Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 167

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

Preventing and Getting Rid of Mold

by Scott Darling


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 Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: lung.org

Save on Heating in Your Chester County PA Home!

by Scott Darling


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 Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: Geico

Utilize Your Space

by Scott Darling


The large dining room, family room or bonus rooms was one of the things that sold your house to you.  Despite
 our good intentions, though, those rooms sometimes end up being used for storage, folded laundry, or just not being used altogether.  Use these ideas to inspire you to get these rooms ready to spend more time in: 

 

Extra Bedroom 

Most extra bedrooms end up being the guest room, whether you have guest often or not.  Turn that room into a dual-purpose room; use a daybed with trundle or a wall bed so you’ll have more space in the room for other things. 
 

  • - Set up a home office or study space for the kids. 

  • - Add a small double-leafed or card table, use stackable or folding chairs, install some shelving, and have the room serve as the game/play room.   

  • - If your children like to invite friends over for video games, hang a flat screen on the wall, a small shelf for their game console, lay a cushy area rug on the floor, and purchase bean bag chairs, slip chairs are large floor pillows for seating. 

  • - Create a reading room with a small bookshelf, a comfy chair, blanket, small side table and lamp. 

 

Bonus/Flex Room 

You couldn’t wait to start decorating and using your extra room, but you’re stumped on exactly what to do. 
 
 

  • - Get the television out of your living space, get some affordable seating, and create a home theater.  

  • - Do you have a musician in the family?  Soundproof the walls, add extra electrical outlets, and clear the floor for your own concert hall. 

  • - Give your workout equipment a home in the extra room, use a small television for workout entertainment, install a comfortable bench, hooks for small towels, and include a small fridge for water and smoothies when you’re finished with exercising. 

 

Not Just for Dining 

Busy families don’t always have time for a sit-down meal at the dining table, but there’s no need to use it for special occasions. 
 

  • - Use one end of the table for office space.  A dining room is less busy than other rooms, and you can get more done there without distractions.  Use a laptop for the space, take advantage of wireless printing, and use part of a china cabinet for supplies so you won’t fill the room with office clutter. 

  • - Consider using a smaller table or remove the leaf from a large table.  Place some comfortable seating at one end of the room, add a sideboard to use for a coffee/tea bar, and have an after-dinner seating area. 

  • - If your home lacks an extra living area, why not use it for family time instead of a dining area?  Treat the space as you would a den, and furnish it with sofa, chairs, and television for a cozy family room. 

 

There are no rules that say a room must be used for what the blueprint says.  Your home is just that--your home.  You know best how you and your family can use a space.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot; shop thrift shops and tag sales, or use what you already have.  You can add extra space to your home without picking up a hammer and nail!

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: livingroomideasq.blogspot.com 

Keeping Your Packages Safe

by Scott Darling


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 w
e 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 Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: huffingtonpost

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 167

Syndication

Categories

Archives

Contact Information

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