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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

Terms First-Time Home Buyers Should Know

by Scott Darling


The time has come to begin the steps of buying your first home and
 looking around the internet and other real estate-related media, you’re finding there’s a lot more to know than finding a house, getting a loan, and signing papers.  There are some key words that can be unfamiliar to a first-time home buyer, so familiarize yourself with these lesser-known terms so you’ll have fewer questions and stumbles along the way: 

 

  • - In order to be certain that the home is worth the amount of the loan, there will be a home appraisal performed by an unbiased inspector of the lender’s choosing. 

  • - At the final paper-signing, the buyer is required to pay closing costs, which normally include attorney fees, surveyors, inspections, and title insurance, among other things.  Be prepared to have 2-5 percent of the purchase price for closing costs. 

  • - If you’d like to pay less interest over the time of your loan, you can purchase discount or mortgage points.  To learn more about this option, check out these tips from the Nerd Wallet website. 

  • - Earnest money is money that will be paid to the seller to show good faith of the buyer towards the home purchase.  It will be applied to your down payment. 

  • - When you have funds in escrow, you will have given funds to a third party to hold until they have verified that inspections, disclosures or any disputes have been resolved.  Keeping it in escrow protects your deposit before you sign the final contract to buy your new home. 

  • - Pre-approval is very important and differs from being pre-qualified.  If you’re pre-approved for a loan amount, you have a realistic expectation of what you can buy. 

  • - If your down payment is less than twenty percent of the purchase price, you will pay private mortgage insurance typically until that amount reaches twenty percent of the loan or home value. 

  • - Your lender will require the purchase of title insurance, which protects real estate owners and lenders against any property loss or damage for whatever reason.  Learn more about what title insurance is and what it covers from the CFPB. 
     

There are other terms and abbreviations you may find in your search for a house in their descriptions and about real estate in general that you won’t be familiar with.  Here’s a longer, more comprehensive list from realtor.comⓇ.  The more you know before you get started, the smoother the home-buying process will be!

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: realtor.com

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for December 2018

by Scott Darling

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for December 2018

Chester County PA single-family homes saw pending sales decrease by 39.0% in December 2018 when compared to December 2017. 527 homes sold in December with a median sales price of $320,000.  The average sales price decreased by 2.4%, and homes were on the market 10 days less.

If you are thinking about selling your home get a free instant home evaluation Learn More

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 

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for November 2018

by Scott Darling

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for November 2018

Chester County PA single-family homes saw pending sales decrease by 18.7% in November 2018 when compared to November 2017. 526 homes sold in November with a median sales price of $347,000.  The average sales price decreased by 1.0%, and homes were on the market 15 days more.

If you are thinking about selling your home get a free instant home evaluation Learn More

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

Real Estate Disclosures and You

by Scott Darling

Zillow.com defines the term disclosure as “...the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.”  In most states, this simply means that the seller must let the buyer know about problems that they are aware of.  Whether you’re selling or buying a house, disclosing issues with the house is an extremely important part of the process.  

 

What Disclosure Means for the Seller 

  • - Your listing agent will provide a form for you to fill out, answering questions with either yes, no or I don’t know about different aspects of the house.  This form should be filled out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. 

  • - Items that most states ask you to disclose to the buyer:  lead paint or asbestos, previous repairs or additions, mold or water damage, pest issues, drainage problems, foundation cracks, problems with HVAC and other appliances, and if the roof is leaky. 

  • - If you think there might be a problem, say possible mold in the crawlspace, have an inspector come and have a look.  It’s better to be safe than sorry here. 

  • - While you’re going over the disclosure form, if you’re not sure if you should report something, report it anyway.  It’s best to err on the side of caution. 

  • - Have the disclosure ready before you’ve accepted an offer for your own protection. 

  • - Your listing agent will be aware of all government disclosure requirements--federal, state, and local--so be prepared to report all that these laws ask of you. 

 

Disclosure and the Buyer 

  • - Once you receive the disclosure statement, go over it carefully and ask questions if you’re not sure about anything listed, because you must sign the disclosure. 

  • - The extra expense of having an official inspection done on the house is vital to this part of the sale.  Have the disclosure form information with you when you meet the inspector at the house, so you can go over the problem places with a pro. 

  • - In the case of any additions to the home, check the local government building permit and zoning information to make sure the addition was done the legal way by licensed people. 

  • - If you have any issues with the seller’s answers on the disclosure statement, and don’t want to make the repairs, and can’t come to an agreement with the seller, it may be best to walk away and look for another house. 

  • - Once you are satisfied with the disclosure and have the peace of mind that the sale should go through, sign off on the disclosure. 

 

A disclosure should be a seller’s protection plan, and smart sellers will be completely honest, and maybe even over-disclose.  Also, be aware that some states even ask sellers to disclose things like traffic noise, and even paranormal activity!  Your Realtor will know everything you need to provide to buyers, so the sale of your home goes smoothly.

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: nestiny.com

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