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How-To Tuesday: Keep Summer Pests at Bay

As more rural land is developed for residential and commercial purposes, more wildlife gets displaced. It’s not uncommon for homes in brand new neighborhoods to have the occasional issue with insects, birds, squirrels, snakes, and more. In order to build a new development, trees get cut down, landscapes change, and all that wildlife needs a place to go. Unfortunately, sometimes that place ends up being inside a homeowner’s attic, basement, crawlspace, or sometimes even the walls. While it’s completely possible to exist peacefully alongside most wildlife, there’s the occasional alarming instance. We’ve seen more than one story lately of homeowners waking up to find an alligator on their front porch or in their backyard. And while deer and rabbits might not be much cause for alarm, having them nibble your garden away can be annoying to say the least. If you’ve got issues with pesky critters, here’s how to solve them.

Call a pest management company.

For common pests like insects and rodents, ask for professional help from a licensed pest management company. If it’s important to you that the animals are treated humanely and not killed or harmed, make sure to check the company’s website or call and ask what their methods are for removal.

Keep trash cans properly secured.

Outdoor garbage cans and recycle bins are like major theme park attractions for some animals. Make sure your garbage cans are shut tight and can’t be opened easily if they’re knocked over by wind or wildlife. Think about washing the inside of the trash can out every once in a while to keep the odors from sticking around and attracting more animals.

Don’t leave pet food outside.

If you feed your pets outside, make sure to pick up any uneaten food and clean the area. Pet food attracts raccoons and other pesky critters who can cause bigger messes. Remember that raccoons are nocturnal animals, so if you witness them prowling around your pet food during the day, do not approach them. They could be suffering from rabies or distemper. Call a professional for help.

Secure the garden.

Unfortunately, having a vegetable garden is like putting out an all-you-can-eat buffet for some animals. To keep your garden safe, install a fence. Don’t let fruits and veggies get overly ripe, and pick up any produce that falls on the ground. Another good idea to keep wildlife out is to try gardening in a raised bed.

Use a repellent.

There are many types of repellents—chemical, natural, and physical—that can keep wildlife at bay. Chemical sprays and predator urines are good options, but remember that they need to be reapplied pretty often. Some good physical repellents might be motion-activated lights or sprinklers and ultrasonic sound emitters. If you live near a pond where alligators are a concern, put a strong, sturdy fence around your yard or surround it with heavy vegetation. Certain plants are known to repel pests as well. Lemongrass, lavender, garlic, rosemary, basil, peppermint, and marigolds are among some of the plant life known to repel insects and other pests.

Use friendly critters for good.

Having a dog or a cat as a pet does some good to keep certain animals away from the house. If you don’t have an issue with snakes, you might want to let them live in your yard instead of killing or removing them, as long as they’re not the kind that might pose a threat. Snakes are great at keeping bugs and rodents out. Attract bats, owls, and hawks for other pest control by building nesting boxes.

Keep in mind that removing some common pests can introduce others. Those bats living in your birdhouse could be keeping the mosquito population down in your yard. That cat that prowls around at night could be keeping the mice from finding their way inside the house. There’s a certain give-and-take in nature, and sometimes you have to take the good with the not-so-desirable. Before you decide to rid your yard of certain pests, talk to a wildlife expert to find out what the consequences could be.

 

Incorporating Feng Shui Concepts into the Home

You’ve probably heard of the concept of feng shui, the Chinese system of beliefs that govern spatial arrangement in relation to the flow of energy (known as chi) in a building. Even if you feel this particular system is too “out there” for you, it has its merits and can help you create a natural flow in your home. There are lots of ways to incorporate its more basic, down-to-earth elements into your home to make it a more calming environment—or if you’re selling, to make it more appealing to buyers.

The Basics

The purpose of feng shui is to align your energy with your home’s energy so that it reflects who you are and where you want to be in life. Everything—even everyday objects—has a certain energy, known as chi. Chi can flow into a house, and it can also flow out. Using feng shui concepts can help you guide that energy freely throughout your home. Carefully consider what you bring into the house, how you arrange the rooms, and how you maintain your home. Do you notice that when your house is messy or cluttered, you feel more stressed out and negative? That’s because of the negative energy associated with the lack of maintenance. It makes sense, right? Let’s look at a few ways you can use feng shui to help elevate the mood and the flow of energy in your home.

Living Room

Ideally, the couch should be against a solid wall farthest from the front door, but it should still have a clear view of said door. If there’s no wall to place the soft against, you can leave it floating, but anchor it with a console table in the back. Placing a mirror across from the couch also helps you feel secure if your back isn’t to the wall. Arrange other furniture close enough to create conversation areas, but leave enough space for the natural flow of traffic. As for coffee tables, consider going with a round shape to keep out harsh angles.

Dining Room

The dining room table should be an appropriate size for the room. A smaller table in a large room makes the room look too big and empty; likewise, a too-big table in a small space feels cramped and tight. Dining tables can become a catch-all for things like junk mail, school or work papers, or stacks of clean laundry. Instead, the dining room should serve a better purpose. If you don’t use it for much dining, try bringing energy to the room by using it as a space for work, crafting, game night, etc.

Bedrooms

The focal point of a bedroom is usually the bed itself, making it the most important piece to address. The head of the bed should be placed against the wall that is farthest from the door, but it shouldn’t be straight across from it. In feng shui, it’s considered bad luck to have your feet pointing directly at the door. This is known as coffin position, as it’s how the Chinese remove the dead. Leave space on either side of the bed so that each partner has equal access and lighting. Remember that the bedroom should be a calming space; it’s hard to rest easy when there’s too much energy—whether it’s literal or perceived energy—in a space. Try not to plug any electronics in behind the bed, and don’t store anything underneath the bed. And yes, you’ve heard it a million times, but it really is best not to have a television in the bedroom. Keep lighting soft, and bring in a mix of masculine and feminine details: for example, a solid wood bed with luxurious, soft linens.

Overall, it’s important to create a calming, restful environment that’s also full of positive energy. Surround yourself with things that have meaning and beauty, and get rid of those things that don’t inspire joy when you look at or hold them. A home arranged using feng shui concepts is a restful home, which makes a happy home!

Friday Five // June 1st, 2018

It’s Friday and the beginning of a whole new month. The kids are done with school, so let the fun commence! Celebrate the coming of summer with one of these fun events going on throughout the Lowcountry this weekend. Help raise money for service dogs, celebrate art with the family, shop for cool vintage finds, and more! Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend.

End your work week and kick off a relaxing weekend at Freshfields Village on Friday evening with Music on the Green. On each Friday during the summer, Freshfields Village will host a different band from 6pm until 9pm. The concerts are complimentary and family friendly, and guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to relax and listen to some great music. This Friday’s feature is local Charleston band Groove Train.

Beginning this weekend, Grace Church Cathedral will host its annual Team Room and gift shop, which takes place each year during the Spoleto Festival. The Tea Room is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:3am until 2pm. The entire parish pitches in to help out, from planning and publicity to food preparation and cleanup. All proceeds from the Tea Room and Church Mouse Boutique gift shop are used to support outreach efforts throughout the community.

Join Dance Lab on Saturday from 12-3pm for Pirouettes for PAALS, a day of dance, fun, and learning to raise funds for Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services. PAALS is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that helps enrich and empower Lowcountry children and adults with physical disabilities and social needs by training service animals and providing animal-assisted educational and recreational activities. Advance tickets for this event are $20, and day-of tickets are $30. A t-shirt is included with each ticket. Activities include education about service dogs, an obstacle course, a service dog photo booth, crafts, a bake sale, and more.

The Holy City Vintage Market is on for this Sunday at the Park Cafe from 9am until 3pm (a reschedule from its original rained-out date in May). Vintage vendors like Red Rose Vintage, Runaround Sue, Grease Kelly, fk vintage, and more will be on hand to show you their wares, as will artisans such as Crass Stitchery and Haus of Hygiene. Park Cafe will be serving up their delicious brunch menu alongside coffee and mimosas.

Head over to Avondale in West Ashley on Sunday for Piccolo chART-o-RAMA, a family-friendly day of art, vendors, DJs, performers, and fun! Hosted by chArt Outdoor Initiative, the event takes place from noon until 6pm behind the fire station (where all the murals are). Enjoy food trucks, art vendors, entertainment from Dance Lab and Stryke Team, King of Pops, beverages from The Roost, Avondale Wine & Cheese, Gene’s, and Charles Towne Fermentory, and more!

11 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

Not everyone is comfortable with asking questions. Some people might feel self-conscious, while others just aren’t able to think of good ones when they’re put on the spot. But when you’re hiring a contractor to do work on your home, it’s important to ask lots of questions and make sure you’re both on the same page. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 11 questions you should absolutely ask before hiring a contractor.

Do you have a contracting license?

Licensing requirements for contractors can vary by city, county, or state, so it’s important to check up on these things. Research what credentials are required in your area, and make sure your contractor is up to date on them. Remember that having a business license is not enough. You want to make sure they are licensed to perform the type of work you’re hiring them to do.

Are you insured?

A contractor should have insurance specifically for the type of job they perform. They need to at least have worker’s compensation and liability insurance to protect themselves and you in turn.

How long have you been in the business?

This isn’t to say that someone who’s been in business longer is automatically better at their job than a newer or younger contractor. But one who’s been in business for five to ten years will probably have a solid list of subcontractors and suppliers in the area as well as a reputation to uphold. There’s something to be said for experience and networking!

Do we need permits and/or inspections for this job?

You should actually research the answer to this question before you ask the contractor. If they don’t have the correct answer (or can’t explain why their answer is different from the info you found yourself), they might not be up to par. Not every job requires a permit, but if it does, a contractor should be able to tell you how to obtain one and should be willing to do so for you.

How long will it take to complete the job?

Yes, there are always fluctuations that affect exactly how long a job will take, but your contractor should be able to give you a pretty close estimate of start and finish dates. You should also be clear about what happens if the job takes longer than they estimate. Will there be more fees involved, for example?

Can you itemize your bid?

Most contractors will give you a bottom line estimate, but an itemized bid can help you both. If the overall estimate seems too steep, itemization can help you get rid of the things that aren’t as important. For instance, if you find that taking the tile installation and paint job out of the equation puts you way under budget, you can DIY those afterward and still hire the contractor for the heavy duty work.

When is payment due?

Never, never pay the full price for contracting work upfront. The Better Business Bureau advises against it, and any contractor worth his salt shouldn’t request that you do so. Before any work starts, you and your contractor should come up with a payment schedule that specifies when certain amounts become due, based on dates, stages of completion, etc.

How many projects like mine have you tackled lately?

It’s important to hire the right contractor for the right job. Just as you wouldn’t go to a dermatologist for a toothache, you probably wouldn’t hire an electrician to install your hardwood flooring. Ask how many jobs exactly like yours the contractor has done in the last year or two. Request photos if possible, and ask if they have references from people who’ve hired them to do the same type of project.

How would you like me to communicate with you?

Contractors are generally very busy people. Ask for some guidelines about how and when to communicate with them efficiently. Do they prefer a phone call, a text message, or an email? Would they rather you call first thing in the morning, during working hours, or in the evenings when they’re getting caught up?

What steps will you take to protect my home?

Specifically, will the contractor and his crew be responsible for moving or covering any furnishings that could get dirty or damaged during work? Will they wear shoe coverings? Will they make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked before leaving? How will you clean up the job site at the end of each day to prevent accidents?

Is there a warranty for your work and/or the materials involved?

The materials used on your home will usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Ask for a copy of this for your records just to make sure. Most contractors also offer some sort of guarantee on their work as well, and they should be clear about the terms from the beginning.

A quality contractor won’t have a problem sitting down with you and addressing all of your questions and concerns. Just as much as you want to know you’re getting quality work done, he or she wants to know that the job they’re about to get into is worth the time they’re taking to perform it.

Are Professional Listing Photos Really Worth It?

There’s a reason magazine photos are so doctored. Most magazines are largely comprised of ads or articles trying to get you to buy something. What better way to do that than presenting an enticing, beautiful photo to catch your eye? This same tactic can be applied to selling a home. The listings that feature the most beautiful, professional-looking photos will usually get more initial clicks than those with plain, point-and-shoot pictures. Professional photographers know how to use good lighting and appropriate angles to snap the perfect photo of your home. Below are just a few of the ways professional photographers are able to provide better listing photos of your home.

Lighting

The pros know that incorrect lighting can completely wreck an otherwise perfectly composed photograph. They know, for example, that it’s best to shoot exterior photos when the sun is shining fully on the front of your house. Shooting when the house is backlit or when the sun is straight overhead can cause shadows that hide your home’s best qualities and make the whole picture look blah. Morning and early evening light also tends to be softer, creating the perfect opportunity to take gorgeous exterior photos.

Angles

Taking a photo with the correct lens makes all the difference. A good photographer will have a variety of lenses to choose from during a photo shoot. If the details in a room are more important, a tighter shot might be fine, but generally a wide-angle lens is better. This enables the photographer to get more of the room into the picture and really show off the space. Pics from regular point-and-shoot cameras or phones don’t get a wide enough view and can cause a space to look more cramped than it actually is.

Positioning

The point from which you shoot a photo makes a huge difference in how the subject is perceived. Try this trick. Take out your camera and snap a picture of your face from straight on, one from below, and one from above. Which one is more flattering? A professional photographer knows to take several different shots from different positions in a room just to get one perfect image that shows off the room’s assets. Ideally, you want to see three walls in every photo. Even if you use a wide-angle lens, a room can still look smaller if it’s not shot from the best spot.

Views

Those who haven’t studied the finer points of photography and practiced them might not realize that the light streaming in from a window can completely wash out the view outside. Focus on the inside, and the window view will look blurry. Focus on the window, and the view of the interior becomes too dark. A knowledgeable photographer knows it’s possible to get both into focus by using high dynamic range (HDR).

Equipment

Sometimes timing isn’t optimal, and photos have to be taken on a cloudy day or at a time when the lighting isn’t very favorable. A professional photographer will have certain pieces of handy dandy equipment to help nudge those photos in the right direction. They should have a variety of lenses, flashes, light reflectors, and more to help while shooting photos. They should also be well versed in editing those photos to make sure your home looks its absolute best.

If your real estate agent doesn’t offer professional photos on your listing, it might be worth asking them to include it or at least offering to pay to have them done. Beautiful photos can mean the difference between someone being excited to see your home in person and them just feeling “meh” about it. You want to pique their interest and get them ready to buy before they even step foot inside your house, and professional photos are the perfect way to do that.

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