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Terms First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know!

by Tucker Robbins


The time has come to begin the steps of buying your first home and looking around the internet and other real estate-related media, you’re finding there’s a lot more to know than finding a house, getting a loan, and signing papers.  There are some key wor
ds that can be unfamiliar to a first-time home buyer, so familiarize yourself with these lesser-known terms so you’ll have fewer questions and stumbles along the way: 

 

  • - In order to be certain that the home is worth the amount of the loan, there will be a home appraisal performed by an unbiased inspector of the lender’s choosing. 

  • - At the final paper-signing, the buyer is required to pay closing costs, which normally include attorney fees, surveyors, inspections, and title insurance, among other things.  Be prepared to have 2-5 percent of the purchase price for closing costs. 

  • - If you’d like to pay less interest over the time of your loan, you can purchase discount or mortgage points.  To learn more about this option, check out these tips from the Nerd Wallet website. 

  • - Earnest money is money that will be paid to the seller to show good faith of the buyer towards the home purchase.  It will be applied to your down payment. 

  • - When you have funds in escrow, you will have given funds to a third party to hold until they have verified that inspections, disclosures or any disputes have been resolved.  Keeping it in escrow protects your deposit before you sign the final contract to buy your new home. 

  • - Pre-approval is very important and differs from being pre-qualified.  If you’re pre-approved for a loan amount, you have a realistic expectation of what you can buy. 

  • - If your down payment is less than twenty percent of the purchase price, you will pay private mortgage insurance typically until that amount reaches twenty percent of the loan or home value. 

  • - Your lender will require the purchase of title insurance, which protects real estate owners and lenders against any property loss or damage for whatever reason.  Learn more about what title insurance is and what it covers from the CFPB. 
     

There are other terms and abbreviations you may find in your search for a house in their descriptions and about real estate in general that you won’t be familiar with.  Here’s a longer, more comprehensive list from realtor.comⓇ.  The more you know before you get started, the smoother the home-buying process will be!


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

Photo credit: activerain

Preventing and Getting Rid of Mold

by Tucker Robbins


Mold is a subject that strikes fear in many people.  Though the toxic form of black mold is rare, there are plenty of other types that invade our bathrooms, basements and other places in our homes. Let’s look at the best ways to get control over any mold p
roblem anywhere we find it. 

 

The bathroom is the most common place for mold, because it has all the right conditions for mold growth:  moisture, a place to grow, and food. 

  • - Use the exhaust fan every time you shower, and if your bathroom isn’t equipped with one, crack the window to allow the steam to escape. 

  • - Wipe down the shower walls and door when you’re finished, leaving the door open until everything is completely dry. 

  • - If you use a shower curtain, use an anti-mold spray, commercial or homemade, to spray the curtain down, and pull the curtain to its fullest length to dry. 

  • - Any leaks should be repaired immediately and inspect under the sink every few weeks to make sure everything is dry in the cabinets. 

  • - If you have a tile bath, give the grout a waterproof seal once a year. 

  • - When you do find mold on hard surfaces, the CDC recommends mixing a solution of no more than 1 cup of household bleach in a gallon of water.  Provide good ventilation, spray on affected areas, leave for five minutes, rinse, and allow to dry. 

  •  

Other common places for molds to grow, especially this time of year when we have the heat on, are closets, window sills, basements, and floors around entryways.

  • - Use washable mats and throw-rugs with waterproof backing at doorways. 

  • - Keep your home’s humidity below 40%.  Using a humidifier is a necessity in Winter, and you may need to use a hygrometer to help you keep moisture levels in check. 

  • - Occasionally inspect your fridge’s drip pan for excessive moisture, and clean according to manufacturer’s instructions. 

  • - Attics can be the first-place mold can start in case of a leaky roof, so get the roof repaired immediately, and clean the mold as soon as you discover it.  Be sure there are no leaves or other obstructions blocking the attic’s vents. 

  • - Having the crawl space of your home encapsulated can be expensive, but it is the only solution to keeping moisture from coming up from the ground and can help you see standing water in case of plumbing leaks. 

  • - The EPA has some tips for mold cleanup, as well as information on when to call in a pro for removal.  

 

There are many products available to help keep moisture in your home at bay.  Desiccant bags containing silica gel are great for hanging in small places such as closets.  Small non-electric dehumidifiers are also available for larger areas, and whole-house dehumidifiers are another option, just more expensive.  While not all molds are toxic, they are allergens, and prevention and action are keys to a healthier, mold-free home.


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

Photo credit: mnn.com

Buying an Older House in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


Many people dream of living in an older home, whether it be a 100-year old farmhouse, or a vintage ranch from the 50’s.  There are certain things that should be taken into consideration, good and bad, when that dream starts to become a reality, and you’re 
on the hunt for an old new home.  

 

  • - If the house was built before 1978, make sure the home inspector looks for lead paint and asbestos, as both can be health hazards. 

  • - Have the foundation thoroughly checked if it is original to the house.  Even the most solidly-built houses can have settling, water damage or corrosion. 

  • - Not only are older mechanical systems likely to fail since they’re at the end of their lifespan, they are less energy-efficient.   

  • - Plumbing and electrical systems can be old enough that they need to be replaced; old pipes can affect water quality and worn out wiring can be a fire hazard. 

  • - Unsafe features that may be charming may not be up to current code.  Check for steep stairs, non-working fireplaces, and laundry chutes, especially if you have younger children. 

 

While all those things are expensive solutions, there are some things that you can’t get with a newer home: 

  • - Older homes are usually in established locations, and are in good school districts, as well as being close to shopping and restaurants. 

  • - Houses built before the 1970’s are generally sturdier, simply because the lumber used to build them was made from old growth hardwoods, something that isn’t available today. 

  • - The lots in areas where you find older homes are usually larger, and that may mean more maintenance, but it also means more room for playing, pet exercise, and outdoor entertaining. 

  • - You just don’t get the charm and character in new construction like you do in an older home, even if the styles are similar. 

  • - Prices of older homes are usually lower, unless there is historical significance to the house itself or to the area. 

 

Do your research, list the pros and cons as they pertain to your life.  No matter what age house you finally decide to buy, the choice should be made because it’s what is best for you and your family. 


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

Photo credit: myoldhouseonline.com

Giving Locally in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


Making the decision to give charitably is a personal thing, because we normally give to organizations that share our beliefs, or support something close to our hearts.  National charities are great, but most of those larger organizations receive funding fr
om large corporations and very wealthy philanthropists.  Have you ever thought about local non-profits that may need your help?  

 

  • - Some veterinarians have funds set aside specifically to assist pet owners who can’t always afford care for their pets. Most accept donations, and this would be a great way for pet-lovers to give to other pets in their community, just in a different way. 

  • - Speaking of pets, most shelters need assistance with everyday things like food, toys, litter and bedding, and will gladly accept these items, too.   

  • - Local schools usually don’t have a lot in their sports, clubs, or extracurricular budgets.  Call your local school system office and find out where you can help the most. 

  • - Free housing for cancer patients (like Hope Lodge) and families of sick children (Ronald McDonald House) is another great way to help those who are going through a tough time.  When you donate through the main websites, you can choose where your donation goes. 

  • - Community centers are a great place for people to take classes of all kinds, play sports, or gather as hobby groups.  Get in touch with your local community center director to see if you can donate to a certain program or help get a new program off the ground. 

  • - Organizations that help protect victims of domestic violence is more than most people realize: they help victims relocate and set up new homes. Cash donations are great, but many accept used household items in good condition, diapers, personal hygiene products, and even gift cards to help their residents have a night out. 

  • - Food pantries and soup kitchens can always use monetary donations besides shelf-stable food items--people are hungry year-round, not just during the holidays. 

  • - Local theater groups are on very tight budgets--they gladly accept donations and volunteers! 

  • - Orphanages are commonly called “children’s homes,” and you may have one in your area and not realize it.  If you find one locally, give them a call and see what they need.   

  • - Government-funded senior centers are great places for those in the retired community to gather and can always use extra for programs that enhance the lives of those who are on fixed incomes. 

 

If you can’t afford a donation once a year, set up a monthly donation program for yourself, choose wisely, and give back to your community.  We all want to live in a happy place, and when we help our fellow citizens, everybody’s happy.

 

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

Photo credit: http://geoffsshorts.blogspot.com

Choosing a Home Security System for Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


The home security business is booming, and with so many different brands, subscriptions, and DIY systems, it’s hard to decide what’s right for you and your home.  Let’s take some confusion out of the process with these tips and suggestions:
 

 

  • - First, decide on whether you need round-the-clock monitoring, or if you want to keep an eye on things yourself using your smart phone. 

  • - Major strides have been made over the past few years with third-party monitoring systems, and many companies offer apps for your phone so that you, as well as the company, can watch over things. 

  • - Most monitoring companies offer a free trial period as well, some up to 30 days.  If you’re not happy, you don’t have to commit to their service and worry about extra fees if you cancel before the trial period is up.  Ask before you commit. 

  • If you’re a renter, and worry about the permanent installation, most companies are offering wireless sensors and cameras that can be moved as you move. 

  • - For the DIYer, you or someone you know should be comfortable with setting up your system, not only the physical installation, but connecting it to your home’s internet or home management system. 

  • Safewise.com ranks their favorite 24-hour, monthly fee-based systems, and gives you all their pros and cons for each company. 

  • - Find the self-monitoring system that will work best for you with safehome.org‘s top systems, as well as their highest-ranked third-party systems. 

  • - Is there an elderly person in your life that lives alone?  Consider purchasing a security system for them, and Safe Home offers their favorites for ease-of-use and cost. 

 

There have been so many improvements to home security systems to accommodate busy families and the ease-of-use for setting and deactivating the alarm system as you come and go, you can find a system that best fits not only your home’s needs, but your family’s needs as well.  If you decide on a third-party service, make sure you budget accordingly, since there is a monthly fee, and usually a cancellation fee if you change your mind mid-contract. 


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

Photo credit: tymhomes.com

Save on Heating Your New Castle County DE Home!

by Tucker Robbins


Turning the heat on is such a simple thing these days, usually the flick of a switch, or just a tap on our thermostats.  Heating costs are something we need to be mindful of, much like our air conditioning in the Summer.  Let’s look at these ten ways we ca
n save while staying warm: 

 

  • - Have your heating unit serviced by a reputable service company.  They can go over your unit thoroughly and make certain it’s ready for Winter. 

  • - Central heating units use the intake filter just like the AC.  Check it monthly and replace when covered with dirt and dust.  Your system will run more efficiently. 

  • - If you use propane, ask your provider if they will lock in the price per gallon if you pay up front for the season.  This can keep you from being hit with a surprise when your tank needs filling, and the price has unexpectedly risen. 

  • - Get an energy audit performed on your home. Find a professional to do this assessment, and you’ll be able to see what you can do to your home to keep the heat in and the cold out. 

  • - Check for cracks around doors and windows, and if possible, fill with spray insulation, which can be purchased by the can at home centers. 

  • - Install a smart or programmable thermostat and use the feature religiously!  There’s no reason to keep the temps inside your home on the tropical level if no one is there.   

  • - When you are home, keep the temps low, and wear layered clothing.  Just turning the thermostat down a few degrees can make a big difference in costs. 

  • - Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you have to turn the ceiling fan off.  Flip the toggle switch on the side so your fan is turning clockwise and keep the fan on low--it pulls the cooler air up and moves the warm air away from the ceiling. 

  • - Use cooking and baking to your advantage:  once the oven is turned off, if it’s safe for other family members, leave the door cracked open and use that heat to warm up the space! 

  • - Upgrading your furnace is a big expense, but if yours is more than fifteen years old, it may save money in the long run to have a new unit installed. 

 

During these cold months, keep a check on elderly family members and neighbors.  If they need some help weatherizing things, organize a day where you and other volunteers can help them save money and stay warm.  If you know of someone who is struggling to pay for heating, contact your local health and human services, as there are programs through power companies and local government agencies to help them pay for their heating source.
 

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

Photo credit: fitnessandwellnessnews.com

About Reverse Mortgages

by Tucker Robbins


Retirement is a time in our lives that we should be looking forward to having time to do what we’ve been wanting to do:  spending time with family and friends, traveling, learning new things, or just enjoying days without a set routine.  Some retirees have
 found that, even though their home is paid for, the financial end of retirement may not be going to smoothly.  Ads for Home Equity Conversion Reverse Mortgage (HECM), or reverse mortgages, fill magazines and daytime television, but there are things you need to know before you’re tempted to go this route to help you meet a financial need.  

 

  • - If you’re considering applying for a reverse mortgage, talk to a financial counselor to see if there’s another route that you can take.  Don’t wait until you’re feeling desperate and signing a contract for something you’re not sure about. 

  • - HECM’s are government insured if you go through an FHA-approved lender.  Find more information from the Housing and Urban Development website. 

  • - Doing research on the internet it great but be wary of every website that is sponsored by a financial-looking institution.  It’s best to call a person in the financial business that you trust to give you correct and accurate information. 

  • - Two things you should consider before you take out a reverse mortgage are whether you plan to live in your home for a long time, or if your spouse or someone else is still living with you in the home.  Investopedia has more information about reverse mortgage requirements that may make it a poor option for you, and why. 

  • - If you are planning on leaving the house to your heirs when you pass away, and you opt for a reverse mortgage, the heirs will be responsible for the paying back of the loan in full or 95% of the balance within six months. 

  • - Property taxes can be a real burden on a retired homeowner and is a reason one would consider a reverse mortgage.  Call your local municipality and find out about any programs that will assist you with paying your taxes without fear of tax liens and foreclosure. 

  • - Consider your health as well.  When you acquire a reverse mortgage, but at some point, become unable to care for yourself and must move in with family or into assisted living for twelve months or more, the loan will have to be repaid. 

 

The Federal Trade Commission has plenty of information and links to non-biased websites for more information, to help you find a government-approved housing counseling agent, and information from AARP.  Making the decision to get a reverse mortgage isn’t one to make without a great deal of considering other options to help you through a tough time.  

 

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

Photo credit: EInsurance

What Shouldn't Be In Your Garage

by Tucker Robbins


Our garages aren’t serving their original purpose these days--very few Americans use their cars specifically for parking their cars.  We use them for storage, however, and while it makes sense to stash things in there, out of the way and seen only when we 
have to go in the garage, it’s still more convenient to get there than it is the attic.  But as sensible as it may seem, there are some items that shouldn’t be kept in the garage. 

 

  • - Wooden furniture should be kept somewhere that’s protected from temperature changes and humidity.  Unless your garage is climate-controlled, keep it in a spare room inside the house, or give it away. 

  • - Propane tanks should be stored outside, on a flat surface, away from anything that can spark.  If you have tanks inside your garage, and the valve begins to leak, it can be deathly.    

  • - Work cloths that have oily residue on them should be treated with great care, as they can spontaneously combust. The Family Handyman suggests that oily rags should be air-dried and stored inside a metal container. 

  • - Firewood is an attractant for pests, and as convenient as it may be to keep it close by in the garage, it’s best to keep most of it at least twenty feet from the house.  Bring in only what you’ll need for a day. 

  • - Paint is highly flammable, and can be rendered useless in a garage, where temperatures can be extreme.  Check for manufacturer's recommended temperatures on the can, and store accordingly. 

  • - Canned food should be stored at room temperature, so if you find your pantry overflowing, donate extra to a food pantry.  Keeping it in fluctuating temperatures can cause spoilage, or freezing and thawing could affect the quality of the food. 

  • - If you have a second refrigerator in your garage, it’s wonderful for extra food storage.  However, a fridge that isn’t manufactured to stand extreme temperatures can fail, leaving you with a mess and ruined food.  Garage kits for refrigerators can be found at hardware stores and online, and will make your extra storage more efficient. 

 

Cleaning out the garage can be a monumental task, but if you have any of these items stored there, you need to get them out and stored properly.  Keeping your home and family safe should be the highest priority, and no amount of hard work is worth the risk of losing either.

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

Photo credit: napomichigan.com

Keeping Your Packages Safe

by Tucker Robbins


With online shopping having become so popular, this time of year brings stories on the news about package thieves, as well as new gadgets to help deter someone from walking away with packages delivered while someone isn’t home.  There are several options we have that can help keep our deliveries secure, as well as help from online retailers.  
 

 

  • - Talk to neighbors that may be home during the days you’re expecting a package, and ask them to be on the lookout for a delivery to your home so they can hold it for you or stash it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - There are simple ways to hide an unattended package: have a large plant to hide boxes behind, or use a lockbox at your doorstep, with key instructions for the carrier in your delivery details. 

  • - Most large retailers will give you a “ship to store” option, and all you have to do is pick it up at the Customer Service desk.   

  • - If your package is coming via USPS, there are several ways to divert package delivery, as well as ask a carrier to leave it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - When you place your order, if you know you’re going to be at work, make sure your boss doesn’t mind if you have your items delivered to your workplace, and use that address for shipping. 

  • - Your local pack-and-ship store will receive deliveries for you for a fee.  

  • - Installing a visible security camera at your front door can deter some thieves, and some cameras come with motion-sensor options to set off a siren or other alert if someone gets too close to your front door. 

  • - Amazon is offering several delivery options:  Amazon LockerKey Smart Lock KitKey In-Car Delivery, and Hub by Amazon. 

  • - UPS offers My Choice to customize your deliveries. For FedEx deliveries, go to their Delivery Manager, create and account, and manage your deliveries. 

 

The best way to prevent “package Grinches” from stealing your deliveries is to be proactive.  Use text message and email alerts, as well as specific delivery company smartphone apps to notify you when a package is left at your door.  

 

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

Photo credit: Best Buy

Childproofing for Guests

by Tucker Robbins


It’s the visiting time of year, and some of your guests will likely be bringing little ones with them.  If your home is now child-free, you may not be aware of possible hazards for little ones.  Get your home ready for them with these tips:
 

 

  • - In the case that you don’t have cabinet locks and cleaning supplies are easily accessed, go ahead and place them all in a small cleaning bucket or basket so you can just grab them and put them out of reach when or before guests arrive. 

  • - The kitchen is usually the hub when company comes, so keep little ones from under foot by putting some interactive magnets on the fridge door--there are some pretty nifty learning-type magnets available, as well as the traditional alphabet letters. 

  • - If you have candles burning, make sure they are far from the reach of any age child, and in a prominent place so that they’re always in sight of you or another adult. 

  • - Check blinds and drapes for long cords--either drape them over the tops of the blinds or purchase cord holders to keep them up and out of reach. 

  • - For homes with stairs, purchase or borrow a latching safety gate to prevent little ones from wandering up the steps. 

  • - Ask everyone to keep the toilet lid down, or close the bathroom door when they go in and out.  If you ask them, they’ll be more conscious of it, and oblige. 

  • - In case you have a cozy fire burning, at least have a screen set up in front of the fireplace door as a barrier in case a little one stumbles while they’re walking nearby. 

  • - Houseplants can be tempting to a little explorer, but some plants can make us sick if ingested.  Do a bit of research, and if yours are in that category, give them a temporary home out of the way. 

  • - Keep an eye on yard sales or thrift stores for age-appropriate toys and games in good condition.  Clean them up, and place them in a basket or on a game table in the living area; kids love “new” toys. 

  • - Have someone get down on all fours on the floor and look for hazardous things that could be interesting to a child, and make the temporary changes you need to so your littlest guests will be safe. 

 

Enjoying the holidays means enjoying your guests, and not worrying if the youngest ones are getting into something you don’t want them to, or something potentially dangerous.  Your visitors will appreciate the extra effort it took to keep their children safe and entertained, making their visit more memorable.


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

Photo credit: Realtor.com

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 259

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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)