Keep These Tips in Mind Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

Home ForeclosureFollowing the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, home foreclosure rates increased dramatically across the country. Some savvy investors were able to capitalize on the huge foreclosure inventory by buying homes at a fraction of their market value. But for every success story you hear about someone getting a great deal on a foreclosure, you can find many more horror stories about people buying money pits that demand extensive renovations. Buying a foreclosed home can be a worthwhile investment, but only if you’re careful to buy the right home. You can start by making a realistic budget that includes more than just the purchase price.

Include renovations in your budget.

Don’t let the attractive sticker price fool you. Some foreclosures can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate. Before you start shopping around, determine how much you’re willing to spend on renovations and include that figure in your overall budget. You should also consider what types of renovations you’re willing to take on. You probably want to steer clear of homes with foundation issues or serious water damage, for example.

Consider how long it’s been vacant.

Homes can quickly fall into disrepair when they’re not occupied. Homes that sit vacant for months or years at a time are prone to pest infestations, plumbing issues, sewage backups and more. The exterior might look fine, but there may be serious problems hiding just beneath the surface. If a home has been vacant for more than a few months, approach with caution.

Find out if the home has been winterized.

This is especially important here in the Chicago area. When unoccupied homes aren’t properly winterized, sub-zero temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst. This, in turn, can cause costly water damage and contribute to the growth of mold and mildew. If the home you’re looking at has been vacant during the winter, make sure the utilities were effectively winterized to prevent this type of damage.

Invest in a home inspection.

You should get an inspection anytime you buy a home, but it’s especially important when you’re shopping for foreclosures. A comprehensive home inspection can identify serious structural and mechanical issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. It can also give you a better idea of just how much the home will cost to renovate. By spending a few hundred dollars on a home inspection now, you can save many thousands of dollars in repairs down the road.

At First Choice Inspectors, we offer inspections designed specifically for foreclosed homes. To learn more, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today.

Beware of These Common Household Electrical Hazards

Electrical FireMany electrical devices and appliances are invaluable household tools, but they can also constitute dangerous safety hazards if you’re not careful. The first step toward preventing electrical hazards is educating yourself about them! Today we’ll address a few of the most common fire hazards to keep an eye out for in your home.

Overloaded power strips

Surge protectors are designed to prevent dangerous electrical surges, but they can still be overloaded with too many appliances. This is why you should never create chains of power strips by plugging them into one another. It’s also a good idea to replace old, outdated surge protectors with new ones periodically.

Appliances placed too close to water sources

You’re probably well aware of the fact that water and electricity don’t mix, but that doesn’t stop some people from using devices like blow dryers and radios in wet bathrooms. These hazards are also quite common in kitchens, where plumbing issues can cause electrical appliances to short out and generate sparks. Clean up liquid spills as soon as you notice them, and be especially careful about standing on wet floors while using handheld electrical appliances.

Outdated electrical wiring

If the electrical wiring in your home hasn’t been updated in several decades, it could be more prone to fire hazards than modern wiring. Worn-out insulation can leave wires exposed to moisture, for example. If you’re not sure about the condition of your home’s wiring, it’s important to have it inspected by a professional to make sure it’s safe and up to code.

Do you have some lingering questions or concerns about the electrical system in your home? Feel free to give us a call or contact us online to request an inspection today!

It’s National Radon Action Month!

It’s National Radon Action Month!

Have you had your home tested for the presence of radon gas? This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is raising awareness about the importance of radon testing in observation of National Radon Action Month.

Although radon tests can be conducted at any time of year, winter is widely regarded as the best time to get a radon test. That’s because it’s easier to get an accurate reading when all the windows and doors in a home are closed. It’s especially important for homeowners in our area to get radon tests, because many counties in Illinois have documented histories of elevated radon levels.

So what is Radon, and why is it a public health concern?              

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is a natural byproduct of trace amounts of uranium in soil undergoing radioactive decay. As the gas is release from the soil, it emits cancer-causing alpha radiation into the air. Currently, Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that radon-related lung cancer claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year.

The good news is, radon exposure is a preventable health risk.

There are several effective radon mitigating techniques available that can reduce indoor radon levels by up to 99 percent. Before exploring these options, however, you must first have your home tested for the presence of radon. At First Choice Inspectors, we offer professional radon inspections to help homeowners determine whether or not they’re at risk of radon exposure. If we detect elevated levels of radon gas in your home, we can connect you with a qualified radon mitigation company to help you resolve the issue once and for all. Schedule your inspection online, or give us a call today to learn more!

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?Most Americans who own a home have a washer and dryer tucked away in a laundry room. In the late 1990’s, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that roughly 75 percent of American households had either a gas or electric dryer. A dryer has become an essential appliance for many people, but it can also constitute a fire hazard if it isn’t properly maintained. That same study also found that dryers caused more than 15,000 fires across the U.S. in the sample year 1996, and caused more than 300 injuries and 20 deaths.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your dryer from becoming a fire hazard.

You can start by making sure you clean out your lint screen or lint trap after every single dryer use. The vent and exhaust duct should be inspected and cleaned periodically as well. Never place any rags or clothing items with gasoline, cooking oil or other volatile organic compounds on them in the dryer. Doing so could be catastrophic.

When moving into a home, be sure to have a home inspector take a look at the dryer to make sure it’s in good condition. If the home inspector has any reservations about the dryer, you should then either work with the home seller to have a new dryer installed, or inquire about what kinds of repairs will need to be made to ensure the dryer is safe and fully functional.

If you’re thinking about buying a new home, the experienced professionals at First Choice Inspectors can conduct a thorough inspection to identify a variety of potential safety issues. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

Health Risks Associated With Asbestos Insulation

Danger Asbestos Removal SignBefore its negative health effects were widely understood, asbestos was a common feature of building materials such as tile and insulation throughout much of the 20th century. Fortunately, when left undisturbed, the health risks associated with asbestos insulation are fairly negligible. If you are buying an older home, however, it’s important to have an asbestos inspection conducted before you do any renovating or remodeling.

There are a number of different health issues associated with asbestos exposure.

If you inhale airborne asbestos fibers, they can land in the lower regions of your lungs and cause asbestosis, which is a fibrotic lung disease that can impact your respiratory function and even lead to death. Asbestos fiber inhalation can also increase your risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Frequent asbestos exposure can even lead to cardiomegaly, a condition in which the heart is enlarged.

Fortunately, there’s a simple step that you can take to avoid asbestos-related health issues.

Prior to moving into an older home, ask your home inspector to conduct a thorough asbestos inspection. If the inspector does find asbestos, you should ask the seller to have it removed completely prior to closing. The last thing you want to do is have to pay for asbestos remediation after you’ve already moved into the home.

At First Choice Inspectors, our professional asbestos inspection services can give you the peace of mind of knowing that your new home is safe and free of asbestos-based building materials. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This Season

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This SeasonIt’s starting to get cold outside, and that means that it won’t be long before you’re depending on your furnace to keep your home’s interior warm and comfortable. Heating a home for several months can put your furnace under quite a bit of stress, so there are a few things you should double check before you turn it on to ensure it functions effectively.

Have you cleared everything away from the furnace?

Over the course of the summer, items can build up on and around your furnace. From cleaning rags to children’s toys and other household items that you don’t have room for elsewhere, it’s easy to allow stuff to pile up near your furnace. Before you turn your furnace on, move these items away and make sure it has plenty of clearance to allow for proper airflow. If left unchecked, these stray items can constitute a fire hazard as well.

Have you replaced your furnace filter?

Your furnace filter cleans the air that circulates through your furnace and HVAC system. This filter can pretty filthy over time, and when it does, it will reduce the efficiency of your furnace. It will also allow dust, germs and other pollutants to become airborne in your home. This can have a detrimental effect on your air quality, and even make you and your family sick. Make sure you have a fresh filter to start the season off right.

Have you had your furnace inspected recently?

If you have a fairly new furnace, you might be able to get away without having a furnace inspection. Generally speaking, however, you should have your furnace inspected at least once a year. This will allow you to deal with any potential technical issues and keep your furnace up and running all winter long.

Buying a New Home? Be Sure to Get a Radon Inspection First!

Buying a New Home? Be Sure to Get a Radon Inspection First!There are plenty of things to check off your to-do list before you buy a new home. One thing that many homebuyers neglect to do, however, is get a radon inspection before they move in. It can be easy to forget, but radon inspections are very important, particularly if you live in an area that’s prone to radon exposure.

Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when the uranium in soil and rock decays naturally over time. It comes up through the soil, and eventually makes its way into the atmosphere. When houses are built on soil with radon content, the gas can permeate the homes’ foundations and cause serious health problems for local residents. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. It’s also odorless and colorless, which makes it impossible to detect without a professional inspection.

Before you buy a home, you should ask a home inspector to conduct a radon inspection.

Radon inspections are very simple, but they are also very important to the health of you and your family. If radon is detected, a ventilation system can be installed to divert the gas away from your home. Any cracks in the home’s foundation can also be sealed to prevent radon from permeating the home in the future.  

Are you concerned about the presence of radon in your home? At First Choice Inspectors, we can conduct a comprehensive radon inspection to put your mind at ease. Contact us online or give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

Common Sources of Asbestos in Old Homes

Common Sources of Asbestos in Old Homes Owning a home is a great responsibility. From purchasing to reconstruction, you have total control over the home-owning process. One thing you don’t have control over, unfortunately, is where asbestos might be hiding in your home, especially if it was constructed before 1975. Here are four areas where you might find asbestos in an old home.

Look Up

Asbestos was a common feature of old ceiling tiles and roof shingles, so look up! Asbestos becomes a safety hazard when it’s made airborne, and ceiling fans may move asbestos dust around without your knowledge. If your ceilings are in rough shape, asbestos fibers can come loose and contaminate the air in your home.

Check Your Pipes

Asbestos dust can also become airborne when old asbestos insulation around boilers and pipes begins to break down. Transite pipes, which were used extensively in water distribution systems during the mid-1900s, also contain asbestos cement. If these pipes aren’t replaced before the cement starts to break down, they may release asbestos fibers into your drinking water.

Tread Lightly

Are you thinking about replacing old floor tiles? Try to find out when the tiles were installed first. Asbestos tiling was extremely popular from the 1920 to the 1960s, and you can even find them in homes built as recently as the 1980s. If you suspect you might have asbestos floor tiles in your home, consult a professional home inspector before replacing them.

Walls

Before you decide to tear that ghastly 70s-style kitchen wall out, find out what it’s made of. Many older homes were constructed with fire-resistant sheets, which, when drilled or demolished, can release asbestos into your home.

 

The only way to know for certain whether your old home contains asbestos material is to have it examined by a professional home inspector. Give yourself some peace of mind, and schedule an inspection with one of our certified and trustworthy professionals today. 

It Time to Replace Your Old Water Heater?

It Time to Replace Your Old Water Heater?If you have a hot water heater that is more than 10 years old, it’s probably time for you to think about replacing it. Your typical tank water heater is only meant to last for about a decade, and while you might get a little bit more life out of it than that, you should be prepared for a water heater replacement once your water heater turns 10. There are also a few other signs that will tell you it’s time to replace your old water heater. Check them out below.

Your water heater is delivering rusty water to your home.

Have you noticed that the hot water in your home has a rusty color to it? This may be the result of galvanized plumbing pipes in your home, but it may also be your water heater kicking up sediment from inside the tank and sending it out into your home. You obviously don’t want to use this water for an extended period of time, so if you start to notice it on a daily basis, you should start checking out new water heaters.

Your water heater is making strange sounds.

The sediment in your old water heater can do more than just cause rusty water. It can also cause loud banging sounds inside the tank. This happens when the sediment is heated up over and over again, which causes it to harden. These sounds are not going to go away, so you should not ignore them. Rather, you should take it as a sign that it’s time to look at new water heaters.

Your water heater is leaking.

When your water heater fails completely, it will usually start leaking all over the place. This is a pretty obvious sign that you will not be able to use your water heater anymore. Even if it’s just a small leak, it means your water heater is on the verge of becoming completely unusable.

If you’re in the process of purchasing a new home, you should have it inspected for potential problems, like an old water heater that will need to be replaced soon. First Choice Inspectors can provide you with a quality home inspection and identify these areas of concern before you buy. Give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today to schedule an inspection.

Preparing Your HVAC System for Summer

But before you start using it on a regular basis, you should take the time to prepare it for the summer season. Summer is right around the corner, and you know what that means, right? It won’t be long before you are relying on your home’s HVAC system and, more specifically, your home’s air conditioner to keep your house cool. But before you start using it on a regular basis, you should take the time to prepare it for the summer season. Here are some tips for getting your A/C unit ready for warm weather.

Inspect the outdoor condenser for your A/C system.

Did you cover your condenser to protect it from the elements during the winter? If so, now is the time to remove your cover and put it away until the fall. It’s also time to inspect the panels on your condenser to make sure they are intact and free of any debris. Additionally, you should check to make sure you don’t need to repair or replace the insulation that should be wrapped around your consensus’s suction line. In general, take a look in and around the condenser to make sure it appears to be in good working order.

Take a look at the indoor air handler unit for your A/C system.

Before you start using your A/C unit at the start of the summer season, you should change your air filter. You should also make sure the coil drainage hose is set up properly and ready to carry away any condensation once your A/C is turned on. It’s also a good idea to clean dirt, dust and debris from the air vents and return grills in your home.

Turn your A/C on and make sure it works.

Once you have inspected all of your A/C equipment inside and outside of your home, you should turn your HVAC system on to make sure everything works the way it should. If you hear any unfamiliar noises coming from your A/C unit or you don’t feel any cool air coming out of your home’s vents, you could have a hidden issue within the system. It’s better to find this out now when the temperatures are still mild outside rather than waiting for the first heat wave to learn that your A/C system is broken.

Want to make sure your HVAC system is in good working order? Give us a call today at 773-429-9711 to learn more about the mechanical services we include in our professional home inspections at First Choice Inspectors.