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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

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

Going from Summer to Fall in Your Outdoor Spaces

by Scott Darling

Hopefully, you’ve made good use and great memories this Summer in your outdoor space.  Just because we’re getting closer to Fall doesn’t mean we have to wrap it all up and put it away!  There’s plenty we can do to transition our porches, decks and patios for cooler weather use.  Let’s look at some simple ideas that will keep us outdoors a little longer. 

 

  • - Change pillow and cushion covers from their bright colors to more neutral tones, with a splash of soft red or orange here and there. 

  • - Once your potted plants’ Summer blooms fade, repot your containers with ornamental grasses, decorative kale, pansies, marigolds and chrysanthemums. 

  • - Drape light blankets over the backs and arms of your seating to use on chilly evenings. 

  • - If you don’t already have one, buying or creating a firepit is a great way to warm up cool nights.  If you’re not sure of your style or if the budget is tight, morningchores.com has photos and links to 57 different DIY firepits!  

  • - The days are getting shorter and adding lighting to your porch is important.  With so many choices for inexpensive and energy-saving LED lighting, you can add torches, candles and lanterns to a table for soft, relaxing lighting without spending a ton. 

  • - Add a cozy area rug to ward off cold feet and add texture to the space. 

  • - The cool breezes we long for in the heat of July are a little less desirable on a cool Autumn night.  Add some no-sew outdoor curtains using drop cloths, of all things, to block the wind, and use strong adhesive like E6000 to add heavy washers at the bottom to weight the curtains down. 

  • - Making the outdoors more inviting in Fall means adding warmth--literally.  Outdoor heaters come in many styles and price ranges and use electricity as well as propane to keep you and your guests’ toes warm. 

  • - Finally, when the pumpkin patches open, get a variety of pumpkins, gourds and other fall produce, and tuck them into your container plantings, or create a centerpiece or to make the outdoors an even more inviting space to enjoy.
     

There’s no need to stop going outside just because the days are shorter, and nights are cooler.  Being outside is proven to help alleviate stress, make us feel happier, and may help us sleep better, especially if we can catch the sunset.  So, don’t neglect your much-loved outdoor space this Fall; you created it to be used, and Fall is the perfect time to enjoy it. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: http://telano.info

Necessary Tools for the Homeowner

by Scott Darling

While not everyone considers themselves a Weekend Warrior, every homeowner should have certain tools on hand.  A small hammer and duct tape are just the basics every person should own, and while a large toolset isn’t necessary, some items are. Keep this guide in mind the next time you head out to the home center or local hardware store. 

 

  • Toolbox:  It may seem obvious, but keeping everything in one place will save time when you need an item in a hurry, and keep the box in a dedicated place in your garage or storage closet. 

  • Claw Hammer:  Every home needs a hammer, preferably with a clawed end to remove nails or for prying hard-to-open objects. 

  • Adjustable Wrench:An adjustable wrench takes the place of a wrench set, and, hence the name, can adjust to most average-size bolts. 

  • Screwdriver:  Most people have two standard screwdrivers: flathead and Phillips.  There are screwdrivers that have changeable bits for different sized screws, and they are especially convenient. 

  • Pliers:  Many types of this versatile tool are available, and the basic design is perfect for all sorts of jobs.  You can get specialized styles:  needle-nosed, pliers with wire cutters--the choices are endless.  Get what you think is best for your needs. 

  • Boxcutter/Utility Knife:  A folding or disappearing blade would be best for this tool, especially if you have children. It’s a great tool to have for many uses, such as cutting insulation, trimming shingles, as well as repairing drywall. 

  • 25-foot Tape Measure:  You never know when you’ll need to measure more than a yard-stick’s length, and a 25-foot style is great for measuring rooms, or outdoor projects. 

  • Cordless Drill: Brian Kelsey, host of the online video series, Kelsey on the House, says a cordless drill will become your “...most-used tool in your tool kit,”  

 

Home centers will have an array of pre-filled toolboxes, and if that’s what suits your needs, purchase one of those. But if you know what you want, assemble a custom tool set to use for all your home projects/minor repairs.  Bob Vila provides a list with some extras not listed here, so if you’re a go-getter in the DIY field, see his recommendations for a little more than the basics. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: http://turnkeymakereadybcs.com

Park the Car in the Garage in Chester County, PA

by Scott Darling

Do you actually park your car in the garage?  A 2015 survey from PRN News found that only 1 in 4 Americans keep their car in the garage when they’re at home!  The rest use it for storage, extra workspace, and, sometimes, junk.  Spend some extra time and a little money to get organized and get more use from this large space! 

 

- Hang folding outdoor chairs from wall hooks or strong nails to get them out of the way.  Plastic chairs can be stacked and placed in a corner. 

- Create off-the-floor storage space by adding shelves, and put lightweight items in clear plastic storage totes, and place them on the shelves. 

- Have the kids’ sports balls taken over the floor?  Use bungee cords to get them out of the way!   

- Use plastic window planter inserts for storage, mounting them on a wall with a washer/bolt combination for strength.  Store smaller miscellaneous items in the planters--gardening hand tools, spray paint cans, or paint brushes. 

- If your garage has visible studs, use that space to hang items by placing a tension rod in between the studs.  Hang spray bottles by their nozzles, add hooks to store garden tools, or attach small plastic baskets with shower curtain hooks for storing small items. 

- A worktable can take up a lot of space if you’re not using it all the time, so creating a fold-away table is perfect for the hobbyist.  Crafted Workshop shows us how to build one for about $35. 

- An unused filing cabinet can be turned into garden tool storage by removing the drawers, standing the cabinet on its back, and use the empty drawer spaces to stand tools in.   

- Toy bins with rope handles are sturdy enough to store garden hoses, extension cords, and actual outdoor toys, and the bins can hang via their rope handles on large nails or hangers. 

- Wood pallets can be put to so many uses, and the garage is no exception.  Attach them to the walls, add nails or hooks and hang items, or create shelving with them. 

- Keep small hardware and machine parts handy in jars with screw-on lids.  Make them even more convenient by attaching them to the undersides of shelving!  Instructables shows you how to DIY this project. 

 

Home centers have units and other materials to create hanging storage on the ceiling, as well as storage cabinets for things that need to be locked up or out of the kids’ reach.  However, you choose to tidy up your space, your hard work will pay off because you just might end up with room to park the car!

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: garagejournal.com

Backyard Getaways in Chester County, PA

by Scott Darling

Many of us have seen the “she shed” photos on social media, where an outdoor building has been made into an outdoor spot for Mom to unwind--the counter to the basement man cave.  With these ideas, you can take your garden shed, gazebo or covered porch to many levels to provide a place to relax, entertain, or watch the children play in the sprinkler.   

 

Outdoor Oasis Plan 

- First, check with your municipal codes for accessory buildings, garden sheds, and see what permits you need to add one to your yard. If you already have one, you’re one step closer to your party hut. 

- Decide on what will fit in your space, then shop pre-fab shed distributors, Pinterest for DIY material-repurposing ideas, or online for downloadable building plans.  

- How do you want to use your space?  Will it be an entertaining area, a place to relax, or a low-budget pool house? Make a budget for decorating and extras, and stick to it. 

- Once you have your building in place, choose your decor and paint scheme:   

  • - Beach-inspired colors are bright, and you can include an old surfboard, vintage buoys and signal flags found at tag sales. 

  • - Rocking chairs, light colored walls, natural elements, and floral seat cushions make for a country retreat. 

  • - Go modern with simple folding chairs, which offer a storage bonus, simple green succulent plants in sleep pots, neutral colors, and a sleek bar of polished wood. 

  • - Send guests a message of fun in the sun with a palm-frond roof, tiki torches, lots of wood elements and an open-air bar for a tropical feel. 

  • - Create a small pool house with space for lounge chairs, as well as hardware for hanging clothes and towels, and storage for pool toys.   

 

Outdoor Entertaining with Conveniences 

- Lighting can be tricky if you don’t have electricity running to your outdoor structure.  If you decide to fully wire the place, have an electrician take care of this aspect.  You want it well-lit, but not a shining beacon--soft lighting is perfect for Summer night entertaining. 

- Give self-charging solar lights a try.  LED’s associated with solar lighting have come a long way, and can be bright without being harsh. 

- Battery-operated LED lights are an excellent alternative, and come in many designs to complement your decor.  Strings of Chinese lanterns and vintage-style bulb covers can be found in many styles in home centers and online. 

- You may not want to deal with the cost of a hiring an electrician to wire your new party pad, but using solar power on your small building is easier than you may think.  Home improvement centers have small solar kits that you’ll need to light the night without adding to your utility bill. 

- Solar-powered ceiling fans for outdoor use are easily found online, as well as stand-alone units.  Moving air will keep you and any guests comfortable.   

 

With so many products and ideas available at our fingertips, thanks to the internet, an outdoor gathering place can be outfitted as simply or luxuriously as we want--there’s no need to break the bank.  Create a haven that fits the needs for your family, and make fun-filled Summer memories without leaving your backyard! 


Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: Country Living Magazine

From Tenants to Homeowners in Chester County, PA

by Scott Darling

Whatever the reason you’ve decided that it’s time to go from renting a place to live to purchasing a home of your own, there is plenty to consider.  From down payments to paint, many factors of home ownership are different than when you’re a tenant in someone else’s home.   

 

- Begin budgeting now, if you do not already.  Homeownership has more expenses involved than renting, and you need to be able to manage your money properly. 

- Check your credit score and correct any mistakes, or do what it takes to bring your numbers up. 

- Start saving towards your down payment.  

- Be realistic.  You know about how much you can afford, so don’t start your initial search in the luxury homes sections. 

- Once your financial things are in good working order, shop around for a loan, and talk with the lender about your pre-approval amount.  Knowing how much you can afford will help keep you in check when it comes to the house searching. 

- Don’t balk at browsing other homes besides houses--there are affordable townhomes and condominiums that could be perfect for you as your first home purchase. 

- Think about your community options--do you want to live in a managed community (HOA), a rural area, new construction in a planned community, or an older suburban neighborhood?  Each can affect how much you pay in HOA fees, taxes, or maintenance costs. 

- If you have renter’s insurance, and you should, you’ll note that a homeowner’s policy costs more, because it covers much more than just your belongings.  Speak with your insurance agent about a quote so you can budget accordingly. 

- On the chance that you decide to relocate, you can choose to rent your property and become a landlord yourself.  You will have money from the rent to pay towards your mortgage payment, or, if the house is paid for, begin building a nest egg. 

- Purchasing a newer house than what you’re renting can save money in the end, because of less up-front maintenance, as well as being more energy efficient, thus having lower utility bills. 

 

Think about the freedom to paint your living room teal blue if you like, and feeling like dancing and not having to tiptoe because there are no neighbor’s downstairs.  As soon as you are ready, contacting a Realtor to help you get started is the first step you’ll need to take, as they are your guide during the whole home-buying process. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: homie.com

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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