Ayelet Gilad

Alpharetta Living, Real Estate and Community


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Does Your House Have a Mold Problem?

For all the concern over second-hand smoke and other toxins that confront us while we’re out in the world, indoor air pollution is something most people don’t think about. One of the chief pollutants of indoor air is mold, whose spores are inhaled with every breath we take.

What is Mold?

Molds are microscopic fungi that digest organic materials, such as plants, animals and wood. To reproduce, molds produce and release spores, which act like seeds, spreading the mold when conditions are right.

Mold isn’t just ugly, it also causes health problems, and some people are more susceptible to it than others:

  • The elderly.
  • Infants and toddlers.
  • People with respiratory ailments.
  • Anyone with a weak immune system.

 

Physical Symptoms of Exposure to Mold

Mold can cause allergy-like symptoms with fatigue, sneezing, wheezing and headaches. If asthma symptoms appear in a person without a previous asthma diagnosis, suspect the presence of mold in the home.

How do I know if I Have Mold in My Home?

While visions of black crud creeping up the walls are typical when one thinks of mold in the home, it isn’t always apparent. Mold can hide behind walls, under carpets and carpet pads, behind wallpaper, even in furniture.

Mold isn’t always black, either. It may appear as a white powdery substance, or be pink, green and many other colors.

Aside from seeing mold, if you detect a musty odor, you most likely have a mold problem that you can’t see, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

How to Eradicate Mold from the Home

There is no way to get rid of all molds in a home, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can, however, control mold growth by getting rid of excess moisture in the home.

Finding the source of the moisture may be challenging. After you’ve eliminated the obvious, such as under sinks and around toilets and other water sources, check the following:

  • Look for cracks in siding. Seal any cracks that show signs of moisture intrusion.
  • Check the ceilings and basement walls for cracks, water stains or peeling paint. These are signs of moisture damage, so there may be a leak behind the damaged area.
  • Check stored furniture and boxes of clothing for signs of mold growth.
  • Inspect the attic for signs of moisture intrusion.

 

Eliminating the moisture source is just the first step in ridding the home of mold. Whether you clean the mold yourself or have it done professionally depends not only on the size of the infestation, but also on the type of mold.

The New York State Department of Health recommends taking the following steps to eradicate mold in the home:

  • Remove and discard anything with heavy mold growth, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles and drywall.
  • Thoroughly dry anything that is wet.
  • Clean mold off of hard surfaces with diluted detergent or a solution of 1/2 cup of borax in one gallon of water. Wear gloves and a dust mask during the removal process.
  • In areas that are constantly exposed to moisture, use a 10 percent bleach solution to clean off the mold and then monitor the area for signs of future growth.

 

The EPA suggests hiring a professional to remove mold if the moldy area is greater than 10 square feet. Check the contractor’s references and ascertain if he or she follows the EPA’s guidelines.

Preventing Future Mold Infestations

To prevent mold growth in the home, the EPA suggests reducing indoor humidity. This can be accomplished by ventilating bathrooms and laundry rooms, running an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air, and using exhaust fans when cleaning and cooking. They also caution against installing carpeting in areas that are prone to moisture intrusion.

How to Check for Mold When Purchasing a Home

It seems like there’s never enough time to thoroughly check out a home before you purchase it. Even a professional home inspector may miss something. Knowing what’s lurking behind the walls in what might be your dream home may be worth the money it costs to hire a certified mold inspector. This is especially true if you or someone in your family is a member of one of the high-risk groups mentioned previously.

While it isn’t possible to completely rid a home of all air toxins, getting rid of excess moisture in the home will go a long way in preventing the growth of mold.


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Don’t Ignore a Wet Basement

April showers bring May flowers, but did it cause any unwanted consequences?

The American Society of Home Inspectors has some pretty surprising statistics about wet basements:

  • Most new homes will develop a leak somewhere in the basement within 10 to 15 years of being built.
  • Over 60 percent of basements in existing homes have a moisture problem.
  • Around 38 percent of basements with moisture problems develop mold and fungus growth.
  • Older homes were built with waterproofing methods that are now outdated and no longer work.

 

Finding the source of the moisture is the first step toward solving the problem, but it’s a lot easier said than done.

Causes of a Wet Basement

The most common culprits of a wet basement are groundwater, rain and melting snow accumulating around the home’s foundation. From there it will seep through cracks and around joints.

Condensation is another cause of a moist basement. You’re probably familiar with condensation as the water droplets that appear when the outside cooler temperatures meet the warm glass of a window in a heated room.

This same principle applies when moist, warm air hits the cold concrete foundation or cold water pipes. The condensation can puddle, drip and accumulate.

Finding the Leak

John D. Wagner, of This Old House, offers an innovative and easy way to tell if the moisture in the basement is being caused by condensation or if it is intruding from outside. Tape a piece of foil to a wall where you’ve found moisture. Leave it affixed to the surface for a day. If the outer surface of the foil is damp, suspect condensation. If the underside of the foil is wet, water is most likely intruding from the outside.

If the cause of the moisture still isn’t apparent, do some sleuthing. Look for water damage at the area of the floor where it intersects with the wall, and in the ceiling. Any discoloration or flaking of paint is evidence of moisture intrusion.

The most common evidence of a leak in your basement is the odor or appearance of mold. If you can’t see mold, but the air smells musty or earthy, there is mold present somewhere. Find it and you’ll find the source of the leak.

Check for evidence of scaling – salty looking deposits on stone, stucco and concrete surfaces.

Other evidence of a water leak in the basement include:

  • Rotting wood.
  • Buckled floors.
  • Rusty nails or screws.
  • Rusted metal on the feet of appliances.
  • Lifting tile floors.

 

Fixing the Problem

Fixing a wet basement may be a simple task, such as airing out the basement to rid it of condensation. Or, it may be a costly and time-consuming procedure. Depending on the cause of the leak, rectifying the wet basement situation may entail:

  • Redirecting surface water in the yard by re-grading the soil or installing drains.
  • Cleaning or replacing the gutters and downspouts.
  • Filling cracks with epoxy.
  • Installing dehumidifiers, flashing and additional downspouts.
  • Installing a sump pump.

 

Dampness in the basement can cause a lot of damage to the home’s structure and integrity, and, if mold develops, the air could become unhealthy to breathe. If you can’t find or repair the leak on your own, call a professional.


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Is Your Front Door Welcoming?

Creating indoor/outdoor transitions that welcome and complement your home can add to your home’s curb appeal and value. People often think only about the value of their house and what’s going on inside, but your front door is the first impression your visitors get of your home. Make it a good one.

Entries That Welcome

These days, many homeowners in the United States use their garage as their everyday entry to their home. They rarely enter their home the way their guest will, through the front door.

Have you ever been invited to someone’s home and discovered when you got there that you aren’t sure where you were supposed to enter? Or perhaps the front entry is so dark and overgrown that it feels scary and unwelcoming? One of the most important indoor/outdoor transitions at your home is the sequence people experience from the instant they arrive at the curb to the moment they enter through your front door. So, what can you do?

Make it Obvious

Guests should not have to wonder whether they should enter through your front door, a side door, or through the garage. Make the entry you want guests to use obvious by providing a clear path and making it visible from the street. Use containers of plants, lighting, or a wreath on the door to signify the importance of that entry.

Light it Up

Provide adequate outdoor lighting, not just at the front door, but along the path guests will use to walk from the street to your door. This is especially important if there are a number of stairs guests must climb and descend to get to and from your home. Your guests will appreciate a well-lit path, and the chances of someone injuring themselves on the way to your front door will be reduced. There are a wide variety of lighting options available to homeowners. You can choose anything from low-voltage and solar landscape lighting to step lights and LED rope lights that can be imbedded into concrete walls and stair risers.

Make it Safe

As mentioned before, visibility from the street is very important. This goes beyond simply allowing visitors to see the location of the front door. We often think of high fences and gates as mechanisms to keep out intruders, but once someone has breached that barrier, a high fence becomes a hiding place behind which to lurk. Fences and walls can be designed to keep intruders out while still allowing views in. High, solid fences and large evergreen shrubs near entryways should be avoided. Avoid built elements and plantings that block views or create a confined space. Your guests should feel safe when waiting for you to answer your front door.

Welcome!

The act of welcoming your guests does not start when you open your front door; it begins the moment they drive up and park their car at the curb. What does the entry sequence at your front door say about you? Walk across the street and take a look. Walk the path your guests will use several times and think about the experience. What works? What needs to change?

Do you feel welcome?


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What Can You Do With Your Tax Refund?

It’s tax refund season! Did you receive your refund already or about to receive it? I can think of at least two great ways you can use your refund for!

The first option is to use the refund to remodel your house and get it “listing ready” just in time for spring! For more details on the benefits and expected return on the investment in remodeling please read “Should You Remodel Your House Prior to Putting it on the Market?”.

Your second option is to use the refund for a down payment on an FHA loan. You only  need to put 3.5% as down payment (FHA loan can up to $346,250).

Still debating how to use your refund wisely? Call me today @ 404-245-7172  and I’d be happy to discuss it with you!


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Why I Appreciate “For Sale By Owner”

I must warn you in advance, as the title implies, this is a bit of a sarcastic post. Now that I gave you a fair warning, let’s get to discuss the “For Sale By Owners” sellers. I always appreciate entrepreneur  who wants to save money or make big bucks on the back of professionals.

So why do home sellers do it? Why instead of using skilled prefoessionals that have the experience, knowledge and resources to do it for them. they go and try to sell by themselves? They probably think they can do it by themselves or they might have had a bad past experience with a realtor. Also, some owners think that their house is worth more than what a real-estate agent told them it’s worth – I call this reason “The Denial Factor” or they just simply want to save the cost of commission

The reasons above are all valid reasons to why try and do it yourself. However, home sellers should be aware of the statics! The data show that  only 9% of “For sale by owner” home sellers succeed in selling their house by themselves and 1/3 of those 9% sold their house to a relative, a neighbor of a friend.  The list to price  ratio is  usually lower and stands around 80% as compared to transactions via real estate agent (the data are form the National Association of Realtor, 2012 profiles of home buyers and sellers).

Lastly, there is no subsitutue to the amount of exposure that I can get for your house and make sure it’s visible to the right audience, on the web especiaaly. With today’s technology, more than 80% of buyers found their homes on the internet, this kind of power is irreplaceable and I can make sure your house get this attention and exposure . To sum it up, while you might be handy and one of those DIY type of guy or a girl – selling your house is not really the DYI kind of task, so contact me today and find out how I can help you! And I’m always here to help!


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The (un)Power Of the Internet

The internet and the access to information have definitely changed our lives. The ease of accessing any type of information has made it easier for us in some respects to find any type of information or knowledge on the web, but it’s also a kind of a double-edge sword, as not all the information we find on the web is up-to-date, real or not biased. You might be wondering why is a realtor writing about the web and access…well, it’s because it’s very relevant to my daily work!

I often have my clients, surfing the web and searching for homes on websites like Zillow and Trulia, they find houses they like and then they call me asking me to show it to them or how come I didn’t show it to them yet? Truth is, that in many instances these real-estate sites are not too up-to-date. The house you like and think I didn’t show you is already under contract, or you might have even looked at a house that was recently sold or not for sale at all. Therefore, please be aware that these sites are not necessarily updated.

Another problem is the price estimate that is shown on every house page.  Home buyers should be aware that these estimates are very limited since they are based on information taken from coutny tax records, and these are not very up-to-date as well! Therefore, the estimate is often inaccurate. Further, these websites don’t take into account differences in interior features (like hardwood floors vs. carpet, formaica vs. granite counter tops and such); or exterior features like stuco vs. brick, the house location (cul de sac, entracnce to the neighborhood) and other factors like power lines, highway proximity and so on.

So if you’d really like to know how much your house is worth or what is the worth of the house you want to buy – contact me!  As your realtor I have all the hyperlocal and most importantly – the most recent & up to date information. Plus, you get to talk with a human 🙂


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Can You Still Find Deals Out There?

People are starting to feel like they missed the train, in some aspects – they might have, we’re now looking in the rear mirror on the bottom of the low of the market in 2009.

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If you’re thinking of buying a house to hold (i.e. to rent it out) , you should know that your calculation should consider if the amount you’ll get in monthly or  yearly is worth it? Even if the prices go up. In other words,  you need to know what is the Return-on-investment (ROI) you want to get out of it? If in low of the market (i.e. when the house prices hit rock bottom) the ROI was 10-15%, now you might only have net ROI of 7-8%. House prices are rising and rent prices are rising as well, however, they increase in house prices doesn’t fully correlate in the increase in rent prices, therefore your ROI can be lower. The take home message – before you buy a house to hold – ask yourself and calculate – is it  still worth it to you and make sure the ROI is still applicable to you and your financial situation before going into this transaction.