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Going Green for the Holiday Season!

by Tucker Robbins


We don’t need an official statistic to tell us that trash in the US increases during the holidays, but some reports say that over 1 million 
tons of extra waste are generated in the United States from Thanksgiving to the New Year!  How can we reduce that number?  It may take some effort on our part, but we can cut back on what we use and throw away during the holidays! 

 

  • - Not only will ditching store-bought gift wrap save room in the trash bin, but it will also save money! Check out these alternatives from How Stuff Works. In case you must buy something, look for inexpensive reusable tins, boxes and gift bags. 
     

  • - Besides gift cards, give presents that are about presence:  trips, a year’s pass to a museum or local amusement park, memberships to spas, or concert tickets. 
     

  • - Thrift-shopping is one way to reuse items, and treasures can be found by visiting them often.  Don’t forget local social media “yard sale” groups, as well as websites that allow people to sell used items. 
     

  • - Don’t forget the batteries but make them rechargeable! This type of battery is becoming more affordable, especially in the smaller battery sizes, and it keeps nasty battery waste from going to our landfills. 
     

  • - It is irritating to get the lights up and half a strand dies as soon as they’re plugged in, but don’t throw them out!  Read about how to check them over,, as well as tools that are made specifically for repairing lights.  If they are truly burnt out, find a recycling center for them instead of sending them out with the garbage. 
     

  • - Break out the “good” dishes instead of using disposables!  Ask everyone to pitch in once the meal is over, and clean-up will be a breeze. 
     

  • - Food waste is something we don’t think about often, but we can cut back on what we throw away by planning well and thinking creatively with leftovers.  Find helpful tips and recipes, as well as the Guest-Imator tool at savethefood.com. 
     

  • - Live trees are used in almost half of American homes, but they shouldn’t be sent to a landfill.  Learn about different ways to reuse the tree, or contact a conservation group to see if they can use it for wildlife. 

 

Cutting back during the holidays goes against what our society tells us about how we should spend these next few weeks, but even little things like using unconventional gift wrapping for just three gifts adds up, according to Visual.ly.  Commit to making three changes this year, and next year, add three more to your list.  Consider it a gift to the environment. 

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

Photo credit: colorado.edu

Tips for Buying a Home in a Hurry!

by Tucker Robbins


Sometimes your circumstances change, and you find yourself needing to buy a home ASAP!  In the past, you’ve looked at houses for a month online before you start actively looking, taking your time to find an agent.  Now, however, your new job needs you as soon as you can get there, but how quickly can you buy a new house?  Faster than you think if you follow these tips!
 

 

  • - Find a buyers agent that has a reputation for handling sales efficiently.  You want someone who understands your need to buy quickly, but who will also make sure you’re not making huge mistakes in the process. 
     

  • - Make sure your credit score is in good standing, and gather all paperwork necessary for the lender:  tax returns from past years, current pay stubs, bank statements, documentation for rent payments if you’re a renter, gift letter if someone is gifting part of the down payment, and proof of any assets you may have. 
     

  • - Don’t just get pre-qualified for a mortgage--get pre-approved.  This way, you’ll know exactly what you can afford, and when you make an offer, the seller will be certain you are serious about buying the house. 
     

  • - You might have to forgo the perfect house dreams, but don’t sacrifice your must-haves.  That said, not being extremely picky with what you want in a house will see your success a few steps closer.   
     

  • - When you talk to your agent, ask them to look for homes that have been on the market for a while.  This may give you some leeway in the offer process because the seller is likely somewhat anxious to sell. 
     

  • - If you have any equity in the home you will be moving from, and you don’t want to lease or rent it, selling as quickly as you are able will give you a head start on the purchase of a new home. 
     
     

  • - Be prepared to put your belongings in storage if you do sell before you buy, and talk to friends or relatives about staying with them temporarily. 
     

  • - You’ll want a transaction without a lot of contingencies so there isn’t a lot of time-consuming negotiating, but be careful about what you are willing to let go to buy the property.   
     

  • - Don’t go AWOL during the process--sure you’ll be busy getting packed up and prepping for a move, but you need to be available to your agent so no time is wasted.   

 

The best tip is to get started as soon as you know you have to move--the more time you have to take care of buying a new home, the better the outcome will be, saving you time, money, and future headaches.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: moneyunder30.com

Popular Home Styles Defined

by Tucker Robbins


When you’re new to house-hunting and begin reading house descriptions, you may not understand the difference in a ranch, Tudor or a Craftsman style.  These eight most common architectural types will help you not feel so overwhelmed while going through your
 to-see list: 

 

  • Popular in the 1930s was the Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman, house.  Known by their low-pitched roof, front porch with tapered columns, the interiors of this type of home features lots of woodwork and built ins. 
     

  • Cape Cod-style homes are rectangular in shape, usually with the front door in the center of the front of the home, shuttered windows on either side of the front door and gable ends.  Traditional structures are one and a half stories, with living, sleeping and dining rooms all divided with walls.
      
     

  • Colonial houses are the predecessor of the Cape Cod, and they are similar in shape, style, and interior.  The biggest difference between the two is the Colonial’s second story was a full story, versus the Cape Cod’s half-story.   
     

  • A home that is described as Contemporary should be just that--a house of “now.”  Think of a contemporary home as having Colonial, Ranch or other architectural characteristics, just with an updated look. 
     

  • As times changed during the 1930s-60s, Mid-Century Modern-style houses began to make an impression using sleek straight lines, asymmetrical form and basic materials like glass, concrete, and metal.   
     

  • Ranch-style homes were a popular architectural style in the US during the post-World War II years through the 1970s.  The one-story form was usually low on the ground, with mixed exterior siding and attached garage.   
     

  • Looking like something from a fairy tale, Tudor homes featured curved rooflines and doorways, timbered or half-timbered gables filled with mason work or shingles, decorated windows, and cross-gables on the front exterior.  
     

  • The Victorian era brought romance and frills, and the homes of that period are no different.  A Victorian-style home will normally have a steeped-pitch roof, gabled windows, decorative woodwork, bay windows, and wide front porch.  

 

REALTOR® Magazine offers a guide to many other house styles, complete with images of the basic look of each type and brief description.  Once you’re familiar with these terms and the houses they describe, you’ll feel more confident as you search listings, looking for your new home. 
 

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

Photo credit: trulia

Updating Your Thrift Store Finds!

by Tucker Robbins


No matter how you’ve acquired a piece of old furniture or other used decorative items
--a family piece, great yard sale finds, or online--there is almost always a way to update it to fit into your decor!  Here are a few tips and idea links for making your new old treasure sparkle! 

 

  • Before you buy any used item, inspect it as well as you can for broken/missing parts or loose hardware.  With the exception that you’re certain you can repair it yourself; it might be better left for someone else with experience. 
     

  • Laminated pieces that are in bad condition will never repair well.  Not only that, but laminate furniture is usually not made of solid wood underneath and won’t have a lot of life left in them unless they’re in perfect condition.   
     

  • Cleaning is probably the first thing you’ll need to do. The Creek Line Home blog has some great solutions for cleaning thoroughly, as well as removing odors.  
     

  • Does your piece need a little work?  Unless you love the look of distressed furniture, you will want to repair cracks, rings and replace missing wood.   
     

  • Cushioned dining chairs are easily made over by removing the seat and covering the cushion with new fabric. (If the foam is very worn, you may need to replace that.) Pull it tightly and attach with a staple gun.  Painting the chair is easier without the cushion, but if you’re keeping the original finish, just re-attach the seat. 
     

  • Decoupage is another way to bring an old wooden piece back to life.  Choose practically any kind of paper, and using a decoupage medium, cover the whole thing, or, like Miss Mustard Seed, just highlight certain parts, while leaving the rest painted. 
     

  • Don’t pass up a good lamp! Many can be painted and outfitted with a new shade and serve you for years.  If the electrical parts are fried, lamp kits are available in-home stores and online. 

  • Spray paint is perfect for hard-to paint items such as candlesticks and decorative items, metal furniture pieces, and wicker furniture.   
     

  • Chalk paint has become a popular choice for DIY furniture makeover enthusiasts, but there is a bit of prep work in spite of it being an “easy” way to paint. 
     

  • Outdated art can even be made new again!  These ideas are amazing, and you’ll have what looks like commissioned pieces for just a few dollars and a little work. 

 

However, you decided to upgrade a piece, you will be getting exactly what you want for your home at a fraction of the cost of buying new.  Go online and look for ideas, and when you see an old and worn piece, you’ll be ready to give it new life! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: earningsonline.me

House Plants for Dark Rooms

by Tucker Robbins


Daylight hours have become noticeably less, and so are our landscaping duties! If you’d like to bring the outside in but are concerned about the plants needing sunlight, don’t worry.  Many houseplants can be tucked away inside for Winter that thrive in low
 light!  Find one, or two, in this list: 

 

  • Aglaonema, or Chinese Evergreen, has many hybrids, and come with splashes of silver and red.  Not only will you have a plant that doesn’t need a lot of watering, but you’ll have a plant that brightens without having to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers every week! 
     

  • Using contrast in your rooms can apply to plants as well.  Calathea is a plant with variegated leaves, and some types have red stems and undersides of its leaves.  Placed in a corner with light-colored walls will make this low-light lover take the stage! 
     

  • What sounds tougher than cast iron plant (Aspidistra)? These long-leafed plants thrive in shady spots, can handle poor soil, and if you forget to water them, they will survive! 
     

  • Corn plant or dragon tree, (Dracaena fragrans) is a great plant if you’re looking for height.  It might need pruning once it starts getting too tall but is great for medium light.  Children would love to tell their friends they have a dragon tree in their house! 
     

  • Turn your room into a tropical oasis with parlor palms (neanthe bella)!  The best thing about this palm is that it doesn’t grow very tall and can do well in virtually any amount of light. 
     

  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is a common houseplant, and rightly so.  While enjoying medium-low light, they do need water at least once per week to keep their beautiful dark green leaves and white blossoms. 
     

  • There are so many types of philodendron that you can find one for any houseplant need you have.  They prefer medium-low light, but in perfect conditions, they can grow tall. You get a bonus with philodendron, as they are proven air-cleaners! 
     

  • If you have a dark corner but no space for placing a container on the floor or furniture, pothos is the plant for you. The trailing vine is perfect to hang in a dark corner, and there are several hybrids to choose from. 
     

  • Does your grandmother have a pot of Swedish ivy that she’s been caring for as long as you can remember?  Plectranthus verticillatus grows very well in low light and be sure it has plenty of room to spread its trailing vines.  
     

  • When there’s little light and almost no room for a plant in your home, a terrarium filled with mosses, small-growing ferns, Pilea glauca “Aquamarine,” and sweet flag (Acorusare just a few of the plants that will grow well tucked inside an enclosed case.  Learn more about this age-old type of gardening. 

 

Bringing the outside in doesn’t mean you have to use the only sunny spot in the house.  Growing green things indoors can keep the air clean, and boost your spirits, both of which are important, not only during the dark Winter months but year-round. 
 

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

 

Photo credit: gear patrol  

Fireplace Prep

by Tucker Robbins


On a cool evening, there’s almost nothing better than sitting by the warmth of a fire with a cup of cocoa.  If you’re a new homeowner who is new to having a fireplace or woodstove, you may be a bit apprehensive about using it.  There are some things you sh
ould know before you fire it up, and this guide will give you the confidence to use this feature during the cold months. 

 

  • - Call a pro to inspect and clean your chimney before using it, especially if this is your first Winter in the house. 
     

  • - Check the damper to be sure it opens and closes properly, and make sure the doors are secure, as well as being certain the glass isn’t loose and has no cracks.
     

  • - Examine a woodstove’s chimney pipe for any loose sections and clean any accumulated soot or ashes.  The door should open easily, close very tight, and the handle should lock into place once the door is shut. 
     

  • - When purchasing a mat or rug to place in front of the hearth, be certain it’s certified fireproof.

  •  

  • -Wood shouldn’t be brought inside until it’s ready for use.  Find out why you should keep it outside and other great tips about storing firewood here. 

  •  

  • - Gas fireplaces require a little less maintenance, but it’s important to be familiar with the operation.  If you can’t find an owner’s manual for your type of fireplace, see if online editions are available, or call the company to have one sent to you. 
     

  • - If you see dust and cobwebs, turn off the gas off, and vacuum using the hose attachment. 

  •  

  • -Ceramic logs or lava rocks inside a gas fireplace may need sprucing up as well. How to Clean Stuff.net guides us through this process in a few simple steps.
     

  • - Soot can collect on the glass doors, and it’s best to keep them clean.  When the doors are cool, spray them with window cleaner, (have newspaper or old towels under them to catch dripping grime), and use a cleaning brush or crumpled newspaper to remove as much of the soot as possible.  Follow up with a soft cloth dampened with clean warm water to remove any film left behind.   

 

If you’re even the slightest bit unsure about prepping your fireplace, don’t hesitate to call a professional!  Many specialty stores know who you should contact and may even have a technician available.  Not only do you want to stay warm, you want your home safe. 


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

Photo credit: thefamilyhandyman

Making an Offer is a Process

by Tucker Robbins


While you’re on the house hunt, every property you see just might be “the one.”  It’s a good idea to learn the different aspects of buying a house before you get into them.  Many discover that after they’ve made an offer of purchase, the process isn’t exac
tly as they’d envisioned! You’ll feel confident when you get to this step by following this guide: 

 

  • - The offer itself isn’t just a price you’re willing to pay for the property; closing date, closing cost contribution, contingencies, or the earnest money deposit are all things that are normally included when the offer is submitted to the seller. 
     

  • - Talk with your agent before you come to your initial price, because you don’t want to insult the seller with a very low offer, nor do you want to pay too much for the house. 
     

  • - Although you won’t always get a complete answer, knowing why the house is on the market can give you some leverage, so ask anyway. Some sellers are in a time crunch and are eager to sell and may take your first offer. 
     

  • - Keep in mind that there are legal aspects to writing a proposal.  Your Realtor will know all the aspects of this part of the process and will take you through each step. 
     

  • - It is very likely that the seller won’t accept your price if it’s less than what they’re asking.  If they want to sell and have no higher offers, they may choose to send a counteroffer.  The counteroffer step is nothing to worry about, if the negotiations are getting you somewhere.   
     

  • - Some sellers will counteroffer with their original asking price.  If this happens, you may have to walk away, as they have shown they’re not interested in moving away from what they want for the property.
     

  • - Don’t forget that you may not be the only buyers interested in the home!  Realtor.com® offers some advice on how sellers might handle multiple offers and some ideas on how to make your offer stand out. 

 

When your offer is accepted, it’s exciting, but there is still work to do!  Hopefully, you have pre-approval for a mortgage, making the buying process a much smoother one.  There are added costs associated with buying a home, so be sure you have your finances in order.  

 

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

 

Photo credit: jetdirectmortgage.com

Trick or Treat Home Safety

by Tucker Robbins


It won’t be long before the streets of your neighborhood are filled with children, and some parents, will be costumed and carrying bags and buckets for Halloween treats!  Since many homeowners don’t regularly use the front entrance to their home, they may 
not think about all the little feet that will be tramping up the path to your door.  Make sure everyone has a safe trip for their candy by following these tips before October 31! 

 

  • - Do your own walk-up to your front door, and examine everything, including the driveway and front steps.  Make sure there are no loose pieces or large cracks that can cause anyone to take a tumble.  Porch railings should be secure. 
     

  • - Yard decor should be fixed securely so the wind can’t blow it over, or curious little hands cannot pull it down. 
     

  • - Battery-operated LED tea lights are inexpensive and much safer to use in place of lighted candles.  Many options are available for LED’s, including a flickering light that is perfect for your jack o’ lantern. 
     

  • - Speaking of lights, make sure that not only is your porch light switched on, but that the path you’ve created is well-lit. 
     

  • - Decor that hangs from the trees is scary and fun, so make certain they are hanging at least ten feet from the walkway, making certain they don’t obstruct anyone’s view. 
     

  • - Take an afternoon close to Halloween to be sure any shrubbery, trees or edging isn’t in the way of where trick-or-treaters must walk.  Inspect for loose branches in nearby trees and remove them. 
     

  • - If you have room in the garage, consider parking the car there.  The folks that are coming and going would likely appreciate the extra room to pass others. 
     

  • - A constantly-ringing doorbell or persistent knocking can cause your pets some distress and a lot of barking.  Confine them to a room, or even better, to their crate.  Check out these other great tips about your pets and Halloween from the ASPCA. 

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

Photo credit: allstate

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

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