Cross These Items off Your Home Fire Safety Checklist

Smoke Alarm TestThere are more than 1.3 million fires that take place in the U.S. every year. Many of these blazes start inside houses and put homeowners, their families and their properties at risk. The good news is, there are effective steps you can take to protect your family and your home in the event of a fire. Cross the following items off your home fire safety checklist today.

Make sure smoke alarms are installed throughout your home.

If a fire starts in your home, you want everyone to know about it as quickly as possible so that they can escape in a timely fashion. Smoke alarms can help alert you and your family to the presence of a fire, but only if they’re properly installed. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor in your home and an alarm inside each bedroom. This will ensure your smoke alarms are able to detect isolated fires before they spread to other parts of your home.

Test smoke alarms and replace the batteries accordingly.

Installing smoke alarms throughout your home is smart, but they won’t do you much good if their batteries are dead. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to test all the smoke alarms in your homes about once a month to make sure they’re working. If there are any that don’t have functioning batteries, replace them right away. You should also replace your smoke alarms about once every 10 years.

Create a fire escape plan and practice it.

If a fire were to start in your home right now, what would everyone do? If you don’t have a fire escape plan in place, your family members may panic and not know where to go. Sit down with your family and come up with a fire escape plan that works for everyone. Practice it about once a month so that it becomes routine.

In addition to taking these steps, you should also consider having an electrical inspection conducted to ensure your home’s electrical system is safe and up to date. To learn more, feel free to give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today.

Chicago Named the Second-Most Affordable City for Home Buyers

Chicago SkylineThinking about buying a home in the Windy City? Chicago’s housing market may be experiencing a period of slow growth, but it’s also one of the most affordable markets in the nation, according to a recent report published in Crain’s.

This report found that, of the 20 largest cities in the U.S., only St. Louis has a housing market more affordable than Chicago. Furthermore, while other major cities such as New York, Seattle and Philadelphia are expected to see an increase in housing prices over the next few years, the report estimates that Chicago’s market will continue to remain affordable through late 2021.

Rather than comparing cities to one another, this affordability index compared individual cities to their own price histories, taking into account variables such as employment growth, incomes and home prices. Based on this data, the report found that monthly payments on median-priced Chicago homes account for 23 to 24 percent of the median household income. In contrast, during the most recent housing boom, housing costs in Chicago were as high as 35 percent of the median household income.

These unique market conditions have made it a particularly good time to buy a home in Chicago.

Whether you’re buying your first home or shopping for investment properties, the team at First Choice Inspectors can work with you to make sure you’re making an informed decision. We offer a diverse selection of home inspection services, including new home inspections, energy audits, radon inspections and more.

Give us a call or contact us online to schedule your next inspection today!

Smart HVAC System Could Offer Significant Energy Savings

After a long, hot summer, you may be tired of seeing your energy bills spike from the increased load on your HVAC system. Thanks to the efforts of Iranian-American entrepreneur Hamid Farzaneh, homeowners will soon have access to a new “intelligent” ventilation technology that’s designed to make HVAC systems far more efficient.

The Alea Air system uses an array of 11 sensors to offer selective control over each HVAC vent in a home.

In contrast to smart thermostats like Nest, Alea Air optimizes HVAC efficiency with a series of vents that are networked together via a central Airhub. Over time, the sensors in these vents gather data about the temperature and air quality in the different rooms in a home. Based on the data they collect, the vents can open and close automatically to regulate airflow in each room. Furthermore, their simple modular design makes it easy for homeowners to install the vents without assistance from an HVAC technician.

Just like smart thermostats, the Alea Air system can also be accessed via a smartphone app. Through this app, homeowners can choose to manually take control of the temperature in different rooms. In the future, Farzaneh plans to add more sensors to his Alea Air vents that will allow them to detect dust and pollen as well. Alea Air units will reportedly begin shipping in January 2019.

Interested in finding new ways to make your home more energy efficient and reduce your utility bills? At First Choice Inspectors, we can conduct a home energy audit to identify hidden inefficiencies in your home’s thermal performance and offer suggestions for improvement. Just give us a call or contact us online today to learn more!

Keep an Eye out for Signs of Termite Activity This Summer

Termite DamageDid you know that termite damage costs U.S. homeowners an estimated $5 billion a year? Termites tend to be particularly active this time of year, when warm weather gives them an opportunity to swarm and form new colonies. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to stay on the lookout for signs of termite activity in and around your home during the summer. Let’s start by inspecting your flooring.

Blisters in Wood Floors

If you have wood or laminate flooring in your home, check for areas with “blisters” that might resemble water damage. This blistering effect tends to occur when termites start chewing through a home’s subfloor. If you find these blisters and you haven’t had a plumbing leak in the past, there’s a good chance that termites are the culprits.

Damaged Wood

Spotting termite-damaged wood can be tricky because the insects tend to burrow behind walls, floors and other surfaces. That said, you can sometimes find the tell-tale grooves that hungry termites leave in the wood around your home’s foundation. If you see signs of termite damage in a crawl space or on the bottom edges of your siding, for example, there may be more damage on other wood surfaces in the home as well.

Discarded Wings and Termite Droppings

Many termites leave their nests in the summertime to find mates and new places to expand their colonies. During this process, they tend to leave a lot of droppings and discarded wings laying around as well. If you find these droppings and wings around your home this summer, consider calling an exterminator sooner rather than later.

Concerned about hidden structural issues in your home or a home you’re thinking about buying? Give us a call or contact us online to schedule an inspection with the team at First Choice Inspectors today!

How to Save Money on Your Air Conditioning Costs This Summer

Digital ThermostatOn days when the temperature creeps into the 80s and 90s, it can be difficult to resist the urge to crank up the A/C. If you have small children or pets at home, air conditioning might be downright essential this time of year. Unfortunately, in addition to make your home far more comfortable, air conditioning can cause a noticeable spike in your energy bills. Today we’ll look at a few ways to minimize the impact of air conditioning on your electric bill, so you can stay comfortable without breaking the bank.

Circulate Air With a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans can assist your A/C unit by dispersing cool air around your home and preventing hot air from pooling on the ceiling. A ceiling fan won’t actually cool a room, but it will make the room feel cooler by redistributing air. This way, you can keep your thermostat a few degrees higher without causing discomfort.

Close Curtains and Blinds During the Day

Be sure to close your curtains and blinds before you leave for work in the morning. Otherwise, the sunlight will radiate through your windows all day and force your A/C to work harder to keep up with the heat. Blocking all that excess sunlight can put a significant dent in your monthly energy costs.

Be Mindful of Your Thermostat Placement

If your thermostat is on a warm wall next to a window, it may be causing your A/C to run more than it needs to. Ideally, your thermostat should be placed on an interior wall in a room you use frequently like a living room. You should also make sure it’s not obstructed by furniture or other objects that might disrupt its sensors.

Invest in an Energy Audit

If your energy bills seem unreasonably high, it could because of inefficiencies in your home such as outdated insulation and leaky windows. An energy audit can allow you to identify these issues and find ways to make your home more energy efficient. If your home is properly sealed and insulated, your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard to regulate the temperature inside.

To learn more about the home energy audits we offer at First Choice Inspectors, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today!

Lead-Based Paint Remains a Concern in Chicago’s Older Homes

Peeling PaintDespite the Chicago Department of Public Health’s efforts to address lead hazards in older homes, many neighborhoods in and around the city are still in need of lead paint abatement. Although lead-based paint is relatively harmless when left undisturbed, it can because a serious health hazard when it begins to deteriorate into a toxic dust.

Young children tend to be particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, as they are more likely to accidentally ingest small flakes of lead paint that fall from walls and ceilings. Because their brains are still developing, they are also more susceptible to the neurological damage caused by lead poisoning. According to a report from ABC 7 news, more than 4,500 children in Cook County tested positive for lead poisoning in 2014.

Should you be concerned about the presence of lead paint in your home?

If your home was built before 1978 and has never undergone an extensive renovation, there’s a good chance that there is at least some lead-based paint in your home. Even if the walls and ceilings have been repainted numerous times over the years, you may be able to spot signs of chipping lead paint around door frames, window sills, stairs and railings.  

In general, it’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to lead-based paint. This is especially true if you have children in your family. At First Choice Inspectors, our lead inspections are specifically designed to uncover lead paint hazards in the older homes in our area. In the event that we identify signs of deteriorating lead paint, we can also recommend a lead abatement company to help you safely resolve the issue once and for all.

To schedule an inspection, give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying a House With Water Damage

Water Damaged FlooringYou find a home that you and your family absolutely love. You’re just about ready to make an offer, but then a routine home inspection reveals signs of past water damage. Could this cause more problems in the future? Should you abandon the home altogether? There are a few important things to consider before following through with the deal.

Water damage can cause mold, rot and more.

If it isn’t properly remediated, water damage can cause lingering issues for years. Homes that have been water damaged may be more prone to mold and mildew growth, for example. They may also require structural repairs if the damaged was extensive enough to cause beams and joists to rot. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the extent of the damage and the work that was done to repair it before you think about buying the home.

It can also bring down the value of a home.

If water damage isn’t properly assessed and repaired, it can also significantly reduce the home’s resale value. If you’re willing to negotiate for repairs, or make the repairs yourself, you may be able to use this to your advantage as a buyer. On the other hand, if you don’t want to invest that kind of time and money in the home, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

The damage isn’t always immediately obvious.

Some signs of water damage, such as mold growth and drywall stains, are pretty easy to spot. Others, like the effects of water damage on a home’s electrical system, require a trained eye to identify. If you notice superficial signs of water damage during a walkthrough, a home inspection may reveal more serious underlying issues as well. Be sure to have the home inspected by a professional before making a final decision.

Want to make your dream home won’t turn out to be a money pit? Give us a call or contact us online to get your quote with First Choice Inspectors today!

How to Prepare Your House for a Home Inspection

Home Inspection ReportGetting ready to schedule a home inspection prior to selling your home? If so, it’s a good idea to prepare your property for the inspectors before they arrive. Today we’ll look at a few simple steps you can take to make sure your home inspection go as smoothly as possible.

Make sure home inspectors can access every room in your home.

Do you typically keep your garage locked? Do you have an office in your basement that is usually off-limits to outsiders? Is there a crawl space access door that’s blocked by a piece of furniture? You need to make sure a home inspector can check out every part of your house. That means unlocking doors, creating clear paths to hard-to-reach areas, and providing access to unfinished spaces in attics and basements.

Clear out space around utilities.

There are many people who use their utility rooms as added storage. They may have boxes and other items piled around their water heaters and electric panels, for example. If this sounds familiar, be sure to declutter these areas so that a home inspector can access your utilities without having to wade through a pile of personal belongings.

Compile documents related to maintenance and repairs.

Have you renovated your home in recent years or tackled a large repair project? Home inspectors and buyers will want to see records of this work, so put together a folder with documents related to the maintenance and repairs you’ve had done during your time in the home. You may not have documentation for every little maintenance item you’ve worked on in the home, but you should at least have records of any major renovations, upgrades and repairs you’ve made.

Once you’re ready for your home inspection, feel free to give us a call or contact us online for your free quote!

How to Negotiate Repairs Following Your Home Inspection

Home BuyersBefore you commit to buying a home, you should always have a home inspection done. A professional home inspection can not only identify areas of concern and items that need to be repaired, but also give you more leverage at the negotiating table.

If your inspector finds that the home does need some work, you shouldn’t necessarily back out of the deal altogether. Instead, you may be able to negotiate repairs with the sellers.

Think about what needs to be fixed before you move in.

Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to get a seller to fix every issue your home inspector uncovers. There are very few homes that are in perfect condition, and some basic wear and tear is to be expected.

Consider the repairs that your home inspector recommends, and decide which items absolutely need to be repaired before you move in. For example, if there’s an electrical issue that constitutes a safety hazard, you should ask the sellers to remedy the issue before you agree to purchase the home.

Send the seller a list of repairs you want done.

Sit down with your real estate agent and generate a list of repairs that you would like to see done before you sign on the dotted line. The seller might not agree to all of them, but they’ll probably agree to most repairs as long as they’re within reason. Many sellers are willing to swallow these extra repair expenses if it means they can secure a reliable buyer for their home.

Ask about repair credits.

There might be a few items on your list that would be impossible for a seller to do without racking up substantial costs. For instance, if the home’s subfloor in disrepair, it might not be possible for the seller to replace it without ripping out the old carpeting and replacing it, which would cost a lot of money.

In cases like these, you should ask to receive a credit on the price of the home so that you can tackle the job later. This will help you save money and give you the freedom to make repairs on your own.

To schedule your next home inspection, give us a call or contact us online today for your free quote.

These Minor Flaws Can Be Signs of Serious Underlying Issues

Low Water PressureAre you in the process of searching for a new home? If so, it’s important to keep a close eye out for issues that could require expensive repairs in the future. Some of these issues – like outdated electrical panels or cracks in the foundation—are pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for. Others, however, are more difficult to identify. In some cases, minor cosmetic defects can even be signs of serious structural or mechanical problems.

Water Pressure Issues

Low water pressure might seem like a trivial annoyance, but if the problem is widespread it could mean that the house is in need of a complete plumbing overhaul. Old houses with outdated galvanized steel pipes tend to have bad water pressure, for example. If you notice the faucets in a house are all running slow, be sure to ask about when the plumbing was last updated.

Wall and Ceiling Discoloration

Discoloration might just mean that a home hasn’t been repainted in a while, but it could also be a sign of past water damage. Be especially wary if you notice extensive discoloration on basement walls. Yellow spots on white walls and ceilings are also tell-tale signs of leaks. If you notice a musty odor in conjunction with the discoloration, there’s a good chance the home has mold and moisture issues.

Sagging, Sticking Doors

A single stuck door is probably nothing to worry about, but if all the doors in a home are sagging it could be a sign of an uneven foundation. Fixing an uneven foundation can be extremely costly, and foundation repairs can sometimes necessitate plumbing and electrical replacements as well. If you notice a number of stuck or sagging doors, check the foundation for cracks and other signs of damage.

Uneven Floors

Is there a noticeable dip or rise in the home’s flooring? Even if the change in elevation seems relatively minor, it could be a sign of a serious issue such as termite damage or a sagging foundation.  If any of the flooring in a home appears uneven, you should have it inspected by a structural engineer before you consider making an offer.

Want to make sure the house you’re looking at isn’t going to wind up being a money pit? The team at First Choice Inspectors can conduct a thorough, professional home inspection to identify a variety of potential problems. Give us a call or contact us online to get your quote today!