Electrical System Updates


If you fall in love with an older home, chances are you will need to update the electrical system at some point.  Here are three things to keep in mind.  First, electrical needs have changed significantly since your home was built.  One hundred years ago and even fifty years ago, home just didn’t have the large number of electricity sucking appliances that we have now.  In order to run your home’s electrical system safely and efficiently the average home needs a 200-amp panel at minimum.  Next, you need dedicated circuits for your heavy electronics.  Remember that devices that such a lot of electricity such as stoves, air conditioners, microwaves, and clothes dryers will need their own dedicated circuits.  It is okay for most lights and outlets to share a circuit.  Also, don’t forget to protect yourself.  Be sure that any outlets and switches near water sources (including sinks, toilets, hose nozzles, etc.) need to be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter.  A GFCI shuts off the circuit as soon as water is present.  This safety precaution can prevent shock and even death.  All of the outlets outdoors as well basements, garages, and bathrooms are also required to have this protection.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you — 302-629-6693.

Winterize Your Home Now


We are well into fall now, and winter is quickly approaching.  Now is the perfect time to winterize your home if you haven’t already.  Here are some winterization steps that every homeowner should take:

1.  Change your furnace filters.  This maximizes your home’s efficiency in one easy and inexpensive step.

2.  Check the roof.  Examine your roof for leaks and replace shingles as needed.  Heavy snow and ice can cause minor leaks to become major leaks in a hurry which is not only dangerous, but also much more expensive.

3.  Check weatherstripping.  Check the areas around your doors and windows to be sure that you are keeping your heat in and drafts out.  Replacing and adjusting weatherstripping as necessary creates a seal and keeps warm air in and cold air out, which effectively saves you money.

4.  Care for your yard.  Rake and bag leaves, put away all loose outdoor tools and furniture, and consider fertilizing your lawn with a winter fertilizer.  This will keep your yard safe when winter winds blow and set you up for having a gorgeous lawn in the spring.

5.  Close foundation vents.  Foundation vents should be open during the spring and summer to let moisture escape from your crawl space and closed during the fall and winter to protect against freezing.  Now’s the time to close them up!

Looking to buy or sell a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

3 Great Projects To Tackle Now


With the holidays just around the corner and the weather beginning to chill, November is a grea time to do these projects around the house:

1.  Add insulation.  To keep your home comfortable and energy costs down the most important place you can insulate is your attic, and specifically your attic floor.  The basic purpose of insulation is to keep heat from escaping, and to do that there are certain guidelines that you can follow.  With a little research and a little work you can stay warm and save a bundle too!

2.  Seal drafts.  Even a tiny draft can ruin the benefit of good insulation.  Seal gaps around electrical outlets, ducts, windows and doors with foam sealant.  If you live in an older home or have old windows in your home you may even want to consider covering them with a layer of plastic for the winter.  It’s not the prettiest solution, but it will lower your energy costs, perhaps even significantly.

3.  Inspect your ductwork.  This is the perfect time of year to have your ductwork inspected for leaks and other issues.  Repairing faulty ductwork not only helps your energy efficiency, but it also extends the life of your furnace.  An expert can also recommend other ways to improve your energy efficiency and save money on your heating costs, so it’s not a bad idea to have one come out.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Things to Consider Before Refinishing a Basement


Basements are versatile rooms that add useful living space to any home, but refinishing them poorly is not only a waste of money, but can also detract from the value of your home.  Spending time planning, researching, and fixing any existing issues before you begin work will save you a lot of hassle and money in the long run!  Consider these five basement refinishing tips…

Safety Standards and Zoning Codes.  Make sure all access points meet safety standards – do the stairs from the inside of the house meet building codes?  Are there any exterior entrances or does there need to be?  Is the ceiling high enough?  Will any structural support be altered?  Is there enough airflow?  Have you gotten any permits that you need for the work you’re planning to do?  And if you’re planning to refinish your basement as a rental unit, you will need to check with your local municipality to be sure that rentals are allowed in your neighborhood.

Have a Plan for Keeping It Dry.  Lots of basements flood.  If you want to finish your basement, you need to make sure the exterior of your house has good drainage.  If you have an older house, this is especially important.  If you’ve recently purchased your house, consider living in it for a year before making any plans to finish the basement.  See what it’s like in all seasons, so that you know what kind of moisture issues you are dealing with.  If your basement has moisture issues, take care of them before you do any finishing work.  Whether you need to install a drain, re-landscape for better drainage, reroute your gutters, install a sump pump, or waterproof the exterior of your house, not taking care of the issue before you finish your basement is like throwing time and money down the drain.

Know Your Purpose.  Finishing a basement just to have it finished is a bad idea.  Decide beforehand how the space is going to be used.  Will it be a family room?  An office?  Converted into bedrooms?  A media room?  A game room?  Your plans for the room will factor into your design and ultimately the amount of time and money it takes to do the work.  For example, a game room might just need some walls, flooring, and paint.  But more extensive projects will require you to think about electrical wiring, plumbing, and ventilation well in advance of starting the project.

Decide How To Weather-Proof.  There is no sense in refinishing an area that is too cold to use in the winter and too hot to use in the summer.  There are many different methods of insulating, and you should research them to decide what type will work best for your house.  In addition to insulation you want to make sure you have the proper heating and/or air conditioning installed in the space as well.  This might mean rerouting or adding duct work to your home, installing small wall units, or even upgrading your home’s existing system if it is not equipped to handle heating or cooling the extra space.  Again, you will want to do all of this research before you start any work so that you don’t end up with any big, unexpected costs, or worse, a lovely finished basement that can only be used for a few weeks out of the year due to climate control issues.

Choose the Finishing Touches.  There are so many options for finishing the ceilings, walls, and floors of your newly improved space that you will want to do some research ahead of time.  A lot of these choices will depend on what you plan on using the space for (see #3), and I’m not suggesting you have every last detail down to your paint colors chosen before you start any work.  It is in your best interest, however, to do some research and narrow down your decisions ahead of time.  Putting this thought in before any work begins will prevent your costs from skyrocketing at the very end of the project.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

Update Your Kitchen Cabinets


Kitchen cabinets can really be the thing that make or break a house.  If yours are in need of an upgrade, but you don’t have the money to replace them, consider refacing them instead.  When you reface cabinets you replace the cabinet doors and fronts but keep the frames intact and just refinish any showing pieces, such as end pieces to match the new cabinet doors.  Refacing takes less time and is less expensive than a complete replacement.  Even less expensive, is refinishing all of the cabinetry yourself, although this is not a project for those with little patience.  Refacing or refinishing cabinetry won’t do anything to improve the layout or functionality of your kitchen, but it can be a good facelift for a tired, but otherwise useful kitchen.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel


Last week I wrote about tips for budget friendly makeovers.  All of those still apply here, but there are also some specific tips that apply only to kitchen remodels that can be of use if you are trying to stick to a budget.

First, in addition to prioritizing, make sure to consider your culinary needs when choosing appliances.  If most of your cooking consists of reheating or calling for takeout, then choosing an expensive, top of the line stove just for looks is not your best use of money.  Another way to save money on your appliances is to skip options and extras that aren’t necessary for your needs.

Additionally, rather than focusing on buying things such as a light fixture or faucet at a discount, do your best to take advantage of savings on your big-ticket items such as cabinets, counter tops, and appliances to get the most bang for your buck.

Another great tip is to mix and match high and low end products for an affordable blend.  For example, affordable cabinets with decorative high end hardware can have the look of custom cabinets, or since the eye is drawn up rather than down, put your money into a beautiful backsplash and scale back on the countertop material.

Another way to save on cabinetry is to forgo custom and retrofit the cabinets that you choose with roll-outs, dividers and other similar items from storage shops for a far less expensive solution than custom work.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-629-6693.

Tips for Budget Friendly Makeovers


Whether you’re looking for a quick makeover or a complete renovation, here are a few tips to help you stick to your budget.

1.  Negotiate.  Ask everyone if there’s any flexibility in the price and negotiate your heart out!  You’d be surprised where you can get discounts.

2.  Prioritize.  If you have a limited budget chances are you won’t be able to do everything on your “wish list,” but you can do the ones you care most about if you prioritize before you begin the work.

3.  Shop Surplus.  Ask vendors and showrooms about overstocks, floor models, closeouts and other sales and be flexible with your vision to include these deals when possible.

4.  Shop Secondhand.  Salvage yards, flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales and stores like Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore are great places to source inexpensive makeover materials.  You never know what you might find, so they’re definitely worth checking out.

5.  DIY.  Do-it-yourself is a good way to stick to a budget.  Doing your own grunt work can save you a bundle, just don’t try to do things you can’t handle, because then you’ll end up paying someone extra to come in and fix your mistakes before they can do the work.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-629-6693.

5 Simple Tips to Maximize Kitchen Storage


No matter how large your kitchen is, it always seems that every kitchen needs more storage.  Here are five tips for maximizing the storage your kitchen already has:

1.  Corral your lids.  By mounting a drawer for pot lids directly under your pot shelf you will be able to corral your lids and create a more efficient kitchen.

2.  A second utensil drawer.  Utensils drawers tend to be a deep jumbled mess of interlocking utensils and other handy tools.  By building a sliding tray that creates two shallower spaces in one drawer you can organize your utensils more efficiently.

3.  Add upright storage.  Keep baking trays, cutting boards, and other difficult to store items that take up a lot of flat cabinet space upright by adding a divider to one of your cabinets and creating an upright storage space.

4.  Add shelves.  Take a look in your kitchen cabinets… is there a lot of wasted space?  If so, add an additional shelf to your cabinet by cutting some plywood to fit and purchasing a bag of shelf supports.

5.  Utilize cabinet doors.  Your cabinet doors offer many storage options such as a built in knife rack, hooks for storing measuring cups or spoons, narrow racks for storing spices, and more.  Depending on what would best suit your space, a quick internet search is bound to bring up many suggestions for cabinet door storage that I would recommend taking a look at.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

3 DIY Fixes for Plumbing Problems


Some common plumbing problems can be easily fixed with just a few dollars and a little bit of elbow grease.  Here are three common problems that you can fix on your own:

1.  Stop Sprayer Woes.  If your sink sprayer always seems to be caught, it’s probably getting caught on the shut-off valves below.  Covering the pipes and shut-off valves with ½ inch foam pipe insulation will take care of the problem for just a couple of dollars.  If it won’t stay on, just add a bit of tape to keep it in place.

2.  Get The Creak Out.  Copper piping can creek a lot when it expands and grinds against joists and other things above it.  If this is your problem, just purchase some adhesive-backed felt at the hardware store, cut it into strips, remove each hanger and wrap the pipe in the felt before refastening it to the hanger, which will silence the creaking.

3.  Fix Your Toilet.  If something hard like a toy, toothbrush, or other foreign object is dropped in your toilet, using a plunger may only lodge it further down.  Using a wet/dry vac instead to suck out the water and the object is a much better option.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Tips for Maximizing A Small Bathroom


If you have a small bathroom, try these tips for maximizing your space:

  • Brighten it up.  A space that is light and bright always seems larger, and light actually improves functionality, so adding both recessed and task lighting to your bathroom will help maximize your space.  Task lighting around the mirror and over the shower are particularly important.
  • Utilize your medicine cabinet.  Choosing a medicine cabinet that is flush with the wall will offer just enough storage for essentials and open up the space at the same time.  Choosing a deeper medicine cabinet might store more, but it also protrudes into the room and takes up space.
  • Wall mount your sink.  A wall mounted sink can be stylish and take up far less space than traditional sinks.  If you don’t like the look of a wall mounted sink, choose a pedestal sink over a full vanity for greater space efficiency.
  • Get rid of the tub.  Unless you absolutely need a tub, consider getting rid of it and opting for a walk-in shower instead.  You can build a comfortably sized shower in fraction of the space that a tub takes up, and in addition to giving the room more space, the convenience of comfort of this type of shower is often underestimated.
  • Use your corners.  Corner sinks can make the most of your space, adding both form and function without taking up too much space.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

Home Projects You Can Handle Yourself


If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself project that will be usefull in the long run, consider one of these tried and true projects that are relatively easy and inexpensive:

Motion Detector Lights.  Motion Detector Lights are not just for outdoor use, you can install them indoors as well to make your life easier.  For example, install one in your laundry room so that the light goes on and off automatically when you enter and exit.  Many of these light fixtures are easy to install and can be found at your local hardware store.

Rollout Cabinets.  Nothing is more convenient than rollouts in your cabinets, especially if they are deep and hard to access every inch.  You can convert cabinets in your kitchen, bathroom, garage, or really anywhere that you have a cabinet that could be more convenient.

Garage Shelving.  If you need more storage in your garage, don’t disregard the space near the ceiling.  Installing a high shelf all the way around the perimeter gives you a lot of added storage.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

5 Ways To Utilize Wasted Space Under Your Stairs


The space under stairs is often underutilized, if not wasted.  Here are five ideas for creating practical storage in this space.

1.  Shelves.  Building custom shelves into this space is a relatively simple, but practical way to create storage without much effort.

2.  Drawers.  Creating custom stairs where each step is also a drawer can add a significant amount of storage to your home.

3.  Pull out shelves.  This idea is a combination of the first two, but creating shelves that pull out give you both decorative storage and hidden storage.

4.  Closet.  You can turn the space under your stairs into closet space by adding a door in the back for a deep storage space, or doors on the side for a long storage space, depending on what is more practical for your situation.

5.  Office space.  By opening up the space under your stairs, you can build an office directly into this space and create it in such a way to flow into the rest of your room.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

3 Ways To Organize Your Bedroom This Weekend


If you’re looking for ways to organize your bedroom, check out some of these ideas:

1.  Organize Wall Hangings.  Clear clutter by hanging taking what’s important to you, framing it or mounting it, and creating a wall display.

2.  Use Your Corners.  Installing corner shelving or a corner table can add usefulness to underutilized parts of your bedroom.

3.  Float Your Shelves.  Installing floating shelves offers abundant storage without the bulkiness of large storage units.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Take Care Of Your Grout


If you have grout anywhere in your home than chances are that you’ve spent a lot of time and elbow grease trying to get those lines clean, which can be very difficult!  The best way to get this clean is to start with a solution of half vinegar, half water in a spray bottle.  Spray the grout and let sit for five minutes.  If the stain is a tough one, cover it in a paste of baking soda and water and then spray the vinegar solution and watch it foam.  With a stiff-bristled brush, scrub and rinse with plain water.  For super stuck on stains, you can use a product that contains oxygen bleach, just don’t use chlorine bleach, which can break down the grout.  If you’re past the point where cleaning your grout helps, it may be time to replace it.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Tips For Staying Within Your Renovation Budget


If you’re planning a renovation, whether small or large, staying within your budget is a huge stressor and can be difficult!  One of the best ways to preemptively avoid breaking the budget is to work with a designer to work out all of the details of your project before hiring a contractor.  Yes, you will have to pay up front for the design plan, but then you will have specific details to ask contractors to bid on and you will have specific parameters and can make adjustments from there.  Without that plan, you are susceptible to every unexpected thing that comes up which is usually what blows the budget.  Another thing you can do is prioritize your materials to what is going to make the biggest impact on your room and then surround those materials with less expensive things rather than choose the priciest materials for every surface.  Finally, avoid last minute changes which are the costliest of all!  One delay or change can set off a chain of delays and cost adjustments that make a budget a thing of the past.  Again, this is where an initial plan will be helpful because putting time and thought into these decisions in the first place negates the need for last minute switches later on.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

5 Ways To Make Your House Smart


If you’re looking to increase your home’s technological presence, check out these five cool ways to make your home smarter:

1.  Home Automation Systems.  Hooking your lighting and appliances up to a home automation system is a great way to ease into smarter home technology.  Many companies sell this type of technology at a variety or price points.

2.  Video Doorbell.  A video doorbell will allow you to see and even talk with visitors before you open the door.  And if you’re not home, you can view snapshots of who was at your door while you were away.

3.  Programmable Thermostat.  If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, getting one can save you a significant portion of your heating and cooling costs.  Some are so intelligent they can even program themselves after learning your schedule!

4.  Water Saver.  There are systems available that keep track of your water usage and automatically alert you to your water usage so that you can save water… and they really work!

5.  Smart Lock.  There are new locks available that use keyless technology downloaded to a smart phone to control your locks.  With these you can even let guests in remotely and keep track of who has locked and unlocked your door without ever being home.  Many of these can also be operated manually so that during a phone, internet, or power outage there are no issues.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

3 Bathroom Storage Solutions You Can Do Yourself


Everyone needs more storage in their bathroom.  Take advantage of these handy, do-it-yourself ideas to create more in yours:

1.  Hidden Toothbrush Holder.  Cut notches in your medicine cabinet shelf for storing toothbrushes and they will be kept vertical and out of the way.

2.  Install a Glass Shelf.  Installing a shelf in the shower is a great way to get the clutter of bottles, etc. under control.  There are many options, but a tempered safety glass shelf won’t break up the visual line of the shower either, keeping things crisp, clean, and clutter free.

3.  Corral Cords.  Installing PVC piping on the inside of your vanity door to store curling irons and their cords – you need 5” lengths of 2” diameter piping for the curling irons and 3” pieces of 1 ½” diameter piping fo the cords.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Weekend Projects To Change The Feel Of Your Home

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Looking for a quick pick-me-up for your home?  Try these projects, which shouldn’t take more than a day or two to complete!

1.  Add Molding:  Any room can be improved with the finishing touch of crown molding, and you can match the style of molding not only with your own personal taste but also with the architectural style of your home – it’s win, win!

2.  Change Up Your Interior Doors: Your interior doors are often overlooked as necessary, but they don’t necessarily have to be boring to be useful.  Considering replacing interior doors with more unique or stylish counterparts.

3.  Put Your Lights on Dimmers:  Adding dimmer switches to your light fixtures is one of the quickest, easiest, and least expensive ways to add ambiance to any room.

4.  Install a Ceiling Fan:  Installing a ceiling fan is a relatively inexpensive way to cut down on your cooling costs and shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.

5.  Style Your Staircase:  By adding some distinctive rails, architectural embellishments, or even a coat of paint you can give your staircase a whole new look.  The best part of this project is that you can get as creative as you’d like!

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County, give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-644-2266.

Five Tips For Hiring A Contractor


If you are considering hiring a contractor to do work in (or outside!) your home, consider the following tips:

1.  Start with research.  This includes asking friends and family for recommendations, as well as checking out more unusual avenues for recommendations like lumber yards, building contractors, and others in the business.  After you have recommendations call around and ask some key questions and then meet face to face with several contractors before choosing one.

2.  Investigate.  When you have narrowed your list down, check with your local Better Business Bureau and/or consumer protection agency to see if there is any history of disputes.  You can also ask for a list of recommendations when interviewing contractors and call to check them.  You can even ask some if you see the work first hand.

3.  Get bids.  Get bids from several contractors and ask for a breakdown of material cost, labor cost, other expenses, and profit.  Don’t less price guide you however, because those who throw out a low-ball bid are probably desperate which isn’t a good sign.  Additionally, assess your comfort level with each contractor.  In the end it may be worth it to pay a little bit more for someone you can communicate well with.

4.  Set a payment schedule.  A contractor that asks for a huge chunk of the cost up front may have financial problems or worry that you will not pay your balance once you see the work, so asking for a payment schedule up front is one way you can see about the contractor’s work ethic.  Typically you should expect to pay about ten percent up front, the final 10-20 percent when the project is completed and the rest spaced out in payments (usually 2-4) over the course of the work.

5.  Get it in writing.  When you’ve decided on a contractor, get everything in writing, including the payment schedule, start date, projected completion date, list of materials and products to be used, proof of insurances, and anything else you need or discussed.

Thinking of buying or selling a home in Sussex County?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you – 302-856-6434.

Update Your Home For $500 or Less



If you’re trying to sell your house you can do a lot to increase the value without spending a lot of money.  Here are five ways that can cost less than $500.

1.  Paint
I will never get tired of saying it.  Paint your house if you want to increase its value!  Not only do neutral colors make your home seem more desirable to the majority of people, but freshly painted rooms also look clean and updated… a strong selling point!

2.  Clean
Even if you clean your house regularly, there are most likely spots you overlook or can’t get to.  If you hire a cleaning service to come and do the dirty work then your house will be able sparkle from top to bottom and make the best possible first impression to potential home buyers.

3.  Go Green
Replacing loud, broken, or simply outdated light figures or ceiling fans with new, energy efficient fixtures will increase your bottom-line without costing too much.

4.  Scrape off the popcorn
If your home has popcorn ceilings, dedicate a weekend to bringing it into the 21st century by scraping the popcorn away.  Getting rid of this dated look will instantly update the value of your home.

5.  Update the Bathroom
Even if you can’t afford an entire remodel, spending a little bit of cash on a face lift will increase your bottom line.  Things like replacing old wallpaper, a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures, and new faucet & hardware can make the room seem brand new!

Thinking of buying or selling your home?  Give us a call at Cooper Realty Associates and put us to work for you –302-644-2266!