Monthly Archives: February 2014

What’s the Big Deal With Mold in Houses?

What’s the Big Deal With Mold in Houses?

Mold is ubiquitous in nature, making up approximately 25% of the earth’s biomass, and thrives in many outdoor environments.

Molds, yeasts and other certain related forms constitute the organisms (microbial agents) known as fungi.  We have all seen fungi growing on rotten fruit, bread and damp leather.  They may by green, black or white and may appear to be fuzzy or sooty. Fungi are plant-like & many consist of two parts – hyphae, which are fungal filaments that form the body – and spores, which are seed-like structures than can be used for reproduction.  Some spores contain mycotoxins and have been termed “toxic mold”.

 Fungi must subsist on organic matter such as wood or paper products.  In order for fungi to thrive, the following conditions are necessary: An ambient temperature range of 40-100 degrees F; a humid rich environment, generally greater than 60% humidity though usually greater than 70%.

Why is mold in real estate a potential concern?
I was once at a home inspection with noted indoor air investigator, Jeff May, and he gave me a copy of his book entitled “My House is Killing Me”. In it he says that mold causes four main types of illnesses in humans: allergies, irritation, infectious disease & toxic effects. Microbial agents may serve as irritants to the respiratory tract causing an increase in mucus flow and other types of symptoms.  These agents may cause infections in two manners: pathogenic infection – this can develop in a relatively healthy individual with a normally functioning immune system; and opportunistic infection – this can develop in an individual with a compromised immune system or those with or on chemotherapy, diabetics, asthma or antibiotics, HIV or AIDS, physical or mental conditions affecting the immune system.  Some factors responsible for the concerns are the ability of the agent becoming airborne in sufficient concentrations and the ability of the agent to be respired by the susceptible host.

Are there any buildings more vulnerable to mold growth?
Any dwelling with a history of current water infiltration problems as well as those structures with consistently high indoor humidity levels or those with poorly designed components such as inadequately vented attics and crawl spaces, as well as poorly designed or maintained HVAC systems.

How do I know if mold is present within a dwelling?
Mold growth should be suspected when surfaces are discolored i.e. “mildew” or if damp mildew odor is present which can represent mold by-products such as – microbial volatile organic compounds (or as I call it eau de mold). This is especially true on organic natural materials.

If mold growth is suspected what should be done?
A trained indoor environmentalist or mold remediation specialist should be consulted to determine the presence of mold, its cause and cure.

Are there any threshold limits in which mold is a concern?
Because all individuals have varying degrees of sensitivity to mold there are currently no threshold limit values.

What is toxic mold?
Toxic mold refers to certain mold species that have spores that contain mycotoxins such as stachybotrys, also called Black Mold.  Mycotoxins are opportunistic pathogens and may be a greater health concern for certain individuals.

If mold growth is confirmed within the indoor environment what should be done?
Depending on the amount and depth of the mold growth, the solutions may range from removing surface mold via HEPA vacuuming and washing.  To the extreme of removing and replacing all effected material, it is strongly suggested that only those with specific training and experience conduct any mold remediation work.

How can mold growth be prevented?
Mold requires several conditions to thrive.  An organic material (wood or paper), oxygen, appropriate ambient temperature, a high moisture content and/or a high ambient relative humidity of 60% or greater.  The most controllable factor of these conditions is the moisture content, which is usually controlled by removing moisture sources (water infiltration) and reducing and maintaining the indoor ambient humidity level to below 60%.

Need an expert?
Call me, I can recommend several.

How Much Does My House Weigh?

How Much Does My House Weigh?

Okay you’re asking yourself, why on earth would anyone need to know this? The answer is, I don’t know, but you might as well read on.

There are a lot of experts out there with opinions but nobody I asked could give me a definite answer. The closest answer I got was from Matt Murphy of Admiral Building Movers who said that for a wood frame building it depends on the foundation size (the footprint) and the number of stories. As his business is building moving, shoring and jacking, he figures weight without foundation and garage spaces and said that if the house interior includes sheetrock and heavy flooring the weight doubles. So I contacted a number of architects, builders and engineers and based on a blending of all the answers I got here’s what your house might weigh (including full interior, foundation and garage):

Average 1 Story Ranch 24’x36′ footprint (864sf) … between 52 and 86 tons   (this one would take between 600 and 1000 people to lift it)

Large 1 Story Ranch 28’x40′ footprint (1120sf) … between 68 and 112 tons   (this one would take between 775 and 1275 people to lift it)

Average 1.5 Story Cape 28’x36′ footprint (1512sf) … between 69 and 139 tons   (this one would take between 700 and 1600 people to lift it)

Large 1.5 Story Cape 28’x60′ footprint (2520sf) … between 102 and 231 tons   (this one would take between 1160 and 2640 people to lift it)

Average 2 Story Colonial 24’x36′ footprint (1728sf) … between 86 and 119 tons   (this one would take between 1000 and 1400 people to lift it)

Mid-Sized 2 Story Colonial 28’x40′ footprint (2240sf) … between 112 and 154 tons   (this one would take between 1300 and 1800 people to lift it)

Large 2 Story Colonial 30’x60′ footprint (3600sf) … between 180 and 248 tons   (this one would take between 2050 and 2850 people to lift it)

Estate Size 2 Story Colonial 48’x90′ footprint (8640sf) … between 425 and 600 tons   (this one would take between 5000 and 6800 people to lift it)

Estate Size 3 Story Colonial 48’x90′ footprint (12960sf) … between 594 and 756 tons    (this one would take between 6800 and 8800 people to lift it)

For extreme contrast, there actually was a house designed by a very famous inventor/thinker, named Buckminster Fuller (he’s famous for his geodesic domes) in the 1920’s called the Dymaxion House which among many other design considerations was designed to minimize its weight. The final design was a 1 Story Circular Ranch style that had a footprint of (1100sf) and weighed just 1.5 tons (this one would take just 18 people to lift it).

Days on Market … Why do I Care?

Days on Market … Why do I Care?

Properties with great locations, perfect condition and priced at market value do not last on the market and thus their days on market are very short. You can use days on market (DOM)  statistics as a way of determining what the market (read that – buyers) think of any one of these three variables.  Typically, properties with a large DOM will command lower prices than a property with small DOM’s because buyers perceive the property as over priced or less desirable. DOM is often used when developing a pricing strategy. DOM can also be used as a “thermometer” to gauge the temperature of a housing market.That’s why you care about DOM.

Okay, so how is DOM figured?  In simple terms, DOM  is the number of days on the market that a property is “active” from the list date of the current listing. A home can be withdrawn from the market, a listing may expire or it may be taken “temporarily” off the market for completely valid reasons. The MLS stops counting days for any of the these reasons in addition to a property changing status to “under-agreement.” If a property then comes back on the market – BOM in MLS terms (a contract is voided for home inspection, financing, or some other reason) counting days resumes.

If a listing is taken off the market then comes back on the market more than 90 days later with a new MLS number  the DOM is reset to zero but the MLS continues counting days from the first (original) list date – called Property History. Agents used to cancel stale listings and put them on the next day with a different MLS number and buyers would think it was a “new” listing. But those days are over with the transparency of the internet … you can find out the true DOM easily.

In a buyer’s market, the DOM are generally higher because inventory takes longer to sell. In a seller’s market, the DOM are fewer.  In the current market conditions terrific homes in active price points are getting offers within 15 days.  Mediocre homes in those same price points are taking 30-180 days. And fixer-uppers/as-is/dated/bad location/overpriced homes in those same price points are taking much longer. There are currently 20 homes on the market in Metrowest that have DOM over a year, and one even has 1696 DOM (I hope that agent doesn’t need a paycheck).

Bottom line if you’re a seller, bringing a house to market it is vital that you bring it to market in the best condition possible, with good marketing and priced right. Anything less than that may put less money in your pocket.

Bottom line if you’re a buyer, pay attention to DOM and use it as a negotiating tool. Knowing it may put money in your pocket.

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