, but the initial cost is higher.  Keep in mind that you’ll save on fuel expenses in the end. 

  • - Prices vary with how many kilowatts you’ll need, and your budget should include enough for appropriate extension cords for each device you plan on connecting to the generator. 

 

Stand-By Energy 

  • - In order to provide power to everything in the house, including HVAC, a stand-by whole house generator is the best choice, as it will be connected to your home’s electrical system. 

  • - A stand-by system can be fueled with natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.  These types of units run more quietly than the portables and are fuel efficient. 

  • - Whole house units will cost the most, as they are ready to go almost the instant you lose utility power, require professional installation, and possibly local permits.   

  • - Installation should be done by a certified electrician, and some offer a package deal that includes the unit and installation in one price. 

 

Whatever type of generator you choose, get the size and type of generator that meets your needs, not exceeds them. There’s no need to waste money!  If you’re unsure of  just how much energy you’ll need, ask-the-electrician.com has some helpful information as well as a sizing  calculator.  Though you’ll only need it during emergencies, you want to know that you’ve made the right choice for your home, your needs, and your wallet. 

 

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

Photo credit: todayshomeowner.com

Keeping Cool Without Turning Down the AC

by Tucker Robbins


Let’s face it:  Summer heat waves can drain the energy from our bodies, but it can also 
drain the money right out of our bank accounts when the energy bill comes due.  Turning the thermostat down seems logical, but not always the best thing to do to cool the house off.  Here are some practical things we can do to help our AC keep the home comfortable: 

 

  • - Keeping shades drawn in rooms where the sun comes streaming in is a great first defense on staying cool inside.  Doing this simple thing can lower the inside temps 30%! 
     

  • - When you’re away, program the thermostat to 80°, and then down to 75° once you are home.  No need to cool an unoccupied house, and leaving it off completely causes not only heat, but humidity, to build up. If those settings seem warm, give it a week, and you’ll find that your body acclimates to the warmer temperatures! 
     

  • - Utilizing fans is an inexpensive way to help stay cool; your ceiling fan should be turning counterclockwise (find the direction toggle switch near the fan speed chain), and floor fans should blow towards you at a comfortable speed. 
     
     

  • - Planting large shrubbery and plants with heavy foliage on the sunny sides of the house not only makes the landscaping attractive, the plants help block the heat, making the outside cooler, thus, the inside will stay cooler. 
     

  • - Permanent awnings and shutters are easy ways to block sun, as are retractable curtain awnings.   
     

  • - Allowing all interior doors to stay open will help the air circulate fully and helps keep hot spots from forming.  Leave air registers open, even in unoccupied rooms, to avoid putting a strain on ductwork over time. 
     

  • - Using a dehumidifier will, obviously, reduce the moisture in the air, making the house feel cooler. 
     

  • - Time your clothes-drying and dishwashing for nighttime hours and keep the house cooler in the daytime and save on your electric bill. Most energy companies have off-peak consumption hours at night and early mornings. 
     

  • - Cooking will heat up the kitchen, so learn how to plan your cooking early or later in the day and make use of a toaster oven creates less heat than turning the oven on. 

 

One of the best things you can do to help your unit running well and keeping things cool is maintenance!  Have a pro come and service it, change filters when they are visibly dirty, make sure the evaporator drain can run freely, and keep the air flowing nicely around the unit. 

 

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

Photo credit: onehourmiamisouth.com

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