First of all, a Spoiler Alert: It’s not fair to peek down where the answers are! Now that we’re clear on that, this is a quiz that will tell you how "Decade Sensitive" you are when it comes to Sussex County home décor. It took a little browsing around to put this together, but it sure was fun.

The idea is to match the décor item with the decade it is most closely associated with. Ready? GO!

A. Popcorn Ceilings

B. McMansions

C. Sherwood Green & Stratford Yellow

D. Stainless Steel Appliances

E. Shag Carpets

F. Sustainable Materials

G. Kitchen Islands

The 50s

The 60s

The 70s

The 80s

The 90s

The 2000s

NOW

Now that you’ve matched the items with the decade, you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of ambiguity here, because Sussex County home décor themes didn’t just go in and out of style at the beginnings and ends of decades. The answers are combed from a variety of sources, but here is what the consensus (sort of) agrees on:

THE ANSWERS

The 50s: Answer-C. Sherwood Green and Stratford Yellow were first popularized for kitchen appliances during the postwar era. The 50s can be forgiven for these unnatural apparitions, which might have had something to do with the advent of vinyl flooring in the kitchen …

The 60s: Answer-A. Popcorn Ceilings – Thank you, The 60s, for giving us this innovation. They were popularized for conveying a "textured" look, adding insulation, and cutting down sound. We’ve been scraping them off ever since…

The 70s: Answer-E. Shag Carpets (of course!). Sometimes associated with the 60s, but unmistakably reaching peak popularity in the 70s, a "period when wall-to-wall carpeting was fairly new." Its fluffy look and feel remained popular until The 90s, when it is said to have "faded into oblivion." Hardly—it’s still causing vacuum cleaner jams in Sussex County homes with cool "vintage" décor.

The 80s: Answer-B. McMansions, aka "garage Mahal," "starter castle," and "Hummer home." They may have been around since The 70s, but the term first appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. Even the wisecracking nickname couldn’t curb the irresistible advantages of the mass-produced luxury home. Unexpectedly, some of them turn out to have been quite well-built.

The 90s: Answer-G. Kitchen Islands. If you placed these in The 80s, you’ve got a good argument, because that’s the era when modern kitchen design really took off. In The 90s, though, the ‘island’ first took its place in the majority of new kitchens spacious enough to make it practical. They are still everywhere, so you’re forgiven if you put them in The 2000s or Now.

The 2000s: Answer-F. Sustainable Materials. Even defining "sustainability" can get you into an argument (it could be salvaged wood countertops; might be granite), but the Green movement that took off in The 60s began to get serious government support in the New Millennium.

NOW: Answer-D. Stainless Steel Appliances. You can’t get away from them: today’s prospective Sussex County home shopper is finding glistening stainless steel refrigerator and oven doors in kitchens all over the place. This finish may have been around for more than a decade, but is NOW available at so many price points it’s hard to think of a single décor item that is as widespread—or one that’s more likely to stay popular long into the future.

With or without the stainless steel appliances, if yours is one of the Sussex County homes that will be listing this spring, do give me a call!

One of the most effective ways to maximize your chances of achieving the best residential real estate deal possible lies in your ability to partner effectively with your choice of Sussex County real estate agent. Your agent is your local guide through the complexities of Sussex County's market—your assistant, tutor, and trusted right arm in the enterprise of buying and selling a residence. It’s your agent’s job to make the team an effective one—but for all parts to truly work as a unit, some basic elements should be in place…and clearly understood by everyone:

For prospective buyers, when your real estate agent fully understands your search criteria, the end product is a more focused search that yields the intended results most efficiently. It will conserve an under-appreciated asset (your patience)—and free your schedule by eliminating properties that aren’t right for you. Shopping for a home can lead to a bewildering jumble of options. Simply searching online for properties, or driving around likely neighborhood choices looking for "For Sale" signs is an inefficient and time-consuming stratagem. What’s more, tapping into an agent’s comprehensive understanding of the market—past and present—makes you much more likely to unearth the best value/price offerings as they become available.

For those who are selling a Sussex County home, an experienced agent wades through less-than-serious inquisitors, keeping you from getting bogged down with fruitless showings or unreasonable offers.

A move into an unfamiliar area comes with a certain level of risk. A trusted agent equips you with the insights you would otherwise be missing. It can mean the difference between landing your dream property and buying into a subpar situation—one you might regret for years. You only need imagine buying a home in the warmer months only to be blind-sided when access becomes iffy during the rainy season. An agent will have a more complete understanding of the benefits and disadvantages of all of Sussex County neighborhoods—as well as the ability to help you make an informed choice, irrespective of when you are available or ready to buy.

Establishing a candid relationship with your Sussex County real estate agent will not only afford you a buying or selling experience that’s as untroubled as possible, it will also provide you with a resident’s comprehensive knowledge of all the local factors long-time residents take for granted. Buying or selling, I hope you will consider giving me a call for a no-obligation chat about the current market!

If anyone involved in Sussex County real estate were to try to pick a word to characterize the mortgage industry as a whole, “sentimental” wouldn’t be among them. Especially over the past several years, “frustrated” might be apt, or “hog-tied.” Mortgage issuers been hampered by tough rules developed in reaction to the sub-prime mortgage mess. They certainly wanted to issue more mortgages, if only for their own profitability, but until recently, the lending guidelines made that difficult.

In any case, this is an industry that relies on hard facts and statistics to govern lending decisions. Mortgage industry leaders are therefore not inclined to be overly optimistic, overly pessimistic—nor are they prone to exaggeration in their public pronouncements.

So when the powers-that-be at Fannie Mae come out each quarter with their Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey, the “sentiment” is not the Cry Me a River or You Are the Sunshine of My Life variety. This “sentiment” describes how real estate lenders (presumably including some Sussex County mortgage companies) feel about mortgage business prospects in the coming months. The actual report has a remarkable record of a lack of sentiment: it’s usually pretty much on target.

So it is that when the 2015 first quarter Survey appeared last month (this is one real estate report whose ‘first quarter’ paper actually appears in the first quarter), it sounded another positive note in the assemblage of springtime real estate projections. The summary talked about “an improving outlook among mortgage lenders” because those surveyed “expect mortgage demand…to grow over the next three months.” The hard number was 71% having that expectation, which wouldn’t be surprising, given our entry into the busy spring selling season. The optimism drew more from the fact that this is a substantial improvement compared with the same quarter 2014 (71% vs. the previous 59%).

If the growth they anticipate holds true for our own market, it wouldn’t just indicate improving activity for Sussex County home buyers and sellers. After what they viewed as an “uneven” 2014, Fannie Mae’s Chief Economist Doug Duncan said the results were “consistent with our view that an improving economy, strengthening employment, and increasing consumer confidence” pointed to the more cheerful outlook.

Also cheerful was the picture mortgage issuers expected for their own well-being. A year ago, lenders who thought their profitability would increase were in the extreme minority: 21%. This year, the size of the optimistic group doubled.

Local mortgage applicants could find good news in one more of the reasons for the expectation for mortgage demand to grow over the next three months. The report talked about how last year’s credit tightening was continuing to “trend down.” And there at the top was the headline which mentioned “Gradual Credit Easing.” For anyone who had found it hard to qualify under last year’s rules, that’s very welcome news.

If you will be buying or selling anytime soon, I hope you’ll give me a call: the sentiment here is also the green light kind!

From time to time it can be fun to scour the latest “Top Ten” lists of cost-conscious ways to increase the value of Delaware house value.

Some make more sense than others. Upgrading bathroom vanity cabinets appears on some of the house value lists, for instance—but those lists were probably thrown together in a hurry since the return on investment is admitted to be 66%. When an investment returns two-thirds of its cost, it’s hardly competitive. For Delaware homeowners preparing to sell, vanity cabinets don’t belong on the action list.

The best idea lists are the ones which show ROI: the return on investment. Here’s a new compilation, offered purely as food for thought (since the “return” number for any individual case can’t actually be verified)—

  1. Yard improvement, AKA Landscaping. Return on investment registers at a hefty 303% according to the NAR® (and even 400%, per This Old House). And it’s true that a weedy, dried-up lawn is not the way to woo any but the most bargain-thirsty buyers. We can assume that the investment figure the NAR points to does not include the homeowner’s time, but even so, a shipshape yard definitely provides a house value gain.
  2. Repair (electrical, plumbing, what-have-you). Return: 299%. This is for sure: Delaware houses with unaddressed mechanical defects are handicapped in the marketplace—in the end, it’s just too costly.
  3. Clean and Declutter. Return: 403%. With an average cost estimated at about $400, there’s no argument that it will be easily returned multiple times. When you can rely on truly professional help, the boost is invaluable.
  4. Carpet. The return on investment for an average outlay ($671) is calculated by the HomeGain website at 160%. I might add a caveat to this one: a truly threadbare or uncleanable carpet surely rates replacement—but if existing carpet is presentable, that cost might be better directed elsewhere.
  5. Staging. With a return of 196%, it’s hard to disagree—especially since Delaware’s professional stagers can often save by directing attention away from areas that might be overly expensive to renew.
  6. Lighten and brighten. This includes everything from “clean windows” or “repainting dark-colored rooms” to boosting the wattage of living room lamps. As a result, the “return” numbers are all over the map: but they’re all positive.
  7. Upgrade appliances. Full kitchen remodels are usually too expensive to fully reclaim their cost, although when necessary, minor kitchen remodels reclaim 79%. As an alternative, replacing seriously outmoded kitchen appliances is much more likely to add enough value to make it a canny move. 
  8. Declutter and Clean. (I know—but if anything is worth repeating, this is it)!

Your Delaware house’s value is what the market proves it to be—but it’s also the shelter your family calls home. If it’s filled with happy memories, that value is probably the one that winds up counting the most. But as for the other kind, when it’s time to shift gears, I hope you’ll give me a call! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit more listings at www.beachrealestatemarket.com