48095785_sIf you find that you have mold in your home and want it removed, you may be in for a surprise by the set of procedures now required to comply with a new law enacted in January by New York State to regulate its remediation.

According to two suppliers in the field interviewed for this report, some aspects of the law seem “a little crazy,” and you may get socked with a bill that is two or three times what it cost in the past.

Recently I attended a continuing education class devoted to the new law known as the Mold Program or Article 32 and overseen by the NYS Department of Labor to establish licensing requirements and minimum work standards for professionals engaged in mold assessment and remediation.

The presenter, Joe Margherita, owner of Fresh Maintenance, a licensed mold remediation company, was most engaging and encyclopedic in his knowledge, but from the outset, it was evident that he had some qualms about the new law and its effects on both the supplier and the consumer.

“In theory, the intentions of the new law are good, but in practice, at least for now…there are some problems that need to be worked out,” he said.

Those intentions as Margherita described them are solid: to protect the public by requiring contractors to obtain appropriate training prior to being licensed to perform mold assessment, remediation or abatement services. It also protects against fraud by prohibiting the performance of both the assessment and remediation on the same property by the same individual; and it requires a post-remediation assessment to make sure the job was done right.

“The law is a little crazy in the respect that, as a remediator, I can’t be the first person on the job,” Margherita said. “In the old days, I would just go there and take care of it. Now a full assessment plan is required before I can do my work, then the assessor must be called back to clear the work. It’s a bit much and that has to get ironed out. Maybe it’s okay for a big job, but for a single family house, it’s not working. Also, there are loopholes that give a lot of room for abuse.”

By the end of the class, I was unhappy about having to advise buyers and sellers of the bad news about mold removal because, except if they own a large apartment building, it looks as though a small remediation job for a single family house could cost them twice if not three times as much as it would have before this law was enacted. The extra cost stems from the separate assessment plan it requires, followed by the post-remediation clearance.

A while back, I had written about a very good experience I had with a mold remediator named Valerie Maziarz of Oxygen Sanitizing Systems who had rid my collection of antique books of a nasty mold problem. Maziarz did not hold back in her criticism of the new law: “It unnecessarily overburdens the consumer,” she said. “In the past, I could walk into an environment, do a report about how to resolve a problem and sanitize it at a reasonable cost. Now the consumer has to involve another party and it’s much more costly.

“This has been an overreaction by the state to a few bad people who took advantage of the situation around Superstorm Sandy,” Maziarz continued. “But that shouldn’t have meant that the world should be turned upside down. I am aware that a few other states have adopted similar laws but are now abandoning them for not working, Texas for example.”

Maziarz estimated that just the first step alone, the assessment plan, would add an addition $500 to $850 minimum to the process, not counting the remediation and the clearance. However, she said that she can still “sanitize” a home and, while she can’t write an official report, she can provide an air sampling following her process that the air is clean. I suppose there are many ways to address the bureaucratic process while it’s trying to find its way.

For instance, I learned from Margherita that as a homeowner the law allows me to simply perform mold removal on my own with a common household detergent. But who would want to risk amateur efforts if members of one’s family were having serious health problems because of it?

My lingering question was, if I wanted to follow the guidelines of the new bill, how would I locate an assessor, as distinguished from a remediator? I googled mold remediation and the first company to appear was ServPro. The representative told me they don’t do inspections but kindly referred me to a helpful assessor, Envirocheck at (866) 244-3254. For more information about remediation, you can talk to the pros Joe Margherita at (866) 543-3257 or Valerie Maziarz at (877) 244-3080.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

37360685_sRecently when I wrote a column dedicated to decorating in red, I received a comment from a reader asking whether my personal devotion to the color was politically motivated, but honestly, the thought never entered my mind. However, I thought that it was certainly a creative association.

When it was suggested by that same reader that I should give equal and unbiased time to the color blue, I thought it only fair, considering that some surveys have identified blue as America’s favorite color and at the same time, the latest polls show that a greater number of Americans identify with the political party that has adopted blue as its color.

Interestingly enough, red and blue have not distinguished the two major political parties for as long as we might expect. It wasn’t until the epic, drawn-out 2000 election of Bush V. Gore that color coded maps were standardized to identify Republicans with red and Democrats with blue.

Psychologically, color is credited with influencing our moods, eating habits, sleeping routines, even our romantic inclinations. And, the colors we choose in decorating can have a major impact on day to day living.

I had never thought about a strong color themed décor until, early in our married life, my wife and I met Myrna and Harry, another young couple who lived in the same apartment complex as we. Myrna was an art teacher and her favorite color was blue. In her own artwork, she painted in oil, and every painting was a study in various shades of the color. All of the walls in her apartment were stark white and all of her upholstery and window treatments, while simple, were blue.

It all made a definite statement, but was definitely not for me. I was deeply entrenched in warm colors in my early years, as was my wife, and our surroundings reflected it, from creamy off-whites and yellows for the walls to rich reds and browns for the decor. But according to a survey by House Beautiful, we’re in the minority. In the magazine’s Color Report, 29 percent of 4,000 respondents nationwide chose blue as their overall favorite color. A close second, at 21 percent, was green (my second least favorite color) while red and purple lagged behind, tied at 8 percent (again, weirdo me would choose these as favorite colors).

Giving blue its due for those who love it, it’s all around us in nature from the sky to the water. Known for its peaceful quality, blue is a favored color for bedrooms. Studies have shown that it actually slows down the metabolism, so it would make sense that it could help induce sleep. Blue is also very useful as the principle decorating color in a business setting, particularly meeting rooms designated for negotiation and keeping “cool” heads.

Blue also conveys a certain royalty or being set apart (as in “blue bloods”), as well as authority or confidence (as in “Big Blue”). Blue can be associated with isolation which might explain why someone feeling lonely could be said to have “the blues.” But in the final analysis, it all depends on how we relate to blue individually.

The “power” suit for men has always been a navy blue, while for women have adopted red to convey the same message of authority. But as for the man’s tie, red will always trump (to coin a phrase) blue in claiming the adjective “power.”

When it comes time to decorating, blue actually offers more variety and latitude than red. A little red goes a long way and can easily be overdone and actually overwhelm the occupants of a room with too heavy a hand. In my “red” column I related the story about my disastrous first decorating job as a teenager when I painted my bedroom blood red (make that dried blood red). When the house was put on the market, the first prospects walked into that room and uttered, “wow!” It would be difficult to overdo with blue no matter how extensively used. I once decorated a family room with a wildly busy paisley wallpaper trimmed with a bright blue woodwork and got away with it.

Having just transitioned from a living room that was predominantly pink and red to one that is primarily blue, I suppose it might be a change of life thing. My pace is a little calmer, a little more peaceful and my surroundings are falling in line.

But wait a minute. Here I am, preferring red but choosing blue to decorate. Is it to keep people guessing about my political leanings?

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

30007712_sIn most homes, it is said that the kitchen is the heart of the house. But I’ve been with buyers who seem to place as much importance if not more on the laundry room.

Personally, I remember how surprised I was when I came across one of my first buyers who was definitely more interested in the laundry setup than any other feature in the homes we visited because, as she related, she washed clothes every single day of the week.

There’s a personal story I’m fond of telling about one of the ways my soon-to-be wife checked me out as a bachelor. She visited my apartment and when she opened a drawer in my bedroom chest and found that my underwear were less than bright white, she asked, “Don’t you use bleach when you wash them?” Very honestly, I was never big on household chores as a single person, especially doing laundry. In fact, I just brought them to a service that did the job for me.

From the time we married, needless to say, my wife never let me do a load of laundry. It isn’t that I’m an Italian prince or that I didn’t assume a lot of other chores around the house, but laundry and cooking were two of the big ones that my wife insisted upon taking on herself. So, I’ve never really cooked or dealt with a washer and dryer. Therefore, a laundry room wasn’t high on my list priorities when we looked for a house. In retrospect, it should have been.

When we found our dream home, a historic home, it featured a very large country kitchen with a washer/dryer alcove. Deciding that the washer/dryer space would better serve as her cookbook library and office, my wife banished the appliances to the dark recesses of the basement and chose for many years to make the two-story trip from the second floor to get her whites whiter than white.

Recently I came across a statistic I find hard to believe: that we as Americans spend more time in the laundry room than in the bathroom! Certainly this would not apply to me, but the findings claim that on average, Americans spend eight hours a week collectively doing some 35 billion loads of laundry a year.

In the past, laundry chores have been most frequently relegated to the basement, as in my family, but today, especially with new construction, the laundry room has evolved into an art of its own as consumers demand that it be as integrated into the life of a home as the kitchen.

It can even be in the bath or kitchen, but most often we find it in the upstairs hallway or doubling as a mudroom. A first-floor laundry room can serve as a command center of sorts near the family room where parents can keep track of kids while washing, drying or folding. On the second floor, stackable, quiet front-loaders can fit neatly into a hall closet, steps from the bedrooms and bath.

Because of its double or even triple duty potential, a laundry room remodel is a good investment in upgrading the value of a home. After the purchase of a washer and dryer, built-ins can be designed to accommodate cleaning suppliers, and shelving can be installed for other purposes.

To facilitate dealing with clothes right away, it’s smart to have a table nearby the dryer for folding, a pull-out drying rack for hanging and a hidden ironing board as well, making the laundry room a one-stop shop where all the laundry chores get done at once.

In smaller homes, utilizing the laundry room for multiple purposes is a great space-saving technique. If it also has a utility sink, it is a great place to feed and bathe pets as well. It also easily transitions into a mudroom on the way to the garage or the outdoors, where there can be storage for extra shoes, sports equipment and winter clothing.

When planning a laundry room from scratch, it’s always more cheerful to take advantage of natural light by converting a room with windows.

As for decoration, rather than all-white which seems to be the easiest no-think choice for most laundry rooms, a more natural “water” theme of light green and pale blue might be considered.

The favorite option I found, if I were to someday design a laundry room, is to incorporate entertainment equipment – radio and television – within the room, mainly as a diversionary, survival mechanism. But why attach a negative spin to it? As I write this on Mother’s Day, I remember fondly that my own mother loved keeping up with her laundry chores and especially liked doing her own ironing that kept her family looking so crisp and cared for.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

12124534_sThe next time you go to an Realtor’s open house and are asked to show your photo I.D., or if a Realtor refuses to meet you for the first time at a property you’re interested in, insisting that you meet at a real estate office instead, don’t take it personally. She or he is just following safety precautions given either by an office manager, the National Association of Realtors or the local law enforcement agency to guard against any number of open invitations for the possibility of theft, robbery, assault, even abduction or murder.

Indeed, as reported in a recent episode of Dateline NBC, we learned of the abduction and murder of Little Rock Realtor Beverly Carter who agreed to show a vacant house to a couple with whom she had communicated only by phone and email. She knew the neighborhood well and felt confident because both a wife and husband would be there but in fact, only the male prospect showed up and, as it turned out, he was not who he purported to be. Rather, he was an imposter whose plan was to kidnap and hold her for ransom, but the scheme went terribly wrong and she was killed. When arraigned and asked why this popular and successful person, wife and mother was targeted for the crime, he responded, “because she looked like a rich broker.”

Just last week my William Raveis Real Estate office in Yorktown invited Detective Sean Lewis of our police department to offer safety tips specifically targeted to situations we find ourselves in regularly. He suggested how we might best assure not only our own safety but also how to best advise our sellers about protecting their property and possessions. Actually, most of the precautions we realtors take could be used by any homeowner who wants to safeguard themselves and their property from the crimes of those who would do us harm.

“The single most important point I can make is to know who you’re dealing with,” Detective Lewis said from the start. “Remember the principle of ‘stranger danger.’ Do not meet a new prospect for the first time at a property. Insist that they come into your office and ask for their I.D. Also, always let someone else know where you are at all times. Always have your cell with you. And, trust your instincts,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ safety tips for Realtors included the use of certain code words agents can communicate by phone or text to their office administrator if they feel they are in danger. (At my agency, we had already been educated to ours.) Other suggestions included such basics as showing properties before dark, always having the client go first into a home, as well as into and out of a basement.

Women are advised not to include too much personal information about themselves online, not to glamorize themselves too much or wear expensive jewelry when showing homes.

For homeowners, the time for vigilance is when a property is on the market and their homes are being shown and especially when open houses are scheduled. That is the time when anything of value must be hidden or locked away securely. Realtors will do everything they can to safeguard a homeowner’s property and will advise the homeowner of special precautions to take to help them in that endeavor. Besides the obvious, such as jewelry, sellers should be careful not to leave personal information like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see it. Also, any other expensive, easy to pocket electronics like iPods should be put away before showings. Special care must be taken when visitors arrive in twos or threes, where one may try to distract the agent while the other rummages through the homeowner’s possessions. This is the reason that there are frequently more than one attendant at open houses.

“We all have life experience to be our guides,” Detective Lewis said. “That instinct has to serve us each day when we are in a high-risk job.” Very honestly, when I was attracted to the field of real estate, I didn’t consider it high-risk, but then, I was educated to be aware.

Interestingly enough, a Raveis real estate agent named Bernice Gottlieb from the company’s Irvington office has published a thriller about violent crimes Realtors are experiencing across the country. Called Havoc-on-Hudson, the book serves as a cautionary tale that Gottleib hopes will raise awareness among her peers to take necessary precautions and will have an impact on house buyers and sellers as well.

“According to the Department of Labor and Statistics,” she said, “there were more rapes, robberies, and homicides of Realtors since 2008, than of police officers killed in the line of duty! It’s a fact that most people are unaware of.”

“You need to know who you’re dealing with at all times,’’ Gottlieb said. “If one Realtor reads it and is more careful about who they let into open houses, the work that went into writing this book will have been worth it.”

To purchase Havoc-on-Hudson by Bernice Gottleib, go online either to Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

10550318_sWhen I was younger, a feeling of near-euphoria would greet me at the first breath of spring as I would anticipate my first days in the garden. Year after year, I could always be assured that I had at least five or six months ahead of me where, whenever stressed, all I had to do was put on my garden gloves to zone out and unwind.

In ensuing years, however, that enthusiasm dampened somewhat, first by  “gardener’s knee,” then by a schedule that sometimes had me choosing the easy chair and TV for relaxation in any free time rather than anything more strenuous in the open air.

Yet, I still wanted to have my property looking its best, especially now that it’s on the market with an increased schedule of showings. At the same time, I must keep my weekend outdoor maintenance chores to tight time constraints.

Here’s my shorthand to planning a low-maintenance garden that will eventually require only a one-weekend planting schedule, another for clean-up and only occasional touch-ups from spring to fall.

My main objectives in creating an attractive but low-maintenance property were to plan for as much color as possible throughout the spring, summer and fall and to beat the weed and deer-munching problems.

To accomplish the first goal, I spend my first years of ownership in planting foundation flowing trees and shrubs that promised to return year after year, requiring only pruning either in the spring or fall. These include spring blooming apple and cherry trees, lilac, forsythia, azalea, and rhododendron and late summer blooming Rose of Sharon.

I always considered carefully which plants I put into my garden and which I kept out. On the “out” list were roses, which can kill you from the constant attention needed (except for the “Knockout” variety which are more forgiving), and annual flowers for cutting which can be as intense a process from seedlings to the eventual cut as raising a child.

“In” was anything that blooms every year with no attention from me, such as phlox, Shasta daisies and Black-Eyed Susans, which return ever year if properly watered and fertilized, naturally or otherwise.

Accompanying those bursts of color were swaths of daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs planted decades ago in wire cages to keep the squirrels at bay.

For colorful ground cover that spread like wild fire, I planted clumps of periwinkle whose purple blossoms last for weeks.  Another trusty foundation planting of several varieties has been hosta, also blooming in spires of purple and white.

In the spring, just a bit of time is required to trim spring flowering shrubs right after blooming for thicker growth and more blooms next year. And, just as you are tending to the perennial beds, the earliest spring bulbs will be blooming. Afterwards, be sure to deadhead them (remove the remains of the blossoms) but don’t remove the leaves. Let them die back naturally so that they can feed the bulbs for next year.

For time efficiency, the concept of annual flower beds was replaced by a collection of urns in focused areas of the property, filled with non-destruct geraniums that last throughout the season.

Step two of my no-work garden is the easy way to keep weeds, invasive plants and deer at bay. The principal deterrent to weeds is to employ thick mulch doing its triple-duty miracle work of retaining moisture while inhibiting weed growth, plus adding nutrients to the soil as it decays. I have a money-saving trick in achieving a thick mulch look. Regular mulch can be quite expensive, so I ask my friends who cut and prune my trees to drop a full load of really clean chips near my driveway, and I use them in all my garden beds as a first layer. Then, I cover that layer with a mere skin of the more expensive mulch.

My third element for easy gardening is to utilize certain products necessary to keep the invaders of the garden, both plant and animal, at bay. One is the fabulous Preen, those tiny granules keep weeds from germinating. Another is Round-Up, which kills those invaders like grout weed that are not destroyed by Preen (a recent gardening column advised readers that the only way to get rid of grout weed was to move!). I spray the Round-Up directly on the leaves of this garden predator and systemically, they die off.

And the third product, Bobbex, keeps the deer from wishing each other bon appétit over my hosta and geranium flowers (they don’t much like the rest of the plant). While Bobbex must be sprayed at least once a month to continue its effectiveness, it’s a small price to pay to assure that you won’t lose an entire bed of plantings to one evening of deer indulgence. (Also, spray again if there is a tremendous rain storm.)

And, be mindful of what William Shakespeare wrote: “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.” With the tricks outlined here, you can enjoy the sweetness of the flowers and make haste in banishing the weeds, along with Bambi.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site iswww.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

Occasionally I share “musings” from past columns that readers have commented on. Sometimes practical, other times absurd, they are observations of home living made along the way. For an index of previously published articles, visit: www.TheHomeGuru.com.

St. Joseph Strikes Again: There is much lore attached to burying a St. Joseph statue on the property of a home seeking a buyer, and sometimes the instructions can be quite specific about how it should be buried. The most favored position for the statue is upside down and facing the house. One laughable story online is about the homeowner who buried the statue facing away from the house only to have the house across the street sell, and it wasn’t even on the market! Another is about the homeowner whose house failed to sell and, frustrated, he threw his statue out with the trash only to learn that the town dump was sold soon after.

Can You Guess the Most Popular Street Name in America? It’s a good trivia question, and no, it’s not Main, Maple or Elm. It’s 2nd Street. Surprised? The reason is that most towns in America started with a simple grid of numbered streets, but many times 1st Street was renamed Main Street, boosting 2nd Street to the lead. So you might say that 2nd is second to none.

I Never Say “It Sucks” Except for My Vacuum, which Doesn’t, Despite manufacturers’ claims, my wife and I have never found a vacuum cleaner that really performs the job as promised. At present we have three different vacuum cleaners in our storage closet and, to coin a phrase, they all suck.

Will We All Return to Dust? Did you know that household dust is composed mostly of our own flaking skin? If we are uneasy when our house is dusty, is that being uncomfortable in our own skin? And did you know that, contrary to popular belief, it’s better for people with allergies to cover their floors with wall-to-wall carpeting, rather than hard wood, to keep allergens contained until they can be vacuumed up?

Confessions of a Weeding Addict: One might judge my mental state at any given time by how well my garden is weeded. When I’m anxious, I’m out there in the yard yanking and pulling. When weeds are more in evidence, my friends and neighbors can assume that I’ve not had much need for any occupational therapy and I’m safe to be around. In the winter time when plants and weeds alike are asleep, it’s riskier to hazard a guess. One way to avoid the issue altogether: buy Preen this spring!

Must We Have Toilet Humor? Two thoughts on that subject: The design of the elongated toilet bowl surely was designed to accommodate the male anatomy. Trading up from a circular bowl to an elongated one is for a guy like going from jockeys to boxer shorts. And recently, when I was told that the Kohler “smart” toilet seat could be programmed to heat to any temperature, I inquired, “but there’s no chance that I could accidentally burn my butt, is there?”

Of Death and Taxes: We’ve all heard the expression that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and, while we can’t do anything about the inevitability of death, we can try to negotiate property taxes by grieving them. If a tax grievance is in your future, I wish you good luck. And if somehow you manage to negotiate the inevitability of death, write and let me know how you did it.

Two Mattress Tales: My wife tells a cute story about mattresses. When she took her 88-year-old mother to buy a new mattress and the salesman noted that it came with a 20-year guarantee, her mother said, “At my age, I only need a five-year guarantee. Can I get a better price for that?” When I was a bachelor, I preferred firmer mattresses that might allow greater movement, but once married, I preferred softer versions where one tends to sink into a spot and pretty much stay there. I don’t draw any conclusion about that transition but the reader might.

Too Much Shorthand in Real Estate: If you’re buying or selling a house, you’ve certainly encountered such abbreviations as FSBO (for sale by owner), AO (accepted offer), CMA (comparative market analysis), EIK (eat-in kitchen), SLD (sliding glass doors), etc., and sometimes it seems that our whole world, especially with texting, has gone much too far into shorthand degeneration. When making an admittedly low-ball offer on a house and told that the listing agent would “follow up” after speaking with her clients, you can imagine how startled I was with her return email when the subject line was abbreviated simply to “FU!”

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

11217674_sSince my marriage, my wife and I have owned three homes and each of them provided for either a two-family or an accessory apartment arrangement, which, especially when we were young, helped keep the wolf from the door. And once moving to Westchester and realizing at a certain point that our taxes had more than doubled since purchasing our home, we could say, well at least the rental income buffered the sticker shock when the tax bill arrived.

Making good use of surplus square footage and deriving added income are the reasons most homeowners consider being landlords, but the challenges and responsibilities of being on call 24-7 are not for everyone. From my own experience I have gathered some advice here for anyone considering the purchase of a property that would offer a rental income opportunity.

The first step to becoming a landlord is to see what the town code allows in your municipality, if allowed at all. In my town, accessory apartments are allowed with a special use permit which remains in effect for a period of three years, then must be renewed. There are certain restrictions about square footage relative to the overall size of the house, depending on the town, and other restrictions as well. I know at least one couple, for example, who was disappointed to learn that their basement could not be converted into a rentable apartment because the ceiling was too low.

In the suburbs, most homeowners with accessory apartments are landlords under the same roof as their renters, while others may own a completely separate property for which they may hire a property management firm to manage it for them.

The ideal is to have the renter’s accommodations under the same roof, yet as private from your own living space as possible, with its own entrance and outdoor recreation space.

The most important aspect of finding the ideal tenants who will be living under the same roof as homeowners is qualifying them for their credit rating, work status and references. The internet has made this easier than when we first started renting and judged prospects mainly on whether they seemed like upstanding citizens. Luckily, our intuitiveness served us well, but today we would recommend much tighter scrutiny of prospective tenants.

Each applicant 18 years or older should be provided a pre-printed form to list his/her name, birth date, social security number, and previous landlord contact information for the past two years.

The form should also include the statement that indicates you will run a credit check. There should also be a signature line when the prospect consents to allowing the credit check. Some homeowners charge the prospect fee for requesting the credit report from the bureaus or credit check websites such as Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. CreditReport.com has an option for landlords to receive all three credit reports at one time.

When reviewing the reports, it’s prudent to remember that past behavior predicts future behavior. Certainly contact the past landlord about past behavior of the prospect and any problems there may have been.

When advertising for tenants, your real estate agent will be sure that the language of the ad is in compliance with all fair housing guidelines. If you are not using a real estate agent, be sure to check with your lawyer as to the proper language.

So what’s it like having someone renting out part of your home? My wife and I have been fortunate with our tenants; they have (almost) all been reliable and pleasant. That said, they have also all been different from each other. Some we only saw when they brought over their rent check. One of our first tenants in our townhouse in Brooklyn Heights, whom we inherited, were pains in the neck, leaving the front door to the building propped open so their friends could get in whenever they wanted. And this was New York City in the 1970s, so believe me, everyone in their right minds wanted their doors locked. We had to threaten eviction to get them to stop.

A few tenants became friends. We even helped name the first baby of one young couple. We would bring in each other’s mail and keep an eye on things when either they or we were away. If this sounds like a warmer relationship than most renters and landlords share, probably that is the case when there is just one rental unit involved, rather than many in an apartment house.

In my next home I will be calling it quits, having chosen a condo where someone else can worry about maintenance for a change of pace, but the experience of being a landlord has been a source of some interest as well as extra income through the years.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog iswww.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

Jennifer Gurahian handles estate sales to bring discarded items “back to life.”

Jennifer Gurahian handles estate sales to bring discarded items “back to life.”

For many years Jennifer Gurahian has been my recommended source for handling estate sales whenever I’ve had clients who were downsizing. And only now when I am engaging her services myself have I experienced a change of perception about the whole process of getting rid of “stuff” no longer needed.

Counting what my wife and I had stored from a former antiques business as well as from a couple of other enterprises, we might as well have had a warehouse operation going in our 18th century farmhouse, currently on the market. Why were we holding on to so many things? Sentiment? An overrating of our collectibles’ value?

Whatever the reasons, we found that when it was time to let go of many possessions, we had an attic, basement and garage chock full of furniture, collectibles and other things as utilitarian as desks and file cabinets that had to be disposed of.

Correction: Rather than disposing of things, Gurahian has a different take on her job. “I’m in the business of bringing discarded items back to life, giving them new value and bringing new meaning to new people,” she said when she came to our property to assess our needs.

“It can be overwhelming for the average person,” Gurahian said, “It can be a full time job.” I totally agree; otherwise, I would have started on the assignment a long time ago.

Gurahian wasn’t specifically trained to do what she does today – she’s an anthropologist by education – but by any measurement is an expert at it. She started her business as a young single mother with a need for extra cash. “I would pick up discarded furniture on bulk trash pickup day, take it home, refinish it outside whenever the weather would permit and sell it either at flea markets or on consignment at antique shops. “Today, with Craigslist and eBay, the process is quite different,” she said.

To support her experience of learning by doing, she took a course in appraisal at Pratt. “There they taught us how to find the best and highest use for an item in the market you’re in,” she said. “How much can you get for an item within your market. Really, there is no other value.”

The process of re-purposing furniture and other items is fascinating to me and really quite time-intensive. Gurahian comes to the homeowner’s property to explain the process and to survey all the things to be sold. She then makes a proposal which usually involves her earning a percentage of sales. When an agreement is made, a schedule of visits is arranged in which she takes inventory of all items, does all necessary research on them, writing descriptions and taking photographs for the internet. It’s basically a full-service commitment where she communicates with interested buyers, arranges for payment and pick-up or, for items to be mailed, packaging.

And why would anyone want to do all this for a living? “It’s just something I was drawn to when I discovered all the things in my Grandmother’s attic,” Gurahian explained. “I wasn’t trained in this area…I’m just an educated lay person with a good eye.

“Early on, I found that pieces talk to you. Things are made with care and attention,” she said. “And, they have meant something to somebody. When you’re disposing of someone’s pieces, you’re getting someone’s experience with them, so it has meaning.”

Looking at an English tea table I’ve had for many years, Gurahian spies a patch in the veneer and said, “Look at the craftsmanship and care that went into that mending! I think it adds value.”

In terms of attaching the right price to pieces for an estate sale, Gurahian projects that she seeks the law of averages. “You want to get the price right – or at least within 15 percent – 80 percent of the time and the rest, you want lucky high or lucky low,” she said.

“This work has been very fulfilling to me on several levels,” she continued. “Working with furniture is very therapeutic. It speaks to you, yet doesn’t talk back. And, the ability to bring something back to life is a very powerful metaphor.”

Considering that moving is a major stressor in life, having this kind of service available is certainly a godsend, wouldn’t you say? Jennifer Gurahian can be reached at jgurahian@gmail.com.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

Having long term relationships with your home suppliers has its advantages, I’ve found. In effect, they become advisors you can trust, almost like members of the family. And when the business itself is an extended family affair, it’s especially nice.

Take the example of Absolute Flooring of Yorktown that re-did my kitchen floor three years ago. My sales consultant Diane Darby was infinitely patient as I went through sample after sample, not knowing the material or color I wanted when starting out. But Diane knew all the right questions to ask. And the end result was a black and white checkerboard pattern of high-quality vinyl that brought a kitchen done in hand-crafted pine cabinetry vibrantly to life.

It was on a recent visit that I found that I could benefit by being a repeat customer this year in that the company is observing its 30th anniversary and to celebrate is offering all returning customers a 10 percent discount. While there, I learned more about the family and its story about growing up as a member of its community.

When owners Peter and Mary Fellbusch opened their store in 1986, Peter came armed with the experience of having worked as an installer, then a contractor, in flooring, and Mary had taken a correspondence course in interior design. They built their business from scratch, earning the trust and friendship of a large percentage of commercial entities in town and two generations of homeowners, primarily in northern Westchester.

Two children were born into the business: son Bryan, 28 and daughter Christine, 26, who literally grew up in the showroom. And when I returned this time around, I found that my original salesperson, Diane, was also a family member, the younger sister of Mary.

But here’s a fact that really intrigued me. From Bryan, I learned that after all these years in business, the Fellbusch files have the measurements of at least 20,000 rooms from homes in the area! Imagine? And in their anniversary year, if a homeowner calls in for a job where measurements have already been taken, whether by that homeowner or a former owner, he or she will receive a 10 percent discount. I’ve never heard of a promotion quite like that.

And with all those rooms that had been serviced, I was even more impressed to find that Mary had total recall of my former job after three years, the material selected and the issues that came with it, even though my salesperson had been sister “Aunt Di.” How had Mary known and how had she remembered?

“Having a good memory, both of the people you meet and the job involved, is a definite asset in any business,” daughter Christine told me. Christine has just returned to the family fold after having spent three years in England, married to a Brit soccer coach. She has now returned with her husband who will coach here while she works in the family business. While abroad, she worked for one of the largest flooring companies in Europe and impressed management with her American sales techniques which she learned from her parents.

“They were amazed that I connected so personally with each customer, remembering their names and the specs of each job. In a very short time, I was the store’s lead salesperson,” she said.

In a discussion with Mary about advantages of long-term supplier relationships, we agreed that the supplier becomes a trusted advisor who is part of the community and wants to provide clients with products that will work best for them in the long run. That’s why they ask the right questions about which rooms are used for which purposes, how much traffic is involved and what product will best stand up to the challenge.

Also, they are the source for information where we lack expertise in such areas as what is trending, what technology is new and what myths need debunking. For instance, I was able to report in a past column on the myth of hardwood as a better flooring surface for people with allergies because Diane had alerted me to this misconception. “This comes up frequently where people have the impression that hardwood floors are better for keeping allergies at bay, but research has shown that a low, dense carpet holds the allergens, rather than having them airborne, until they can be vacuumed away.”

And what’s trending in flooring according to the Fellbusch clan? “Times keep changing, and some things come full circle,” Peter said. “Laminates were a big deal when first introduced, now wood is preferred. “It depends on the room,” adds Mary. Most people still prefer carpeting in the bedroom where they want it to be warmer.”

If you (or your parents!) have been a past customer of Absolute Flooring and want the benefits offered by its 30th Anniversary, catch up with the Fellbusches by calling (914) 245-0225. If you’re new to the area, learn more by visiting www.absoluteflooring.com.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

A faux border of swags and jabots painted years ago with stencils and freehand by the Home Guru.

A faux border of swags and jabots painted years ago with stencils and freehand by the Home Guru.

A whole new world was opened to me years ago when the owners of a tasteful antiques shop in Brooklyn Heights invited me to their condo in one of the grand houses in that landmarked neighborhood. When I looked up at the ceiling in their living room, I found that I was looking at a painted sky with clouds that extended the already-high ceilings to infinity.

Technically known as trompe t’oeil or “fool the eye,” this technique is just one of the many ways that faux or “false” painting can be used to transform any room or object into a work of art.

The objective of faux is to have its objects or surfaces look as much like the originals as possible, whether they be marble, wood, grain or suede. With professional faux painters, it’s amazing how realistic their work can be. There have been times when I have seen marbleized columns painted so realistically that I have had to tap on them to see if they weren’t the real thing. And the same can be said for examples of wood graining I’ve seen. With us amateurs, results can vary, but the application is always fun.

While few of us would attempt a sky with bulbous clouds like my friends’ ceiling, faux products provided by paint stores today allow even rank amateurs like me to achieve impressive results. Painting a room or even just one wall or the ceiling with a faux technique is a great way to give your home a dramatic boost. And because no two faux finishes come out the same, whatever effect you’re trying to achieve, it will be uniquely yours!

In my own experience, I started with the easiest of all faux techniques: antiquing, mostly for furniture I picked up on the streets of New York City and re-did with kits providing a base coat and a thin glaze applied over it which could be manipulated with a rag or brush to simulate age.   

The techniques are many, conveyed by their very names: Sponging, rag rolling, crackle; strie (stripes achieved by running a brush through the top glaze), leather wall, crinkle paper, and parchment, to name a few. Also there are specialty products that convey glitter, pearlescent or metallic effects to the surface. I especially like Chalkboard Paint, which is fun for families with young kids who can use their walls for free expression, only to be wiped clean without fuss.

One of my early hobbies was wall stenciling and there were a number of rooms in my first couple of apartments and homes that were graced with garlands of swags and jabots, patterned on 18th century designs, but modernized to my own vision with the addition of leaves and flowers intertwining the drapery effect.

Because many of the walls I painted were solid plaster applied well over 100 years ago and had many defects from multiple cracks and patching, I have frequently utilized faux textures, such as adding a sand mixture to my latex wall paint and swabbed it on with a thick bristled brush, forgiving 1,000 sins in the process.  There are many other textures to choose from today, such as brushed suede, sandstone finish, metallic plaster, and Venetian plaster.

Many of us tend to think of faux painting as a relatively recent phenomenon. I remember that there was a surge of interest in it in the 1980s and 1990s as the popularity of wallpaper began to fade. But historically, faux finishing has been used for millennia, from early cave painting to the tombs of ancient Egypt and the homes of Pompeii.  Faux painting became most popular in classical times in the forms of faux marble, wood and murals. With the current renaissance in faux finishing, there are many new kinds of specialty paints and glazes on the market, as well as many tools and brushes to aid in the finishing process.

As for me, I’ve used mostly sponges and rags to apply the glazes and finishes which I find sometimes create the best effects.

To know more about this fun craft, visit the faux pages of www.benjaminmoore.com, www.sherwinwilliams.com, and/or  www.behr.com. And have fun experimenting with and creating your own unique work of decorating.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.