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Getting Ready for Houseguest Season

by Tucker Robbins

It may be just the beginning of Autumn, but many are already thinking ahead to the holidays and having guests over.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the guest room except to create a pile of things that should be stored somewhere else, it’s time to get in there and make it ready for anyone who may be coming to visit.  
 

The Guest Room 

  • - Tackle the cleaning of the guest room first.  Anything that you’ve stashed on the bed, closet or dresser that should be stored elsewhere, get that done.  Use under-bed storage containers to get some things out of the way, or store on the closet shelf. 

  • -Go through the closet and remove things that haven’t been worn in a year or more and donate those.  Guests will appreciate some empty hangers in the closet to keep their clothes from staying folded in a suitcase. 

  • - On the same token, open the top two dresser drawers, and purge anything inside that isn’t being used, and empty at least one drawer.  Use a sachet of cedar chips for a nice fresh-smelling place for your guests to keep their belongings. 

  • - Clean the room as if you were Spring-cleaning:  wash all the bedding, vacuum the whole room, including under the bed, and dust all wood surfaces well.   

  • - Have extra pillows and blanket on the bed, especially if the room is on the cooler side of the house.  Once you have the big things done, getting the room ready just before they arrive will go more quickly. 

 

No Guest Room? 

  • - If you don’t have the extra bedroom, consider investing in a futon, sofa bed or even a twin chairbed for your living area.  Even a good quality air mattress can be made into a comfortable overnight sleeping spot, and can be put wherever you want, and is easier to use for some privacy for your guests. 

  • - Your couch is a bit “lumpy,” or you simply want to make it comfier in case of needing it for extra beds, and a feather bed is perfect for this.  Featherbeds are easily stored, and will certainly offer some comfort when placed on top of the sofa cushions. 

  • - You will need a small table or other flat surface for guests to keep their luggage--anything that will make them feel like they have space of their own.   

  • - If your guest space will be in a living area, give them a feeling of privacy with a screen to block off the sleeping area.  Deciding to use a screen can give you an excuse to make one, and apartmenttherapy.com has a great tutorial for a screen made from hollow-core doors. 

 

Extras 

  • - Start stocking up now on trial- and travel-size toiletries, and purchase a couple of new towels to keep tucked away for guests. 

  • - Make sure the lighting in the bedroom is good, and all the lightbulbs are working. 

  • - Have a new house key made and hang it on a special keyring and use solely for guests. 

 

Getting the big things done now won’t have you scrambling during the busy holiday season to get ready for any overnight visits.  Most of the time, the whole point of having friends and family spend a few days in your home is to enjoy them!  Preparing now will mean less stress and plenty of enjoyment later!

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

Photo credit: hofmeisterrealty.com

Finding and Fixing Possible Dangers at Home

by Tucker Robbins

Your home should be your haven.  Sometimes, though, things can happen, and it may not be quite as safe as you’d like.  Let’s look at some possible dangers in your home and find out how to fix them. 

 

  • - Unfortunately, fire is a very real danger.  Every day things like burning candles, cooking, and using appliances can cause fires.  One of the main appliances that starts fires is the dryer.  Keep your lint screen collector clean, even washing it in warm water and mild detergent every month, and use a lint collecting brush to clean down into the lint trap vent.  Once a year, unplug the dryer, remove the back and carefully vacuum any lint that has settled in the back around the motor and wiring. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are imperative to have. 

  • - Check and maintain areas of your home that are possible fall risks.  Make certain handrails are secure, steps are free of debris, and that brick or concrete steps aren’t crumbling, and wooden steps are sturdy and free of rot.  Secure area rugs with non-skid tape and keep bathroom floors dry by using easily washed bath mats outside the tub when bathing. 

  • - Older homes can have lead paint under layers of newer paint.  If you plan on removing paint from woodwork, and your home was built before 1978, purchase a lead-testing kit at your local home center or hardware store. In the case of a positive test, find a specialist that will remove the lead paint safely.  Find more information at epa.gov/lead or call 800-424-LEAD. 

  • - Speaking of older homes, have an inspector look at the plumbing for lead or polybutylene (PB) pipes.  Lead is obviously not safe to use for drinking water, and polybutylene pipes can rupture. 

  • - While not all molds are extremely dangerous, many people suffer from allergies to molds.  Most feared is black mold, though there are different types of black mold.  As soon as you see mold anywhere, clean it up using non-ammonia cleaner and water, or bleach on hard surfaces like your bathroom.  If the mold continues to grow, it would be best to call a pro who can look for the cause and make repairs. 

  • - Asbestos is only a dangerous substance if it’s disturbed.  If you notice deterioration in an area that you know is made of asbestos, or you’re getting ready to remodel, seek a local professional that can safely remove the offending material. 

 

This isn’t a financial subject, but it’s best to have an emergency savings for things like this that can come up, and you won’t have to worry so much about paying for the repairs when it comes to that.  Correcting problems as soon as you find them is best for you and your family’s health and well-being.  Home safe home is a home sweet home.

 

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

 

Photo credit: mentalfloss.com

Neighborly Advice in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

In days gone by, when someone moved into the neighborhood, casseroles, cookies, local information and cookout invites were offered by residents up and down the street.  With so many differences in today’s society, some people never even see their neighbors, let alone know their names.  Even if we don’t have “good” neighbors, let’s see how we can be one: 

 

Generally Speaking 

  • - First and foremost, keep your lawn and home maintained.  Don’t spend your first Saturday morning in the neighborhood mowing grass or hammering away at a project at dawn, but keeping your yard neat and your home looking good will let the other residents know you care about your home and community. 

  • - Noise plays a factor, especially if homes in the neighborhood are close together.  Keep music, children and animals quiet after 10 PM, and if you’re having a backyard gathering, take it inside if guests are still with you late into the evening. 

  • - Pets are a part of our families, but not everyone loves your frisky pup like you do. Keep dogs and cats off your neighbors’ property, and install fencing in the backyard if it’s not already there.  Clean up after your pet on walks. 

  • - Find out when trash pick-up is and take your cans to the curb on time.  No one wants to see (or smell!) overflowing cans or bags of garbage piled along the curbside.
     

Getting to Know You 

  • - Once you’ve gotten partially settled, if you see someone outside, introduce yourself.  Even if the neighbor doesn’t seem to want to be best friends, you can at least share what you do for a living, your name and phone number, so they’ll know your general schedule and how to get in touch with you if necessary. 

  • - Weather permitting, host a front porch gathering, and invite your neighborhood.  Offer light refreshments for the meet-and-greet, and have it in the afternoon before dinner time so no one feels pressured to stay.   

  • - Create a social media neighborhood group or join an existing one.  It’s a good way to see what’s going on, as well as getting to know those who don’t live in your immediate vicinity.   

  • - Communication is key when it comes to your neighborhood.  Let your closest neighbors know when you’ll be away, having a tree removed, planning on new construction, when you’re having a party, (invite them, whether they show up or not!), garage sale, or any other activity that can affect them and their surroundings. 

 

When you’re on a friendly basis with everyone on your street, it sure makes living there a lot easier.  Keep in mind the golden rule to treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and others will see that you’re respectful and friendly.  You’ll be helping not only keeping your community a great place to live, but living peacefully amongst your neighbors.

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

Photo credit: cbjenihomes.com

Small Kitchen Tips!

by Tucker Robbins

There are many other clever ways to maximize the space in a small kitchen.  Whether you’re downsizing or moving to a tiny home, or are getting used to a smaller condo kitchen, it’s important to use the space you have, and take into consideration what you’ll use the most, and keep it close.  Check out these tips for ways to make the most out of your small kitchen: 
 

  • - Wherever you have available wall space, add shelving or purchase easy-install shelves or holders from your local home center. 

  • - A stylish towel rack can be installed virtually anywhere to hang pots and pans with S-hooks and keep them out of the cabinets. 

  • - If drawer space is at a minimum, keep the long-handled cooking utensils nearby in an unused cookie jar on the counter, or hang a basket on the wall or cabinet side to hold these important items. 

  • - Use racks that can be mounted to the insides of cabinet doors to store spices and other smaller items that take up precious cabinet space.   

  • Domestically Speaking has a great how-to for adding tip-out storage onto false drawer fronts for smaller items like sponges and scrub pads. 

  • - If pegboard storage is good enough for Julia Child, it’s good enough for our kitchens!  It can be cut to fit any wall space, then painted to match any decor, making it even more stylish for your pots and pans. 

  • - Magnetic strips can store lots of things:  cutting knives and metal cooking utensils on your backsplash, or spice jars (with metal lids) under cabinetry.  Mount smaller strips with sticky backs to baby food jars, and store spices in them on the side of your fridge. 

  • - The open space over cabinetry is the perfect place to use baskets to store lesser-used items.  Anything to save precious cabinet space. 

  • - Very small kitchens leave little space for a table or an island, so mounting a folding table or shelf to the wall can help you during prep or mealtimes, and fold out of the way when you don’t need it. 

  • - Stove covers aren’t just for RV’s.  They’re great for providing extra space for prep and storage, and come in many styles and sizes. 

  • - Use a tiered cooking rack inside cabinets for storing virtually anything--plates, coffee cups, or your smaller baking pans.   

 

According to the building industry, the average size kitchen is 70 square feet, and many homes have an even smaller space. Taking the extra steps to make the space work best for you will make a big difference in meal prep, and meal times, not to mention satisfaction with your home. 

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

Photo credit: shapemasters.info

Getting the Best Home Inspection in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whether your offer on an older home has been accepted, or you’re buying brand-new construction, it’s highly recommended that you have the house inspected.  Yes, it’s an added expense to the home-buying process, but it could save you money and heartache in the end.  Get the most out of the inspection by following these tips: 

 

  • - Ask your RealtorⓇ for a list of qualified inspectors in the area.  Be sure to check reviews, and ask other recent home buyers for recommendations. 

  • - Call at least three different inspectors for price, experience, and whether your state requires a license and bonding or not, ask about these anyway.  A top certification they could have is one by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). 

  • - Once you choose an inspector, choose a date for the inspection when you can accompany them.  If they have a problem with you being there, find another inspector. 

  • - Ask the seller if you can go in the house on your own before the official inspection to get an idea of the condition of the property for your own satisfaction.  Popular Mechanics offers a thorough list of things to look for in your new prospective home. 

  • - While you’re in the house, look for cosmetic things like paint and patching that could be covering bigger issues. 

  • - The inspector will have a process of their own, complete with checklist, but make one for yourself so you can have a record of your own for issues they show you as you walk through the house. 

  • - Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the inspection--a reputable inspector welcomes questions, plus, you’re paying them for their knowledge.  Getting answers before you get their final report will help you understand it better. 

  • - If you’re not quite sure of how to change the hot water heater temperature, how to work the circuit breaker box, or where the water shut-off is, the inspector can help you become more familiar and knowledgeable about the house.  Use your smartphone to take photos and video as they give you a how-to lesson, so you’ll have it in case you need it. 

 

Once you get your report, go over it carefully.  If there are major repairs that need to be made, ask the seller to make the repairs or offer you a credit or reduction in selling price.  Being as knowledgeable as you can be during this process can mean more money saved.  Just be sure to hire a good inspector, and stay involved in the process. 

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

Photo credit: drakeshomeins.com 

Adding Value or Not?

by Tucker Robbins

Almost every homeowner has some upgrades or small projects on their to-do list, from installing new gutters to new landscaping.  What they aren’t always thinking is if the next small project will add value to their home.  Not every home improvement increases the value of a property, whether they’re a necessity or not.  
 

  • Roofing While a new roof looks great, it is considered a maintenance issue, so unless your roof needs replacing, or you have damaged shingles, this job rarely adds value.  On the other hand, depending on where you live, a metal roof can add some value to your home, lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums, and may save on the electric bill. 

  • Landscaping Keeping your yard trim and weed-free doesn’t decrease or increase your home’s value, and some landscaping certainly helps if you’re trying to sell. Adding a small fish pond with waterfall, however, isn’t necessarily going to add to add value.   

  • Electric/Plumbing In older homes, an upgrade here is something that’s necessary, and even if you used top-of-the-line products and the most expensive plumbers and electricians in the area, it won’t add value. 

  • Swimming Pool Putting in a pool is simply a personal choice--you have it done because you want to enjoy some refreshment and relaxation on a hot day.  Rarely does an added pool or spa put money in your pocket if you sell. 

  • High-End Upgrades In order for upgrades to add resale value, they must be consistent.  Don’t add imported tile to one bathroom, and then leave vinyl and Formica in the half bath.  

  • HVAC A new A/C unit or heating system is another maintenance item, and though someone looking for a home may find some relief in knowing that there’s a brand-new unit attached to the home, they’re not going to pay more for it because it’s new. 

  • Carpet If you’re thinking about installing new carpet to prep your house for the market, talk to your RealtorⓇ.  Going to the expense of new carpeting may be less desirable to house-hunters in your area.  If you want to make that money back, then consider another type of flooring for your house. 

 

These items don’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have them done, but it does mean that you likely won’t get the extra money they cost back in case you sell your home.  What it will help is the home sale itself--someone on the search for a new house will be more likely to purchase a home that has a new roof or new flooring.  Nolo.com has some excellent information on what will add value to your home, as well as some other home improvement tips.  When in doubt, do some research, and give your RealtorⓇ a call, as they know exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your house. 

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

Photo credit: NationalCashOffer.com

Back-to-School Routine

by Tucker Robbins

In most parts of the US this time of year, there is a lot of groaning by kids who are heading back to school, and some parents as well, because they dread the busyness of the school being in session.  Take the dread out by getting organized and staying organized so that it becomes a routine for you and your kids. 
 

  • - With sales and coupons abounding at every store this time of year, we usually end up with more school supplies than we need.  Have a dedicated storage spot for everything for easy access when it’s time to replenish.  Donating some of those extra supplies to the school or organization who help kids in need is a good thing, too. 

  • - If your school requires uniforms, go through old ones, and if they’re not worn or stained, take them to your school office so other students have a change of clothing in case of spills or accidents.  

  • - Getting ready for school begins the night before.  Set a bedtime, get a good routine going, and stick to it.  It can help reset your child’s body clock so that even when things get busy, they’ll be ready for sleep at their set time. 

  • - Even if they haven’t yet learned to tell time, get your child an alarm clock.  Set the alarm and help them be responsible for getting themselves up.   

  • - Have all their school clothes for the week hanging on a wreath hanger on the back of their bedroom or closet door or folded on their dresser.  This way, they can decide what to wear each day without staring at a closetful of clothes. 

  • - Let the kids pitch in with lunch prep.  Have their lunchboxes, storage containers, plastic bags and drink containers all in one easily-accessed spot in a kitchen cabinet. Good Housekeeping has a video with some great tips for packing up lunches. 

  • - Breakfast on the go can be so much more than a toaster pastry and juice box.  Mique from Thirty Handmade Days has compiled a list of links of 31 healthy make-ahead meals that kids will love! 

  • - Whether you have a mudroom or not, place some baskets or totes near the door for shoes, bookbags and sports bags.  It certainly helps with “I can’t find…” when it’s time to get them out the door. 

  • - After-school routines can vary, with extracurricular activities, sports, and lessons.  Keep a white board in a prominent place and have everyone’s schedule listed by days of the week.  Have the kids go over their schedule the night before so they’ll be prepared for their activities the next day. 

  • - Sometimes children come home from school and can’t wait till dinner and want to eat a full meal.  Have some snack bags of sliced fruit or veggies keeping cold in the fridge.  Add some fruit dip or ranch, and they’ll have a yummy snack that will tide them over until meal time. 

 

Getting in a routine doesn’t mean there won’t be mishaps or struggles or lost socks.  Go with the flow and remind the kids of the importance of putting things in their place or having things ready to go.  When they see you getting things ready beforehand, they’ll pick up your habits, get used to it, and it will soon be second nature.   

 

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

 

Photo credit: 01 Insurance

New Castle County DE Real Estate Market Watch For August 2018

by Tucker Robbins

New Castle County DE active listings are down 21% from last year and did not change from the previous month. The median listing price was just under $270,000 and the median sales price was just under $230,000. Compared to last year, the average days on market is down 19%. The number of units sold was consistent year-over-year and decreased 14% month-over-month. 

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

For Sale and Secure in New Castle County, DE

by Tucker Robbins

Sometimes it’s necessary to leave your old home before it sells, and even if it’s in a safe community, there are steps that should be taken to make sure the home and its components are secure.  Criminals are pretty savvy these days, and you don’t want your home compromised, especially when potential buyers are there for a showing. 

 

  • - First and foremost, make sure all your doors and windows are locked.  Most of those who are looking for easy access will find it.  They don’t care to draw attention to themselves by smashing windows and creating a lot of noise. 

  • - Check with your insurance agent and make sure you’re covered properly for a vacant house. 

  • - Talk to your RealtorⓇ about the lockbox that will be placed on your entryway.  Make certain it’s electronic, because the agent can not only get in without a key, but can keep track of who’s used the lockbox to enter, and when. 

  • - If you don’t already, have motion sensor floodlights installed around the perimeter of your home.  This will help deter anyone who is creeping around after dark. 

  • - Ask a relative, trusted neighbor or hire someone with good references to keep an eye on things, especially if you’ve moved more than a short drive away.   If you have a neighbor whose driveway is close by, ask if they would be willing to use your driveway to park in. 

  • - The landscaping should be maintained to keep any suspicion that you’re not there, and it should be taken care of by a reputable landscaper.  Your RealtorⓇ should be able to help you find someone for this job.   

  • - Secure outdoor components--your light fixtures and even the HVAC unit can be stolen, and it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. The light fixtures can be motion-detection activated, and the HVAC unit circuit box can be locked, and make it more difficult to get to with fencing or a security cage. 

  • - A home security system is now more affordable than ever, and you don’t have to pay a monthly service fee to a company. Do some online research and find a system that connects wirelessly and has a coordinating smartphone app.  You can keep an eye on things yourself, and if there’s anything suspicious, call your contact and ask them to check your house for you.   

 

The cost of keeping your electricity and Wi-Fi connected to the vacant house can’t compare to the peace of mind and protection it can offer while selling your home.  That doesn’t count the money you would save from repairs for damage or stolen items to be replaced.  Protect your investment by protecting your vacant house while it waits for new owners. 

 

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

Photo credit: protecsecuritysystems.com

Home-Buying After Foreclosure or Bankruptcy

by Tucker Robbins

If foreclosure or bankruptcy has been part of your past, and you’re ready to jump back into buying a new home, welcome to the “boomerang buyer” club!  There are several factors to buying a home after these losses, so before you start house-hunting, make sure you’re not only emotionally ready, but financially ready! 

 

  • - Be absolute certain your credit has been rebuilt by paying all your bills on time and in full. Check your credit score, and keep an eye on it.  Aiming for a minimum score of 580 improves your chances of qualifying for a home loan. 

  • - Get every penny you can into savings! 

  • - Consider taking a course in financial management.  Not only does this help you become more financially stable, it shows a lender that you’re serious about it. 

  • - If your last home went into foreclosure, there are waiting periods for applying for a mortgage: three years for FHA loans, seven years for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loans, two years for Veterans Affairs loans, three years for USDA loans, and other lenders have different waiting periods. 

  • - Buying a home after bankruptcy depends on what type of bankruptcy was filed, so there are different factors when it comes to each situation. 

  • - If you have experienced a short sale with your last home, depending on the lender, the waiting period to apply for a mortgage is two-seven years. 

  • - Some lenders may ask you to write a letter explaining the circumstances for the foreclosure or short sale, as well as what you learned during the process.   

  • - Extenuating circumstances that caused a foreclosure or bankruptcy, such as a major illness or job loss can make a difference in how long you must wait to apply for a mortgage, depending on the lender.  Be prepared with any paperwork that shows your loss of income or increase of debt. 

 

Before you begin this second chance on homeownership, talk to a RealtorⓇ who is experienced with assisting those who have experienced financial hardship and lost a home in the past.  They have a wealth of knowledge to help you every step of the way on the path to a fresh start! 

 

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

 

Photo credit: homes.com

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