Keep an Eye out for These Common Issues in Old Homes

Old HomeSpringtime is home buying season. With good weather on the horizon, realtors and sellers alike are readying homes, making repairs and preparing for open houses. The last few years have been a sellers’ market, and 2019 is expected to continue this trend. With this in mind, many buyers may be expanding their searches to include older homes.

Although there are no hard and fast rules for what constitutes an older home, those built before 1920 fall in the antique category. Since Chicago became a city in the mid-1800s, there is a substantial inventory of older homes in the city and surrounding suburbs. As such, it’s not uncommon for prospective buyers to find an older home on the market. It may have a rustic charm, but buyers should be aware of a few common and costly issues associated with these homes.

Lead and Asbestos

Until the 1970s, construction materials commonly included lead and asbestos. Any older home may have remnants of these hazardous materials leftover from previous decades. Mitigating lead plumbing can mean filtration, replacing a few fittings or replumbing a whole house. Many older homes come with a lead paint warning, and the only way to ensure a house is completely free of lead paint is by investing in professional lead paint abatement, which can be expensive. The same goes for asbestos removal.

Insufficient and Unsafe Electrical Systems

Most houses built in the early 20th century were not wired for the number of electronics, lights and appliances we have these days. While you will need an inspector to fully assess the wiring in a house and a professional electrician to help replace wiring, you can learn some useful things about a house’s electrical condition during an initial walkthrough. Look for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) and grounded, three-prong wall sockets. Count the number of outlets in each room; newer building standards typically include them every few feet. Open the breaker box as well. It should have breakers, not fuses, and the panel should be free of rust and other signs of damage.

Aging Mechanicals

Although water heaters, furnaces, and central air can last for decades in some cases, an older home may have equipment that is well past its recommended replacement date. The current owner will probably be unlikely replace these items, but with a little research, you can schedule and prepare for their replacement costs. Don’t forget to account for appliances like refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers too.

This short list of issues that you may find in an older home is just a start. Home buyers should also be on the lookout for mold and mildew, termite problems, leaky plumbing, poor insulation, outdated windows, roofs in disrepair, radon and foundation problems.

Of course, a professional home inspector will call attention to any of the issues, but it never hurts to have a list of questions ready when it comes time to walk through that classic old house of your dreams.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.