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8 Things Chester County PA Homeowners Should NOT Be Doing

by Scott Darling


Homeowners know that to-do lists are almost always too long, but what about don’t-do lists? Whether you’re a first-time
 homeowner or have been in your home for ten years, here are a few things you shouldn’t be doing: 

 

  • - Testing the smoke detectors incorrectly:  sure, the battery needs to be checked, but so does the smoke detection.  Light a match, preferably a kitchen match, and blow it out, holding it next to the detector.  If the alarm sounds, great; if not, replace the battery.  You may need a new smoke alarm. 
     

  • - Using incandescent light bulbs:  LED and fluorescent light bulb technology is getting better aesthetically speaking, so the extra cost to replace your incandescent bulb will make up for itself in the end.  You won’t be buying new ones for at least one year, plus your energy costs will decrease. 
     

  • - Keeping the old thermostat:  replace it with a programmable, or even better, a smart thermostat.  You will notice a difference in your electric bill! 
     

  • - Not checking gutter guards:  gutter guards are great for keeping leaves, larger twigs or pine straw from clogging the gutters, but dirt, seeds, as well as other smaller materials can still get in and cause problems.  Check your gutters at least every six months. 
     

  • - Ignoring your roof:  just because you’re not seeing it up close and personal every day, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need inspecting occasionally.  Learn more about how to be kind to your roof here.
     

  • - Setting the mower to the lowest cut:  cutting your grass too far down can cause it to die.  It will not keep you from mowing less!  Cutting the grass 1-3 inches in length will keep it beautifully green. 
     

  • - Planting trees close to the house:  small trees that can reach thirty feet in height should be planted ten feet or more away from your house, while taller trees need to be at least thirty feet away. 
     

  • - Watering the landscaping in the evening:  your way to relax after a long day may be gardening but giving your plants a drink in the evening can cause mildew and other fungi to grow.   

 

Keeping these don’t-do’s in mind will help you save money, besides keep your home safe and in good living condition!  Also think of it as less to do, thus freeing up your time to enjoy being home with your family. 
 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: desertsunsnm.com

Ideas for Shading Your Outdoor Living Spaces

by Scott Darling


You love your outdoor space, but is the afternoon sun stopping you from using if for more than weekend mornings with a cup of coffee?  Closing in the space may not be in the budget, but there are many ways you can shade the area without putting a hole in y
our wallet! 

 

  • Sail Shades For less than $100, purchase a sail shade, a piece of polyethylene fabric, normally cut into rectangles or triangles and grommeted.  Most come with a good length of rope to anchor it to your roof or attach it to a pole.  It’s practically instant shade, and weather-resistant, so it can be left up all Summer.   
     

  • Cabana A breezy cabana can be made from a simple wooden structure, or even piping!  Check out these ideas from Home Decoration Magazine. 
     

  • Vining Shade Build a vertical trellis wall, making sure it’s facing the direction the sun is shining. Plant fast-growing perennial or evergreen vines and train the plants to grow up the trellis.  The trellis itself will shield your space from the sun, and the plants will help as they grow. 
     

  • Slatted Shade Pergolas are beautiful open structures on their own or covered with trailing plants.  The price tag can be big, depending on how it’s done, but wooden pergola kits are available, as well as metal pergola kits for even less.  These instructions from The Created Home show you how to build a simple attached pergola for about $200. 
     

  • Temporary Shade  Lifehacker has a tutorial for a simple canopy that’s easy to put up, and easy to take down.  
     

  • Living Screen Visit a reputable nursery where you can get advice from a grower about good shade trees to plant as a screen around the perimeter of your patio.  Purchasing 6’-10’ trees may be a bit more expensive, but with the right planting and care, the trees will grow and thrive, providing lush, living shade. 
     

  • Container Shade Bamboo is a hardy plant, and easy to grow in containers. Using several containers together will provide lush greenery for shade or a privacy screen.  Find the best bamboo for screening, as well as what containers are best here. 

 

If building or planting your outdoor canopy isn’t your thing, then an extra-large outdoor umbrella will do the trick.  Many models are available, and have extending possibilities, and can rotate to follow the sun’s path.  No matter what you decide to use, take advantage of your own shady spot to unwind after a busy week, move family meals outside, or just soak in the outdoors. 
 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: amazon.com

Breaking the Rules of Home Decorating

by Scott Darling


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

 

Color 

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

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

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

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

 

Finishes 

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

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

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

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

 

Furnishings and Accessories 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: apartmenttherapy.com

Sprucing Up Your Curb Appeal in Just a Weekend!

by Scott Darling


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: talktotucker.com

Renovations and Your Homeowners Insurance

by Scott Darling


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: coldwellbanker.com

Home Projects By Seasons

by Scott Darling


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: servicewhale.com

Before You List Your Chester County PA Home...

by Scott Darling


It’s time to get ready to put your home on the market, and there are some things to think about before you have it listed.  There’s work to be done, and some dos and don’ts that should be taken into consideration if you want your home to sell!
 

 

  • - The exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer sees; paint the siding, if necessary, and make sure the roof is in great shape.   

  • - Clean up the yard, front and back, and add some seasonal plantings for color. 

  • - A deep clean inside is necessary.  Wash windows, (inside and out), walls, draperies, scrub the bathroom’s every cranny, and shampoo the carpets. 

  • - If you have pets or a smoker in the home, a professional clean may be necessary, or even a new coat of paint on the walls. Pet odors and cigarette tar stay on everything.  Ask a friend or neighbor to come in and do a smell test and tackle any issues that they share with you. 

  • - Deciding what colors to paint the walls shouldn’t be of your personal taste.  Choosing neutral colors is best, and don’t stop at the living areas walls--paint every room. 

  • - Check all the doorknobs, and if any are sticking or simply not working, replace with similar hardware, or replace all of them.  It’s also important for all the exterior door locks to be in proper working order and replace any that aren’t. 

  • - Major repairs or restoration should be done by a pro or an experienced DIYer.  If you choose not to make a repair that you know is needed, you’ll have to be up front to your agent, make the needed fix is listed in your disclosure, and be ready to lower your selling price. 

  • - Sellers want their home to stand out, but don’t overdo it!  Using generally popular fixtures and finishes is better than going with the latest trend. 

  • - Even if your storage space is limited, make it appear like there’s plenty of room.  Remove seasonal clothing from closets, as well as occasionally used kitchen gadgets from cabinets and counters, and put them in storage with the rest of your things. 

  • - Consider staging, and if you can’t afford to go full scale, find a designer that will use your furniture and decorative pieces to maximize space, as well as have it looking its best. 

 

Lastly, don’t go it alone; find a RealtorⓇ that knows all that you don’t about selling your home.  Using an agent gets your home “out there,” and will make the process easier for you as well as for the buyer.   

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: realtor.com

For Sale By Owner for Sellers and Buyers

by Scott Darling


Some homeowners think they’ll be saving a ton of money by choosing to sell their home themselves, and unless they’re a real estate agent, that may be so.  If you are interested in a house that is offered for sale by the owner (FSBO) what’s the risk for you
?  Read on to find out why it’s not a good idea for seller or buyer: 

 

Sellers 

  • According to realtor.comⓇ, the listing agent and buyer’s agent split about 6% of the home’s sale price.  You’ll need to calculate how much it costs you to stage and photograph your home, get an MLS number, market the house, take time from work to schedule showings as well as host the showings, do all of the paperwork involved, and contact and pay attorneys and others who are involved in a home sale, and compare it to the commission you believe you’ll give up to an agent.   

  • - To be fair, the seller should offer a 3% commission to the buyer’s agent.  Otherwise, most agents won’t bring anyone who’s interested to your home for a showing. 

  • - Sellers are responsible for any mistakes that have occurred once the transaction is in motion.  If you don’t purchase errors and omissions insurance, you may end up paying out of pocket in court or settle out of court for those mistakes. 

  • - Pricing your home takes more than just an online search for sold homes in your area, and not only can you overprice your house, but you can lose thousands by underpricing. 

  • - Scammers abound and can cost you in many ways.  These criminals target FSBO homeowners, because the scammers are savvy enough to make their offer look legitimate.   
     

Buyers 

  • - Beware the owner’s asking price.  Since the majority of FSBO sellers don’t have the experience to set a good market value on their home, their quote will likely be too high. 

  • - Be prepared to wait some time to see the home.  Most homeowners have full-time jobs, and you’ll have to view the home on their time, with them as your host. 

  • - If a seller tells you their house is in perfect condition, and you can save money by not hiring an inspector, walk away.  Every house even brand-new houses should be inspected before changing hands. 

  • - Ask the seller what fees they plan on paying, and in the case that they ask to share the costs with you, it’s time to find another house. 

  • - Do your own research on the house, make sure the person you’ve talked with is the actual owner, and proceed with caution.  There are scams that involve an empty house, FSBO signs, and scammers who will take your money and run, because they aren’t the rightful owner. 

 

The best advice: hire a RealtorⓇ.  Not only are they the ones taking the risk in selling your home (or not), licensed real estate agents know everything you don’t know about selling and purchasing, devote all their working hours to home-buying, and can protect your investment as well as a buyer’s interests.   

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

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

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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