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Buying New Construction in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

The thought of a brand-new, up-to-date home appeals to many, and if you’re considering buying a new construction, there are few things you should know.


Following these guidelines can make your venture a little easier. 

 

 - Before you make that first visit to the model home, find a real estate agent to accompany you, and keep them involved in every aspect.  If you wait until after you’ve talked to the builder’s agent, you lose the benefit of having buyer’s representation. 

 - Hiring your own real estate professional is wise, because you’ll have someone with your interests at heart. 

 - Shop around for the best loan in advance.  If the builder’s lender has incentives and discounts, consider this if it will benefit you in the end. 

 

Some questions to ask the builder’s agent on that first meeting: 

 - Ask for info about how many lots and homes have been sold. 

 - You need to know about each home site’s size, and how close each house is to each other. 

 - What is the investors ratio allowed in the community? This will tell you the rental the number of homes that are possibly rentals.  

 - What is the projected completion date for the new construction site? 

 - If the completion date isn’t met after we have signed a contract, is there a deposit refund or a cancellation clause? 

 - How long is the home’s warranty, and what does it cover? 

 - Is a garage or deck standard or an extra cost? 

 - Is smart technology wiring included in the basic home package, and is wiring to all bedrooms an extra expense? 

 - How much input do I have on paint colors, flooring, kitchen cabinets and bathroom finishes? 

 - What appliances are included? 

 - Is there a builder’s upgrade credit? 

 - Find out the what the builder’s policy is if they run short of materials. Most builders have the right to substitute, and you don’t want to be surprised to see mosaic tile where you thought subway tile would be in your finished home. 

  - Keep in mind that the model home you are shown has all the upgrades. Don’t assume you’re getting everything in your home that the model has. For instance, shelves and the latest organizational features are in the walk-in at the model home, but all of those could be upgrades.  - -Ask about these features and write everything down as you get answers. 

 - Talk to residents who are already living in the community, and ask them about any concerns they have, and what they love about their new home. 

 - Don’t skip getting a home inspection just because it’s new construction. Humans make mistakes, and it’s better to pay extra for a home inspection to find out everything is fine than deal with something that will cost a lot in the long run. Be sure your purchase contract allows you to hire an inspector outside the building company. 

 - If the model home is one of the last homes left in the neighborhood, ask about buying it! You may not get every finish just as you’d like, but you can paint a room or change the flooring if the cost of the house with all the bells and whistles is comparable to one that’s just been finished. 

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

 

Photo credit: realestate.usnews.com

Roof Inspection Tips in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Winter can be harsh on a roof, between the cold wind, rain, and snow and ice in some areas.  While on your Spring maintenance check, you should look carefully at your home’s roof, and see how it fared the season, and whether you have a DIY patch job to do, or a major roof repair that needs professional attention.  Keep the following in mind while you’re doing your inspection: 

 

  • - Cracked, curling or buckled shingles are an obvious problem. These should be replaced or repaired as soon as possible to prevent water damage and mold infestation. 

  • - Are your shingles dirty? Look in the gutters for tiny bits of the shingle granules.  If you find a lot of them, and not many are left on the shingles themselves, it may be time to re-shingle the roof. 

  • - Check around chimneys, vents, skylights, and anything else that is installed on the roof for any cracks or tears in the flashing beneath the shingles that could be allowing water to leak in. 

  • - Inspect carefully where tree branches could come in contact with the roof, to make sure they haven’t caused any damage from Winter winds. 

  • - Now would be a good time to check the eaves and gutters.  Make sure the wood is in good shape, and that gutters are clean and not loose. 

  • - If you think you may have especially bad soft spots in your roof, call a professional to climb up for a more thorough inspection.  

 

When you’re looking for roof damage, a great place to look is on the underside, and that requires an interior inspection. 

 

  • - Get into the attic and look for dark spots or obvious places where water has run.  Pay close attention if your attic smells musty and look for mold or mildew.  If you see any daylight shining through where it shouldn’t be, you need to check the corresponding area on the roof and get that repaired. 

  • - Check every inch of the top floor interior ceiling plaster or drywall for discoloration, crumbling, cracking or bubbling. 

  • - Don’t forget closets, cabinets, storage areas, and even wallpaper.  Use a very bright flashlight to help you see these hard-to-see places. 

 

Roofing materials can vary from asphalt shingles to stamped tin, and each one has a different way to inspect and repair.  Scott Yancey, real estate instructor and host of the television show Flipping Vegas, offers these tips for inspecting all kinds of roofing.  Your roof is the most important aspect of your home’s construction, and maintaining it is important to prevent costly repairs or replacement or expensive interior damage.   

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

Photo credit: crownhomeinspections.com

Curb Appeal Tips in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Photo credit: kiplinger.com

Overlooked Spring Cleaning Jobs

by Tucker Robbins

Spring cleaning is a time-honored, worldwide tradition of sorts.  For centuries, humans have been opening their windows and doors when the warm weather returns, allowing the long daylight hours inside, and cleaning everything in sight.  Thankfully, we don’t have to wipe through a Winter’s worth of soot-covered furniture and windows, but for many, deep cleaning is a must this time of year.  Some cleaning jobs are obvious, but there may be a few things to add to your list. 

 

In the Kitchen 

  • - Refrigerator coils can gather lots of dust and pet hair, along with spills from the fridge.  Getting the coils cleaned as much as possible can make a difference in how well your refrigerator motor runs.  Check with your appliance’s manufacturer website for the best way to perform this task. 
     

  • - The dishwasher doesn’t get dirty, because it’s a washer, right? While they clean, dishwashers can have greasy build up. With vinegar, baking soda, and a bit of elbow grease, Wikihow shows us how to get the dishwasher itself to help us get it sparkling clean and smelling sweet. 
     

  • - Herbs and spices are often overlooked while cleaning pantry shelves.  McCormickⓇ reports that whole spices last 3-4 years, 2-3 years for ground spices, and herbs have a shorter life of 1-3 years.  Check the freshness date on the container, and if it’s within that time frame, keep it.  If not, throw it away and restock your spice rack. 
     

  • - Don’t neglect the freezer compartment when you’re wiping down the fridge.  A mixture of equal parts of hot water and white vinegar to wipe down the door, seal and inside will take care of the grime, and help with any lingering food odors.  Before you refill the freezer with food, go through it and toss anything that looks freezer burnt. 

 

The Bathroom 

  • - Give your toothbrushes a good clean.  Pour about an inch of antibacterial mouthwash into a cup and soak the bristles in the mouthwash for about five minutes, and rinse. If you use a toothbrush holder, wash it in warm soapy water and allow to air dry before returning the toothbrushes.
     

  • - Bathroom exhaust fans can collect dust like ceiling fans, and the buildup affects how well it exhausts the humidity warm showers cause.  Danny Lipford of Today’s Homeowner has step-by-step instructions for getting your fan clean and running efficiently. 
     

  • - Many of us don’t think of cleaning hair and makeup brushes.  Remove loose hair from hairbrushes and combs, allow them to soak in warm water with some shampoo mixed in, and use an old toothbrush to scrub hairspray build up and body oils and rinse.  Makeup brushes should be soaked, given a lather, then rinsed in cool water.  Air-dry everything on a hand towel. 

 

The Rest of the House 

  • - Light fixtures get grimy and dusty, so covers should be removed after turning off the circuit breaker and washed in warm soapy water then air dried on a thick towel.
      
     

  • - Remove mattresses, vacuuming both sides, and if possible, prop them in the sunlight for a few hours.  The sun’s rays freshen and can kill some germs. When you replace them on the beds, make sure the mattress is flipped and rotated from its original position.   
     

  • - HVAC registers should be vacuumed, using the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner.   

  • - Curtains and blinds collect a lot of dust, but are usually washable, so check the manufacturer’s information before you toss them in the washer or clean them.   
     

  • - Once your deep clean is complete, take care to wash or clean brooms, mop heads and dusters, as this simple move will help your home stay fresher as you do your regular cleaning. 
     

     

Hopefully, the season of Earth coming back to life will encourage you to get everything in your home spic and span.  Spread it out over a few days or weekends, making lists to stay organized and on task, so the job won’t overwhelm you.  Don’t forget to get the family involved!  Once everything is gleaming, you can enjoy the coming months more, knowing your home is clean, and the job is done for another year. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: housebeautiful.com

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For March 2018

by Tucker Robbins

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

Home Decorating and Design Trends for 2018 for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

A new year means that new home decorating and design trends are being featured in magazines, on blogs, and at home shows.  If you like to stay on top of the newest ideas and get an itch to get to the paint store when you see the most recent magazine layouts, here are just a few of things that are trending now. 

 

  • - In spite of what we see on house flipping television shows, the open floor plan is losing some popularity.  People are starting to define their open spaces with small partitions, paint, and other clever ways. 
     

  • - Natural things like wood, botanical prints and florals are still hot.  Wood is still king in the flooring department, and wallpapers and fabrics will be featuring natural prints. 
     

  • - For kitchen countertops, quartz is moving up the ranks because of its beauty and ease of care--it doesn’t need sealing like marble and granite, and it’s also heat resistant. 
     

  • - Accent walls are painted in bold colors, or covered with wood or bold-printed wallpapers. 
     

  • - Metallic pieces are making a comeback.  Finishes in brass and even stainless black are taking over stainless steel and brushed nickel.  Good thing that mixed metals are an acceptable look. 
     

  • - Larger tile on floors and backsplashes are coming in style, but the classic subway tile is still number one because of the clean, classic look it has. 
     

  • - Concrete is showing up in unusual places, like flooring and walls.   
     

  • - Smart technology is being integrated into almost every room of the house, including the bathroom

     

    -Vanity mirrors with smart screens built in, chromatherapy, and touch-free fixtures are becoming more popular and affordable.   

     

    - Trends in lighting are still leaning towards the vintage look, but pendants are especially stylish, and brass is the new brushed nickel. 

     

    The definition of trend, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a prevailing tendency or inclination; a general movement.”  In other words, trends are temporary, even if they last for years. Make it easy on yourself if you love a new look, and try a few ideas in your home, but don’t undergo a complete remodeling to meet today’s en vogue styles.  Stick to easily changeable trends, such as throw pillows, slipcovers, paint, and wall coverings.

     

     

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

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    Photo credit: lampsplus.com

St. Patrick's Day in America

by Tucker Robbins

St. Patrick’s Day has become a highly celebrated holiday in the US.  When Irish immigrants came to America, they chose that day to celebrate home and all that was Irish.  It took until the 20th century for people of non-Irish descent to join in the festivities.  Many American cities turn green on March 17, even coloring waterways green, not to mention green food and drink, and shamrocks on every corner.   

 

  • - Boston, Massachusetts hosts the reportedly oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade, and has grown substantially since the first parade of Irish-Catholic Redcoats marching down the streets with “Fifes and Drums” to honor their home country’s saint.  The South Boston parade route is three miles long and is attended by a million spectators.   
     

  • - Green water isn’t a welcome sight for most people, except on St. Patrick’s Day.  Savannah, GA, and St. Louis, MI, celebrate with city fountains flowing green; in Chicago, a portion of the Chicago River is dyed green, and Tampa’s Hillsborough River becomes the River O’ Green.   
     

  • - For 245 years, the streets of Philadelphia have filled with marchers, and the parade has grown to approximately 20,000 participants, including bagpipes, floats honoring the patron saint, and, in 2018, will be led by Grand Marshall Sister Mary Scullion, a member of the Catholic Religious Sisters of Mercy.   
     

  • - O’Neill, Nebraska is home to the world’s largest shamrock, and they celebrate the special day with a parade that centers around the giant concrete leaf and includes a dodgeball tournament. 
     

  • - San Francisco boasts the largest celebration in the western part of the country, and not only has a parade and lots of Irish music, but a huge scavenger hunt.  Party-goers enjoy a unique dish for the holiday--Irish nachos made of fried sliced potatoes, of course, topped with cheese, bacon and jalapeños. 
     

  • - New London, Wisconsin becomes New Dublin on March 17 after residents dressed as leprechauns, with city officials’ approval, change the signs in the town. Their parade isn’t complete without a parody adaption of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake,” using a green hearse. 
     

  • - Yes, Virginia, there is a Dublin in the US, and it’s located in Ohio!  The city hosts plenty of festivities for everyone, and the local Lions Club holds a pancake breakfast fundraiser with--you guessed it--green syrup! Before the parade begins, onlookers get to enjoy the Inflation Celebration, where the large inflatable parade entries are brought to life, and it’s a sight to see!  

 

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations can be as unique as the cities they are held in.  If your local festivities aren’t as different as these, every town and citizen can still be Irish on March 17.  Just be sure to wear your green to avoid a pinch from a leprechaun! 

 

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

YOUR HOME SEARCH STARTS HERE

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Photo credit: kokefm.com

Late Winter Gardening Maintenance for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Birds are singing, the days are noticeably longer, and your yard is looking as drab as Winter. Here are some guidelines for late winter outdoor maintenance so you can take advantage of warmer days to get a jump start on the growing season.   

 

  • - Now is a great time to prune dead wood and suckers out of flowering trees and shrubbery.  If you have plants that bloom in spring or bloom off old wood, wait to cut it back until after it flowers. Cutting them back now will take off the new flower bud.  
     

  • - After pruning fruit trees, spray with neem oil to help prevent any pests that have overwintered and can destroy your Summer harvest. 
     

  • - Rake leaves and other debris so your lawn can absorb as much sun as possible to look its best. Place debris in the compost pile. 
     

  • - Don’t wait to start mowing the lawn in a few months to find a mechanical problem.  Home Depot offers some tips for getting your lawn mower ready for the busy season. 
     

  • - Check your irrigation system for any cracks if the cold weather has been brutal this year. 
     

  • - Have your garden soil tested through your local cooperative extension service.  
     

  • - If you haven’t already, get your seeds ordered and started as soon as possible. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has some great advice for indoor seed-starting. 
     

  • If you see daffodils blooming, that means it’s time to get cold weather veggies in the ground:  onions, garlic, sweet peas, salads, carrots and potatoes are cold-hardy and will be ready for harvest first! 
     

  • - Cut back ornamental grasses and mow any natural wildflower landscaping you may have. 
     

  • - Don’t put away the bird feeders just yet--keep them full, because winter fruit is fading, and their favorite insects haven’t ventured out yet.  Clean your hummingbird feeders with a bottlebrush dipped in warm water with white vinegar, rinse, and allow to sir dry.  If you’re not sure when to fill them and have them ready, read this hummingbird Spring migration information from The Spruce. 
     

  • -Mulching now is a good idea, unless there has been a lot of snow and rain in your area.  Before you put down new mulch, make sure the ground has had some time to dry out. 

 

Maintaining plants and plant beds in late Winter will give you great results when the growing and harvest seasons begin.  Your outdoor space is a year-round job and getting an early start may save you some time and energy when the temperatures are soaring.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: getholistichealth.com

Tax Tips for New Homeowners in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

It’s tax time, and many dread the prep and thought of paying them.  There are some deductions homeowners can take, so if this is your first time filing as a homeowner, make sure you get the maximum tax benefits out of your new home. 

 

  • - Homeowners can claim their mortgage interest for a tax deduction. On the chance that you’re using tax return software, it will calculate your deduction after you answer questions about your home purchase.  If you’d rather use an accountant or tax prep service to help you, they can answer all your questions. 
     

  • - If you moved more than fifty miles because of your job, or starting a new one, your expenses are tax deductible.  There are some time stipulations as well, according to number one in this guide from taxact.com;  make sure you meet the requirements before taking this deduction.
     

  • - Making your home more energy efficient by installing a solar energy system or solar water heater make you eligible for a thirty percent credit for parts and labor.  Unfortunately, the credit for geothermal heat pumps and small wind turbines has expired. https://www.energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit 
     

  • - Are you self-employed and use a room or section of your living area for a home office?  There’s a deduction for that.  The IRS has a couple of requirements, and if you don’t want to go through figuring up the standard deduction, they offer a simplified deduction, but choose which method takes more off your tax responsibility. 
     

  • - Did you pay “points” to the bank to get a better interest rate? If so, that money is tax deductible. Since points are usually 1% of your home loan, if your loan was $250,000, your tax break would be $2,500 for paying down one point. 
     

  • - Any property taxes are tax deductible, beginning the official date that you purchase the home, which is usually on your settlement statement you receive at closing. 
     

  • - Hopefully, this hasn’t happened in your first year in your new home, but if you’ve had something unfortunate happen that insurance didn’t cover, there is a casualty loss deduction for out-of-pocket expenses.  The repair cost must be more than 10% of your gross income. 

 

Don’t let all this information scare you away from doing your own taxes!  No matter how you decide to file, gather everything you would normally use to file taxes, but make sure you have the 1098 mortgage interest form from the lender, property tax receipts, and any paperwork you saved from the casualty loss repairs or alternative energy installments. Home ownership has many benefits for the homeowner, and you should take advantage of every penny you have worked so hard for to put into your new home. 

 

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

 

Photo credit: realtor.com

Getting Organized on a Budget for New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Your dream closet comes complete with drawers, shoe shelves, a complete vanity and a hefty price tag. Other organizational organizing gadgets and pieces can cost quite a bit as well, but there are a multitude of ways to get organized without spending a lot 

 

Closets 

  • - A chain plant hanger is perfect for hanging shirts and blouses to save valuable room.  Chains also come in a variety of sizes and finishes, and is available year-round at most hardware stores. 

  • - Mount a short curtain rod on the inside of the closet door to hang scarves, and use clip-style curtain rings to hang hats and gloves in the Winter. 

  • - Tension rods placed at top and bottom of your closet can extend your hanging space for lighter items, like blouses and shirts. Or add shower curtain hooks to keep purses, scarves or ties handy.  

  • This use of tension rods for shoe storage is awesome and easy! 

  • - A large piece of sturdy wire mesh from a hardware or farm supply store, and even pegboard cut to fit any spare wall space in your closet can be installed virtually flat. S-hooks make perfect hangers awkward-shaped items, and ties and scarves can be stored flat. 

  • - Closet space can vary, and if you’ve already utilized every inch, consider a wardrobe.  Scan online yard sale groups, flea markets and auctions for inexpensive pieces, add some paint to compliment your decor, and you have a custom wardrobe! 

 

In the Kitchen 

  • - A clean egg carton or small muffin tin is perfect for keeping things organized in the catch-all drawer. 

  • - If your cabinets make it hard to find pots and pans that you need, consider hanging them! Pot racks can be made from many things, and if you’re feeling a project coming on, here’s a great DIY pallet rack to try! 

  • - Use inexpensive dollar store baskets in your pantry for pull-out organization of cans, spices and baking items.  The baskets keep them neat, and easy to get to. 

  • - An unused cookie jar is perfect for keeping cooking utensils handy and out of a junky drawer. 

  • - A wall file-holder attached to the inside of a cabinet door is transformed into a plastic container lid holder. 

  • - Mount a long piece of magnetic tape to your backsplash to hold knives and other often-used utensils for easy access. (Make sure the kids can’t reach them, though!) 

 

Bedrooms 

  • - Use a bookshelf as a headboard to create space for books, (obviously), remotes, glasses, morning medicines or display items. 

  • - Under-the-bed storage is essential for seasonal clothes, shoes, toys, old photos--anything you don’t use daily.  Suitcases, old dresser drawers (with adhesive felt or wheels on the bottom), inexpensive plastic storage containers, and vacuum-sealed storage bags make the most of this space. 

  • - Is your makeup kept in a jumbled drawer or cosmetic bag? This DIY magnetic makeup board is a great way to keep it handy and easy to find. 

  • - The kids’ toys can stay better organized by using baskets in bookshelves, open shelving on their level, and benches with storage.  

 

Getting organized is on many New Year resolution lists, and if you’re serious about it, start by decluttering, and using what you can afford or DIY to make it happen.  Putting the home in order can be pretty, practical, and even cheap! 

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

Photo credit: care2.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)