Radon: What is It and Why Should You Care?

Radon: What is It and Why Should You Care?

What is Radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas emitted from the soil. It is formed from the breakdown of uranium, a heavy metal, and radium, a radioactive metal. Radon rises up from the soil and often permeates homes which causes a serious health risk.

Why is radon dangerous?

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause in smokers. The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that 21,000 people die from radon exposure in the United States each year.

Minnesotans have an especially high risk of having radon in their homes. In fact, Minnesota has a radon level three times higher than the U.S. average. It is estimated that more than two out of every 5 homes have higher than normal radon levels.

How does radon enter a home?

Radon is usually pulled into a home due to the differences in pressure between the inside air and outside air. Typically, radon enters a home through cracks in the concrete slab, floor-wall joints, a crawl space, or an open sump pit.

What can be done?

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends having your home tested for radon. The test is performed by a licensed professional and is unique depending on the foundation of your home. If the radon levels detected are above 4 pCi/L (picocuries of radon per liter of air) you should have a mitigation system installed. Mitigation systems generally cost about $1,200 to $2,500.

What happens if I sell my home?

Minnesota does not require radon testing in order to sell your home. However, if you previously had a test done, you are legally required to disclose the radon levels to potential buyers.

Bottom Line

Radon is a harmful gas that can result in serious health problems if exposed for too long. If you are worried about high levels of radon, have your home tested by a professional and install a mitigation system.

5 Benefits of Hiring a Real Estate Agent

5 Benefits of Hiring a Real Estate Agent

In today’s real estate market – selling or buying a home can be a stressful and sometimes nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be. When you work with a professional real estate agent, it ensures you aren’t burdened by the stress of finding the perfect home or selling at market value by yourself. An agent handles the tough and stressful parts of a home sale while you relax from the comfort of your home.

 Working with a real estate agent makes the experience much less stressful, but there are plenty of other benefits to working with an agent as well. Here are just five of them.

1. Agents are Well-Versed in Real Estate Terminology and Documents

Selling or buying a home requires you to prepare tons of paperwork such as government and mandated legal documents. For some, this can be confusing and frightening as one mistake could lead to legal implications or a failed transaction. This is where your agent comes in handy. They are well-verseed with all the documents needed for the sale and its legal procedures.

2. They are Your Advocate

Agents look out for their client’s best interest. They want to ensure the transaction will be successful which is why you can count on them to advocate for your needs during the transaction process.

3. Agents are Excellent at Negotiating

Buyers and sellers want one thing: to get the best deal. Negotiating directly with the buyer or seller is difficult, thus hiring a real estate agent increases your chance to get the best deal. Real estate agents have mastered the art of negotiation and they always strive to get you the best deal possible.

4. Agents have Connections that Matter

Real estate agents and brokers have their own networks and access to a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). They also have multiple connections to other agents, lenders, title companies, home inspectors, staging professionals, and many more. Your agent will ensure you are taken care of by the best!

5. It's All About Closing the Sale

Nobody (other than you) cares more about the sale of a home than your agent, and they are experts at knowing when the market is at its most competitive. So trust your agent to close the deal exactly as you expected.

The Bottom Line

There are numerous benefits to hiring a real estate agent. They have the proper connections, will advocate on your behalf, and are well-versed in all things real estate. So, whether you are buying or selling a home, hiring an agent is the best choice you can make.

Six Things to Avoid When Applying for a Mortgage

Six Things to Avoid When Applying for a Mortgage

a wooden house on top of a calculator next to some quarters and a notepad all on a wooden table

After finding your dream home and applying for a mortgage, you may be tempted to go shopping for your new home or reward yourself with a new credit card, but be wary of making any large financial changes until after your mortgage is approved. Sometimes even something as small as depositing cash into your bank account can affect your mortgage. 

So, always consult your lender about any financial decisions prior to closing on a home, and in the meantime, read up on six things to avoid when applying for a mortgage.

1. Don't Make Any Large Purchases Like a Car or Furniture

Large purchases tend to come with new monthly payments which in turn create new qualifications for a mortgage. By purchasing large items, your debt-to-income ratio rises and you may end up no longer qualifying for your mortgage.

2. Don't Deposit Any Amount of Cash into Your Bank Account Before Speaking With Your Bank or Lender

Lenders need to track where your money is coming from and cash is not easily traced. If you need to deposit cash into your account, consult with your lender about the proper way to record the transaction.

3. Don't Open or Close Any Credit Accounts

Lenders need to check your credit score in order to determine your interest rate on the home loan. If you apply for new credit, an organization has to run a credit report and will more than likely lower your score. On the other hand, if you close an account, the lender cannot evaluate how long you’ve had the account or the percentage of credit you use. Both situations can impact your eligibility to qualify for a mortgage.

4. Don't Change Bank Accounts

It is harder for lenders to track your money if you transfer it to another account. Similar to avoiding cash deposits, speak with your lender before transferring any money into a new bank account.

5. Don't Co-Sign Loans for Anyone

When you co-sign a loan, your debt-to-income ratio rises. Even if you never make a single payment on the loan, your lender will still count the payments against you which could result in you no longer qualifying for your mortgage.

6. Don't Change Jobs or Become Unemployed

Your debt-to-income ratio is a large factor in determining your mortgage. If your income changes or you lose your job, it can significantly impact your ability to acquire a home loan.

If you’re unsure about a financial decision prior to closing on your home, always consult your lender. They are qualified to explain how certain financial moves may impact your home loan.

More questions or looking to get pre-approved for a home loan? Click here.

Preparing Your Home for Fall

Preparing Your Home for Fall

It’s that time of year again! The leaves are changing colors, the air is getting cooler, and pumpkins are spotted everywhere! But even with all the fall fun, there’s still some work to be done. Follow these home maintenance tips to get your house ready for the season and into the winter.

 Inside:

  • Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. Seal any drafts by weatherstripping. Use materials like vinyl, silicone, or metal instead of felt or foam, which aren’t as durable.
  • Caulk anywhere you can’t use weatherstrips (where materials meet—foundation and wall, openings where ducting, plumbing, and electrical cables pass through, etc.).
  • Have your furnace serviced before winter and be sure to change out the filter for improved efficiency.
  • Bleed your hot water radiator. Doing so will release trapped air and pump out hot water used to heat the house. Find the valve and use a screwdriver to turn it counterclockwise until water drips out. Use a bowl to collect the water.
  • Check your fireplace. Make sure the damper opens and closes, ensure no wildlife or debris has made it into the flue, and check the firebox for missing bricks or cracked mortar.
  • Clean your carpets. Fall is a great time for this because you can open windows and allow the carpets to air dry without it being too hot or cold.

Outside:

  • Clean out those gutters! You can even install gutter guards to prevent leaves from clogging them up.
  • Touch up exterior paint before it gets too cold. The paint can’t dry properly if it’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Aerate your lawn. This is a process of poking holes in the grass to let it “breathe,” allowing water and nutrients to enter. Do this in the fall while the ground is still warm to prevent patches and reduce puddles by the time spring rolls around.
  • Winterize your sprinkler system to prevent pipes from bursting. Close shut off valves and open the faucet to drain water from the line.
  • Evaluate the roof using binoculars. Check shingles for cracks, curls, and other damage. Look for signs of flashing. If the roof is inaccessible, you can always hire a professional. Get any issues fixed before the first snowfall.
  • Pack up patio furniture and store away the lawnmower. It’s a good idea to add a fuel stabilizer to any leftover gas in your mower to prevent it from degrading.

These simple home maintenance guidelines will help keep your house in better condition for longer. Buying or selling your house? Call the experts at HomeTeam for a quality inspection you can trust. With fast scheduling, detailed reporting, and a professional team, you can rest assured knowing you’re in good hands.

Copyright HomeTeam of West Metro

Buying or selling your home? Contact us today!

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10 Tips to Prepare your Home for Fall

10 Tips to Prepare your Home for Fall

As the leaves turn colors and the days get shorter we’re reminded that Summer doesn’t last forever. And with the Fall season approaching there is no better time to prepare your home for everything that comes along with it. So grab your tools, roll up your sleeves, and get to work!

 

1. Clean or replace gutters

It is important to clean your gutters at least once a year. When gutters fill with debris, they become clogged and can result in water getting under the roof and into the foundation. Furthermore, clogged gutters can lead to ice dams in the winter.

To clean your gutters, ensure you have a sturdy, extendable ladder and a plastic scoop or plastic kitchen spatula. Once you have scooped the debris out of the gutters, use a garden hose to flush the gutters and downspouts. This will clear out remaining debris and show signs of any leaks in the gutters.

 

2. Check for drafts and install weatherstripping

Checking for drafts is a crucial step in preparing for the fall and winter months. If you skip this step your heating bill may come as a shock to you later on.

To locate drafts in your home, turn off all combustion appliances and close all windows and exterior doors. Then turn on all exhaust fans to suck the air out of the rooms you are testing. Light an incense stick and move it past common leak sites such as doors and windows. Wherever the smoke wavers or blows out, there is a draft. Any drafts you locate can be eliminated using caulk or weatherstripping.

 

3. Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems

The last thing anyone wants in the dead of winter is a burst pipe which is why draining your outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems is so important.

To drain your outdoor faucet, turn off the water supply valve and remove any hoses or faucet connections. Then turn the faucet on full blast and let it run until no more water comes out. Turn the faucet back off. A similar method is used to drain sprinkler systems.

Shut off the water supply to the sprinkler system. Then open the valves located at the ends and low points of the piping until the water completely drains. Don’t forget to also drain the backflow device. Close the valves.

 

4. Fix any cracks in the driveway

Cracks in your driveway may seem low on the totem pole of things to fix before winter strikes, but that’s not the case. Even a tiny crack can become a large problem if not fixed before the snowfalls.

When the cracks fill with water and freeze, they expand and become even bigger which can lead to structural damages in the future. To fix the cracks, you can use crack filler products specific to asphalt and concrete driveways. Be wary of the temperatures when repairing the cracks as some products require a certain temperature to work properly.

5. Change filters in HVAC systems

While you should be changing your HVAC filters every 1 to 3 months anyway, it is more important to stay on top of it during the colder months. Forgetting to change the filters can lead to clogged HVAC systems and higher heating bills. 

To determine the correct filter size, look on the side of the filter cabinet door. The most typical furnace filter sizes are 16×20, 20×25, and 16×25. Your filter should fit snuggly into the furnace.

6. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested on a monthly basis to ensure they are working properly. You should also be changing the batteries in the alarms every six months. An easy way to remember is to change the batteries in the spring and fall when you change the clocks for Day Light Savings Time.

To test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, hold the “test” buttons until you hear a loud alarm. It is important to check each room of the house to ensure the alarms can be heard from anywhere.

 

7. Aerate and fertilize the lawn

While not a necessity, it is a good idea to aerate and fertilize your lawn in early fall or spring. Aerating your lawn involves creating holes in compacted soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots.

To aerate your lawn, rent an aerator from a local lawn and garden store or hire a lawn service to do it for you. After aerating your lawn you should overseed or fertilize your lawn for the best results.

 

8. Test winter equipment

No one wants to wake up to a blizzard and realize too late that their snowblower doesn’t work. Inspect and test your winter equipment now before it’s too late.

When testing your snowblower, ensure it starts easily and there isn’t too much wear on the belt or tires. It is also a good idea to clean out any old gas and refill the tank.

9. Clean and store outdoor furniture

Outdoor furniture is not necessarily meant to withstand freezing temperatures and piles of snow. So before winter arrives, clean it off and store it in a garage, shed, or under a weatherproof cover.

 

10. Inspect and clean the fireplace and chimney

If you have a fireplace and chimney it is important to have them cleaned once a year. If you skip cleaning and continue to burn wood in the fireplace, you risk a chimney fire.

The best way to ensure your chimney and fireplace is cleaned and inspected properly is to hire a certified professional.