Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Going Green: Mold and Moisture In Your Home

It’s that lovely time of the year when the forests and fields are filled with pretty maple leaves and fantastic fungi! Mushrooms and toadstools are everywhere. I enjoy seeing them, but it’s a different kind of winter growth that we’re going to talk about today…mold!

Why is this a “green” issue? Because you get mold when you have moisture where it doesn’t belong, and that is most often the case when you have a poorly ventilated home. Today’s building codes address these issues. A healthy house is also a part of building and remodeling green, and is a part of the requirements to achieve a LEED, BuiltGreen, or Energy Star rating.

The secret to controlling mold is to control moisture. Most of us are used to cleaning away small amounts of mold in bathrooms and kitchen sinks. These are places where there is always moisture in our homes. A little bleach solution or detergent can kill it and it can be wiped away. What I’m talking about today is larger areas of mold that would indicate water leaks from cracked or broken pipes or poor roof drainage that can carry water into your walls and ceiling.

The other major cause of excess mold is leaving areas unheated. In the Northwest, to avoid mold, rooms should be kept at 55 degrees minimum. Keeping some rooms unheated in winter to save on heating costs will cause mold to grow. Better insulation, as well as caulking and weather stripping, are better ways to save money on heating bills.

I have seen a few large mold areas in homes I’ve sold, usually during the inspection. They were usually caused by unseen plumbing leaks or sometimes, just carelessness. Showering with no ventilation, not having a good seal on a shower door, failing to use overhead exhaust fans and just sloppiness can keep a bathroom wet. Mold will grow quickly. Sometimes heating and cooling systems can also create a problem. Using good filters as well as HEPA filters and having your system cleaned and services annually will generally take care of that problem.

Once you’ve located a mold area, clean it carefully and completely with a detergent containing bleach and water. Then be sure it is absolutely dry. If the mold is on carpet or furniture, have it cleaned professionally making sure the cleaning company is trained in mold abatement. If the area is large (the EPA says over a 10 square foot area) call in professionals. But the most important thing is to find and repair the leak that has caused the problem. Be sure bathroom fixtures are properly caulked, ventilation is adequate and that a good exhaust fan is always used.

I have ordered a number of the EPA’s great booklet, “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home”. I have these available at my office for you to pick up. If you’d like one mailed to you, please call my office at 463-4060. You can also find the information on their web site at: www.epa.gov/iaq.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Q: You showed my house several times while it was on the market and when my agent called you for feedback, you kept saying

the same thing; that it was overpriced. I'd like to hear directly from you about what you think is wrong with my house. It was on the market for months and no one even brought me an offer. I want to put it back on the market next spring, and I want to know what I can do to make it sell next time.

A: What I suggested to your agent and I'll suggest to you is that you take a look at all of the houses currently for sale in the same price range. Even more valuable, take a look at those homes in that price range that sold over the last six months. It may be helpful for you to see what you were competing against.

There's nothing you need to do with your house. It's tidy, clean, well-maintained, and in a reasonably good location. Unfortunately, it is really priced much higher than anything comparable. It has no specific features that would make it worth a great deal more to a buyer working in that price range.

We all think our house is fantastic when it comes time to sell. Nothing helps to put it into perspective like taking a look at the competition. I recently did this for a client who is thinking about selling her home and moving to something smaller. She started out with the figure she said she "needed to get" for her house. I reminded her that the market will set the price.

The value of any house is the price that a ready, willing, and able buyer will pay for it. It's best to price your property properly to begin with and then you don't have to worry about it sitting on the market for a long time. Work with your listing agent to set the best price. If it's the nicest house among several in that price range, you won't have to sit waiting for an offer.