If you've ever wished for magic elves to put up your outdoor holiday lights, you're in luck.
OK, so you may not get actual elves, but there are plenty of companies willing to string your holiday lights for a fee.
"Decorating with lights is a high priority for my husband. I call him Mr. Christmas," Beth Cutrer, of Blackhawk, said. "We like the house to look festive, so it's worth it to pay someone to do that for us. It's too big of a job for us to do it ourselves."
Safety concerns and lack of time are the two main reasons people fork over their hard-earned cash to have someone else install their holiday lights, said Lou Vandersnook, owner of The Christmas Light Pros Tri-Valley.
"There are more people who die on 6-foot ladders than 60-foot ladders," Vandersnook claimed. "A lot of people don't have the time, or they're not used to getting up on those ladders. It's a dangerous job."
Most companies that install holiday lights have other lines of work that keep them busy during warm months, but business drops off when the weather cools. Installing lights is a perfect way to keep cash flowing during the slow winter months.
Vandersnook is a prime example. He owns a retractable screen door business that keeps him and his employees hopping from February through October. Once early October hits, the crews get to work on holiday lights.
"For a relatively low cost, I could make a little bit of money on the side," he said of the light licensee business he started in 2006. "It was a seasonal business. It wasn't a huge commitment at that time. Now, it's exploded for us. It's a major business."
Troy Davis is a professional window cleaner by trade, but he got into the holiday light business in 1993 to make ends meet during the wet winter months.
"I was looking for a creative way to make money," Davis said. "We used to do house (windows) and people were saying, 'I wish I had those ladders for my Christmas lights.' I specialize in hard-to-reach places and things that are hard to get to. I put that idea into Christmas lights. It just kind of evolved."
Davis, who owns Yes We Do, "Do Windows," is like most light installers who offer full-service packages -- installation, maintenance and removal.
"You get us knowing how to install everything so the lights are nice and tight," he said. "If anything goes wrong with those lights, we'll come out there and take care of it. Then we come back after the first of the year and take down the lights." Prices vary wildly from company to company. Some charge by the job, others charge per foot of lights. Tiny twinkle lights cost much less than the expensive, energy-saving LED lights. Large houses and houses with hard-to-reach eaves cost more than single-story homes.
One company might do a one-story house in two hours for a mere $150, but that's at the bargain end of the price range. Many companies have minimums starting at hundreds of dollars and offer packages that run into the thousands for homes with elaborate displays on rooflines, trees and shrubs.
"When you look at the whole scenario, it's worth it," Davis said of the investment. "We put the lights up, but we also come back and take them down. Most of the people we work with on these big homes think that it's worth it. They're willing to pay someone to put up their lights."
Mariano Sanchez is another professional window cleaner who supplements his winter income through his Holiday Light Pros business.
"Some of my clients are older or just don't have the ability to get on roofs," Sanchez said. "We take the danger out of putting up Christmas lights. It's dangerous when you get up two stories. I've been doing business window cleaning for years now, so I'm comfortable with heights." Sanchez also knows how many lights he can safely string together.
"If you connect them wrong, you could blow out fuses," he said. "You need to divide the volts equally. It seems simple, but there are some technicalities, and there's danger involved as well."
While some companies will use lights a customer owns, most prefer to use lights they buy in bulk.
"We offer everything from small clear-light bulbs to the latest in LED technology," Vandersnook said. "Say they want icicles one year, but the next year they want multicolor bulbs or LED lights. They can make those changes without making a large investment. All they have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the lights."
It's important, Vandersnook noted, to make sure any light installer has the proper workers' compensation and liability insurance. Otherwise, homeowners could be sued if a worker is injured on their property.
"There's a lot of guys out there who put up the lights and don't have insurance," he said. "Everybody should have certifications in their vehicles that they can show the customer upon demand."
Crystal Nieto, of Pleasanton, has had Vandersnook decorate her home with the old-fashioned large multicolor bulbs since 2008. It's a luxury and a safety issue for her family.
"For us, the height and safety were a concern," she said. "We know they'll come and install them and take them down. We would rather have a professional do that than risk our safety."
The end result, Nieto said, is well worth the investment.
"When we first started to do it, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, isn't that fantastic?' " she said. "The house looked so much better. When you drive around the corner and see what they've done, your mouth drops."
The Christmas Light Pros Tri-Valley: http://www.thechristmaslightpros.com/licensee/94588/
Yes We Do, Do Windows: http://www.yeswedo
Holiday Light Pros: http://www.holidaylightpros.info/
Or do an Internet search for "holiday light installation" with your town name.