Our Real Estate Blog

Nov. 27, 2019

Tips for selling in the winter

Selling This Winter? Here are Some Great Tips to Make Your Home More Appealing to Potential Buyers.

Clear a Path

Continually shovel a path through any snow, even if flakes are still falling. Footprints on freshly fallen snow will turn to ice if the temperature is low enough, so scrape the walk and steps periodically, and sprinkle a layer of sand or salt over them. Remember to open a path from the street to the sidewalk so that visitors aren't forced to crawl over snowdrifts. Put a rubber mat by the front door or a container to hold wet umbrellas and shoes.

Let in the Light

Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, push back the drapes on every window (unless the view or outdoor scenery is particularly undesirable). Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. You can further brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spotlights on the floor behind furniture.

Make Everything Sparkle

Washing the windows enhances the precious daylight hours. Clean out cobwebs and dust furniture, ceiling fan blades, and light fixtures. Bleach dingy grout and, if necessary, recaulk tubs, showers, and sinks. Polish chrome faucets and mirrors. Clean out the refrigerator; it probably needs cleaning anyway. Wash or polish floors, and vacuum daily; if you have plush carpeting, vacuum in one direction. Empty trash and recycling bins every day.

Turn Up the Heat

You want the temperature inside to be comfortable and to give the buyer more incentive to linger, especially on a cold day. So pump up that thermostat. It's better to heat the house a degree or two warmer than usual and then set the temperature at normal; this prevents the heat from kicking on when the buyer is present (some HVAC systems are loud). If you have a fireplace, light it up, but be sure to open the damper, place a screen in front of it, and don't leave it unattended for very long.

Create a Mood

You want rooms to appear especially warm, cozy, and inviting. Make your living room romantic by placing two champagne glasses near a champagne bucket on the coffee table; toss afghans or throws across the arms of your sofa. Dress your dining room table for a dinner for two. In the bedroom, set a breakfast tray on the bed containing a coffee cup and saucer, napkin, and reading material. Turn your bathroom into a spa by hanging plush robes on the door, placing washcloths and towels in baskets, arranging a grouping of soaps, lotions, and shampoo. Evoke a sense of summer. Place vases filled with flowers around the house. Display photographs showcasing flower gardens and lush green lawns.

Turn On the Sound

Don't neglect the aural ambiance. Have soft music playing throughout; light jazz or classical music is always soothing. If it's the festive season, nonreligious holiday music is a nice touch. Stream your tunes from a computer or tablet, using iTunes or a service like Spotify, so that your music will be continuous. 

Ease Up on the Scents

Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don't spray the air or plug-in air fresheners. Don't burn candles or spray perfume in the bedroom for the same reason.

Use Technology

Plug indoor lamps into a timer to automatically turn on at times you're showing the house. You can also use timers to show off how amazing the property looks with holiday lights! Consider using motion sensors that light up in the evening when a buyer approaches your doorstep.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Nov. 22, 2019

Advantages of Selling in the Winter


Although the weather is getting cooler, it doesn’t mean people will stop house hunting. Spring and autumn have been labelled the busiest time for buying and selling with large sales numbers, however, there are plenty of advantages when listing your property in the Winter.


In the spring, sellers flood the market. There is considerably more competition, giving buyers more homes to chose from. In contrast, your house has a relatively bigger buying pool during the “off” season.


Most people looking for a home during the winter are serious buyers. They may be up against a deadline (expiring lease, job relocation, etc.) or have been battling against other buyers during the peak real estate season and are ready to snag up an available property. In short, buyers in the winter are more motivated to buy and less likely to be curious lookie-loos or tire kickers.


People are generally more inclined to make offers at or over the asking price. This stems from the previous benefits – more serious, motivated buyers and fewer homes to choose from. They may also be the buyers who missed out on property in the Spring market, and desperate to find a place to call home.


Your realtor, including yours truly, most likely has a lighter load during the winter. Therefore, he or she has more time to devote to you and the motivation to make you a top priority.


By taking a different marketing approach, you can stop your property from looking dark and dreary. Advertising in winter is the perfect opportunity to present the property in a different light. Features such as heating, a roaring fireplace, insulation, and lighting can help show off how warm and inviting your home can be.


With fewer people buying, mortgage companies are able to process loans more quickly. Like realtors in the offseason, they have more time to devote to their borrowers, and more motivation to close as soon as possible! In fact, everyone involved in the process, such as home inspectors, appraisers, handymen needed for repairs, title companies, and insurance providers, generally are less busy and more able to spend time on your transaction to ensure a smooth and quick closing. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about listing your home during the winter, why not take advantage of these benefits and list now?

Posted in Selling Your Home
Nov. 15, 2019

Oil vs Gas

The Pros and Cons of Oil and Gas Heating

You want to feel warm and cozy when the temperatures drop. At the same time, you don’t want to take a deep hit to your bank account when the power bill arrives. When shopping for a new furnace, it is wise to consider the fuel sources they use. While some swear by gas furnaces, other contest that oil is best. In the end, both types are good at making your home feel comfortable. Knowing the advantages and drawbacks of each will help you make an educated decision based on your needs and budget.

Efficiency Ratings

In the U.S., heating and cooling costs account for nearly 50 percent of the energy use in a home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Before shopping for gas or oil furnaces, keep in mind that the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is one of the most important factors when selecting a heating system. The rating indicates the efficiency of the furnace’s combustion. Furnaces with higher AFUE ratings are more efficient. An appliance with a 60 AFUE rating will not yield any energy savings, while those with a 90 AFUE can save about 29 percent on heating costs. Bear in mind that in addition to AFUE ratings, gas and oil prices also affect energy costs.

Gas Furnaces VS Oil Furnaces

Gas Furnaces

Cost: Gas furnaces are generally 10 to 25 percent more expensive than oil furnaces. Installation prices are similar for both types of appliances. If a municipal gas line does not already run to your home, you must pay to install one.

Efficiency: Most new gas furnaces have AFUE ratings of 89 to 98 percent. Gas is a clean-burning fuel and the cleanest nonrenewable energy source. The full environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing remain unknown.

Space considerations: If you don’t have a chimney in your home, you many need to install one. Alternatively, you may need to purchase a furnace that you can install near an exterior wall so it vents directly outside, bypassing the chimney.

Size: Gas furnaces have a smaller footprint than oil furnaces because they don’t require a fuel storage tank.

Safety: Without proper maintenance and monitoring, gas furnaces carry a risk of leaking dangerous carbon monoxide into the home. Gas leaks endanger occupant health and are explosive.

Lifespan: Up 25 years with proper maintenance.

Ease of maintenance: The furnaces tend to be simpler and less expensive to maintain than oil furnaces because they stay cleaner during the heating season. The heat that gas furnaces produce is not as hot as oil furnaces when measured in British thermal units.

Other considerations: Gas furnaces hook up to a municipality’s infrastructure via an underground pipeline. Not all neighborhoods have gas lines in them. Natural gas is highly available and less volatile than oil in regards to cost.

Oil Furnaces

Cost: Oil furnace units tend to cost less than their gas counterparts do, but oil prices tend to be more volatile than natural gas prices. Oil also tends to be more expensive than natural gas because it is often imported.

Efficiency: Most new oil furnaces have AFUE ratings of 80 to 90 percent, but generally produce fewer emissions than gas furnaces.

Space considerations: Because oil furnaces manage high temperatures well and get hotter than gas furnaces, they heat large spaces evenly. Incidentally, they are great for homeowners in regions with frigid temperatures that dip into the single digits. Like with gas furnaces, if you don’t have a chimney in your home, you many need to purchase a furnace that you can install near an exterior wall so it can vent directly outside.

Size: Oil furnaces require an on-site storage tank in an accessible area of the home and regular oil deliveries. As a result, the heating system has as larger footprint than a gas furnace.

Safety: An oil furnace does not leak carbon monoxide into the home. While it is flammable, oil is not explosive.

Lifespan: Up to 30 years with proper maintenance.

Ease of maintenance: Gas furnaces tend to require more maintenance because of soot and dirt buildup. In addition to maintenance, you will also have to pay for the cost of oil deliveries, oil changes, and oil filter changes.

Other considerations: If the furnace heats water, you will have to run it year-round. An oil furnace may be more convenient if you live in a remote area because it doesn’t require a direct connection with local utilities. Oil-fired furnaces may be noisier than gas-fired ones.

aaa heating and cooling
Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 30, 2019

How To Move When You Have Too Much Stuff

Are you planning on moving in the next 6-8 months? Don’t let your belongings take ownership of you. As consumers, we tend to accumulate a lot of “stuff” over the years. After spending 5, 10, or 20-plus years in one home, this can amount to more than some of us can handle. Do you have more than 4 sets of dishes? How about piles of toys & board games from when your kids were younger? And then there are those passed-down antiques that no one in the family seems to have use for, yet no one wants to throw away. Rather than rush while packing and having to take the whole mess with you to your next home, consider starting the process early! You can categorize your belongings into the following groups:




Throw it away

It may be hard to discern which category an item goes in. This is why it’s a great idea to solicit help when you’re moving and downsizing your piles of stuff. An outsider can be a bit more objective to help you see what’s useful and what isn’t.

The Keep Pile

The items you want to keep through your move are those that you use every single day. There’s no question in your mind that you’ll need these things at your next residence. Think of the items that are either irreplaceable or still in good working condition like bedding, the coffee pot, furniture, and personal items like books, DVDs, and electronics.

Sell For Profit

If you have a question about any of the items that you’re going through, you may want to consider selling them. Is your sofa still in good condition, but won’t fit well into your new place? It’s time to get that piece of furniture to another good home and make a bit of cash while you’re at it. There are tons of websites, apps, and other resources that connect you with people who are looking for the items that you want to get rid of.


Some items may not be an easy sell. You may not even have the time to sell them. This is where donation centers allow you to do some good while you’re cleaning out your things. As you’re packing for the move go through things like clothes, books, DVDs, games, toys, and other knickknacks. Those figurines that have been sitting on the shelf may not be ideal for your new house. It’s also a good idea to keep the amount of space that you’re dealing with in mind. If you have less space, downsizing will be ever important. On the flip side, if you’re moving into a bigger house, you don’t necessarily need to fill it up!

Trash Pile

Unfortunately, we’ll always have a few things that need to be thrown out. Items that are ripped, stained, worn, broken, or plain useless must face the fate of the dumpster. No matter how you go about cleaning out your home before a move, you should know that it will feel amazing to have a lighter load to move as the clutter is cleaned out.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Oct. 25, 2019

Some of The Scariest Things a Home Inspector Might Find in Your House

Home inspections are scary. Just when you swear you've found the house of your dreams, a home inspector comes along and tells you everything's that's wrong with it—which might lead you to think you should run for the hills!

But rest assured, most things turned up during a home inspection aren't deal breakers. Still, there are certain red flags that really should make you very, very afraid. So how can you tell? For starters, you should try to attend your home inspection to see firsthand how your inspector reacts as he checks out your house.

If your inspector comes to an abrupt halt when entering a room, or their whole demeanor changes, it's possible they've just run across something very bad. Another red flag is if you hear an inspector say, “I’ve never seen this before! 

The somewhat bright side? You should know that pretty much any defect found in a house is fixable. It's just a matter of how much money you want to spend on the repairs. So if you find big bills scary, know that the 10 problems below don't come cheap. Any of the problems we have mentioned below could easily start at around $5,000 and go up from there. So if your home has any of these issues, don't say we didn't warn you.

Bad Electrical Panels

There are three brands of electrical panels—often called fuse boxes or breaker boxes—that we always recommend replacing, due to safety issues. They haven't been manufactured for decades, yet they still pop up often. The three brands are Federal Pacific, Zinsco, and Bulldog Pushmatic. All of them have issues with not tripping properly when excess current goes through them. The Zinsco breakers also have issues with electrical arcing, leading to fires inside the panel. New electrical panels could run you around $4,000 to $6,000.

An Old Deck

People are surprised to hear that decks only have a 12- to 15-year life span. The issue is the fasteners; they corrode and lose their hold on the house, and the result can be a catastrophic collapse. Every year, people are injured or killed in deck collapses, because homeowners aren't aware their decks aren't safe. Plus, rebuilding a deck isn't cheap, totaling anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Cracked Chimneys

Any chimney repair will be expensive. Even a simple crack could mean having to demolish some or all of a chimney and rebuild it. A chimney that has separated from the house is even worse. It cannot simply be pushed back into place. It has to be completely taken down and rebuilt. A complete chimney rebuild can easily top $20,000.

Polybutylene Pipe

This water pipe, typically gray in color, was widely used in the 1980s, and was subject to a class action settlement because the joints tended to fail, causing flooding. We still see it sometimes, and we always recommend replacing it. The bill generally starts at about $10,000.

Aluminum Wiring

Around the time of the Vietnam War, copper shot up in price, so electricians turned to aluminum for wiring houses. The problem is that aluminum expands and contracts more than copper when it gets hot, which weakens the junctions, so there was a big increase in arcing and fires inside walls when connections loosened up. Some insurance companies won't write policies on homes with aluminum wires, because of the risk of fire.

Buried Oil Tank

An environmental time bomb, and if it is leaking, the stakes are enormous. There is no limit to the homeowner's liability for cleaning up the contamination from a leaking tank, and insurance will not cover it.

So you think there's no way a tank is buried on your property? You may be surprised. Buried oil tanks are still quite common in colder climates; burying the tank helps prevent the fuel from freezing and lets it flow more smoothly. Plus, older tanks were often single-wall, so any corrosion or damage to the tank could mean oil seeping into the ground. In the case of an oil leak, the tank and all the surrounding soil must be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste; the soil gets dug out until all traces of oil are gone. If it's been leaking for a while, that could mean a lot of soil.

Broken Trusses

Altering roof trusses can seriously affect the structural integrity of the roof. We see truss sections cut to accommodate pull-down attic stairs, or to install a new air conditioner, or even in an attempt to make the 'wasted space' in the attic more usable. Fixing these trusses requires a structural engineer's input. As well as thousands to fix.

R-22 Refrigerant (freon)

This is the stuff that makes old air conditioners work—and since it's no longer being manufactured, repairing systems that use it has become costly. A repair that was once maybe $200 could now be well over $1,000. An A/C that uses R-22 doesn't need to be replaced immediately, but when it needs repair, it should be replaced instead. Keep in mind that an A/C will likely conk out in the middle of summer, when contractors get backed up and prices may be inflated. So it may be prudent to replace a creaky old system before it breaks.

Foundation Cracks

These are bad because they can be enormously expensive to repair properly, and the consequences of poor repair can be structural collapse. "It could be a structural problem" is a phrase homebuyers are particularly wary of. You should consider a structural engineer to be called in. That could end up costing no more than the engineer's fee if it’s determined to be an insignificant deficiency, but, it could require remediation to correct the problem.

Environmental Problems

Asbestos insulation, asbestos floor tiles, termites, mold, lead paint—all are things that must be addressed by a professional, meaning someone other than a run-of-the-mill home inspector ... and could add up to a big bill.

Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 18, 2019

Decorating For Halloween if You're Selling

How to Decorate Your House for Halloween if You’re Selling

Autumn means crunchy leaves, ghosts, gourds and pumpkin spice everything. And, for many, it’ also time to dig out the Halloween decorations to get the house looking its creepiest. Fun and festive, sure. But probably not ideal if your home is on the market. After all, you want potential buyers to feel like they’re visiting their new home, not a haunted house they'll run screaming from.

That doesn’t mean you have to refrain from putting out any holiday decor — just follow these tips to help you decorate without scaring off someone looking to buy a home.

1. Stick to Decorating the Outdoors

Too much ghoulish distraction indoors will make the buyers feel as if they are touring a haunted home rather than a home for sale.

…But don’t go overboard.

Whatever you put outside, make sure it isn’t too scary, as you want your home to look appealing, not frightening. You should focus on making it more seasonal-based by sticking to lots of pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, etc.

You don’t want the decorations to detract from features of the home. And if you go with pumpkins, we recommend going faux, as these don’t rot or give off an odor — or invite critters to lunch. Bonus tip when thinking about outdoor Halloween Decorations: Avoid being the guy on the block with the inflatable yard decor [because] it will eclipse your yard sign.

2. Inside Isn’t Entirely Off Limits.

You won’t want to decorate heavily indoors, but candles and soaps in Halloween-inspired scents and colors are welcome additions to the kitchen and bathroom. The soaps can be neatly tucked into a small basket that you can leave on a counter.

Candles also fit nicely on mantels, shelves and countertops — unless your countertops are small. If they are small, avoid putting too much on them, as you want to create the illusion of more space, not less. Also adding Halloween pillows to couches or beds or even simply adding candy corn to a clear vase or dish which you can place on a shelf or table would add a nice touch!

3. Keep Safety In Mind

If you’re putting pumpkins or other decorations outside, avoid lining your outside steps with them … as you want to keep potential buyers safe when coming and going. If you have a porch, put them off to the side where no one can accidentally trip on them, or set them up on either side of your steps on your lawn.

Note: It never hurts to check up on your homeowners insurance policy when you’re selling your home. Your insurance agent can tell you what sort of coverage you have in case someone gets hurt on your property so you are aware if the worst happens.

4. Get Those Snapshots Before Decorating

Hopefully your home gets taken off the market quickly, but just in case, it’s good to have timeless photos of your home. After all, you don’t want to be on the market in January with halloween decor in your photos.

5. Don’t Forget to Clean Up

Once Halloween has come and gone, take down decorations that were holiday-specific. And if you went with real pumpkins instead of fake ones, ditch those as well. After all, you don’t want them to smell or attract unwanted critters.


Brooke Niemeyer

Posted in Selling Your Home
Oct. 4, 2019

Top Four Benefits of a Sellers Home Inspection

Although a home inspection is more common on the side of the buyers, it is also something that sellers can do. Here are some of the reasons why a home inspection can give you an advantage in a very competitive market:

1. Increase the confidence of prospective buyers.

Touring your home can never be enough for prospective buyers. Since they are looking for a place for where they can settle, they worry about a lot of things that a simple inspection or tour can’t reveal. Are there termites? Are there problems with the plumbing or wiring? Many such questions are on the mind of the potential buyers. With an inspection report on hand, you can increase the buyers’ confidence that they will not have to face any major surprises. They still have the option to conduct their own inspection but at least, they will be confident enough to place a bid on your home.

2. Save your precious time and hard-earned money.

A home inspector’s job is to find flaws and major concerns with a home. This means that they will usually find one or two issues within a property, may it be new or just renovated. If you conduct an inspection before listing the home, you have all the time to make the necessary repairs or make adjustments when it comes to the price of your home. On the other hand, if the inspection is done by the buyer, you will be rushed into making some decisions because you are concerned with sealing the deal with the potential buyer. When this happens, you won’t have enough time to consider all your options. As a result, you will not be able to find solutions for your problems at a reasonable price. All these can be avoided when the inspection is done way before you negotiate with any potential buyer.

3. Learn about the real issues at your home.

Although you have been in your home for so long and you feel like you know everything about it – including the major issues, it is still possible for you to misidentify some problems. With home inspection, you will be truly aware of the big issues that need to be attended to at your home. This will help you save money and time for unnecessary or repeat repairs.

4. Set an appropriate asking price.

The final selling price of your home may change depending upon any big issues that may surface when a buyer conducts an inspection of your home. This means that you’ll have to reduce your asking price when a buyer discovers that there is a serious flaw on your home. On the other hand, if you conduct your own inspection before listing our house, you’ll have more control over the situation.


Posted in Selling Your Home
Sept. 26, 2019

Should You Get Solar Panels?

1. Trees reduce output, savings

Solar panels need direct sunlight, so homes heavily shaded by trees are not good candidates.

Although some homeowners opt to cut down trees to accommodate solar panels, homeowners should consider whether the cooling shade the trees provide outweighs the benefits of solar panels. In some cases in which a home is only partially shaded, the panels can be installed to avoid the shadows, or a few extra panels can be added to make up for the lost production.

2. Is the home efficient?

It makes little sense to add solar panels to a home that has leaky air ducts, poor insulation, 70-year-old windows or other inefficient features. Often those repairs and upgrades are less expensive and more cost-effective than adding solar. Also, a home that is energy-efficient will require fewer solar panels to offset a significant portion of its energy needs.


3. What is the condition of the roof?

If the roof is near the end of its useful life, new shingles should be placed before or during the installation of solar panels. If the roof will need to be replaced in a few years, it can cost $2,000 or more to remove the solar panels to make way for that work. So, waiting to install the panels, or proceeding with the new shingles, is prudent. Installation companies consulted for this story said there is no problem installing solar on homes that have recently re-shingled, as the companies can place the equipment without causing problems on a good roof.

4. Get multiple estimates

This is solid advice whether buying new countertops, solar, or any other home improvement.

Hearing how different companies would install the equipment, what they estimate in utility-cost savings, and what they offer in their warranties, can save homeowners thousands of dollars.

Estimates from installation companies also will let consumers see whether the companies understand the homeowners' needs. Installation companies should base the size of a rooftop system on how much electricity a particular family uses, not simply install the most solar panels as can fit on a roof.

5. To lease or purchase?

Leases with little or no money down have become popular options for homeowners who want to generate their own electricity but don't want to pay a lot up front. Leases come with the benefit that another company owns and maintains the panels, but the drawback that customers will save less money over time making monthly lease payments.

Also, homeowners should carefully consider leases that escalate over time. Companies that sell rather than lease can often offer loans with little or no money down that mimic the lease products. Comparing multiple offers can help homeowners find the best deal.

6. Will the home be sold soon?

Calculating the value that solar adds to a home has generated controversy. Leased panels don’t add value to a home resale, because they are not part of the home. Anyone buying that home will have to qualify to take over the lease, or the family selling the home could have to pay a penalty to end the lease prematurely.

Panels that are owned add some value to the resale. But It’s not a straight calculation. If a homeowner paid $18,000 for solar, those panels don't necessarily add $18,000 to the resale. The panels add value in proportion to the amount of money they are expected to save on utilities through the remainder of their warranty. For example, if there are 15 years left on the warranty and the panels save $80 a month in electricity, the system could add $14,000 to a home appraisal.


7. Understand the rate plans

Some solar companies might advertise energy independence as a reason to install solar panels, but the vast majority of people who install solar are still connected to the utility grid. That means they still rely on a traditional electric company to provide power at night and when their panels aren't making enough electricity to serve all the home's appliances.

How an electric company charges customers makes a huge difference in how much they can save with solar. Companies installing solar on homes should understand utility rate plans and help homeowners choose the appropriate plan from their utility based on how much power the solar panels will generate and how much electricity homeowners use. Also understand that rates can change.

8. Federal tax credits still available

Finally, consumers should understand the federal investment tax credit for solar. Homeowners can apply the federal tax credit to their personal income taxes, reducing their taxes. The credit today is 30 percent of the cost of the solar equipment. It is scheduled to decline over time. After 2019, the investment tax credit steps down to 26 percent for projects that begin construction in 2020, and 22 percent for projects that begin in 2021, the Solar Energy Industries Association reports. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero.

Sept. 20, 2019

What to Know About Buying a Home with a Septic Tank

About 20% of homes use septic tanks to dispose of and treat waste, most often in less populated areas not served by municipal waste systems. Septic tanks can be an effective way of treating wastewater and carry advantages to the environment, public health, and your wallet when properly installed and maintained. But they leave many people turning their heads wondering what living with a septic tank actually involves. Read on to learn everything you need to know about buying a home with a septic tank.

How does a septic tank actually work?

In homes with a septic tank, waste is transferred out of the home through a pipe and deposited into an underground septic tank. Once waste reaches the tank, floatable materials like oil and grease stay on top, solids settle on the bottom, and a middle layer of wastewater (commonly known as effluent) exits the septic tank and travels into a drain field in the yard where it’s slowly released into the soil.

Do septic tanks impact water quality?

When designed, installed, and managed properly, septic tanks successfully treat wastewater without contaminating water and the local environment. However, when not installed and managed properly, they can contribute to problems like ground and surface water contamination, phosphorus pollution, excessive discharge of nitrogen into coastal waters, and contamination of water used for swimming.

Does a septic tank need to be serviced frequently?

Septic tanks need to be serviced somewhat regularly to maintain optimal performance. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a septic tank inspection every three to five years. During inspection, a professional will usually look at the top and bottom layers of the tank, which can indicate if the tank needs to be pumped, and inspect for leaks.

The tank will also need to be pumped with a similar frequency (about every 2 years), though the amount of time you go between pumping the tank will depend on tank size and the amount of wastewater your household generates. It’s a good idea to keep notes after your tank has been inspected to have an idea of when the tank should be pumped.

Aside from your regular maintenance, you’ll also want to seek professional help if you notice any of the following signs, which indicate a potential septic tank problem:

  • A strong, sewage-like odor around your property

  • Wastewater backup in your home’s drains

  • Water accumulation around your septic system or in the basement

  • Muddy soil surrounding the area where your septic system is held Greener grass above the septic tank, which may indicate that water is collecting below

When buying a home with a septic tank

Don’t immediately be scared off from purchasing a good home because it has a septic tank. In addition to your own research on how to care for a septic tank and to make sure it’s something you can handle, it’s a good idea to ask the current owners about maintenance of their system. And if you’re considering buying the home, it’s crucial to get the septic tank inspected and make sure it’s in good condition and capable of handling the amount of wastewater you or your family is likely to generate.

Living with a septic tank

Living with a septic tank isn’t that different from living in a home served by a municipal waste system, but you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.

  • Be mindful of your water use, as all water use in the home will contribute to how quickly your septic tank fills up.

  • Be careful of what you flush, as it will eventually end up in the septic tank. Stick to human waste and toilet paper, and avoid flushing things like medication, dental floss, and flushable wipes.

  • Avoid pouring cooking oil and grease down the kitchen sink drain.

  • Limit the use of your garbage disposal, as this waste may eventually clog your septic system’s drainfield.

  • Make sure to stay on top of your septic tank maintenance.

  • Don’t park above your drain field or plant anything too close that it’s roots may extend into the septic system.

Posted in buying
Sept. 11, 2019

The #2 Leading Cause of Cancer Could Be In Your Home.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon-induced lung cancer costs the United States over $2 billion dollars per year in both direct and indirect health care costs. (Based on National Cancer Institute statistics of 14,400 annual radon lung cancer deaths – Oster, Colditz & Kelley, 1984)

According to the US EPA, nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure.

The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the same alpha radiation emitted by other alpha generating radiation sources such as plutonium.

A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure)

An elementary school student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/L of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant. (25 mrem limit, 200 mrem exposure)

Most U.S. EPA lifetime safety standards for carcinogens are established based on a 1 in 100,000 risk of death. Most scientists agree that the risk of death for radon at 4 pCi/L is approximately 1 in 100. At the 4 pCi/L EPA action guideline level, radon carries approximately 1000 times the risk of death as any other EPA carcinogen. It is important to note that the action level is not a safe level, as there are no “safe” levels of radon gas.

What is radon?

A layman’s description

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you’re at high risk for developing lung cancer. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.

A scientific description

PROPERTIES: Radon is a gaseous highly radioactive element discovered by English physicist Ernest Rutherford in 1899. The discovery is also credited to German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn in 1900. More specifically, Rutherford discovered radon’s alpha radiation and Dorn discovered that radium was releasing a gas.

Radon is a colorless chemically-unreactive inert gas. The atomic radius is 1.34 angstroms and it is the heaviest known gas–radon is nine times denser than air. Because it is a single atom gas (unlike oxygen, O2, which is comprised of two atoms) it easily penetrates many common materials like paper, leather, low-density plastic (like plastic bags, etc.) most paints, and building materials like gypsum board (sheetrock), concrete block, mortar, sheathing paper (tar paper), wood paneling, and most insulations.

Radon is also fairly soluble in water and organic solvents. Although reaction with other compounds is comparatively rare, it is not completely inert and forms stable molecules with highly electronegative materials. Radon is considered a noble gas that occurs in several isotopic forms. Only two are found in significant concentrations in the human environment: radon-222, and radon-220. Radon-222 is a member of the radioactive decay chain of uranium-238. Radon-220 is formed in the decay chain of thorium-232. Radon-222 decays in a sequence of radionuclides called radon decay products, radon daughters, or radon progeny. It is radon-222 that most readily occurs in the environment. Atmospheric releases of radon-222 results in the formation of decay products that are radioisotopes of heavy metals (polonium, lead, bismuth) and rapidly attach to other airborne materials such as dust and other materials facilitating inhalation.

USE: Radon has been used in some spas for presumed medical effects. In addition, radon is used to initiate and influence chemical reactions and as a surface label in the study of surface reactions. It has been obtained by pumping the gasses off of a solution of a radium salt, sparking the gas mixture to combine the hydrogen and oxygen, removing the water and carbon dioxide by adsorption, and freezing out the radon.

PRODUCTION: Radon is not produced as a commercial product. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon.

EXPOSURE: The primary routes of potential human exposure to radon are inhalation and ingestion. Radon in the ground, groundwater, or building materials enters working and living spaces and disintegrates into its decay products. Although high concentrations of radon in groundwater may contribute to radon exposure through ingestion, the inhalation of radon released from water is usually more important.

RADON IN THE WORKPLACE: In comparison with levels in outdoor air, humans in confined air spaces, particularly in underground work areas such as mines and buildings, are exposed to elevated concentrations of radon and its decay products. Exhalation of radon from ordinary rock and soils and from radon-rich water can cause significant radon concentrations in tunnels, power stations, caves, public baths, and spas. The average radon concentrations in houses are generally much lower than the average radon concentrations in underground ore mines.

Workers are exposed to radon in several occupations. In countries for which data were available, concentrations of radon decay products in underground mines are now typically less than 1000 Bq/m3 EEC Rn (approx. 28 pCi/L). Underground uranium miners are exposed to the highest levels of radon and its decay products. Other underground workers and certain mineral processing workers may also be exposed to significant levels.

Should you test for radon?

Testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. The US EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for radon because testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels.

Radon is a national environmental health problem. Elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state. The US EPA estimates that as many as 8 million homes throughout the country have elevated levels of radon. Current state surveys show that 1 home in 5 has elevated radon levels.

Can you fix the problem?

If your home has high concentrations of radon there are ways to reduce it to acceptable levels. Most radon problems can be fixed with a mitigation system. If you want or require the assistance of a professional you may wish to look at the list of certified radon mitigators for your state.