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Prepping the Fireplace

by Scott Darling


On a cool evening, there’s almost nothing better than sitting by the warmth of a fire with a cup of cocoa.  If you’re a new homeowner who is new to having a fireplace or woodstove, you may be a bit apprehensive about using it.  There are some things you sh
ould know before you fire it up, and this guide will give you the confidence to use this feature during the cold months. 

 

  • - Call a pro to inspect and clean your chimney before using it, especially if this is your first Winter in the house. 
     

  • - Check the damper to be sure it opens and closes properly, and make sure the doors are secure, as well as being certain the glass isn’t loose and has no cracks. 
     

  • - Examine a woodstove’s chimney pipe for any loose sections and clean any accumulated soot or ashes.  The door should open easily, close very tight, and the handle should lock into place once the door is shut. 
     

  • - When purchasing a mat or rug to place in front of the hearth, be certain it’s certified fireproof. 

  • Wood shouldn’t be brought inside until it’s ready for use.  Find out why you should keep it outside and other great tips about storing firewood here. 
     

  • - Gas fireplaces require a little less maintenance, but it’s important to be familiar with the operation.  If you can’t find an owner’s manual for your type of fireplace, see if online editions are available, or call the company to have one mailed to you. 
     

  • - If you see dust and cobwebs, turn off the gas off, and vacuum using the hose attachment. 

  • Ceramic logs or lava rocks inside a gas fireplace may need sprucing up as well. How to Clean Stuff.net guides us through this process in a few simple steps. 
     

  • - Soot can collect on the glass doors, and it’s best to keep them clean.  When the doors are cool, spray them with window cleaner, (have newspaper or old towels under them to catch dripping grime), and use a cleaning brush or crumpled newspaper to remove as much of the soot as possible.  Follow up with a soft cloth dampened with clean warm water to remove any film left behind.   

 

If you’re even the slightest bit unsure about prepping your fireplace, don’t hesitate to call a professional!  Many specialty stores know who you should contact and may even have a technician available.  Not only do you want to stay warm, you want your home safe. 


Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: today.com

Credit Card Mistakes You Could Be Making

by Scott Darling


There are practical
 uses for credit cards, such as rewards points, cash back on purchases, and airline miles to name a few.  Having a credit card can also have drawbacks if you’re not responsible with that piece of plastic.  Read on to see if you’re making any of these mistakes… 

 

  • Paying the minimum payment every month keeps your credit score in check, but the interest added to the balance can make a negative impact on your credit.  Pay as much as you can afford over the minimum billed amount, or, better yet, pay off the balance each month. 
     

  • Late payments not only damage your credit, but if you’re sending it late every month, the late fees and interest on the balance will max that credit card out, and it could take years to pay it off.  Set up an auto-pay plan or mail your payment a week in advance of the due date. 
     

  • Spending just to receive rewards is a good way to get you into credit trouble!  Sure, those rewards are great, but they’re usually a small percentage of your purchases.  The added interest will be far more than any rewards you’re seeking and will cost much more in the end. 
     

  • Cash advances may seem like help, but the interest on them starts as soon as that money is in your hand, and there are usually extra fees involved.  Cash advances are essentially cash loans and are treated as such.  Beware of “convenience” checks your card company offers to you because they are cash advances in disguise. 
     

  • Maxing out your balance, or worse, spending over your credit limit, is a good way to reduce your credit score.  The over-balance fees are tremendous, and not having any available credit left on the card will affect the credit utilization ratio. 
     

  • Tossing your statement without reading it can cause you to miss important announcements from the company, as well as fraudulent activity, or changes in your minimum payment due. 
     

  • Using your credit card at the grocery store or to pay utility bills will help in an urgent situation, but only if you can pay the full balance at the end of the month.  If you’re using a credit card for everyday purchases, it’s time to get your finances under control. 

 

Don’t let mistakes cost you money and a good credit rating!  Keep your balance less than 30% of your credit limit, maintain a manageable monthly payment, and your credit report will benefit.  Credit cards are good tools to use to build credit or keep your score high, but only if used wisely.   

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: mirror

Trick-or-Treat Home Safety Tips!

by Scott Darling


It won’t be long before the streets of your neighborhood are filled with children, and some parents, who will be costumed and carrying bags and buckets for Halloween treats!  Since many homeowners don’t regularly use the front entrance to their home, they may 
not think about all the little feet that will be tramping up the path to your door.  Make sure everyone has a safe trip for their candy by following these tips before October 31! 

 

  • - Do your own walk-up to your front door, and examine everything, including the driveway and front steps.  Make sure there are no loose pieces or large cracks that can cause anyone to take a tumble.  Porch railings should be secure. 
     

  • - Yard decor should be fixed securely so the wind can’t blow it over, or curious little hands cannot pull it down. 
     

  • - Battery-operated LED tea lights are inexpensive and much safer to use in place of lighted candles.  Many options are available for LED’s, including a flickering light that is perfect for your jack o’ lantern. 
     

  • - Speaking of lights, make sure that not only is your porch light switched on, but that the path you’ve created is well-lit. 
     

  • - Decor that hangs from the trees is scary and fun, so make certain they are hanging at least ten feet from the walkway, making certain they don’t obstruct anyone’s view. 
     

  • - Take an afternoon close to Halloween to be sure any shrubbery, trees or edging isn’t in the way of where trick-or-treaters must walk.  Inspect for loose branches in nearby trees and remove them. 
     

  • - If you have room in the garage, consider parking the car there.  The folks that are coming and going would likely appreciate the extra room to pass others. 
     

  • - A constantly-ringing doorbell or persistent knocking can cause your pets some distress and a lot of barking.  Confine them to a room, or even better, to their crate.  Check out these other great tips about your pets and Halloween from the ASPCA. 

  •  

​​Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: asecurelife.com

Get Your Kids Involved in DIY Home Projects!

by Scott Darling


Many people assume that children and home projects don’t go together, but why not?  Oh, sure, electric tools and saws don’t necessarily need to be handled by young ones, but there is so much more than can help you with than a major remodel!  
 

 

  • - Start simple:  cleaning is probably the easiest way to begin engaging your children in home-keeping.  Most love to sweep, dust, vacuum and help with dishes. 
     
     

  • - Little ones are naturally curious about what’s outside, so gardening can be a lot of fun, as well as being educational.  Not only can they assist with planting projects, but even preschoolers can be handy with a rake or help with weeding. 
     

  • - When you’ve decided that your walls need new paint, sit down with the color chip cards, and let them help you decide on color.  Painting the sample swatches on the wall is a great way to introduce a paintbrush or roller, and simple techniques. 
     
     

  • - Planning on purchasing a furniture kit?  Let the children help build it; learning how to follow directions that use symbols and handling simple tools is a great start to working those motor skills in a new way. 
     

  • - Any small repair--tightening drawer pulls, replacing a door handle or sink faucet--can easily involve any age child.  Give them an age-appropriate job, such as passing needed tools, shining a flashlight or using simple tools under your watchful eye. 
     

  • - Putting up new curtains or hanging decor on the walls are great ways to teach school-age kids about using a level or measuring tape.  Math skills in DIY?  Absolutely! 
     

  • - Do you perform your car maintenance?  Everyone should know how to check the oil and other fluids, as well as tire pressure.  Showing your children that keeping the family car in good running condition is as necessary as taking care of the house! 

 

Get your family excited about helping, have patience, and keep them safe while you’re working.   You’ll find that while you’re spending time with them, those DIY jobs will start them on a journey of learning how to be a good homeowner and a handy one at that! 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: plumbzebra

Selling Your Home From Out of State

by Scott Darling


When a move out of state is necessary, selling the house your leaving behind may seem scary. A well-thought-out
 plan is an absolute must for the sale to go smoothly.  Read on for some tips to help you get your home-selling plan in place: 

 

  • - Look for a REALTOR® who has experience with long distance sales and is comfortable handling the process with a seller that isn’t local.  Be available for lots of electronic communication with them. 
     

  • - Find a tax attorney or accountant with a background in handling out-of-state home sales, because you may have double capital gains taxes to pay.  A professional will be able to walk you through the tax process and let you know if there are any credits you can claim at the end of the year. 
     

  • - Unless your current home is paid for, you will have to pay as if you live in two homes once you move.  Bridge loans are always a possibility, and you’ll need to be certain your home sells within a certain time period, as bridge loans are short-term.  Learn more about bridge loans, and decide if one is the right fit for your budget. 
     

  • - Pricing to sell as soon as possible is imperative, so make certain you and your agent are on the same page.  From realtor.com®: “Your for-sale listing will have the most impact as soon as it is published. That’s when you’re most likely to get fair market value for the home—before people start questioning why your house has sat on the market for so long. 
     

  • - Consider a remote closing, especially if you are so far away that when it comes time to close on the property, you have to spend a lot in travel costs. 
     

  • - Consult your insurance agent before you move, as your homeowner’s insurance will need some changes on your policy, as the house will be vacant. 
     

  • - Leave the electricity on, and have timers on outdoor lighting, and in a few rooms inside.  Keep your security system in place, as well. 

 

Be wary of cash offers that aren’t through your real estate agent, as well as calls from those who call themselves investors.  Smart scammers see an empty house and know that the sellers are eager to move on.  In case the sale doesn’t happen within a certain time frame, talk to your agent about whether leasing or renting is a good idea for you.  Just keep in mind that your situation needs a REALTOR® with experience and confidence to handle the transaction. 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

Photo credit: nasbc.co

Before You Buy a Foreclosure

by Scott Darling


While looking through real estate listings, you might be curious when you see a property up for auction or one that is “real estate owned,” and wonder if the price is too good to be true.  There is a process of buying a foreclosure house, and you need to p
repare yourself, so read on for some pointers on what’s involved before you make your decision: 

 

  • - A “Bank-Owned Home” is just that:  the owner stopped making payments, and the lender is in the process of auctioning the home to try and recover the money they loaned.  Houses that are “Real Estate Owned” mean that the bank’s auction didn’t result in a sale and is being sold through a real estate agent. 

  • - Vacant homes can have all sorts of issues: mold, vandalism, pest issues, stolen copper piping, and neglected landscaping are just a few.  Before you make a bid, go and see the home for yourself, and decide if you can afford the sale price plus the cost of repairs. 

  • - Hire an inspector to go to the house with you so you’ll have an idea of exactly what needs to be done.  You don’t want to underestimate renovation costs. 

  • - When considering the asking price, and you have taken steps to get a contractor bid on all the rehab, use this formula to calculate your offer:  80% of the appraised value minus the cost of repairs. 

  • - Investing in a foreclosure as a rental will require less trendy but rugged materials and flipping to resell might be more expensive (and more headache!).  Moving into the home yourself can keep initial costs in check if you’re willing to do what’s necessary before moving in and holding off on upgrades. 

  • - Some foreclosure purchases must be made in cash, and that can put investors at an advantage. In case cash isn’t a requirement for the purchase, have proof of pre-approval from your lender when you make your offer. 

 

Whatever your reason for your interest in buying a foreclosed home, make sure you do your research, and talk to your bank as well as an experienced REALTOR®.  Search for foreclosures by locality and beware of anyone offering to sell “their property” that is in foreclosure.  Con artists are smart enough to find vacant properties to pass off as their own, sell them, and take the money and run. Educating yourself on the foreclosure purchase process will make for a smoother process, less stress, and hopefully an investment that will pay off for you! 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: ballennetwork.com

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for August 2019

by Scott Darling

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for August 2019

Chester County PA single-family homes saw pending sales increase by 7.7% in August 2019 when compared to August 2018. 646 homes sold in August with a median sales price of $375,000.  The average sales price increased by 1.2%, and homes were on the market 6 days more.

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Emergency Home Generator Basics

by Scott Darling


Advertisements for full-house generators make you wonder if you really should invest in one, despite
 the high cost.  Having your home in full power during an emergency would be a comfort, but are they worth it?  There are less costly options out there, but only you can decide what’s best for your home and family. 

 

Portable Power 

  • - Portable generators are great for providing electricity to essentials:  lamps, refrigerators, freezers, fans or plug-in heaters. 

  • - Most are fueled by gasoline, and the tank must be filled as it runs, so there is a bit of labor involved.   

  • - The engines on portable generators are noisy (think lawn mower noise).   

  • - Generators that run via a solar panel are available, and the technology is getting better, but the initial cost is higher.  Keep in mind that you’ll save on fuel expenses in the end. 

  • - Prices vary with how many kilowatts you’ll need, and your budget should include enough for appropriate extension cords for each device you plan on connecting to the generator. 

 

Stand-By Energy 

  • - In order to provide power to everything in the house, including HVAC, a stand-by whole house generator is the best choice, as it will be connected to your home’s electrical system. 

  • - A stand-by system can be fueled with natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.  These types of units run more quietly than the portables and are fuel efficient. 

  • - Whole house units will cost the most, as they are ready to go almost the instant you lose utility power, require professional installation, and possibly local permits.   

  • - Installation should be done by a certified electrician, and some offer a package deal that includes the unit and installation in one price. 

 

Whatever type of generator you choose, get the size and type of generator that meets your needs, not exceeds them. There’s no need to waste money!  If you’re unsure of  just how much energy you’ll need, ask-the-electrician.com has some helpful information as well as a sizing  calculator.  Though you’ll only need it during emergencies, you want to know that you’ve made the right choice for your home, your needs, and your wallet. 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: Lowes

Get Your Home in a Good Mood!

by Scott Darling


Hopefully, walking in the door of your home after a long day at work starts turning off the stressors of the day so you can recharge for the next.  If there is anything about your house that doesn’t give you a good feeling, it may be time for some redecorating!  Here are 
6 things you can do to create a comfortable atmosphere at home: 

 

  • - An unkempt yard or dirty, cluttered home can keep us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Once a room is cleaned, and piles of mail or schoolwork is organized, try to keep it that way.  If yard work is getting you down, find an affordable landscaping company or neighbor to get the grass mowed, leaves raked, or flower beds weeded. 
     

  • - You may not have had time to paint or do small redecorating projects when first purchased the house, and that outdated wallpaper or color is bringing you down. Color influences us, so when you are dreaming of Tiffany blue dining room walls, but yours are hunter green, take a weekend to get it done!  
     

  • - Light is so important to how we feel!  Keep shades and blinds open to allow sunlight to shine in, and that’s free!  Spending a little to improve poor lighting in a room with lamps, sconces and brighter bulbs is a mood-booster, as we are naturally drawn to light.  Add inexpensive battery-operated LED lighting to the underside of kitchen cabinetry, bookshelves and china cabinets. 
     

  • - According to Healthline, plants can boost our mood and provide many other benefits!  Where real plants aren’t practical, faux greenery will do, and it never needs watering. 
     

  • - One thing that can cause issues is keeping something on display that isn’t everyone’s favorite.  If there’s anything in a room that gives anyone a bad feeling or brings up memories they’d rather forget, remove it.   
     

  • - Aromatherapy is certainly a current trend, but scents do affect us in many ways.  There are so many ways to add a pleasant aroma to your home, so choose the most convenient method, along with a couple of different scents you love, and use them.  When you get used to smelling one, change it out with another.   

 

Finally, and most importantly, decorate with items you love.  Home shouldn’t be making you feel stressed, so hanging a piece of art that was a bargain, but you never really liked, isn’t a good bargain.  Walking into your home filled with things that bring you joy or peace--well, there’s no substitute. 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: livehappy.com

Allergies and Your Home

by Scott Darling


Allergies are something we normally associate with Springtime and pollen, but our homes and yards are sources for allergies year-round.  We can combat all
 the histamine-producing allergens, and it may take some work, but it can certainly cut back on our suffering. 

 

Inside 

  • - Bedrooms are likely the main culprit of allergies.  Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite-proof covers.  Wash bedding weekly in the hot water, and the fewer throw pillows and decorative bedding we have, the better. 
     

  • - Obviously, there are allergens in dust, so while you dust, wear a mask, and clean top-to-bottom. 
     

  • - Opt for hard flooring with wool or wool-blend area rugs.  When you must deal with wall-to-wall carpet, vacuum often, and have them steam-cleaned at least twice a year. 
     

  • - Speaking of vacuums, make sure yours has a HEPA filter, and keep the appliance clean. 
     

  • - Start the habit of removing shoes as you come in the door.  Have a pair of indoor-only slip-on shoes to wear around the house.  Having a doormat outside and one inside as people walk in will cut down on pollen and mold being brought inside as well. 
     

  • - Machine washable slipcovers are perfect for upholstery, but on occasion, go over the sofa and any other fabric-covered furniture with the vacuum. 
     

  • - Use bleach or other mold-killers as you clean bathrooms and watch for mold growth anywhere water is used. 
     

Outside 

 

  • - Wear a maskis while mowing--the blades of your mower are stirring up all types of mold spores, and you may blame it on grass, but your allergies could be coming from the mold. 
     

  • - Keeping your grass fertilized will inhibit growth of weeds that can make you sniffle and sneeze. 
     

  • - If you love to garden, but not sure what to plant so you won’t feel miserable while you’re working, check out these tips from HGTV. 
     

  • - That morning walk or jog is great for your general health, but if you must deal with allergies, move your exercise time to evenings when pollen is low. 
     

  • - Shower as soon as you come in, or at least, change clothes that pollen and other allergens cling to. 
     

  • - Wipe the pets down with a damp cloth whenever they come in from outside, as their fur is the perfect place for irritants to hitch a ride. 

 

The best tip is not to allow allergies to control your life.  Talk to your doctor about antihistamines that you can take so you can enjoy the great outdoors and so you won’t feel like you should be cleaning every single day.  Allergies can make life miserable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 


Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: health.howstuffworks.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