Wild Weather is no Excuse to Hibernate in Winter

The most common New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, according to NPR and The Marist Poll. Losing weight and a vow to “eat better” came in third and fourth, respectively.

All of the above certainly rank high on our lists, which is why we decided to take a break from talking about real estate and homeownership responsibilities and talk fitness as we head into the new year.

While the aforementioned survey didn’t say why 80 percent of us fail to keep our resolutions, when it comes to fitness and losing weight, the weather could have something to do with it.

Baby, it’s cold outside

Sure, there are some die-hard outdoor enthusiasts who will jog in any weather, but for most of us, winter means moving the fitness routine indoors. Whether your favorite activity is a sport or a rigorous workout routine, we’ve scoured tips to help you burn calories, indoors, on the cheap.

Runners

There are indoor tracks in most major and many smaller cities. Check out the YWCA or YMCA. If all else fails, take to the treadmill at the local gym.

Bikers

Fortunate are those bikers who live in a town with a velodrome, such as that offered in Blaine, Minnesota’s National Sports Center. Lacking an indoor bike facility, again, hit the gym.

Skaters

Trade the summer wheels for blades at an ice-skating rink. Open skate sessions are typically inexpensive and hours convenient to practice your axel to your heart’s content.

Don’t want to give up your wheels? Indoor roller rinks are ideal.

Swimmers

Burn those calories indoors at a YMCA pool.

Bend it like Beckham – Indoors

Blue skies and balmy temperatures make for ideal soccer weather. Don’t let the fact that we don’t have year-round futbol weather prevent you from working on bending that ball like David Beckham.

Indoor soccer is the solution. Not only can you keep your skills up but enjoy an excellent cardio workout with some core work as a bonus.

Many parks and rec facilities offer indoor leagues and practice areas when there aren’t games.

Strollers

If walking is the way you stay fit you can still do it, even in the dead of winter. Community centers are the place to find walking tracks but don’t overlook the local mall.

Just don’t wreck your workout session with window shopping and noshing.

Try Something New

If your workout-routine of choice doesn’t involve a gym during the mild weather months but you just can’t face the thought of joining one during the winter, consider trying something new that’s not related to sitting on a stationary bike in a room full of sweaty people.

For strength training and cardio, consider swinging kettlebells. You can pick them up at any sporting goods store, Walmart or Target.

Then, in your own living room you can blast away 20 calories per minute, with a 20-minute routine being “the equivalent of running a 6-minute mile pace,” according to a study published at AceFitness.org.

Of course, you’ll need a cool routine, so search YouTube videos for “Kettlebell Workout Routines.”

With any of these suggestions you can emerge from winter with your hot and healthy body ready for spring.

Home fire season is upon us: Do you have enough insurance?

House fire

Fall and winter see an increase in home fires. It makes sense when we consider that we cook more around the holidays, we light more candles and we place more flammable objects near heat sources (hello holiday tree!).

In 2017 (the latest year for which the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, has statistics), there were 379,000 residential structure fires across the United States. More than 2,600 deaths occurred as a result.

Additionally, fire caused $7.7 billion in damage to homes, or an average per-property loss of $21,463, according to the NFPA.

A home fire can be devastating, to both family and finances. Don’t wait to find out post-fire that you lack adequate insurance coverage to rebuild or repair.

Dig out your homeowners’ policy now and set your mind at ease.

Are fires covered by home insurance?

The standard home insurance policy covers home damage caused by fire and smoke.

A good standard policy will cover damage to the structure, attached structures as sell as your personal property within the home and, often, even landscaping.

An even better standard policy will cover the cost of staying somewhere else while the home is being repaired.

That said, consider the two situations under which a fire is typically not covered in a standard homeowner’s policy:

 Vacant home fire – Homes are typically considered “vacant” if nobody has lived in them for the past 30 days. If you plan on moving and the home will be vacant for that long, or if you own a seasonal rental that sits unoccupied for 30-day or longer stretches, you can purchase vacant home insurance, usually as an endorsement (an addition or amendment) to your current policy.

This, of course, depends on whether your insurer carries vacant home insurance.

Step one, then, is to pore over your insurance documents (or call your insurance agent) to ensure that fire is covered (it almost always is) and that it applies to the vacant home. 

Arson – The person who sets a fire deliberately is known, legally at least, as an arsonist. Not only is this a criminal offense but it may constitute insurance fraud as well.

When you report a home fire to your insurer, the company will first send an investigator to the home to look for the cause of the fire and for signs of arson.

The company will deny coverage if it’s learned that the fire was arson.

How much insurance coverage does the average homeowner need?

The maximum amount that the insurance company will give you to cover a loss is known as the policy’s “limits.” And, since no two homeowners are alike, the limits vary according to your needs.

When considering whether you have enough coverage, think about the following:

The home – Construction material prices and labor costs fluctuate. If you haven’t thought about your insurance policy for years, it’s time to dig it out and ensure you have enough coverage to replace your home.

Don’t make the common mistake many homeowners make by basing your coverage on your home’s current market value.

“The price you paid for your home—or the current market price—may be more or less than the cost to rebuild,” suggests the experts at the Insurance Information Institute (III).

“And if the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage (as some banks require), it may not adequately cover the cost of rebuilding.”

The question to ask yourself isn’t “How much is the home worth right now?” but “How much will it cost to rebuild my home, in today’s dollars?”

Your personal property — In a home fire, it’s not just the flames that cause destruction. The smoke and the water used to douse the fire often destroy personal property as well.

If you haven’t yet taken a home inventory, do so as soon as possible. You’ll find lots of tips and advice online, such as this handy Home Contents Inventory Worksheet at NYCM.com, a walk-through of the process from III and a home inventory Q&A from Farmers Insurance.

If you find that you may need more coverage for your “stuff,” increase the limits for personal property. And, be aware, some items, such as expensive jewelry or artwork may come with lower limits, according to the folks at III.

We all know that homes should have working smoke detectors. It’s also important to consider having several fire extinguishers on-hand.

Some fire-protection additions may even get you a discount from your insurer. These include:

  • Centrally-monitored fire alarm
  • Fire-resistant construction
  • Sprinkler system

Speak with your insurance company representative about your coverage needs before something happens, not after.

DIY those drywall cracks and holes in the wall

When getting your home ready to sell, or doing minor repairs on one that you’ve purchased, you’ll inevitably run into drywall issues.

From cracks to holes, they’re unsightly, but, thankfully, easy to fix.

How do they happen?

New homeowners tend to be a bit more alarmed than the experienced about cracks in the walls of their home. Take a deep breath – there are three common reasons for these cracks:

Settling – Over time, homes “settle.” “This is simply a result of the downward force of gravity on physical structures,” according to the pros at Edens Structural Solutions in Bixby, OK. As they settle, cracks may form.

Humidity affects wood-framed homes by causing the wood to expand and contract. “This in turn puts stress on the plaster or drywall in front of it,” according to the experts at HJ3 Composite Technologies, LLC in Tucson, AZ.

Old homes typically have plaster walls, instead of drywall. Over time, plaster becomes loose, causing it to crack.

Problem drywall can be a problem

If your home was built between 2001 and 2009, you may have what is known as “problem drywall.” Not all do, but enough homes have it to be aware that yours might too.

If you do, you’ll want to take remediation steps before working on the wall. Learn how at cpsc.gov, the website for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Repairing standard drywall

Once you’ve determined that your home doesn’t contain problem drywall, you can get to work fixing those cracks and holes.

If this is your first time, check out some of the instructional videos on YouTube, like these from Howdini, Buildipedia and This Old House.

  • Cracks – Smaller cracks are a cinch to repair. Apply drywall compound, let it dry completely and then sand the area until it’s smooth and level.

For larger cracks, use the drywall compound and then apply fiberglass tape over it while it’s still wet.

  • Small holes – Use painter’s putty to fill the hole and level it using a putty knife or drywall knife. Allow it to dry, sand it down and then apply spackle. When that dries, give it another sanding.
  • Medium-sized holes –The ideal material for a hole that is too large to patch with putty is a drywall patch, available at home improvement and hardware stores.

 Stick it to the wall and then apply joint compound over it. Allow the compound to dry and then sand down the high spots.

Large holes – Even out the irregular shape of the hole by using a saw to cut around the edges. Cut a piece of new drywall to fit inside the hole and apply fiber reinforcing tape or fiberglass tape around the edges.

Slap some joint compound over the area, sand it smooth when it dries and then apply another layer of the compound (the video at Buildipedia will walk you through this entire process).

Once you’ve sanded your repairs, it’s time to paint over them. Use a heavy nap roller to ensure that the texture of the repaired area blends with the rest of the wall.

Easy holiday season safety tips

Shopping, cooking, crackling fires and twinkling lights – all essential elements of the winter holiday season.

It’s a time of celebration and, often, distraction. All of those essential elements can turn into hazards when we let our guard down. With knowledge and planning, however, they don’t have to be.

For parents, child safety should be top-of-mind

The youngest among your brood may need repeated safety reminders (“Don’t speak to strangers,” for instance) while you’re out and about this time of year.

Prepare them before you leave the car and again upon entering the mall, for what to do in the event you are separated.

Remind them to remain inside the mall, preferably at a spot that you’ve predetermined and pointed out. Show them a security guard so they know who to approach if they’re lost and can’t locate the meeting spot.

Keep their safety in mind while decorating the home for the holidays as well. Place the menorah up high and hang ornaments and anything with a cord, out of their reach.

Game pieces and other small items, such as dreidel, are choking hazards for the tiny ones.

Let’s get back to shopping

Two types of crimes become more prevalent during the winter holiday season, robbery and personal larceny, according to Janet Lauritsen, professor of criminology and criminal justice. These include a high incidence of vehicle break-ins and purse snatchings.

Here are some tips lower your risk of becoming a victim while shopping:

  • Before you leave your car, think ahead to when you’ll be returning. If it will be after dark, park as close to a source of light as possible.
  • Check the car to ensure you’ve left nothing of value on the seat or floor.
  • Put your phone away, keep your keys in your hand (with the ends pointing outward to use as a weapon) and walk briskly and with purpose. The less distracted you appear, the better your chances of not becoming a victim.
  • Don’t enter the car until you’ve checked under and behind the car and the backseat. These are all popular hiding places for perps.

Avoid home fires

Holiday trees can dry out quickly and become fire hazards. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association claims that “a dry tree can catch fire and burn faster than newspaper.” See for yourself at YouTube.com.

  • Water your tree every day over the season.
  • Place the tree at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Check light strings for frayed or exposed wires and broken light sockets.
  • Don’t run extension cords under carpets or rugs and never overload them.
  • Avoid the use of real candles on the tree.

Holidays are risky for pets, too

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers tips to keep your pets safe over the holidays:

  • Some holiday plants, such as holly, poinsettias and mistletoe are toxic for dogs and cats.
  • Holiday tree water, standing in the reservoir, may contain fertilizers so don’t allow your dog to drink from it.
  • Ensure that the tree is secured to the stand so that a curious, climbing cat doesn’t topple it over.
  • Chocolate and raisins are toxic for dogs.
  • Foil ingested may mean a trip to the emergency vet. Foil candy wrappers and tinsel should be placed out of your pets’ reach.

Keep the holidays safe by preparing and by not allowing yourself to become distracted to possible danger.

Should I sell my home during a recession?

It’s inescapable. Discussions about a possible upcoming U.S. economic recession have become daily media fodder.

Speculation and reality, as we all know, are two entirely different things.

What many Americans don’t understand is that the U.S. economy runs through four periods, or phases.

  • Expansion
  • Peak
  • Recession
  • Trough

Movement of the economy through the four periods is known as “the business cycle.” Although no two cycles are identical, they look a bit like this:

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service claims that “the average expansion has lasted about 58 months (about 4.8 years), and the average recession has lasted about 11 months.”

On July 1, 2019, our economy reached a milestone: 11 straight years of growth, marking this as the longest expansion in the country’s history.

What goes up must come down, right? Which explains the media’s frenzy over a supposed coming recession.

Just today we read an article promising a recession in 2021 from a news outlet who swore in 2018 that it would happen in 2019. Moving the goal post seems to be a favorite pastime of many journalists.

Of course, a recession is coming. It’s part of our business cycle. Pinpointing when it will happen, however, is a bit of a challenge. But it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that a recession is coming. There is always one “coming.” Eventually.

While we urge you to use common sense when reading or listening to the news, especially lately, we understand the power of the media to create fear and doubt in the minds of Americans.

So, on to today’s questions: Is it wise to buy or sell a home during a recession?

Do you need to buy or sell?

The “best” time to buy or sell a home is when you need to. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But it’s true. The market could be red-hot for sellers but if you don’t need or want to sell, what difference does it make? It’s not the best time for you.

Confusion reigns among the public during recessionary periods and, as we see lately, even when there’s merely speculation about an impending recession.

Everything seems so uncertain and it’s easy to feel paralyzed. Should I turn this way or that?

There really is no clear course, no crystal ball to let us know when a recession will begin or end. Everybody sort of plays it by ear, or by gut.

The truth, at least statistically, is that aside from the last recession, when home prices hit rock bottom and interest rates were the lowest they’d been in a very long time, home prices typically increase during a recession.

Surprised?

Recessions typically present an ideal time to sell a home. If you are selling your current home and hope to purchase another one, however, that can present a problem.

It isn’t just your home that is higher priced, so if you wait for a recession to sell, be prepared to pay more for the new home than you would were we not in a recession.

The first thing to consider is how much, if any, equity you have in your current home. When all is said and done, after the lender has been paid, the real estate broker has been paid, how much do you stand to make from the proceeds?

Is that enough money to put you into your next home?

Consider, as well, any repairs or upgrades you would like to perform on the new place. Perhaps, if you can’t do them immediately, you are willing to wait until finances aren’t quite as tight.

If the foreclosure rate is high, understand that there may be more and cheaper competition for your home, the buyer pool will naturally shrink as folks lose jobs or tighten their belts. The time it will take to sell your home may be significantly longer than it is today.

If you are at all considering selling your home, we urge you to do so soon. Trying to time the market is a recipe for financial disaster.

Should I sell my home during a downturn in the economy? It’s a common question among homeowners who plan to sell, but it requires some careful thought.

Besides, you will most likely get the highest price possible right now, while there are few homes for sale and lots of buyers wanting one.

Finally, whether or not to sell your home during a recession is question that you should probably run by your accountant, if and when the time comes.

Here they come! Is your guest room ready?

The winter holidays are when we tend to get the most use out of our guest room. Other than that, and perhaps a summer weekend or two, it sits empty, just another room to dust.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, now is the time to ensure that it’s whipped into shape, updated if needed and made cozy for family and friends who visit.

Be the guest

One of the best ways to gauge what your guests will experience when they stay in your home is to actually bed down in the guest room for a night or two.

Is the bed comfy? Does it need new sheets and more blankets? Do the curtains provide enough privacy? Read a book in bed to ascertain the lighting situation, sit in the chairs, watch TV.

In other words, use the room in exactly the same way as your guests might, then get to work improving their experience.

Freshen the bed

Laundering the bed linens just before your guests’ arrival ensures that they’re crisp and fresh-smelling.

Decorating pros recommend that the bed have both a lightweight and heavier blanket plus the comforter or bedspread.

Stacking pillows isn’t exactly a science; choose an arrangement that appeals to you. For instance, stack king pillows against the headboard and then arrange three Euro pillows (26”x26”) in front.

Or, use the Euro pillows as the backdrop and stack the king pillows in front. You’ll find additional ideas on pillow arrangement at Mantouk.com.

Lighten up

If the room lacks any lighting other than an overhead light, consider adding a few lamps. A reading lamp next to the bed is a necessity, or use wall-sconces on each side of the bed.

Ensure that the lamps or other lighting solutions you choose are in scale to the rest of the room. Big guest rooms need big lamps whereas the smaller room would look overwhelmed by a large lamp.

Find additional lighting tips at DestinationLighting.com and Pinterest.com.

Amp up the resort feel

If you travel, even occasionally, you understand the frustration when you realize you’ve forgotten something. When staying in a hotel, essentials such as shampoo and soap are provided.

And, they should be in your guest bedroom or bathroom as well. Many grocers and most big-box department stores carry travel-size toiletries, so creating a “guest essentials” kit is easy and inexpensive.

Use baskets or bins and fill them with some of the following:

  • Soap or body wash
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower cap
  • Disposable razors and shaving cream
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hair spray
  • First aid supplies (bandages, antibiotic ointment, OTC pain medication)
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Facial moisturizer
  • A small flashlight
  • A notepad and pen
  • Toys, coloring books, crayons
  • Favorite DVDs

Leave a note for your guests that includes any of your home’s particulars of which they should be made aware. For instance, your Wi-Fi password, the home’s security system password, instructions on using smart-home devices, your emergency contact information (work number, etc.).

Ensure there are enough hangers in the closet, stack some fresh fluffy towels on a shelf, clean the bathroom thoroughly and you’re done!

Find additional tips to help you get ready for holiday guests at Pinterest.com, CountryLiving.com and GoodHousekeeping.com.

 

5 of our favorite DIY home improvement/maintenance blogs

What did we DIY project folks do before the internet? Make a lot of huge mistakes, for certain.

Today’s DIYers have it made, with step-by-step instructions and videos on everything from planting the perfect lawn to installing their own windows.

If you’re searching for home improvement or maintenance projects that you can tackle by your lonesome, we’ve found some sites you should visit.

1. PrettyHandyGirl.com

If you need to be empowered to “create it, build it, fix it and do it yourself,” PrettyHandyGirl.com is a good place to get started.

Brittany, the handy girl, is, among other things, a licensed general contractor so she knows her stuff.

Her projects include building, plumbing, electrical, home repairs, home maintenance, landscaping and more.

One of our favorites is 16 DIY Built In Storage and Shelving Ideas but all of her projects include a list of the supplies you’ll need and easy-to-follow DIY instructions. You’ll even find a list of what’s in Brittany’s toolbox.

2. Remodelaholic.com

Cassity, the beauty and brawn behind Remodelaholic.com is an interior decorator by trade, although she doesn’t work in the industry. Instead, she and her husband (who apparently remains nameless – at least on the blog) putter around their home, fixing, repairing and remodeling stuff.

DIY projects and tutorials are the name of this blog’s game and, if you’re on a tight budget, this is the blog for you.

“Our motto is reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose, remodel. We try to use old things in creative ways and reuse our old building supplies in other projects,” Cassity says on the blog.

It’s challenging to find a favorite project but we finally settled on a unique Ikea hack. You know that cupboard over the refrigerator? Many of us don’t use it. It’s impossibly high and hard to get-to.

If you use yours, you’ll love this hack: DIY Over the Fridge Cabinet Organizer for Cookie Sheets and Cutting Boards.

3. FamilyHandyman.com

This is our go-to site whenever a DIY repair project comes up. Since the site is known as the “DIYers’ Best Friend,” I think others feels as we do.

Owned by the same company that owns Readers’ Digest, they’ll hopefully be around for a long time.

It’s challenging to come up with one reason we love this site, but we’ll try. No matter what we need to fix, build or plant, we typically find out how at TheFamilyHandyMan.com.

For instance, in the “Parts of the House” section, you’ll find advice and information on:

  • Ceilings
  • Masonry
  • Roof
  • Siding
  • Tiling
  • Walls
  • Windows

With plenty of videos to supplement the text walk-throughs there is no way you can come away from a project without a thorough understanding.

The most recent project we’ve learned about is 10 Interior House Painting Tips & Painting Techniques for the Perfect Paint Job.

4. OldHouseWeb.com

For home remodeling, repair and improvement of your historic or just-plain “old” house, head over to OldHouseWeb.com.

Nearly half of the site’s users who responded to a poll claim that their homes were built between 1900 and 1945. Surprisingly, more than one-third of the respondents are the proud owners of homes built between 1800 and 1899.

Our only wish is that they posted to their blog more often. As it is, they haven’t posted since 2016. But, the information and advice is brilliant.

Post we love: Finding the History in your Home

5. DIYNetwork.com

Part of the Discovery family of companies, DIYNetwork.com has the bucks to do it right. From the slick website to the hiring of celebs for many of their videos, the site is full of DIY information for the novice to the pro.

Outdoor spaces loom large on the site. Recent topics include how to choose the right groundcover to a yummy display of backyard gazebo ideas.

They even offer DIY projects for kids, like this one on how to build a floor lamp.

Post we love: 6 Creative ways to Freshen up your Front Porch (on a budget!)

Understanding Property Taxes

Property Tax

I don’t know about you, but my brain shuts down when the word “tax” is mentioned. I think many of us would rather have a root canal than talk taxes. So, let’s try to keep this light-hearted and hit just the basics.

Property taxes vary by the local government that imposes them and are based on the assessed value of your property.

According to WalletHub.com’s John S. Kiernan, folks in New Jersey pay the highest property taxes – 2.44 percent, while Hawaii’s homeowners pay the least, at 0.27 percent of assessed value.

Your property taxes, along with those of your neighbors, are used to fund schools, libraries, and other county and city services.

How Is Property Tax Determined?

Property taxes are usually, but not always, based on two factors:

  • The value of the land you own.
  • The value of any structures that sit on the land (often referred to as “improvements” to the land).

These two values are then fed into a pre-determined formula and out pops your property tax bill. Most municipalities reassess a property’s value every few years, some do it annually. This means that the amount of property tax you owe may change over time.

In some regions, property taxes are based on the market value of the land plus the replacement cost of the home, less “statutory depreciation.”

And many municipalities offer a tax exemption for all or part of the property taxes for certain groups of people, such as older homeowners or disabled veterans.

Deducting Property Taxes on your Tax Return

Tax laws change more often than the politicians who push for them, so it’s best to speak with your tax professional about where the deduction of your property taxes falls within the current tax code.

As of 2019, tax filers can deduct up to $10,000, or $5,000 if they’re married but filing separately.

This total is the maximum amount allowed for a combination of “your total state and local taxes, including taxes (or general sales taxes, if elected instead of income taxes), real estate taxes, and personal property taxes,” according to IRS Publication 530.

Again, speak with your tax specialist for the details.

How to Appeal your Property Tax Assessment

The housing market is a bit like a roller coaster, changing frequently, going up and down.

Therefore, it’s quite possible that your assessment is based on a market value that’s no longer valid.

If home values are rising quickly, such as they did over the past few years, you’ll want to keep quiet. Although your home’s market value is higher, your taxes may be based on a lower value, keeping them low.

When values are falling, however, you’ll want to ensure that your taxes are as well.

While the statistics vary according to region, an estimated 30 to 60 percent of homeowners in this country are over-taxed, according to the National Taxpayer’s Union.

Furthermore, homeowners who disagree with the assessor’s valuation of the house have a right to appeal a property tax assessment. Despite this, fewer than 5 percent actually appeal, even though most of those who do so eventually win.

The National Taxpayer’s Union offers a handy Homeowner’s Checklist, outlining the steps to take when filing a property tax assessment appeal.

Be aware that you are still required to pay the taxes when due, despite an open appeal. Penalties for nonpayment may include penalty and interest charges on the unpaid balance.

The assessor may also place a lien against the property and typically has the ability to seize and sell the property for unpaid taxes.

Always consult with your accountant or tax specialist if you have any questions about your property taxes.

The life expectancy of home appliances

Whether you’re shopping for a home or already own one, knowing the current age of the appliances is important. Like us, they have an average life span. Unlike us, they can be replaced. But it’s pricey to do so.

The experts at Consumer Reports recommend that you replace appliances if the cost to repair them is more than half the price of a new one. While that’s a good rule of thumb, it’s something you can put off with care and proper maintenance of your home’s appliances.

As a bonus, your appliances won’t become energy hogs.

 

Kick stink bugs out of the house, naturally

Stink Bug

If you haven’t met your fair share of stink bugs this year, brace yourself. Although stink bug season is officially from March through September, the cooler it gets outdoors, the bigger the problem.

Brown marmorated stink bugs infest both the interior of homes and the garden. In the garden, they feed on fruit and vegetable crops, causing spots and decay.

They prefer to overwinter indoors, in homes. While they aren’t considered harmful to humans or to the home, they create lots of noise and, if bothered, quite a stink.

Once inside the home, they are a challenge to control.

Death by drowning

The least smelly way of ridding the home of stink bugs is also the most labor intensive. But, because stink bugs can’t swim, it’s an effective way of killing them.

Fill a bucket three-fourths of the way with water. Some homeowners add three to four drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the water, although it isn’t necessary.

Use a broom or other item with a long handle to knock the stink bugs off the wall and into the bucket. Those on the floor may be quickly scooped up with a small dustpan, a spatula or other tool and dropped into the water.

Use your vacuum

Entomologists at Virginia Tech suggest using your vacuum to suck the bugs off the walls, floors, drapes and furniture. The problem with this method is that the stink bugs release their scent, smelling up the vacuum and the home.

The scientists suggest replacing the vacuum bag after each use. Once the new bag is in place, sprinkle some perfumed talc, such as room or pet deodorizer onto the floor and vacuum it up to rid the machine of stink bug odor.

If you are the victim of repeated sting bug invasions, invest in an inexpensive shop vac and reserve its use exclusive to stink bug removal.

Insecticidal soap to protect houseplants

While stink bugs don’t hurt people and are considered non-destructive in the home, they may go after your houseplants. Insecticidal soap spray will help discourage stink bugs from feeding on them.

These organic insecticides are available at nurseries and gardening centers or you can make your own.

Combine 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of liquid soap (not dishwashing liquid) and 2 cups of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the plants with it. The oil has a tendency to separate, so shake the bottle periodically as you spray.

Dishwashing liquid is detergent and may harm your plants. Look for a liquid soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap.

Preventing an infestation

Stick the end of a screwdriver into the opening between the bottom of  your door and the floor. If it fits easily, so will a stink bug.

Like many pests, stink bugs have the ability to squish their bodies down to fit into tight spaces. To prevent their entry into the home, seal all openings to the outdoors.

Virginia Tech entomologists suggest caulking cracks, around doors and windows, baseboards and any other area where the bugs may gain entry.

Cover roof vents with window screening. Replace screens that have holes and seal openings around ceiling fixtures and exhaust fans.