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.mold


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Swimming Pools: Do They Add Value or Turn Buyers Off?

Sparkling blue water, especially when it’s lit up at night – what’s not to love about a swimming pool in your backyard? If you have one, you may feel blessed. If you don’t, and are considering adding one, hang on a minute.

Who Wants a Pool?

According to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, middle-aged buyers with teenagers at home comprise the biggest market segment for homes with swimming pools. This makes sense when you consider how dangerous an unfenced pool is for families with toddlers.

Another segment of homebuyers who may find a pool desirable are younger couples who entertain frequently. There has been a lot of emphasis over the past few years on outdoor entertainment areas, including outdoor kitchens, fire pits, fireplaces and seating areas. A swimming pool frequently figures into these plans.

Location Always Counts

“Location, location, location” may just be a trite real estate mantra, but it is important nonetheless. If you live in Hawaii, Florida or the Southwest, a pool is far more in demand than for homes in Minnesota, Alaska or North Dakota.

Then, drill down your location even further. Even if you live in the desert climate of the Southwest, if there’s a community pool a block away, installing a pool at home may be a waste of money. On the other hand, if your neighbors all have pools, you should probably consider putting one in.

How Big is Your Lot?

Lot size is a huge factor in deciding whether or not to have a swimming pool installed. Remember, if you have a small lot and the pool takes up the entire backyard, you are removing your home from consideration by buyers with small children and buyers who garden or entertain. Pet owners and young families typically want grassy areas where their pets and kids can play safely. Many seniors like to putter in the yard. If there is no room for any backyard activity other than swimming, you narrow the buyer field dramatically.

What is the Home’s Value Right Now?

One of the most important factors to consider when thinking about adding a pool as a home improvement project is to not over-improve for the neighborhood. If you own a modest tract home in a neighborhood of similar homes, a pool may be overkill. The value of your home can only rise to that of the most expensive home in the area.

Owners of luxury homes in higher-priced neighborhoods with roomy backyards that appeal to buyers looking for a certain lifestyle may be able to justify the expense of installing a swimming pool. In fact, if you own a luxury home without a pool, you may lose buyers.

Type and Condition of the Pool

It should probably go without saying: If the pool is in poor condition or dirty, it will not add value to the home. If the pool is outdated, it won’t add value. If the pool hasn’t been maintained, the appraiser may even deduct from the home’s value, according to Tim Page, owner of Appraisals by Page in Spokane, Washington. He suggests that if your pool is of the above-ground variety, it is considered personal property and it won’t factor into the home’s value. Be that as it may, if it is in poor condition it may turn off buyers, so take it down.

Factor in the Ongoing Cost of a Pool

Ongoing home maintenance costs are a turn-off for many buyers, and a pool may be a maintenance nightmare for them. Aside from the cost of pool installation, ongoing maintenance tasks such as heating and cleaning the pool, as well as the ongoing cost of a swimming pool, may be prohibitive to many buyers.

Does a Pool Add Value?

Most real estate agents will tell you that pools do not add value to a home, and for the most part this is true. What value a pool may add is small – typically about 8 percent of the home’s value, according to the National Association of Realtors® National Center for Real Estate Research. The margin of increase is larger for homes in the southern U.S., Florida and Hawaii.

The decision to install a swimming pool should be based on your personal lifestyle and desire, not whether it will add value to the home.

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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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Make Sure Your Home Is Safe – Test for Radon

Radon is a cancer-causing gas, and is the second leading cause of lunch cancer in the US. As most gases – you can’t see, smell or taste it, but it may be a problem in your home! Some studies have shown that children are more sensitive to radon, possibly due to their higher respiration rate and rapidly dividing cells.

Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

Many people assume that they should only test for radon when they buy a house but this is wrong! You should periodically check for radon at your house and I’d encourage you to follow the EPA guidelines. You can even do it your self using radon testing kits that you can find at Lowes, Home Depot or even get for free.

If radon was detected in your house, you can fix it by installing radon mitigation system. There is a wealth of information on how to fix the problem on the EPA consumer’s guide to radon reduction.

Don’t want to do it yourself? Give me a buzz and I’ll happily refer you to a reliable and trustworthy inspection company that can test and fix radon problems.

For more information abou radon from the health risks to fixing high radon levels, please visit the EPA Radon website.

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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.


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!