What to Do If Your House Has Mold (Or You Think It Does)

Mold. The very word can put terror into the eyes of a homeowner. After all, mold in your home can make you and your family sick. If nothing else, it looks disgusting. But it can also weaken your walls, ceilings and floor. And if you try to sell a house known to have mold, you might as well put a sign on your front lawn that reads: “Not For Sale.”

So if you think you have mold, and plenty houses do – a 2003 University of Arizona study found that 100 percent of homes have mold (albeit not necessarily the dangerous kind) – what should you do?

Test for mold. That’s probably the last thing you or any homeowner wants to hear because mold testing can be expensive, and there are plenty of horror stories out there. Several years ago, Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, who owns a public relations consulting company in San Diego, had a “wicked case of mold” in her kitchen.

“I had no idea it was developing until I could smell it,” Falkenthal says.

It turned out to be mold that had developed due to a slow plumbing leak, and by the time she could smell the mold, it was so bad, she ended up having to hire a flood restoration team to gut her kitchen, remove the mold and rebuild a new one during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The mold removal alone – not including the cost of rebuilding her kitchen – set her back $15,000.

“My house looked like a hazmat scene,” Falkenthal says, adding that on the bright side, “That’s one way to get a new kitchen.”

If you’re deeply suspicious, it’ll probably be worth it to hire a mold inspection company. The average cost to test for mold – not to remove, just to test – is $834, according to HomeAdvisor.com. If that price makes you ill, you could buy a mold testing home kit, which generally runs anywhere from  $10 to $50. That said, molding test kits have a reputation for being unreliable, so as the expression goes, let the buyer beware.

If you do have mold. Don’t panic yet. This may not be a major problem. As noted, all homes have some mold. If it’s a small area, generally less than 10 square feet, and not that this is a recommendation, but you may be able to do it yourself or hire a handyman to come in and clean it. Websites from RemoveMoldGuide.com to Good Housekeeping articles explain the process, which basically entails treating areas of mold with a mixture of 1 part chlorine bleach and 15 parts water while wearing goggles and making sure you’re in a well-ventilated room.

But you may need to hire the professionals. Lynn Munroe, who owns a public relations company in New City, New York, says that about 10 years ago, her youngest son, then 8 or 9 years old, had an unexplained stomach illness, and his asthma was getting worse. Munroe had taken him to numerous doctors, all of whom had no idea what was wrong. More here.

Mold grows on a wall next to a damp stained wood door.


Remodel Awa22

Positive signs continue to point toward growth for the home improvement sector. While multifamily apartment development has led the housing recovery since the Great Recession, and single-family residential construction shows potential for accelerated growth into the future, current market conditions are supporting a solid remodeling sector, creating jobs and sustaining small businesses.

The economic boost from investment in the existing housing stock is significant. My colleague Paul Emrath has estimated that for every $10 million in housing improvement expenditures, enough economic activity is created to sustain 89 full-time jobs and $4.8 million in wages. This economic effect is also broad based. Of these 89 jobs, 44 are in sectors outside of construction, including manufacturing, transportation, real estate and business services. Every $10 million in remodeling work also generates almost $3 million in state, local and federal government tax revenue and fees.

Remodelers are also a classic example of small businesses. For instance, among remodeler members of the National Association of Home Builders in 2014, the median business had about $750,000 in annual revenue and employed four individuals. More here.

As the Season Changes, Opportunity Arises for First-Time Buyers

It’s that special time of the year: School is ready to begin, days are getting shorter, and the networks are eagerly trying to gear us up for football. And home sales are about to slow down—at least the real, actual sales and not the seasonally adjusted rates we’re used to following.

Seasonal adjustments help make data that are inherently seasonal easier to compare month to month. You can’t get a good picture of whether it’s a good or bad year by comparing typically slow January with typically busy July. But they also lull us into a false sense of reality that all months are similar, or merely go up and down based on the strength of the market.

The raw data tell us that real estate follows a clear seasonal pattern. Inventory peaks in the summer. Sales peak in the summer. Real estate Web traffic peaks in the summer. Notice the trend?

But each local market has its own cycle. The school calendar plays a big role since families with kids prefer to move while school is out. And not all schools start at the same time.

Weather also influences the cycle. Cold weather markets such as Boston, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee start later. Does anyone remember how much snow Boston had to deal with last winter? Important note: You have to see the curb to have curb appeal.

Warm weather markets such as Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and Tampa start earlier and demonstrate less seasonal variation overall.

And a certain amount of herd mentality influences the market peak, driven by years of history influencing the observation that there may be an optimal time to list that perfectly aligns with peak demand to command the highest price and to do so as quickly as possible. The peak inventory then influences the demand to jump into the market in the spring and summer, reinforcing the observation.

Looking at existing-home sales data at the national level over the past several years, June averages almost twice the volume of sales as January. But inventory doesn’t vary quite as much. The typical peak for inventory is in July, but the inventory in July is usually only about 25% higher than in December. The discrepancy between the variation in sales and the variation in inventory presents an opportunity for buyers.

When sales are slower due to the season, the age of inventory rises. We monitor the median days on market of active listings, which typically bottoms in June and peaks in the winter months of December and January.

As the age of inventory increases, buyers gain more leverage. That’s why prices are also seasonal, peaking each summer when demand is highest and the age of inventory is lowest. More here.

one house, four seasons

Credit information plays an important role in being ‘mortgage ready’

Equifax reminds homeowners about the role of credit information as new data* reveals surge in mortgage interest rate increases

London, August 2015 – As new data from Moneyfacts suggests that banks have started raising mortgage rates at a rapid pace in the past few weeks, Equifax is reminding new and existing homeowners that their credit information can play a crucial role in their ability to make the most of the best offers. Lenders will typically look at an applicant’s credit history when determining whether they meet eligibility criteria and may also use credit information during affordability assessments.

“With more interest rate increases in July than at any point in the past year, according to Moneyfacts, homeowners could now be looking to protect themselves from potential increases in their mortgage payments in the coming months”, said Laura Barrett, Equifax Consumer Affairs. “Making sure they are ‘mortgage ready’ is an important part of that process and knowing what information is on their credit report is a key component.”

According to research amongst homeowners** by Equifax earlier this year, nearly a third (32%) are planning to re-mortgage before the next interest rate rise. Recent activity by a number of lenders may well, therefore, be prompting them to start assessing their options. And getting the best fixed rate deal is likely to be a priority for many.

53% of women responding to the research said they would move to a fixed rate mortgage, compared to 45% of men. For those choosing a variable rate, there were more men (10%) than women (6%).

A key factor for those considering applying for a mortgage is to be ‘mortgage ready’ and prepared to show evidence of all income and expenditure, as well as being realistic about what size of mortgage is affordable. Lenders want to see that an applicant will be able to repay their mortgage, not just now but in the future when and if circumstances change. Reviewing how repayments have been conducted with past and current agreements is one area mortgage providers will take into consideration. Lenders may view any missed payments as a sign that an individual is taking on too much debt.

Equifax has put together some useful points on making sure an individual’s credit history reflects their financial circumstances in the best possible way. It’s also important to remember that lenders will also take into account the information provided on the application form and will look at an applicant’s income and outgoings to ensure they can afford the mortgage they are applying for, now and in the future.

The Equifax Credit Report and Score is accessible for 30 days free simply by logging onto www.equifax.co.uk. If customers do not cancel before the end of the 30 Day Free Trial, the service will continue at £14.95 per month, giving them unlimited online access to their credit information and weekly alerts on any changes to their credit file. It also includes an online dispute facility to help them correct any errors on their credit file simply and quickly.

*Moneyfacts, 6th August 2015
**Equifax Mortgage Market Review Survey – conducted March 2015 amongst Equifax Personal Solutions customers – 1540 respondents


For further press information, please contact: Clare Watson, Cecile Stearn, Parm Heer or Wendy Harrison at HSL on 020 8977 9132 / Fax: 020 8977 5200 or Email: equifaxbtocteam@harrisonsadler.com

About Equifax

Equifax is a global leader in consumer, commercial and workforce information solutions that provide businesses of all sizes and consumers with insight and information they can trust. Equifax organizes and assimilates data on more than 600 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide. The company’s significant investments in differentiated data, its expertise in advanced analytics to explore and develop new multi-source data solutions, and its leading-edge proprietary technology enable it to create and deliver unparalleled customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates or has investments in 19 countries and is a member of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500® Index. Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol EFX. In 2013, Equifax was named a Bloomberg BusinessWeek Top 50 company, was #3 in Fortune’s Most Admired list in its category, and was named to InfoWeek 500 as well as the FinTech 100. For more information, please visit www.equifax.com.
Equifax Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The Equifax Credit Information Check List

1. Check your credit report
Apply for a copy of your credit report as much as 6 months before you start making new applications for credit. This will allow you to review your report to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.

2. Do you have a credit history?
Lenders typically look at your credit history when making a decision on your application. If you already have a history of meeting your financial obligations, including repaying credit cards, loans or credit accounts and service contracts, lenders can use this to decide whether to approve your application. If you don’t have much credit history you could consider taking out small amounts of credit in order to demonstrate your ability to responsibly manage credit and repay debts. If you decide to do this, ensure the full balance is paid off each month to avoid being charged interest.

3. Are you registered?
The electoral roll is used by many companies for identity verification purposes in order to combat identity fraud. It is important, therefore, that you are registered on the electoral roll at your current address.

4. Correcting errors
If there’s a mistake on your credit report and it is in relation to a specific account, contact the lender or service company it relates to and ask for the error to be corrected. If you’re unsure which company to contact, you can contact the credit reference agency concerned and they can raise this with the lender or service company on your behalf. In most cases the correction will appear on your credit report within 28 days.

5. The right to explain
You can also add a ‘notice of correction’ to explain any items on your report, such as missed payments, which may have occurred due to life changes, such as losing your job. The ‘notice of correction’ will only be recorded with the Credit Reference Agency (CRA) you provide it to and will stay on your credit file indefinitely. The lender will see it when considering an application.

6. Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) and County Court Judgments (CCJ)
If you are declared bankrupt or take out an IVA, it could impact your ability to gain access to credit during that period.

If you’ve had a County Court Judgment and it is now settled make sure the settlement is recorded on your credit file. If not contact the court to get confirmation details and inform the credit reference agencies.

Both these events will stay on your credit report for six years.

7. Managing existing credit agreements
Try to pay more than just the monthly minimum on credit agreements and where possible keep credit balances low. Settle debts, such as personal loans or hire purchase agreements in full. This demonstrates your ability to repay debts. Missed payments may make lenders think you’re already struggling with debt.

8. Have you got cards you’re not using?
Lenders will often look at the total amount of unutilised credit available to an individual and consider this when making a lending decision.

9. Don’t apply for credit too regularly
Avoid multiple applications in a short space of time. Each application logs a search on your credit file. Too many could appear as if you already have too many commitments. Source here.


Demand for mortgage loans strong in second quarter: Fed

Mortgage loan demand continued to grow in the second quarter but fewer banks eased lending standards than in the prior three months, a Federal Reserve senior loan officer survey released Monday showed. Only seven banks said they had eased standards on mortgage loans somewhat on GSE-eligible loans in the second quarter, down from 13 in the first quarter. Banks reported little change to business lending over the second quarter. Most banks reported no change on standards for consumer loans. There was stronger demand for auto and credit card loans. The Fed surveys domestic banks and foreign banks operating in the U.S. each quarter to gauge credit conditions. More here

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