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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 285

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

7 Tips for Avoiding Foreclosure

by Tucker Robbins


The loss of a job, divorce, a medical emergency or death of a family member can put homeowners in a financial bind.  You worked hard to buy your house and make it your family’s home.  Don’t let it get to the point of having the bank begin foreclosure proce
edings!  Here are some tips to help you save your home: 

 

  • - First and foremost: call the bank before you begin missing payments!  If you have equity in your home, this is especially important. Once payments are late, or the lender has filed a notice of default, they will be reluctant or unable to work with you.  
     

  • - Several agencies offer free credit counseling and can direct you to someone who can assist you with getting those finances in order.  The HUD website can put you in touch with a local counselor, or find helpful foreclosure information through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling®. 
     

  • - Keeping your mortgage payments current is more important than paying credit card bills!  Sure, late credit card payments will affect your credit score, but a foreclosure will do far more damage to your rating.  Once you get caught up with the house payments, pay off the credit cards as soon as possible. 
     

  • - Do you have any assets you can sell?  Letting go of expensive items that you’re not really taking the time to enjoy--a boat, for instance--can certainly cut monthly expenses, and any proceeds can go to your loan. 
     

  • - In case you’ve already gotten behind, open every piece of mail that comes from your lender.  Many times, they’ll offer options as soon as the first payment is overdue, because they don’t want to foreclose on your loan as much as you don’t want to go into foreclosure. 
     

  • - Resist any “quick-fix” offers you see on the internet, television commercials and junk mail, or even from so-called investors.  These “rescue mortgages” could be a scam and will cost you your home faster than a foreclosure can take place. 
     

  • - If you see that you can simply no longer afford your home, get advice from an attorney whose specialty is foreclosure, as most will do a one-time consult at no cost.  You may also contact Legal Aid for a pro bono lawyer if you can’t afford it.   

 

Don’t be embarrassed about reaching out to your mortgage company and letting them know you’re going through a rough patch.  Being proactive before the installments become overdue will allow more options to be available.  Your house is your most important investment, and its home.  Do what you have to in order to keep it. 
 

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

Photo credit: housingwire.com

Get Your Home in a Good Mood!

by Tucker Robbins


Hopefully, walking in the door of your home after a long day at work starts turning off the stressors of the day so you can recharge for the next.  If there is anything about your house that doesn’t give you a good feeling, it may be time for some redecorating!  Here are 
6 things you can do to create a comfortable atmosphere at home: 

 

  • - An unkempt yard or dirty, cluttered home can keep us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Once a room is cleaned, and piles of mail or schoolwork is organized, try to keep it that way.  If yard work is getting you down, find an affordable landscaping company or neighbor to get the grass mowed, leaves raked, or flower beds weeded. 
     

  • - You may not have had time to paint or do small redecorating projects when first purchased the house, and that outdated wallpaper or color is bringing you down. Color influences us, so when you are dreaming of Tiffany blue dining room walls, but yours are hunter green, take a weekend to get it done!  
     

  • - Light is so important to how we feel!  Keep shades and blinds open to allow sunlight to shine in, and that’s free!  Spending a little to improve poor lighting in a room with lamps, sconces and brighter bulbs is a mood-booster, as we are naturally drawn to light.  Add inexpensive battery-operated LED lighting to the underside of kitchen cabinetry, bookshelves and china cabinets. 
     

  • - According to Healthline, plants can boost our mood and provide many other benefits!  Where real plants aren’t practical, faux greenery will do, and it never needs watering. 
     

  • - One thing that can cause issues is keeping something on display that isn’t everyone’s favorite.  If there’s anything in a room that gives anyone a bad feeling or brings up memories they’d rather forget, remove it.   
     

  • - Aromatherapy is certainly a current trend, but scents do affect us in many ways.  There are so many ways to add a pleasant aroma to your home, so choose the most convenient method, along with a couple of different scents you love, and use them.  When you get used to smelling one, change it out with another.   

 

Finally, and most importantly, decorate with items you love.  Home shouldn’t be making you feel stressed, so hanging a piece of art that was a bargain, but you never really liked, isn’t a good bargain.  Walking into your home filled with things that bring you joy or peace--well, there’s no substitute. 

 

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

Photo credit: quickenloans.com

Allergies and Your Home

by Tucker Robbins


Allergies are something we normally associate with Springtime and pollen, but our homes and yards are sources for allergies year-round.  We can combat all
 the histamine-producing allergens, and it may take some work, but it can certainly cut back on our suffering. 

 

Inside 

  • - Bedrooms are likely the main culprit of allergies.  Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite-proof covers.  Wash bedding weekly in the hot water, and the fewer throw pillows and decorative bedding we have, the better. 
     

  • - Obviously, there are allergens in dust, so while you dust, wear a mask, and clean top-to-bottom.
     

  • - Opt for hard flooring with wool or wool-blend area rugs.  When you must deal with wall-to-wall carpet, vacuum often, and have them steam-cleaned at least twice a year. 
     

  • - Speaking of vacuums, make sure yours has a HEPA filter, and keep the appliance clean. 

  • Start the habit of removing shoes as you come in the door.  Have a pair of indoor-only slip-on shoes to wear around the house.  Having a doormat outside and one inside as people walk in will cut down on pollen and mold being brought inside as well. 
     

  • - Machine washable slipcovers are perfect for upholstery, but on occasion, go over the sofa and any other fabric-covered furniture with the vacuum. 
     

  • - Use bleach or other mold-killers as you clean bathrooms and watch for mold growth anywhere water is used. 

 

Outside 

  • - In Spring, when trees are pollinating, wear a mask while working in the yard. 
     

  • - Another time to wear a mask is while mowing--the blades of your mower are stirring up all types of mold spores, and you may blame it on grass, but your allergies could be coming from the mold.
     

  • - Keeping your grass fertilized will inhibit growth of weeds that can make you sniffle and sneeze.
     

  • - If you love to garden, but not sure what to plant so you won’t feel miserable while you’re working, check out these tips from HGTV. 
     

  • - That morning walk or jog is great for your general health, but if you must deal with allergies, move your exercise time to evenings when pollen is low. 
     

  • - Shower as soon as you come in, or at least, change clothes that pollen and other allergens cling to. 
     

  • - Wipe the pets down with a damp cloth whenever they come in from outside, as their fur is the perfect place for irritants to hitch a ride. 

 

The best tip is not to allow allergies to control your life.  Talk to your doctor about antihistamines that you can take so you can enjoy the great outdoors and so you won’t feel like you should be cleaning every single day.  Allergies can make life miserable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

 

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

Photo credit: atlanticshoresusa.com

Going on a "Stay-Cation"

by Tucker Robbins


So, you need to use your vacation days, but the kids are taking part in activities all Summer, gas prices have you down, or the cost is simply not in the budget.  Why not plan a stay-at-home vacation?  You may not live in a tourist destination town, but yo
u can still take a week off work so you can enjoy some warm weather down time: 

 

Going Places? 

  • - If you are truly wanting an away from home experience, book a room in a local hotel for a few days during the week when rates are lower.  A luxury hotel or bed and breakfast would make it feel more like a vacation, if you can afford it. 
     

  • - Exploring your local area can not only be fun, but educational for the family!  Before your time off, call your local tourism office, and learn about the destinations you’re not aware of, as well as those you do.  Make a list and decide where you’d like to visit. 
     

  • - The weekend before your break, get everyone involved in getting the house cleaned up and the laundry done.  Purchase eco-friendly disposable kitchen items, so you don’t have dishes to do every night, or plan budget-friendly take out. 
     

  • - When you have young children, planning day trips is less difficult on them; spending the day at a nearby museum or state park, then coming home to sleep in their own beds can help keep them in their routine when your time off is over. 

 

Relaxing at Home? 

  • - Imagine yourself as a guest in your own home and treat yourself as such.  Vacations are meant to break routines, and you might have to make a conscious effort to stay in a getaway state of mind. 
     

  • - Spend an entire day at your local park, splash pad, or other fun spot that you normally take advantage of for an hour or so.  Pack a picnic lunch. 
     

  • - Plan some out-of-the-ordinary things to do at home.  “Camp out” in the living room, or even the backyard!  Throw yourselves an ice cream party, or some other celebration that is normally reserved for birthdays and holidays. 
     

  • - Some projects, such as cleaning out the garage, can take a couple of days.  If you must do something, plan as many days of fun or relaxing as you spend working. 

 

Most importantly, unplug yourself!  Turn off notifications for all your smartphone apps, resolve to check personal email every other day, and let family and friends know you’re taking time off, and, unless you’re planning on a get-together, only available for emergencies.  Vacation days are a precious commodity, and if you’re not taking a long-distance trip, make the most of it, and make memories in the process. 

 

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

Photo credit: moneysense

Creating Shade in Your Outdoor Areas

by Tucker Robbins


You love your outdoor space, but is the afternoon sun stopping you from using it for more than weekend mornings with a cup of coffee?  Closing in the space may not be in the budget, but there are many ways you can shade the area without putting a hole in y
our wallet! 

 

  • Sail Shades For less than $100, purchase a sail shade, a piece of polyethylene fabric, normally cut into rectangles or triangles and grommeted.  Most come with a good length of rope to anchor it to your roof or attach it to a pole.  It’s practically instant shade, and weather-resistant, so it can be left up all Summer.   
     

  • Cabana A breezy cabana can be made from a simple wooden structure, or even piping!  Check out these ideas from Home Decoration Magazine. 
     

  • Vining Shade Build a vertical trellis wall, making sure it’s facing the direction the sun is shining. Plant fast-growing perennial or evergreen vines and train the plants to grow up the trellis.  The trellis itself will shield your space from the sun, and the plants will help as they grow. 
     

  • Slatted Shade Pergolas are beautiful open structures on their own or covered with trailing plants.  The price tag can be big, depending on how it’s done, but wooden pergola kits are available, as well as metal pergola kits for even less.  These instructions from The Created Home show you how to build a simple attached pergola for about $200. 
     

  • Temporary Shade  Lifehacker has a tutorial for a simple canopy that’s easy to put up, and easy to take down.  
     

  • Living Screen Visit a reputable nursery where you can get advice from a grower about good shade trees to plant as a screen around the perimeter of your patio.  Purchasing 6’-10’ trees may be a bit more expensive, but with the right planting and care, the trees will grow and thrive, providing lush, living shade. 
     

  • Container Shade Bamboo is a hardy plant, and easy to grow in containers. Using several containers together will provide lush greenery for shade or a privacy screen.  Find the best bamboo for screening, as well as what containers are best here. 

 

If building or planting your outdoor canopy isn’t your thing, then an extra-large outdoor umbrella will do the trick.  Many models are available, and have extending possibilities, and can rotate to follow the sun’s path.  No matter what you decide to use, take advantage of your own shady spot to unwind after a busy week, move family meals outside, or just soak in the outdoors.   

 

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

Photo credit: amazon.com

8 Things Homeowners Should NOT Be Doing

by Tucker Robbins


Homeowners know that to-do lists are almost always too long, but what about don’t-do lists? Whether you’re a first-time
 homeowner or have been in your home for ten years, here are a few things you shouldn’t be doing: 

 

  • - Testing the smoke detectors incorrectly:  sure, the battery needs to be checked, but so does the smoke detection.  Light a match, preferably a kitchen match, and blow it out, holding it next to the detector.  If the alarm sounds, great; if not, replace the battery.  You may need a new smoke alarm. 
     

  • - Using incandescent light bulbs:  LED and fluorescent light bulb technology is getting better aesthetically speaking, so the extra cost to replace your incandescent bulb will make up for itself in the end.  You won’t be buying new ones for at least one year, plus your energy costs will decrease. 
     

  • - Keeping the old thermostat:  replace it with a programmable, or even better, a smart thermostat.  You will notice a difference in your electric bill! 
     

  • - Not checking gutter guards:  gutter guards are great for keeping leaves, larger twigs or pine straw from clogging the gutters, but dirt, seeds, as well as other smaller materials can still get in and cause problems.  Check your gutters at least every six months. 
     

  • - Ignoring your roof:  just because you’re not seeing it up close and personal every day, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need inspecting occasionally.  Learn more about how to be kind to your roof here.
     

  • - Setting the mower to the lowest cut:  cutting your grass too far down can cause it to die.  It will not keep you from mowing less!  Cutting the grass 1-3 inches in length will keep it beautifully green.
     

  • - Planting trees close to the house:  small trees that can reach thirty feet in height should be planted ten feet or more away from your house, while taller trees need to be at least thirty feet away. 
     

  • - Watering the landscaping in the evening:  your way to relax after a long day may be gardening but giving your plants a drink in the evening can cause mildew and other fungi to grow.   

 

Keeping these don’t-do’s in mind will help you save money, besides keep your home safe and in good living condition!  Also think of it as less to do, thus freeing up your time to enjoy being home with your family. 

 

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

Photo credit:  5homebest.com

10 Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

by Tucker Robbins


Spring cleaning, decluttering, moving--these are all great reasons to make some extra cash by holding a yard sale!  It will take a little extra work for organizing and set up, but make it worth your effort with these tips:
 

 

  • - If your home isn’t in a convenient location, consider asking a family member or friend if you can hold the sale at their house, or look for a spot that is in a high-traffic area in your community, and get permission before you set up. 

  •  

  • - Talk to your neighbors!  A neighborhood sale is a big draw for those seeking good deals. 
     

  • - Make certain any packaging doesn’t have old receipts or anything with personal information on it.  If you still have manual for an item, keep it handy for the new owner. 
     

  • - Check everything for cleanliness, stains, or cracks.  Most people don’t care to pay for dirty, or items that aren’t in good condition. 
     

  • - If you do want to get rid of things that aren’t in the best state, have a separate table for them with a “FREE” sign. Some people pick them up for parts or art projects. 
     

  • - When you start pricing, set them low to move things quickly and avoid bargaining!  Not pricing your items will take up your time at the sale and may turn some people away. 
     

  • - Advertise!  DIY or have someone make some attention-grabbing signs, using either large permanent markers or a computer design.   
     

  • - When there’s not enough room in the driveway, your sale will need to be on your lawn, so make sure the grass is trimmed, any holes are filled, and any pet issues are taken care of.  For yard art that isn’t for sale, make certain you have a “Not for Sale” sign in place. 
     

  • - High-interest or large items should be placed closest to the street to drawn in shoppers. 
     

  • - Place your “cash register” next to the sidewalk or end of the driveway so people can pay on their way out.  Get plenty of small change at the bank the day before.  Keep your money in a fanny pack for safety; never leave it unattended. 

 

On the day of your yard sale, be sure to have everything ready to go at your advertised time, play some upbeat music for background noise, and make it a pleasant experience for everyone.  When the day is over, be ready to haul some things to a thrift store, or schedule pick up by a non-profit that will take your things away for free.  Find more yard sale tips at Wholefully.com! 

 

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

Understanding Your Home Appraisal

by Tucker Robbins


During the selling/buying process, after the purchase agreement contract is signed, lenders order a home appraisal.  They want to be sure that the property is worth the mortgage they are getting ready to issue to the buyer, or in case of refinancing,
 the owner.  An appraisal is different from the home inspection, which should have already taken place.   

 

  • - The lender typically schedules the appraisal with a licensed professional, who contacts the homeowner to schedule a time.  Some appraisers don’t mind the owner being present, but usually work alone. 
     

  • - Sellers should have a few things readily available:  recent tax information, property survey, a list of what is being sold with the house, any addition construction information, including cost and construction date. 
     

  • - The assessment can begin before the appraiser even steps onto the property, as they do market information about the house, as well as research comparable sales in the neighborhood, much like the listing agent did for setting the price for the house. 
     

  • - Like someone viewing the house for purchase, the appraiser takes in the exterior appearance, curb appeal, looks for upgrades or additions, as well as the appearance of surrounding homes. 

  • The appraiser takes note of how many rooms are in the house, as well as size, building materials and finishes. 
     

  • - Condition of everything is taken into consideration, including the foundation, exterior finishes, wear on flooring, what shape the windows are in, and all home systems. 
     

  • - The appraiser will also access the basement, attic and crawlspace to check for water or insect damage. 
     

  • - Most of the time, the appraisal fee is set in the loan agreement, but in case it is not, the buyer pays the fee in the closing costs. 

 

Although the actual property inspection may take a few hours, the appraisal itself is normally given to the lender in an average of seven business days. Appraisers commonly use the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. If everyone has done their homework, literally and figuratively, the value of the home will meet the selling price, and the new buyers will soon be on their way to home ownership! 

 

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

Photo credit: Homelight

Checklist for New Home Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Closing day has finally come and gone - you’re almost finished packing for your move, and let's face it you are BUSY! But, it is important to slow down to take note of a few things that should be done before and soon after you move in.  Go down this list of must-do’s so you’ll be safe, secure and happy in your new home:
 

 

  • - Change all of the entryway locks, keypad codes, and make plans to get a security system set up. 
     

  • - Have utilities turned on in your name, as well as television provider and internet.   
     

  • - Deep clean the new house, even if it looks clean.  This job can be hired out, or you can DIY if time permits.  Keep in mind costs involved with renting any necessary equipment, as well as cleaning product expenses. 
     

  • - Plug in/turn on all appliances, to make sure they’re in working order. 
     

  • - Walk through the house to check for minor things that didn’t warrant repair by the seller. Having your copy of the home inspection in hand will help you find the problem areas that may need to be addressed before they get too big and too costly. 
     

  • - If you want update the home’s color palette with a fresh coat of paint, or do any other small improvement jobs consider getting them done before move in day. This will allow for the painting and repairs to be finished easier and faster before settling in with added obstacles.
     

  • - Typically sellers leave the window treatments, but in case they didn’t be sure to measure the windows. Allow for time and budgeting to purchase and install shades or blinds until curtains or shutters can be hung. 
     

  • - Let everyone know your new address:  relatives and friends, of course, but also medical offices, your employer, schools, and other important people that communicate by mail. 
     

  • - Create a homeowner folder to keep all of your important papers. Be sure to store it in a safe and easily accessible place. 
     

  • - Meet your neighbors!  Once you’ve moved in, introduce yourself and your family by hosting a front porch social, with light refreshments.  Slip invites in mailboxes and simply ask them to stop by to say hello.  

Once you get settled in, you’ll need to get into a homeowner frame of mind.  You will have things to keep an eye on and maintain on a regular basis. Bob Vila’s home checklist gives you an idea of what you’ll need to check regularly. 

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

Photo credit: newhomesource.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)