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Top 6 Delaware Autumn Home Improvement Hotspots

Sep 22, 2016

Spring cleaning season remains the time of year for Delaware’s most rigorous home improvement efforts, but fall is also an opportune time to dig into some preventive home maintenance chores. Homes that get their owners’ attention on a regular basis don’t just hold more of their value with less expense—they also add some extra value: peace of mind.

These six top-level maintenance tasks may consume a weekend day or two, but will ultimately pay off by eliminating preventable deterioration:

  1. If your Delaware roof has gutters, now is a time to clear them. It’s only “a” time because there should be a second round. After fall winds have deposited nature’s bounty of tree leaves and pine needles and everything else that could possibly pile up in them, it will be time to do a final clearing out. If you wait until then to tend to the gutters, there’s a good chance that sludgy goo will have formed beneath the autumn debris.
  2. Door seals. Weather stripping around inevitably decomposes over time, and hinges wear down. You can find doorjamb weatherstrip kits at the hardware store, and replacing foam tape that’s lost its oomph takes just minutes. For sliding glass doors that take too much muscle to budge, it’s worth getting down on hands-and-knees to deep clean the tracks—then follow up with some WD-40 sprayed into the roller workings.
  3. Windows. Window insulation is right up there with the doors as key entry points for heat and cold (the kind of heat and cold that show up in Delaware energy bills). If you are stumped by how to renew the weatherproofing on some kinds of windows, Google and Bing are there to help. Search for “window weatherproofing” using the “images” choice, and see if there’s a YouTube video for one that looks like the window type that has you stumped (there almost always is).
  4. Garden. Clearing summer’s dead and dying growth and re-mulching where it’s needed is easiest to do in Delaware right about now. Resist the temptation to scrimp on sufficient mulch: it isn’t just a pretty face (remember how much labor it saves during weed season?).
  5. Exterior. Now is also Delaware’s easiest time to check for rot, insect infestation, or any other deterioration summer might have wrought on siding and trim. If an exterior paint job is overdue, this could be where my promise about just a weekend day or two might have been overly optimistic. But a fresh coat of paint now, before winter hits town, can be a meaningful budget saver in the long run.
  6. Deck. If you have a deck that takes stain, you have to do it again. Sorry, but it’s really true: the value of stain is that you only have to wash the deck and roll it on…but you do have to do it to cover the worn areas and protect the wood. 

Those are the most frequently-cited fall home improvement hotspots. If this summer’s Delaware weather has been more punishing than usual on your Delaware home, you might have some additional areas to mind—but for most homeowners, conscientiously attending to these should ensure a winter’s worth of peace of mind. One of my contributions (when it’s time to sell) is to help point out areas that buyers might think need improvement—and a well-maintained home will have very few of those. I hope you will feel free to give me a call whenever any questions arise on that score—or for anything connected with Delaware’s real estate market! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at, visit more listings at

Top 6 FAQs for Delaware Home Buyers

Sep 22, 2016

Like careful consumers who are investigating any major purchase, Delaware home buyers need to address some of the same basic queries. Among home buyers, those who already own Delaware homes may think they have different questions than do first-timers, but even for those who have successfully navigated the process before, if it’s been a while since then, some basics may need refreshing:

  1. 1.           Should I buy or rent? This is quite rightly the lead question any Delaware home buyer needs to answer. It’s not one that many Delaware residents who are already home owners spend a lot of time on since the answer for their own family has already been a “yes.” For them, unless some major changes have come to pass, they can safely assume that homeownership is still a no-brainer.
  2. 2.           How do I get started? There are two good answers here: Get a mortgage pre-approval, and/or tap the services of a greate Delaware Realtor®. Although a lender’s pre-approval isn’t a requirement, getting a green light in advance can’t help but create a positive atmosphere with sellers and their representatives. It demonstrates serious intent—and in a competitive situation could even wind up winning the day.
  3. 3.           What’s the right credit score to buy a house? 620-650. Okay, okay—I know there’s actually no number that’s truly the “right” credit score for all circumstances. It depends on so many possible outside factors that the exceptions are too numerous to list. That 620 number (and higher) does seem to be one that lenders like to see; with 580 the common minimum low down payment FHA qualifier…but that can even be less in order to qualify for the FHA 10% down payment program. The only bullet-proof answer for the “right” credit score is—the best one you can build!
  4. 4.           How much will the down payment be? This one depends on the Delaware property you choose, the home loan you select—and also, to a degree, on how much you want to pay. It used to be common sense that you should pay as much as you can afford in order to minimize the amount of interest you wind up paying over the life of the home loan. But with interest rates as low as they are today, some financial gurus are less confident about that advice: there may be more lucrative ways cash can be put to work.
  5. 5.           How much do I have to pay my agent? Nothing. The buyer’s agent fee is paid by the seller.
  6. 6.           Should I use a real estate brokerThis answer comes from the website: “Using a real estate broker is a very good idea.” As HUD says, “the details involved in home buying, particularly the financial ones, can be mind-boggling.”

Needless to say, that last Top Home Buyer FAQ is a personal favorite. It’s really just another way of saying, “call me!” Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at, visit more listings at

Delaware Readers Stymied in Search for Popular House Styles

Sep 22, 2016

Ever tried to pin down the most popular house style in the U.S.? Turns out—you can’t.

Last week it almost seemed as if the answer was at hand. Delaware readers could have come across the ad link that promised to reveal “The Most Popular House Styles.” The come-hither promise read, “Browse our photo gallery for the most popular housing styles and types in America.”

The most likely reason for clicking would have been for Delaware homeowners to find out how popular their own home’s style is considered to be. If it’s the Most Popular of all, when it came time to sell, herds of popularity-seeking American buyers could come rushing over for a showing!

 If that were the goal, the first mouse click would have dashed the hope, for it showed a photo of an unadorned two-windowed center-chimneyed home that couldn’t have been larger than 400 square feet. This first style—Number 1—was the “Cape Cod Style” home.

Since few could be persuaded that Capes are the runaway #1 Most Popular homes in the U.S., it seemed probable that the author wasn’t going to let us in on the order of popularity. That suspicion was confirmed by #2 of the Most Popular House Styles: “New England Colonial.” Pictured was a 1720 model that looked remarkably well-preserved (but not particularly popular-looking).

If you grew impatient and scanned down the page, you found “Dutch Colonial,” then “German Colonial” (a brooding hand-made brick and stone structure). Despite what the ad had promised, this was more like an Every Conceivable House Style list rather than a true Most Popular one. It was a very long page, ultimately chronicling no fewer than 57 different house styles. This was clearly not going to deliver on its promise—but the question it raised was nonetheless an interesting one. What are the Most Popular house styles in the U.S.? Actually, what is the Most Popular?

You’d think that the answer would be most likely to come from the National Association of Realtors®—but it was not to be. At least the NAR has pared the Most Popular list down to its Top 20, but heading the list is “Tudor.” I can agree that in Delaware (or in any town in Delaware), Tudors may be greatly admired. But across the whole country, they’re not likely to rank as Most Popular.  

Down there at the bottom of the NAR list are three that could be serious contenders: “Midcentury Modern,” “Traditional Ranch” and “Contemporary Style.” They could be Most Popular since all three are architecturally vague—so more homes could fit the categories. An example was “Traditional Ranch,” which can have either brick, wood, or stucco siding. Even vaguer was the Huffington Post’s top pick: “Craftsman style.” Quite a few Delaware homes could qualify, since Craftsman style homes are “often bungalows but may be of any shape so long as they emphasize a relationship with nature and the craft of construction.” If you’re thinking that every house in Delaware is “of any shape” and “has a relationship with the craft of construction,” I’m with you.

Ultimately, there doesn’t seem to be a proven Most Popular house style—which may be just as well, since any style can sell quickly or slowly due to many other factors. The most popular style for any home buyer is, after all, the home that happens to appeal to him or her. Putting that buyer together with that home is how I help—and a fine reason to call me! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at, visit more listings at

Wandering Delaware Mortgage Rates’ Infinitesimal Moves

Sep 22, 2016

The legendary figure of The Wanderer has different connotations in different cultures. English teachers in Delaware high school classrooms have always taught some of the most famous parts of Homer’s Odyssey—the heroic story of Ulysses, the most famous wanderer. Ulysses wandered in and out of a lot of trouble…

Planets are wanderers, too. During ancient night times, ancient shepherds looked up and watched them meandering restlessly among the stars, so they called them planets (“wanderers”). Dion (of Dion and the Belmonts) was the most celebrated wanderer of the 60s—at least his hit song claimed that he roamed “around around around around”).

In today’s Delaware culture, though, wandering is a lot less glamorous than it’s been through most of history. A modern definition includes the bit about moving around, but most dictionaries include less-than-positive modifiers like “aimless” or “without plan or purpose.”

So when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave a recent speech that Delaware mortgage rate observers hoped would signal the direction where rates are headed, they expected clarity on the Fed’s plan and purpose. Last Thursday, The Washington Post headlined the following days’ financial reaction:

Mortgage Rates Wander Higher but Remain Near Yearly Lows.”

When financial writers talk about mortgage rates that “wander,” it doesn’t really matter in which direction. It means that they’re going up and down in what amounts to wandering’s “aimless manner.” If it signals anything, it’s mainly that the signals from all corners are mixed. At Jackson Hole, Chair Yellen had signaled that the central bank “is moving closer” to raising their benchmark rate, but it seemed that the signal was not too convincing: found that nearly 90% of the experts it talked to think rates will remain unchanged for a while.

As for how the Post could see rates “wandering” higher yet remaining near 2016 lows, it became clear in the paragraphs down below. The average 30-year mortgage rate had changed from 3.43% to 3.46%, remaining stuck in the range that’s lasted all summer (it’s been moving up and down no more than 7 hundredths of a percent). “Wandering” sounds appropriate. Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist said mortgage rates have been “hovering;” but “wandering” sounds at least as apt. What this means for Delaware real estate is perhaps the only really clear signal to emerge. For the moment, Delaware mortgage rates remain appetizingly low, keeping the residential market pegged at historical bargain basement levels.

Best of all, that means it’s still a great time to give me a call! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at, visit more listings at