Residential Real Estate News, Reviews, Things To Do, Events, Neighborhood Information and Market Updates by Wes and Nicole Benwick

April 14, 2017

Why Bunnies and Eggs at Easter?


easter bunny

What is Easter and where did the word come from?

Easter is a religious holiday whereby those who believe celebrate Jesus's rising from the dead. It is a day that is revered by Christians as the resurrection of Christ. Oddly enough, the word "Easter" has no real significance as far as its name. There are a lot of theories as to where the word derived from, but no one knows for sure. Some say it is derived from the goddess "Oestre"/"Eastre". It is said her name in German is Ostara and represents the dawn and spring which would make sense tying it to Easter. 

Why isn't Easter the same day every year?

Easter is always on a Sunday but it must follow the full moon after the vernal equinox.

So where did the Easter bunny and decorating eggs come from?

Most people celebrate Easter regardless of their religious beliefs.  We all remember Easter egg hunts, eating chocolate bunnies, waking up to find our hidden baskets the Easter Bunny left us, and decorating hard boiled eggs.

The bunny, or rabbit, may have stemmed from a long time ago where the rabbit was the ancient symbol for life and fertility. Way back in the 17th century the Protestants in Europe connected the rabbit with Easter and that idea was then brought over to America by German immigrants. In other countries there are other animals associated with Easter such as the cuckoo bird in Switzerland.

Eggs represent life however were banned from consuming during Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday), along with wine, milk, cheese, and meat. Therefore, on Easter Sunday eating those eggs was a treat after not having any for 40 days! The egg is also considered to represent Jesus's emerging from his tomb and resurrecting to life on Easter Sunday.

Decorating the eggs started in Russia where they would put jewels on them and give them as gifts.  A name that may pop into your head is Faberge who lived in Russia and was asked by Czar Alexander to decorate the eggs for his wife. He is known for lavishly exquisite egg decor. Look how beautiful these Faberge eggs are! 


Now we dye them with a multitude of colors, while we also hide the plastic ones with treats inside.

Speaking of treats, you probably won't be surprised to know Easter is the second biggest holiday with the most candy sales; Halloween of course being the first. 

The traditions associated with Easter are a little odd when you think about it being a very religious holiday and yet we have bunnies delivering eggs because bunnies don't even lay eggs....???  However, it is truly a holiday celebrated by most of us so enjoy your eggs and candy this Sunday!

Posted in Holidays
March 21, 2017

"I Accepted! Now What??"

My Home is Under Contract-How Much Time Until I Actually Move?



Ok, so you have hired a great Realtor who has listed your home at the right price and you have worked hard to ensure your home looks its best inside and out.

Do you feel like a sitting duck because all you can do now is wait until the offers come? Well, you're not alone. You are at the buyers' mercy and you have to keep up your home in its best shape as possible until that offer is made and accepted.

Yay! You have a solid offer and after discussing with your Realtor you decide to accept!  Do you start packing? How many days or weeks do you have left before you are sitting at the closing table handing over your keys?

Here is what you need to know time-wise from when you accept an offer to when you are leaving your home for the last time.

 1. After the offer is accepted and all parties have signed, the clock starts ticking. Buyers have a "due diligence" period of ten days to get an inspection completed on your home at their expense and to either ask you to make any repairs they ask for, renegotiate, or they can back out of the deal. Therefore, expect a home inspection on your home within ten days on your home to occur. Any additional days that it takes to repair what the buyers request or renegotiating are days to add on. 

2. Depending on the buyers' financing is a factor on the length of time to close as well. If the deal will be financed, the buyer's lender will order an appraisal to ensure their investment is a good one. You are hoping the appraisal number and the price you accepted match up because if the appraisal comes back lower than what you accepted the buyer can now ask you to reduce it to match the appraisal so they can get financed. There are instances where a buyer will pay the difference but more often you will see a buyer ask the seller to reduce the price. After the appraisal is complete ---------

3. A cash deal can close much quicker-usually within 15 days.  Deals that are financed close in approximately 30-45 days after the appraisal is complete.

4. After all is said and done the lender will schedule the closing date. Although it's hard to be ready with not much notice we all want to make it to the closing table so be flexible.

 *With houses not staying on the market for long, now is a great time to see what your home is worth.  Check out this tool to see the current value of your home and bookmark it to check back on a monthly basis.




March 5, 2017

Time to Create Curb Appeal!

How Can I Make My Home Look Even Better?

Spring has sprung!  The flowers are starting to bloom and so are the dreaded weeds, chipped paint, and looking at empty flower beds. Here are some great ways to make your home have a much needed pick-me-up for spring.

One of the first things we notice when driving by any home is the full picture; it's curb appeal. Curb appeal consists of the attractiveness of a property and its surroundings.  Is the home looking drab, dreary, and unkempt or does it look fresh and inviting with color?

 The yard is one of the best way to showcase your property.  Try to fertilize on a regular basis. Keep the weeds at bay by using your weedkiller when needed and by all means have those weeds pulled. Some of the peskiest weeds show up in between the cracks of the brick or stones on the walkway so be on top of those. Obviously keep the lawn mowed as necessary to keep it growing healthy.

While discussing the ground....a fresh batch of mulch does wonders to help your landscaping look fresh. Plant some colorful flowers as well.  We all enjoy seeing color in the beds of our yards and it helps us get in the mood for spring.

Moving slightly up from the ground to lighting.  Are your lights all working properly and in alignment?  Replace any burnt out bulbs and make sure the lights are firmly secured in the ground.  Perhaps add some lighting to your yard to increase visibility at night and really illuminate your home.

The next area to consider are your railings.  Either consider purchasing new even colorful ones to help your home stand out or simply touch up paint. 

Take a good hard look at areas that need touch up paint around the exterior.  The trim, siding, shutters, and the biggest one; your front door.  

Speaking of the front door, once it's clean with a fresh coat of paint if needed, take that doormat and clean it up, or buy a new one . Also, a great touch to a front door is to add some greenery with a bush, topiary, etc.  There are some that say keeping the decor at your door symmetrical is appealing to the eye.  So what you do to one side do to the other.  

If your home can accommodate these, consider changing the look with some decorative window boxes.  Fresh flowers under each window adds a wonderful touch and a pop of color to the look of your home. 

 Consider changing or cleaning your hardware on the exterior of your home as well.  Doorbells, door knockers, etc. Look at your mailbox as well to see if it needs a good cleaning or fresh paint.  While looking around for places to paint, look up at those gutters and downspouts.  Are they secured to your home and ....cleaned out? 

A larger project that really stands out is to check out the condition of your driveway.  Does it need to be repaired, power washed, or even redone completely?  

All in all sprucing up your home with color and a solid clean up will do wonders for the curb appeal of your home.

Posted in Spring Curb Appeal
Jan. 31, 2017

When to Downsize?

When is a Good Time to Downsize?

It is a crazy life we lead..we begin life by living with our parents, most of us move out to a tiny apartment, eventually make enough to get a bigger place, have a family where you need an even larger place, empty nest comes next and...back to a smaller place as the cycle is complete.  So, when the kids leave the roost the time to downsize??

 The average size of a home is 2700 square feet! That is an increase of over one THOUSAND feet over the last 40 years! When you consider the irony that the size of the family back then was larger than it is today what does that say about how we like to live?  

We like to live large and it shows. Society today has some of us needing to prove we have "made it".  The bigger and better the home, the more successful and amazing we are...(what a shallow way of thinking I know, but let's admit it, we get it, and we may even subscribe to some of it..) ;).

For those considering downsizing you may be worried about a stigma; that some may gossip you are less successful, perhaps one of you was demoted, or that your bank account is just shrinking, and THAT is why you are downsizing. However, it really can be a a very intelligent and financially responsible decision to do so.

Why Downsize?

Right off the bat, if you are in a larger home, the first thought in downsizing for me would be less CLEANING, less stress, and less MONEY towards a mortgage!  With more money freed up means more cash for what you want to do...vacation, college savings for the kids, anything other than putting a chunk into a home. All in all, a lower mortgage means more choices. Any money saved from going towards a mortgage is a good thing as it can help you become debt free quicker, beef up your retirement account, and enjoy some breathing room financially.

Another great reason more important in my opinion than saving money is the way a smaller home opens up family time.  When every child in your home is watching a different tv, over 1000 feet away, it's hard to have quality family time...a smaller home keeps you all closer! Truly if our grand and great grandparents did it, we can too!

Word to the Wise

If you are considering downsizing, remember when choosing a smaller home that this may not necessarily be cheaper. If you check into costs of the actual move, (closing costs etc), and bills at the new home, you may find you aren't saving a lot of money. Another thing to think about is distance of new home to work, family, and places you often go too. If the new home is going to need a new roof, AC, or you plan on furnishing it with new furniture, it may make sense to stay put. Make sure your new home doesn't end up costing you more as well by considering all of the factors. Talk to your Realtor to find out how to get the most out of the home you are in and how to strategize to downsize that will benefit you the most.

Click here to view the newest listings that are 1800 sq feet and under... 

Wes and I love to help people and as always we are committed to giving you knowledge so you are informed, top customer service so you know you are important, and to take away the stress that buying and selling can bring.



Jan. 19, 2017

Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

I myself am not Irish, but we sure celebrated it growing up in Catholic school and then in college,-well, it was an excuse to drink green beer and party. you may even be Irish and not know why you celebrate. What is the real story behind this holiday?

Who is St. Patrick?

       The holiday originated as a religious feast day for..none other than St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day started as a meal and attending Mass..and that was it.  If you think (naturally) that St. Patrick was..Irish, you'd be wrong.He was born in Britain and folklore says he was kidnapped by some Irish raiders. Through a dream he thought was from God, he was "told" to leave Ireland and he escaped (some say he was released).    

Once back home, he studied religion for fifteen years.  After becoming a priest he ironically was sent to Ireland. His mission became to convert pagan Irish people to Christianity.                                                                                                        



So, why on March 17th?  

Was this a good date to throw back some green beer? Nope-until the 1970s pubs were closed on March 17th to honor St. Patrick. Guess who is responsible for turning the holiday into what it is now with drinking and partying? Yep, the good ol' USA way back to the 1700s in Boston and New York.  As more immigrants came over the celebrations became larger.  Now, the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade is the largest parade in the U.S. (according to  March 17th is however the actual date that St. Patrick died.

Why do we wear green?    

No one is really sure why the color green, but it would be smart to relate it back to the Irish flag and shamrocks. Ireland is also nicknamed as the "Emerald Isle". In the U.S. it was started that if you wear green you will avoid being pinched by a leprechauns. ;) Speaking of shamrocks, according to history the three leaf clover represented the father, son, and holy ghost; the trinity in religion. It is said that people look for the (green) leprechaun who will lead us all to our pot of gold...sadly, there is no such thing as a leprechaun...sigh.

What is a Blarney Stone?                                                                          

Kiss what? A stone? Well, legend has it that this stone, if you smooch it, this stone will bestow upon you the gift of eloquence. Some say it will give you the gift of persuasiveness or skill at flattery. This tradition has been around for several centuries. The famous stone is set in the Blarney Castle. The word "blarney" means skillful flattery or nonsense. Did you know in order to "properly" kiss the stone in Ireland you must hold onto two railings while leaning backward? 





 Why are we supposed to eat corned beef and cabbage? 

The Irish immigrants would prepare this meal because they missed their home country.  Contrary to what some believe, it is not even a national dish in Ireland.  In Ireland salted meats were very popular for selling (they were a huge producer of this meat) and when those people who immigrated here tried to find salted meat, they had a rough time. Bacon was a close meat for taste, but too expensive, so they found corned beef. Corned beef was an inexpensive cut of beef and in turn, made the Irish feel they were at home. 



Posted in Holidays
Jan. 9, 2017

Are Gated Communities Safer?

Are Gated Communities Safer?

One would naturally think a neighborhood that provided a security gate would be safer right?  

 Some statistics show that around 10% of all homes are in gated communities. This rate will only increase as the ability to afford to live in one is greater.  No longer is living within gates just for the uber rich.  

The feeling of living inside of a gated community no doubt provides relief to those who desire the feeling of safety and protection.  No one can just "get in" without the resident being called by a trained security officer or by knowing a code.  One would think these measures would lower crime. Surely a gate or code box would deter any would-be criminal from committing a crime within a gated community.  

So....are crime rates lower within gated communities? Some say yes, and surprisingly some say no. Yes due to the keeps some people out because of the obstacles of the security guard or needing a code. Some though, say no for a few reasons.  One is, the neighborhood is only as safe as the people in it.  Therefore, if you live in an area that provides a gate but the neighbors inside that gate aren't great, having one is meaningless.  Second, you may feel less inclined to take safety measures knowing you are in a "secure gated" area, and as well reduce steps to protect yourself thereby leaving your home vulnerable to criminals.

The Code Box vs a Manned Gate 

 People who live in a gated community that offers a box that you input a code need to make sure the gate isn't open during the day to accommodate delivery or business trucks etc. However, if the gate remains closed but you give one delivery driver, contractor, etc. the code, you may as well put it on the news. Check with the powers that be to make sure your safety is of their utmost importance and to keep the gate closed as well as changing the security code every so often. 

The manned gate is a better way to stay safe because the people who work there should be calling each resident to make sure the person that wants in is actually invited in. They should also be checking their driver's license as well as their license plate.  That is what they should be doing; whether a particular one does this or not is something to find out.

 Trying to find actual statistics on gated community crime versus non-gated proved to be futile.  The crime mapping link here shows you the crime in any area, but running a search on a particular neighborhood is a feature not yet installed. I spoke to an officer who also told me a manned security gate is better than anything as long as the person at the gate takes their job seriously.  All in all, he felt as well that the type of crime is the true difference between living in a gated versus a non-gated.  

 All in all, we have to keep our families protected and be smart about leaving doors unlocked, garages open, etc.  No gate or person manning one will ever prevent all crime. Do not let a gate give you a false sense of security.  Be watchful and mindful always and get involved with your community to help protect the families inside of it. 

On our website you can search for gated only properties.  Here are the latest properties around here




Posted in Gated Communities
Jan. 2, 2017

Valentine Date Ideas!

Need Some Fresh Ideas for Your Special One? 

I think we all get the same ideas when we think about Valentine's Day....roses, candy, maybe go out to dinner?  That's sweet, but kinda boring!  Check out some different ideas that may surprise your honey this year. (PS-we all love when our valentine PLANS something for shows care and thought!!)

1. Going out to dinner is why not try eating in?  Send the kids with a sitter (or send them to bed early and have a late dinner) and enjoy eating at home!  We know a great chef who can fix an amazing meal and deliver it to you so you don't have to deal with mess!

2. Love coupons!  Just click here for love coupon and find some that you relate to (and can do!)!

3. What does your love like to do?  Check out downtown events, a museum, a play, or a sporting event!  There are so many things to do in Jacksonville!  Check out our latest newsletter for things to do in Jax on Facebook!

4. How about a Couples Massage.....somewhat cliche but everyone loves a good massage, and it's even better when you are together! Lots of places in Jacksonville to try out for a relaxing experience.

5. Why not get to know your love on a deeper level? Ask him or her these questions to find out some interesting new things about your valentine!

6. Do something you have never done!  (I'll leave this one here....) :)

7. Does your love prefer to stay in and watch a movie?  Here is a list of love related movies!

8. Make a CD of songs you love together....or create your valentine's favorite songs on a playlist! 

9. Hit the beach with a picnic! We are lucky to live close to the beach and need to take advantage of some serene ocean scenery.  

10. We have teenagers that stay up later than if you are in that boat too, why not pack up the car with some treats and head to the beach, a park, etc.! Play some music, maybe even pack up dinner or dessert and eat in the car! 

11. Candy lover? Skip the generic box of chocolates and take your love to Sweet Petes for a candy picking yummy date!

12. Why not mix up some fun drinks to enjoy? This site lets you put in the liquor that you have or want and gives you options for fun new drinks!  Or try here for some valentine themed drinks.

13. Recreate your first date.  

14. Wes and I like to sing...not well mind you, but we do...why not try Austin Karaoke?  You can get your own room and sing away!!

15. Alhambra has some great celebrations for the both of you! 

16. Do you like Bed and Breakfast Inns? Check out the Riverdale Inn!

17. Horse lover? Take your love to Amelia Island and ride horses on the beach!!!

18. Love to paint?  Take a date to Painting with a Twistand enjoy creating some art!

19. Ahhh...take to the waters to sail away....wait, you don't have a boat? No problem...tell your love you chartered a boat! Now and Zen Sailing Charters will take care of the hassle you enjoy the ride!

20. Feeling adventurous?  Why not a hot air balloon ride?  Profess your love to your valentine high in the sky!  

You don't have to spend a lot of money to show your love you them by planning something fun to do and enjoy each other! Happy Valentines Day to you!  (Wes, did you get any good ideas?) ;) 












Posted in Holidays
Dec. 20, 2016

New Years on January 1?

Was Jan. 1 Always the Start of the New Year?

Happy New Year!!  

  That phrase immediately makes us think of celebrating on December 31st ready to bring in January 1st! But was it always celebrated on January 1 and where did the idea of having resolutions originate?

  About 4,000 years ago the Babylons celebrated the new year by promising to pay debts and return objects borrowed from others....but it was not January 1st.  It was in mid March when the crops were planted and during the spring equinox. However, by 46 B.C. Julius Ceasar changed it to what it is today; on January 1st, to reflect the new calendar that was in sync with the sun not the moon.  Also said the change to January 1 was in order to honor the Roman god of beginnings, "Janus". Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and looked ahead to the new year.  Some countries still follow a lunar calendar and thus celebrate New Years on different days.

The custom of making resolutions goes back about 2,000 years ago where Christians made resolutions to be better to others morally, as well as forgive past mistakes and promising to do better in the future. Nowadays, we tend to make resolutions to better ourselves such as losing weight, stopping a bad habit, etc.   

So, as much as we love the holidays, January 1st is approaching quickly and the time to make those darn resolutions that we all hope to keep. We all want to turn that proverbial calendar and make promises to ourselves to become a better person in many ways.  Even though only about 8% of those who make resolutions keep them, 40-45% of us keep on making them!  May you and yours have a wonderful 2017 and best of luck with your New Year's resolutions!














Posted in Holidays
Dec. 16, 2016

C'mon Down!!

The Beach is Waiting!

Look, I always feel it's a good time to leave the north and move south....the weather is the biggest reason! Take today..a typical December day in Ohio and today here in Jacksonville FL. (I am from Ohio so it's always fun to compare during the harsh months up there!)

 Now is a great time to check out a second home to become that snowbird or make Jacksonville your forever home!

If you want to check out the latest listings at the beach click here!  

If you love the beach but aren't picky about how close you are to it, click here to do a search with any criteria you want!

  Wes and I would love to help you find a place to escape to here in sunny Florida!  Keep us in mind for all of your real estate needs!

If you are wondering what the value of your home is worth click here

Have a wonderful holiday season!!

Posted in Moving South
Nov. 22, 2016

QUICK Appetizers

Quick Appetizers!

You are in the full swing of the busy week... you've been running around like crazy and OH NO! You forgot you have to have to bring an appetizer to a party or event!!  Print this off and head to the store!

(I think you will see I am not a fan of cooking and I really like bread...) 

Here are some super quick recipes for any time!


Bread Dip 

1 baguette or any type of bread or even crackers (have bakery slice!)

1 brick of cream cheese (let soften)

1 cup mayo

1 package of (dry) Italian seasoning (found in salad dressing aisle)

*whip the 3 ingredients together and chill ..boom!


Brie on Baguette 

1 baguette (have bakery slice it for you!)


garlic salt

fresh cracked pepper

*slice the brie, place on the bread, sprinkle the salt and pepper on, broil till it bubbles, done!


Smores Popcorn

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (melt!)

1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs

8 cups caramel popcorn

2 cups mini marshmallows

*Take a piece of parchment paper and drizzle the chocolate chips, then sprinkle the graham cracker and popcorn over it making one even single layer. After the chocolate hardens, break it off into pieces and throw the marshmallows into a bag, or whatever container you would like to use!

Buffalo Cheese Dip 

1 brick cream cheese softened

2/3 cup chunky blue cheese dressing

1 or 2 tbsp of buffalo wing sauce

sliced green onions (if you like)

pizza rolls (Totinos pepperoni) *or use anything you prefer to dip into this sauce!

*Mix cream cheese, dressing, and wing sauce until smooth. Cover and microwave for about 2-3 minutes until hot. Sprinkle with green onions and SERVE!! 


Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries

2 tbsp roasted pistachios chopped

2 tbsp dried cranberries chopped

1 log of goat cheese (8-10 oz)

choice of bread or crackers to serve

* On a flat plate lay out the pistachios and cranberries. Roll the goat cheese log over it and THAT'S IT!!!