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

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!!! 







Nov. 10, 2016

How to Keep Your Child Busy Over the Holidays

How to Keep Your Children Busy Over the Holidays

   As a child, I loved my two week holiday break! I mean..NO school!!  My sisters, brother, and I hung out, baked cookies with my mom, played all sorts of games, as well as played in the snow. I have only the best memories of those wonderful times.  These days, children become bored very easily and the choices for things to do can create some anxiousness in parents. While I believe children being bored is ok, (because from there can come creativity in things to do), here are some ideas to help spur some fun times over the holidays.

   It is a good idea to sit down a few weeks before and talk to your kids about some plans they would like to do.  Let them come up with some ideas with you and use this list to encourage some thought.  For some children, knowing they have plans over the break will keep them more settled as they look forward to the next day's activities.   

 Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy:

1. Games-whether that is board games or creating outdoor games where they make a relay race with their bikes, etc. 

2. Forts-what kid doesn't like to build a fort? 

3. Donate time-children should donate their time or have a canned food stand outside; anything for someone less fortunate.  Always teach your children to do good deeds for someone else. Google "how can I donate my time this holiday" and there are a lot of options.

4. Library-there are movies, magazines, and things to do at your local library

5. Have a sleepover with a movie and popcorn! 

6. Have your children pick a career (research it on the computer) and then either act it out, dress up like it and present it to the family.

7. Cook & bake! Why not take some time and teach the kids how to bake or cook something delicious? Maybe even have a cooking contest between children? (You may get a meal or dessert out of it!)

8. Camp! Indoors, outside, or go camp!

9. Have a picnic at a park..pack up a meal, a blanket, and just head to a park!

10. Create a treasure hunt...hide coins, objects, etc. around the house with hints.

11. Dance party! Kids need to be physically active-why not crank up the tunes and start dancing?

12. Make a band-have each child find something in the house they can play music with and have them create a song!

13. Be a director-have them make a movie!! Explain scenes, acts, who are the actresses, actors, scripts...

13. Set up play dates...even if your children are older it's important they see their friends, get outside to play with children their own age, and not stay cooped up with video games.

14. Color! Sounds simple, but coloring has taken on new levels! You can color on windows now! 

15. Good ol' Pinterest...countless ideas for crafts and things to do.

16. Jax Homes Newsletter-why? Every month there are multiple things with links of things happening around our city from sports to plays, to everything to do in Jax.


Don't forget, it's OK of for them to have that "down time" and be bored. No one said a child has to be constantly  entertained 24/7.  Enjoy this time with your children!!




Posted in Holidays
Oct. 31, 2016

What is the Best Sport for My Child?

What is the Best Sport for My Child?

 It is so enjoyable to watch your own child anything. You are given a beautiful child and you can already picture cheering them on while they shine at the sport of their dreams! It is a proud and truly rewarding feeling to see your own excel at something perhaps you played yourself or have always wanted to play.  Clearly they will play what I played or what I always wanted to because they are my child right? What sport is my child good at? There are a few ways to discover what sport your child will shine at.

    As we all know, every child is different. Whether it be physically or personality wise choosing a sport, let alone the right sport, can be a challenge.  

 When my son was very young he was throwing and catching any ball or any thing he could throw to anyone he thought would catch it. We knew he had the motor skills to be able to play baseball, football, etc...any sport that had a ball. That being said, we knew what he could do physically, but did he want to play the sports we wanted him to?  This is important.  You have to not only be able to analyze what your child can do physically, but also figure out what they are interested in.  I have seen children at 4,5 (and up!) years old on the field miserable while their parents are yelling on the sidelines.  This can turn a child off from a sport or sports altogether because they were forced to play one they didn't have a vested interest in themselves.  Try to see early on what sports they gravitate to, play with friends, as well as expose them to watching and playing a variety of sports so you can determine what they like. 

   As mentioned, a child's personality is also a part in choosing a good sport.  Are they outgoing and play well with with other children or perhaps they are more shy and introverted preferring to play alone?  Pushing a shy child onto a team sport may make them resent sports altogether instead of helping them to become more social.  For a bashful child, try a solo sport such as dance, marital arts, or swimming. There are many sports a shy child can play so encourage more "solo sports".  

    Ahh, what is the right age to begin sports? Well, it depends on the sport, but determining your child's readiness is key to success at a sport.  There are clearly some 4 year olds that can learn the rules of a sport, play it, and do well. There are other children that have not yet mastered the skills to play a sport. That is ok! The point is don't push it if they aren't ready.  You will turn them off from sports so if they are not ready- don't force it. 

  There is a major benefit in your child participating in sports. Physical activity is to me the biggest.  As a teacher I know most children cannot sit from 8a-3p and yes, it's true, some kids don't have a recess every day. Then on the weekends they spend hours sitting inside playing video games. Children need a release from sitting and need to move around!  Why not put them in a sport where they get that physical exercise? Believe me I know after a long day at work coming home to pack up and turn around to race off to sit at a practice for your child is not Do it anyways.  Your child will be a better person physically, and mentally.  They will get the exercise in, and also they can do better in school as a result. 

Along with the physical benefit of playing a sport is the fact that your child will learn social skills. Learning how to play with others is a crucial life skill.  Learning how to win and lose is important. We as adults use our social skills every day dealing with different types of people and if your child plays a sport they too will learn how to get along, be on a team, and be with different kinds of children.  I honestly believe this is one of biggest advantages of playing a sport.  Even if it is a solo sport your child is learning the rules of the sport as well as how to win and lose; and what they can learn from that is priceless.

  All in all, listen to your child's cues as they grow up to drive the direction of which sport is best for them. You will see them thrive in a sport that could continue on to college, or they will try a myriad of sports that at some point they will be able to see for themselves what they love and are best at and you will have instilled a love for sports for life.