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Breaking the Rules of Home Decorating

by Scott Darling


Decorating is the most personal way to express yourself in your home, and sometimes, when you want to try something different--something that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere on the list of design rules--it may be tempting to go with the flow, despite
 what you want to do.  Get design-rebellious with these tips: 

 

Color 

  • - Small room?  It doesn’t have to be a neutral color!  Go bold but create balance with open shelving or smaller furnishings. 

  • - We’re told not to stick with one color in a room, but going monochrome creates a bold, dramatic statement. 

  • - Your ceilings can be considered another wall when it comes to color.  Just remember to keep the walls a neutral color and get samples to paint on the ceiling before you commit to it. 

  • - Trim doesn’t have to be white!  Use high-gloss black for drama, stain that complements wood flooring, or neutrals for a modern twist on a traditional look. 

 

Finishes 

  • - If the metal finish on your kitchen light fixture doesn’t match the drawer pulls, it’s fine!  Mixing metals is perfectly acceptable, and check out this article from the Invaluable blog for inspiration! 

  • - Wood finishes don’t have to be the same throughout the house; create dimension with different stain colors, adding depth to a room or the whole house. 

  • - Who said tile is only for kitchens and bathrooms? Create an accent wall with tile in any room.  Be inspired by using the HGTV photo library search for whatever room you have in mind and add “wile tall” to the search term.   

  • - Speaking of kitchen tile, why not use wallpaper for your backsplash?  Protect it from splashes and oils with mounted plexiglass or a sealant made especially for sealing wallpaper. 

 

Furnishings and Accessories 

  • - Furniture stores have us fooled into thinking that our furniture sets must match, and this logic applies to even pieces like dining chairs. Mixing styles adds interest. 

  • - Mixing more than two patterns can be scary, so start small with accessories in bold patterns that are easily changed.  Staying in the same color family with your patterns will made this decision less daunting. 

  • - If you’d like to add some natural pieces to your space but don’t have a green thumb, then don’t be ashamed to use artificial plants!   

  • - It’s tempting to just scoot furniture to the wall and leave it because you want to follow symmetry.  Go diagonal!  Check out the difference a rearrangement can make by placing the sofa at a slant and give it a try in your living room! 

 

Not all rules of design should be broken, and there are likely rules that tell us why going against the norm with our personal decorating has a great result.  If you want to do something different, try it--you may like it! 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: apartmenttherapy.com

Attracting Wildlife To Your Landscape

by Scott Darling


Most homeowners landscape their property for aesthetic reasons, and there’s not a thing wrong with wanting your home’s outdoor areas to look beautiful.  Not only can your gardening be pleasing to the eye, you can attract beneficial insects and small mammal
s to your plantings.  Follow these tips if you’d like to create a mini-habitat oasis in your yard. 

 

  • - If you’re not sure where to begin, contact your local USDA Extension office, and they offer a wealth of information to educate you and get your started on your way to attracting wildlife. 
     

  • - Using native plants is the first step in attracting birds and butterflies, and most of these are perennials that have a short blooming season.  Don’t be afraid of losing color; you can intersperse the native plantings with colorful annuals. 
     

  • - Purchase or build housing to attract birds, making sure dimensions are correct for certain types of birds, and be sure birdhouse placement is where it will be most attractive to the birds. 
     

  • - Other man-made shelters can be made or bought to attract wild things:  houses for bats, butterflies, carpenter bees and ladybugs will not only add charm to the landscape, you will be bringing insects that will help you fight the bad bugs. 
     

  • - To invite frogs to take up residence, take any old clay pot, use ceramic tile cutters to make a doorway around the top edge, and turn the pot upside down on the ground for a frog house. 
     

  • - Besides placing feeders in different areas, clean water is essential for wildlife, and having small shallow dishes with clean water scattered about (under cover of plantings) will keep little animals coming back to your yard again and again. 
     

  • - Attracting wildlife can be wonderful and educational, but having deer devour your landscaping isn’t wonderful at all. Keep them at a distance by using this list of plants that don’t appeal to deer from Old Farmer’s Almanac. 

 

One of the first things you need to commit yourself to if you’d like all sorts of beneficial animals to visit and even live in your landscaping is going non-chemical for bad insects and weed control.  Education is the key, so do a lot of reading and learning before you begin this venture.  Landscaping that incorporates plants and animals is landscaping that benefits everyone. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: notjustcute.com

Sprucing Up Your Curb Appeal in Just a Weekend!

by Scott Darling


Most home sellers work full time, and getting the house prepped to be put on the market can be a second full-time job, depending on their to-do list.  As most every seller knows, curb appeal is vital for a great first impression, and carving extra time is 
a luxury, but with these tips and ideas, it can go from zero to fabulous in a weekend! 

 

  • Cleaning Pressure wash the exterior siding, fencing, the porch floor, concrete walkway and driveway, and as dreadful as it may be, clean out gutters. 
     

  • Painting These exterior items may need paint:  front door, shutters, window sills, exterior trim, garage doors, porch floor and railings, mailbox and address numbers. 
     

  • Replace Lighting fixtures that are dated or weathered should be replaced, and put up new address numbers, or mailbox if paint doesn’t improve their appearance, and get a new welcome mat. 
     

  • Inspect Go around the house and look closely at exterior trim, shutters, and window sills.  Examine concrete for damage, and make sure walkway pavers are stable and in perfect condition.  Make certain that all landscape lighting or irrigation systems are in working order. 
     

  • Lawn Care Not only should the lawn be mowed but using an edge trimmer to neaten up the walkways, driveway and planting beds makes a big difference.  Seed any dead areas of the lawn. 
     
     

  • Landscaping Weed flower beds, add seasonal easy-care plantings (annuals are best for season-long blooms!) and new mulch.  If a tree needs more than minor pruning, call a tree specialist. 
     

  • Decorative Remove personal yard flags, add some potted plants on the porch, highlight a shady spot with a simple outdoor bench and a few plants, and clean up outdoor furniture cushions or replace them. 

 

Much like the interior of the home, the outside should be clean, in working order, and clutter-free.  Before you get outside, go online and search recently sold homes in your market for some curb appeal inspiration, then put in a weekend’s time, and get that house sold!  

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: talktotucker.com

Renovations and Your Homeowners Insurance

by Scott Darling


Making the decision to renovate any room in your home comes after a lot of thought and planning, but don’t forget that changes in your home can create changes in your homeowner’s
 insurance.  Whether the renovations lower or increase the payment depends on the job, so we’re going to look at how a remodel can affect your wallet: 

 

  • Additions:  Whenever you add square footage to your home, your policy will need to be upgraded, likely increasing your premium. 
     

  • Converted Space:  Turning your garage into a home theater or creating a master suite from your attic space may not require changes to the policy if the square footage is already covered, but as replacement value has changed, you will want to increase your coverage. 
     

  • Home System Upgrades: Improving electrical and plumbing systems can lower your premiums, as upgrading them can make your home safer from incidents relating to fire and leaky pipes. 
     

  • Pools:  Installing a pool or hot tub in your backyard will add to the replacement value of your home, and you’ll need to increase liability coverage to protect yourself in case of any accidents.
     

  • Roofing:  A new roof can lower your premium, especially if you upgrade it to the latest standards of protecting your home from natural disasters. 
     

  • Security Systems:  According to Safewise, adding a home security system could lower your homeowners premium by 20%.   
     

  • Solar Panels:  You will want to talk to your insurance agent before installing solar panels to your home.  They may require a separate policy, depending on how they are mounted, which would add to your budget.  
     

  • Upgrades:  Whether you use top-quality building materials for your renovation, upgrade the finishes in your home, or install state-of-the-art appliances in the kitchen, you’ll need to change your policy to reflect the replacement value. 

 

Making changes to your home improve your quality of life in many ways, but it may come at a cost.  Protecting your investment is worth it in the end, but you want to be prepared for anything that will add to your monthly budget. Schedule a meeting with your insurance agent before beginning any major changes in your home so you won’t be surprised when your payment increases. 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: coldwellbanker.com

Home Projects By Seasons

by Scott Darling


Thinking about doing some home improvements?  Whether it’s a kitchen or bathroom remodel, a whole-house painting, or floor refinishing, there’s a time of year when these jobs are easier to get completed, mainly because of how the weather affects not only c
onstruction, but the quality of the finished product as well.  Find the project you’re considering, and see when it’ll be the right time to get to work:  

 

Additions, because of needing a new foundation, could be started in late Winter/early Spring when the ground is still cold and more compact.  It makes for better digging and concrete pouring and setup. 
 

Exterior door replacement would be convenient any time except Winter, just in case there are any issues and the doors aren’t a quick switch. 
 

Exterior painting, for many reasons, is a better idea in early to late Summer, when temperatures are above fifty degrees. 
 

HVAC work, in non-emergency situations, should be done in the off seasons--new heater in warm months, air conditioning before it’s sweltering outside. 
 

Interior remodeling like kitchen and bathroom redo’s, can be done practically any time.  The main thing to keep in mind here is warm months are busier for contractors, and that can mean a job done in a hurry, or higher prices. 
 

Outdoor projects, even though a popular time for construction is the warmer months, should be started in late Winter, simply because you want to be able to spend your Summer enjoying your new outdoor space! 
 

Refinishing hardwoods is probably best completed during the times of year when humidity is low for the best finish, and so windows can be opened to allow air circulation to help get rid of any associated odors. 
 

Roofing, believe it or not, may get better results in hot months of the year, as the most common materials used will need warm temps for the best performance. 
 

Window repair/replacement is managed well during warm months or when frequent rain isn’t a factor. 

 

Keep in mind that Spring and Summer are busiest time for contractors.  If you are hiring your job out, the process should be started long enough in advance that you don’t have to be put on a wait list.  On that same note, during slower months, a contractor may give you a deal on the work, because there aren’t other jobs to be done, and you get their full attention!  Planning is key for a smooth finish on any project, any time of year. 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: servicewhale.com

What To Do With Old Devices?

by Scott Darling


If you’re like many people this time of year who are cleaning out or following the new “simplify” craze, you’ve come across a drawer filled with old cell phones and devices.  Don’t throw these devices in the trash--they’re bad for the environment.  They ca
n be put to good use, whether by yourself or someone else!  Just make sure you reset the device settings to the factory settings.  If you’re not sure how, DealNews has a guide to help you with that.  Now let’s see what we can do with these unused gadgets! 

 

  • - Recycling could be the easiest thing for you.  Get all of the devices in a box, and either call your local waste management to see where you can drop them off, or go to the Sustainable Electronics website, and click your area on the interactive map, and it shows you where you can send or drop off your items. 

  • American Cell Phone Drive is an organization that helps raise funds for thousands of organizations worldwide.  Follow the link, type in your zip code, and it will direct you to local places that will gladly accept your old cell phones. 

  • - Many large electronics retailers, online and brick-and-mortar, will accept your outdated gadgets for recycling, as well as the device manufacturers.  In some cases, they will purchase newer items (usually less than three years old) and put the amount on the retailer’s gift card.  A quick search online will help with finding what stores will buy from you. 

  • - Organizations such as domestic violence centers, daycares, schools and veterans’ associations are just a few places that may take the donation where it can be used for education or for emergencies.  Call and speak with whoever is in charge to find out if they can use what you cannot. 

  • - You can always sell your devices, the newer the better, and put a bit of cash in your pocket, or donate the proceeds.  Social media is full of local “yard sale” pages where you can post items for free or use an online auction site to sell your goods for a fee. 

  • - A laptop or computer tower takes a little more work to erase all sensitive information from, but these can be donated or recycled as well.   

  • - If the computer still works, call a local school, senior center, homeless shelter or youth program to see if they can use it.  Many will gladly take a free computer. 

  • - Do an online search to see if any local retailers or recycle centers will accept your laptop or computer, and when you call, make sure they can recycle laptop batteries, too.  In some cases, the lithium-ion batteries must be recycled separately. 

 

Not only will you be paring down your clutter, but you can help someone in need or simply keep dangerous metals from the environment when you recycle or donate your unused devices.  Help yourself and someone else while you’re purging the junk! 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: acwastewatcher.org

Should You Use Your Home Equity

by Scott Darling


If you have a good amount of equity in your home, and would like to make some home improvements, or need money to help you pay for a child’s college tuition, you may be considering using the equity in your home to help pay for these things.  Let’s look at 
the difference between the two so you can make the right decision before you sign on the dotted line. 

 

Home Equity Loan 

  • - Basically speaking, a home equity loan is a second mortgage on your home, which is used as collateral by the lender.  

  • - The lender usually bases the loan amount on the difference between the homeowner's equity and the home's current market value.  Investopedia can help you determine how much equity you have in your home. 

  • - Most lenders allow homeowners to borrow up to 85% of the home’s total value, but only based on what portion you actually “own.” If you haven’t finished paying your original mortgage off, your equity will be less than someone who has paid off their home loan. 

  • - A home equity loan will be paid as a lump sum and comes with a fixed interest rate. You will know how much you must pay every month, in addition to your current mortgage payment. 

  • - Just like the initial purchase of the house, your credit needs to be in good standing, so have all your financial records in order when you meet with your lender. 

 

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) 

  • - HELOC’s are a second mortgage as well, but instead of a lump sum, the homeowner typically has a five-to-ten-year “draw” period where they have access to the amount of the credit. 

  • - During the draw period, some lenders allow interest-only payments on the amount, while some require principle-plus-interest payments. Either way, pay more than the minimum so the principal can be paid off before the repayment period. 

  • - Once the draw period is over, repayment of what credit you have used will begin.  Keep in mind that these payments will be higher than the earlier amounts you’ve been paying. 

  • - Your line of credit can be used for anything, but if you’re thinking about an island getaway, or some other non-essential purchase, you are better off starting a savings fund.  If you can’t meet the payments once the draw period is over, you could lose your home to foreclosure.  

  • - In some cases, a lender will close your line of credit early if your circumstances change.  If you’re using that money to pay your child’s college tuition, you’ll no longer have access to it, creating financial strain. 
     

Before deciding to use either of these types of credit, find out if using the equity in your home is the right way to go.  If you’re already having a hard time paying the bills, a home equity loan or HELOC will only put your further in debt.  Contact a HUD-certified financial counselor to help you get your debt and other financial matters under control. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: wsj.com

Sprucing Up a Small Bathroom

by Scott Darling


The poor, lowly bathroom.  Many of us don’t really know how to decorate it short of hanging a pretty shower curtain, because there’s very little room for improvement. Or so we believe. Let’s look at some ideas to make a small necessary room a more attracti
ve place to visit: 

 

  • - Just because the room is small doesn’t mean the walls have to be white.  Paint in a color you love, bold or pastel, or wallpaper that makes a statement is as appropriate for a small room as a large one. 

  • - A small bathroom means smaller-sized fixtures and splurging on a nice cabinet or sink won’t hurt the pocketbook as much, while adding style. 

  • - Contrasting shower tile is a great way to add color to a bath and gives you a reason to keep the curtain pulled back, opening up the space, and showing off your colorful shower! 

  • - If your small bath or powder room doesn’t have a window, use decorative lighting for your focal point, and add wall sconces on the wall over the toilet, and on either side of the mirror. 

  • - Floor covers, and adhesive tile is simple to install, is available in endless designs and colors, and can be the feature for your small bathroom.   

  • - When new tile, paint, or wallpaper isn’t in the budget, add color through your accessories. Brightly colored curtain or shade, rug, and artwork can make the room. 

  • - Since most small bathrooms don’t have a lot of storage, you have to be creative and practical, or use functional decor.  Check out these bathroom storage ideas from Good Housekeeping. 

  • - Weekend warriors or those who are confident enough in their skill level can create recessed shelving with this how-to from DIY Network.  If you like the idea but lack the skills, call a reputable carpenter to handle this small job. 

  • - Large mirrors aren’t just for large bathrooms; using them in your small bathroom helps bring in the light, making the room appear larger. 

  • - Keep the less-is-more attitude when adding things to a small bathroom; a small plant, soap, and hand towel are all you need on the counter. 

 

Not only can you make your little bathroom stylish, you can cut down on clutter and keep it organized for smoother mornings or guest use.  Don’t think of this project as a challenge, look for inspiration, and it may end up becoming your favorite retreat! 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: Pinterest.com

Choosing a Home Security System for Your Chester County PA Home!

by Scott Darling


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 Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: krislindahl.com

Un-Wall Papering in Your Chester County PA Home!

by Scott Darling


You’ve just bought the perfect home, it needs a little cosmetic work, and you’re ready to tackle the job.  When you think about removing the dated wallpaper in the dining room, and you put it off, for fear that it’s going to take forever.  It may be a mess
y and time-consuming job, but it’s not going to be as hard as you think if you follow these tips: 

 

  • - Tools you will need:  plastic sheeting, wide masking tape, rags and old towels, bucket, spray bottles or garden sprayer, three- or four-inch wide scrapers, paper scoring tool, large tile sponge; if the wallpaper is old, you may need to purchase an enzyme-based remover at a home store. 

  • - Before you begin, remove furniture from the room, or put it all in the center, and cover with plastic.  Using the masking tape, tape the plastic sheeting over the baseboards, and spread the rest of the plastic onto the floor. Don’t forget to cover electrical outlets! 

  • - Using the scrolling perforator tool, gently score the paper in every direction so your solution (next step) can penetrate the paper and adhesive for easier removal. 

  • - Now, mix up one gallon of hot tap water with one cup of white vinegar, add to your spray bottle or garden sprayer, and apply the solution to the scored paper, one section at the time.  Allow to sit for ten minutes. 

  • - Beginning in a top corner, lift the paper with the scraper, and gently tug.  If it comes off easily, continue to remove as much paper as possible, carefully using the scraper on the more resistant parts. If that first piece isn’t budging after a tug, allow the vinegar solution to sit for a few more minutes, then test again. 

  • - Once you have the bulk of the paper off one section, continue spraying and removing one area of the wall at the time.   

  • - Use care when you get to a section where the glue can be especially sturdy:  give the area shot of the vinegar solution, and gently scrape in the direction you’re pulling the paper.  You don’t want to damage the drywall or plaster. 

  • - Once the paper is off, you’ll still have some of the backing stuck to the walls.  Using a large sponge dampened with the vinegar solution and your scraper, rub over the backing, scraping gently as you go. 

  • - After the walls are clear of paper and adhesive, fill your bucket with clean warm water, and wipe the walls down with the tile sponge.  Allow to dry. 

  • - Paper will likely remain under any switch plates and outlet covers.  Turn off electricity to the room, and remove the wall plates with a screwdriver, peeling the paper off carefully. 

 

If the paper has been hung over other layers of wallpaper, obviously, the job will take more time, but try to only remove one layer at a time, using the above steps for every layer.  Sometimes you get lucky, and more than one layer comes off at a time.  Set aside a weekend for this job and grab some help to make the job go faster.  Take your helper out to eat once the job is complete!

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: wallpaperwarehouse.com

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Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275