Calling pro takes sting out of stirring up bees

If you find a swarm of honeybees on your property, some experts recommend that you treat it as an Africanized swarm and keep everyone away from it.

Do not disturb the swarm or try to remove it yourself. Check the Yellow Pages under “Bee Removal”or “Pest Control Services”, current specials and have a professional remove the swarm.

To prevent bees from settling in your garden or house, professionals recommend that you:

Cover or fill all holes 1/7-inch in diameter or larger in block walls, trees or cactuses .

Caulk cracks in the roof, walls, and the foundation .

Check for separation between the chimney and the house, and make sure chimneys are properly covered.

Place window-screen mesh over rain spouts, drains, attic vents and irrigation-valve boxes.

Remove any debris or trash that might serve as a shelter for bees, such as old appliances,  automobile parts, overturned clay pots, cardboard boxes, tires or stacks of crates.

Cover or fill animal burrows in the ground.

When inspecting your home or yard for bee colonies, look for bees passing into and out of an opening, or hovering in front of one, and listen for the hum of active insects. Look for colonies near the ground.

How to speed up the sale of your house

Install a brass door knob, brass door knocker, brass numbers. Brass conveys pride of ownership, says Jean Winchester of Carlson Real Estate Better Homes and Garden in Lexington.

“People extrapolate based on small pieces of information and draw larger conclusions,” explains Bruce A. Percelay, author of “Packaging Your Home for Profit” (Little, Brown) and president of The Mount Vernon Co., a Boston real estate investment company. “All these small details suggest to the buyer the owner has taken care of the property.”

Landscape the yard. Mow the lawn and your neighbor’s lawn, too, if it is overgrown. Fill window boxes with flowers, edge the garden, and lay fresh mulch on the flower beds. Trim hedges.

Touch up peeling paint. If there’s chipped paint on the front entryway, re-paint. If you paint the entire exterior, use a neutral color with bright accent colors.

Clear clutter. Remove toys and rusty cars in the driveway. Store neatly in the garage. Inside, take out winter clothes to give closets a more spacious look.

Repair leaky faucets and loose doorknobs.

Put in high wattage light bulbs. Make your house as bright as possible. If it’s a gloomy day, turn on every light in the house when showing it to buyers.

Paint the interior if dingy or dark. Choose light colors such an antique white or linen white, with bright white trim. It’s virtually impossible to offend someone with that color combination, says Percelay. If the house has not been painted in five years, do it now. Or if you remove a painting from a wall, and you can see a difference in the paint shades, re-paint the walls.

Modernize outdated kitchens. Simple, inexpensive changes can make a big difference. If the appliances sport a harvest gold or avocado green color of the ’70s, hire a re-glazing company to repaint the appliances white. Replace old bronze door handles on cabinets with shiny, brass ones.

Refinish hardwood floors. If they haven’t been touched in a decade, resand and paint with polyurethane.

Professionals say the amount of money sellers spend depends on the sales price. Spending 3 to 4 percent of the sales price can go a long way in preparing a house to sell, advises Percelay. Kitchens and bathrooms offer the biggest payback, says Winchester. If homeowners can’t afford to repair an obvious problem, keep an estimate on file to show prospective buyers, suggests Claire Dembowski of Carlson Real Estate in Swampscott.

Price the house correctly. The Number One mistake sellers owners make is to overprice, say brokers. Consumers are educated about house values these days, and they simply will not buy overpriced houses. And a house that sits unsold for more than a month can become a pariah. Agents lose interest, and buyers wonder what’s wrong.

“I try to price things so they will sell within 3 percent of that asking price. All of my listings sell within 60 days of listing if they listen to me,” says Janet Andrews of Century 21 Avant-Garde in Salem, who sells more than $8 million of property a year.

There’s another reason: Correct pricing sparks competitive offers.

Choose rio verde real estate agent carefully. Interview prospective agents, asking about experience, total sales in a year and availability. “The seller and the broker work as a team, hand and glove. It’s like riding a motorcycle. You bend and sway together. Don’t fight each other,” says Dembowski.

Adds Winchester: “Get someone who is diligent, energetic and knows the area.”

Brokers worth their commission will take the time to explain to sellers each prospective buyer’s opinions of the house, and offer suggestions on how to improve it’s appearance.

Tips for spring cleaning

If you want to hire someone to clean your home: Find out if the person or business is insured in case something is broken. Before the cleaning, discuss what services will be provided. It’s not a bad idea to put that in writing. Get an estimate. Many services will provide one free. Determine who will provide supplies. Some services bring their own supplies but many independent cleaners don’t. If you want certain supplies to be used because you’re allergic to a certain chemical or for environmental safety, for instance say so. You may have to provide them. As for straightening up the place before the maid gets there, most people do. Some don’t. Either way is all right, although one person pointed out workers can do more cleaning if they don’t have to take time to put away toys, newspapers and such. For further please visit website CommercialCeaningWilkesBarre.com.If you want to do your own post-winter cleaning, here are some things to look for: Cinders, sand and gravel have probably found their way into your carpet.

Check for cobwebs on celing fans and in corners. Dust from fireplaces and wood stoves. Filthy windows. You can use a squeegee to cut down the cleaning time. Dust balls under furniture. And here are a few recommendations from cleaning expert Don Aslett, author of “Is There Life After Housework?”. Good floor mats placed at each exterior door will catch about 80 percent of the dirt that comes into the house. Clean as you go. “Forty percent of all housework is clearing out unused things. Next year, don’t save all the year’s mess for a spring cleaning blowout. Keep clutter from accumulating by getting rid of it as it appears.” Empty your vacuum cleaner’s lint bag frequently. A half-full lint bag can increase time and energy spent by up to 50 percent. Use the right tool for the job. Use absorbent materials, such as paper towels and sponges, for spills, rather than rags.

Kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project

Used to be that kitchens were strictly back-burner stuff. We dumped buckets of money into our living rooms, family rooms and master bedrooms. We put our money where we wanted to impress and drew an invisible curtain around the kitchen.

Statistics show that we’re staying at home more, inviting guests in instead of taking them out. As a result, the kitchen has made a dramatic rise on the it-better-look-good-and-function-well scale. Kitchens are no longer at-home orphans.

According to designer Lisa Weber, of Lisa Weber Design in Fullerton, kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project facing consumers today. Quoting a recent article in Kitchen and Bath Business, she notes that Americans will spend $27.5 billion renovating 4.4 million kitchens.

“The average homeowner will spend a great deal of time and money remodeling the kitchen,” Weber said. “And if they haven’t researched the market, planned and shopped carefully, they can make some very costly mistakes.”

When private investors Ginger Figge and Jim Buckle moved into their 30-year-old California bungalow, the compact, 15-by-15-foot kitchen was anything but a show stopper. The home had been a rental for years.

“The home was very run-down,” said kitchen specialist Steve Salazar, who owns Kitchens del Mar and handled the remodel project. “For a small space, it did not function well.”

Goals for the kitchen remodel were threefold: reconfiguration with optimum function in mind, incorporation of functional storage space, and a clean, uncluttered look designed for easy maintenance. Because the front door of the house opens with a view directly across the dining area to the open kitchen, first impressions were a consideration.

Originally, the cooktop had been on a long counter separating the kitchen from the dining area. Not a pretty picture for arriving guests. It was relocated to a less conspicous spot on a counter facing a hall leading to the bedrooms. The move allows the dining area/kitchen counter to do double duty as a spacious kitchen work surface or dining room buffet.

To minimize its size, a 36-inch-wide, 24-inch-deep Sub-Zero refrigerator was installed flush with other built-ins. Unlike some refrigerators, it does not protrude into the kitchen, presenting an unsightly obstacle.

“Typically, with a small space, lots of our work is devoted to maximizing the storage function,” Salazar said, “and that goes right down to the TV.” Instead of simply plopping it onto a counter, it was hidden in a custom-made TV cupboard with retractable doors above a built-in oven.

Tight-space storage? The existing breakfast bar was raised six inches above the adjacent counter to buffer the sight of the relocated cooktop. Three 12-inch-deep storage cabinets were then neatly tucked under the bar.

To give a clean, crisp look that de-emphasizes the small size of the kitchen, a color palette of white with Delft blue accents was used. Durable, easy-clean Arctic white DuPont Corian replaced damaged light-blue ceramic tiles on counters. The Corian flows in solid, seamless pieces that do not distract the eye as tiles would. Delft blue appears in handmade accent tiles that fit neatly into white tile backsplashes and trims.

To anchor the white kitchen, the oak floor, which had been whitewashed, was refinished to a deeper, more natural hue, Further Details. The white opens up the kitchen, while the oak pulls it all together.

Renovating your Kitchen on a Budget

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most common targets of the remodeling homeowner’s gaze. They are the most expensive rooms to do because of appliances and fixtures.

A good rule of thumb for a total kitchen renovation is stay within 10 to 12 percent of the home’s market value. Remodeling magazine said the best kitchens were those with lots of light to make the space appear larger.

With good quality materials and appliances, a kitchen should last for 20 years but your taste will probably change halfway through. Since fashion colors may change before an appliance wears out, some decorators suggest neutral colors such as white or washed aluminum.

“You can update a kitchen with new countertops or by changing cabinet doors,” said Burgin Barousse of J. Burgin Barousse Interior Design in Metairie. A coat of industrial paint on the existing cabinets can give a facelift too.

New countertops – granite and tile are popular choices – or floor covering can update a kitchen too, explore more. Barousse prefers ceramic sinks although stainless steel is easier to clean because you don’t have to worry about scratches.

Among countertops and cabinets there are major variations in price. Cabinet prices vary according to the type of material they’re made of from including high-pressure laminates to woods – oak, hickory and cherry, said Jerry Keller, manager of Singer Kitchens and Baths in the Lake Forest Plaza.

Priced at $11 a linear foot plastic laminate countertops are the most popular, Keller said. Compare Corian at about $100 per foot or granite at $150 to $175 a foot. Appliances come in a wide range of prices, but generally homeowners have been out of the appliance-buying market for so long they go through sticker shock when they start to shop around.

Installation is available but many customers hang their own cabinets with diagrams supplied by Singer, Keller said.

Creating a Bathroom Oasis

When it comes to bathrooms, the overriding factor is personal taste. Older bathrooms are often tiny, akin to tiled closets. Homeowners – especially younger couples – want lush and lavish surroundings, but that requires more room. Mirrors and marble have crept in where four-inch tile once sufficed.

The extra space for such an oasis can come from a closet in a neighboring room. Some people fold two bedrooms in with a bath to create a master suite complete with walk-in closet. It is good to try and keep the addition within the existing structure when you can, but some homeowners have added onto the house to accommodate a larger bath.

For those who cannot expand into other rooms, there are whirlpool baths that will fit the space presently occupied by standard 30-by-60 tub, said Lisa Trouth, a showroom consultant at LCR Plumbing Supply in Gentilly. Whirlpool baths are becoming routine in new construction.

In existing houses, it may not be possible to bring a preformed shower enclosure into the house. But there are seamed enclosures that arrive in parts and can be assembled inside the bathroom, she said.

When it comes to fixtures, price depends mostly on manufacturer and color. But color preferences change according to the women’s ready-to-wear fashions.

So rather than get a tub or toilet in the latest color, Trouth suggests using color as accent tile or trim. Despite the myriad offerings, the most popular colors are still white, gold and silver gray because they are so neutral, Trouth said.

Four-inch tile is popular again for walls as well as man-made marble. The same color tile can be available in glossy version for walls and non-skid finish for floors, please follow link.

Whatever your decision, remember: The kitchen and bathrooms are probably two rooms potential homebuyers scrutinize most.

Moving tips

Start contacting movers at least one month ahead of time. Keep in mind that moving in summer (particularly near the end of a month) is like flying at Christmas.

Select a company from references given by friends or co-workers, for example ShipSmart. Check the company with your local consumer protection agency for a history of complaints.

Be aware that when you hire a nationally known moving company for an interstate move, you need to check out that company’s local agent.

Unless you are just moving a few items locally, get a “binding” estimate in writing. Binding estimates mean you can’t be required to pay more when your goods are delivered unless additional services are required (such as the need to use elevators or carry things down a long driveway).

Non-binding estimates are initially cheaper but you can wind up paying much, much more.

Get a copy of a signed and dated binding estimate and make sure it includes any extra charges, such as packing, warehouse handling, storage, travel time, fuel surcharge and containers.

On interstate moves, ask to have pick-up and delivery dates and a dollars-per-day penalty for late delivery spelled out on your contract. If the company can’t guarantee a delivery date, ask the driver, when he arrives to pick up your things, how many loads he has, where he’s going and where your goods will be in the truck. That may give you an idea of your chances of an on-time delivery.

On all moves, get pickup and delivery dates in writing. Do not accept “as soon as possible” in lieu of dates.

Do not release your goods at the movers’ minimum liability limit of 10 or 30 or even 60 cents per pound per article. Should your video camera be lost or damaged you may collect less than $1. Ditto your grandmother’s Waterford vase.

When movers limit their liability, they are required by law to offer valuation alternatives. Be completely sure of the coverage you have before you move.

Ask to see the moving company’s certificate of insurance for Worker’s Compensation (without it you could be sued if an employee is injured). Also ask to see proof of the company’s liability insurance (without it the company may not be able to pay should you need to file a claim).

Interstate movers by law must give you a copy of the Carriers Annual Performance Report.

When packing, number each box and write on it the room into which it should be delivered but never write the contents on the box.

Make a separate list of each box number and the contents of each box.

Do not pack family heirlooms, expensive jewelry or anything that is irreplaceable. Take these with you.

If your goods need to be stored, be sure to inspect the storage facilities in person for signs of leakage, rodent or insect infestation, etc.

If you did not get a binding estimate on an interstate move, the law says you do not have to pay more than 110 percent of the estimated cost when your goods are delivered (plus or minus any change orders). Interstate moving companies are not allowed to keep any of your possessions if you pay that amount. Call police if the driver objects and attempts to withhold some of your goods. You have 30 days to pay the balance.

The above rule does not apply to local/intrastate moves.

Be sure to have at least two other persons on hand to help you when your goods are delivered.

Do not sign a receipt for your goods until you have inspected each delivered item, checked it off your own inventory list and made a note of damages or missing items on your own inventory and that of the driver. Action solves problems and gets answers for you.

Vacation rentals tips

Vacation rentals are especially appealing to families with kids – you pay a lot less for snacks and drinks at the supermarket than at even the cheapest fast-food outlet. And you don’t have to face an avenue of palms outstretched for tips.

Vacation rentals can be convenient. Many are actually handier than a hotel to the beach, slopes or whatever else is the main attraction. You don’t have to dress up for meals. You can spread your stuff around the bedroom and still keep the living room neat for visitors.

A rental can also bring you closer to the local population. Some of my favorite visits to France were those in which I rented a cottage in the countryside or an apartment in the city. Even with my halting French, coping with daily life gave a view of France that I’d never have seen from a hotel.

But before you rush off to a rental agency, consider the drawbacks, too:

A vacation rental is more like home than a hotel: You may not want your vacation to be a rerun of your life at home. Maybe you want to escape from kitchen duties for a week or so. Maybe you want someone else to clean up the bathroom and change the sheets. Maybe, when you want something, you’d rather have room service to bring it to you than chase after it yourself.

Rentals can also be a bit riskier – there are no quality standards. Unless you’ve been there before, you can’t tell whether a rental that sounds good in a brochure corresponds to a Hilton, a Avacation rental is more like home than a hotel: You may not want your vacation to be a rerun of your life at home. Motel 6 or a fleabag. You usually have to pay the entire rental charge up front, so if you find the rental really isn’t what you wanted, you’re stuck.

It’s easy to arrange a vacation rental. Many package-tour programs include apartment or condo accommodations as an optional alternative to hotels. They’re often called “self-catering” in the brochures.

Some brokers specialize in Beach house rentals Galveston. Some handle rentals throughout the world, others specialize in just a few areas. Your travel agency should have brochures from several of these specialists.

You can sometimes even find discount deals on rentals. Several of the hotel-discount programs I’ve described in other columns – such as Entertainment Publications, Encore and ITC – include condo and apartment units in their programs. Sometimes they’re in the same directory as the discount hotels, sometimes they’re in a separate program.

But a word of warning: Since there’s often no official “list” price for vacation rentals, you can’t tell whether any given price really represents a “discount” or not.

Kitchen remodeling ideas

What’s on the wish list for homeowners remodeling their kitchens? A survey conducted for Jenn-Air showed that 52 percent of respondents wanted new appliances; 51 percent, a new refrigerator; 46 percent, an island with cooktop grill; 44 percent, a pantry. Way down on the list: fireplace (12 percent), wine cellar (11 percent), and office area (10 percent). That same survey showed that for kitchen colors or materials, light or bleached wood is what 71 percent of the respondents want, followed by marble or granite (59 percent), please, check out our website, cool blues and grays (56 percent), and mostly white or stainless steel (tied at 53 percent). Being hissed off the stage: mostly black, which got a thumbs-up from only 7 percent of the 750 respondents. Helpful hints

Johnny Grey, a British architect who specializes in kitchens (Metropolitan Home magazine calls him “the world’s best kitchen designer”), offers these suggestions for remodeling: (1) Consider the room’s social as well as functional purposes. If this is where everyone gathers, position the cooking areas so the cook’s back isn’t turned to guests or family members. (2) Make it inviting for all members of the family, with varying counter heights or a separate activity area for children. (3) If you can’t do a complete remodel, replace appliances and countertops, add decorative tiles and alter the lighting.

Most people don’t take the time to research kitchens before they remodel. There are so many new products, it’s confusing. And it’s the busiest room in the house. Colors are muted, in soft greens and yellows, something like in the ’50s but more sophisticated. Kitchens should look worn, used. The latest cabinets have a distressed finish making them look like they are 40 years old.

Solving construction problems

You can’t always get what you want. There’s a tradeoff among quality, quantity, and price. You can maximize any two, but you can’t have all three. If you want price and quality, you have to sacrifice quantity. If you want quality and quantity, it costs more money. The best solutions are usually a balance between competing demands. Example: You may want to use an expensive marble in the foyer of a spec home, but the cost would be prohibitive. If you use a color-coordinated tile for the flooring, and use the marble as a fireplace surround visible from the foyer; you get the best of both worlds, learn more at LaGrange Flooring America.

Break the problem into bite-size pieces. All complex problems are really a series of simple problems. Once you know what the simple problem is, address it with step-by-step solutions. There’s a difference between simple solutions and simplistic ones. A simplistic solution is an overly simple solution to a complex problem. Example: If you’re waiting to redo your forms until you have time to redo them all, they may never get done. Start with the form that needs the most help. Get it done; later, tackle another one.

Don’t use a sledge-hammer to swat mosquitoes. The solution should be proportionate to the problem. Find something that works and keep improving it. Simple solutions work best because human beings are fallible: The simpler the solution, the less likely humans will be screw it up. Example: If you have a problem with inaccurate estimates, you may need to review your procedures and unit costs. You don’t need to start all over with an expensive computerized estimating program that may, or may not, solve the problem.

The problem Isn’t solved until the solution Is implemented. Sometimes it’s easy to get a solution down on paper. The hard part is putting it in place. Get the people who’ll implement the solution involved in the problem-solving process so they’ll “own” the solution.

If you attack and solve recurring problems, you’ll have a more time to run your business effectively (rather than dealing with the same problems again and again). You’ll also discover that building houses is more fun and profitable. And that’s what it’s all about.