JT Burton, a real estate agent at Long & Foster, was looking for a home for his growing family. A father of identical 6-month-old twins, Burton found what seemed like an ideal home: a four-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial in Potomac.
In this bustling market, the property should have been foreclosed quickly. But there was one problem: the house had mold, and under Maryland law sellers were required to disclose it. This was enough to deter potential buyers. Although the house was on a contract for $ 650,000, it remained on the market for almost two months.
Unlike other buyers, Burton saw the problem as an opportunity to get a good home for a discount.
“I knew how to approach [the mold] therefore, therefore, I was not afraid, âhe said.
Mold seems to show up more often these days, and it’s not just because it’s been a rainy year. Experts say mold is not more prevalent these days; instead, we are more aware of it. The way new homes are built may not help matters. Newer, energy-efficient homes tend to be prone to mold growth because of their tightness, which restricts air circulation.
âThey’re too green,â said Nelson Barnes Jr., a mold removal expert in the Washington area. âHouses need to breathe.
Still, experts say finding mold doesn’t need to cause panic. Understanding what it is, what causes it, how to fix it, and how to prevent it, they say, can help homeowners make sure their home’s environment is healthy.
A mushroom among us
Mold is not a new problem. Homeowners have been dealing with it since biblical times. Leviticus, one of the first books in the Bible, offers advice on mold.
âThere has never been a mold test we’ve done without any mold,â said Rob Hopkin of Poolesville-based ProTec Inspection Services. “Every home, every environment has mold spores.”
It becomes a problem when the concentration of mold spores in a house is greater than what is outside.
Mold needs three conditions to thrive: an ideal temperature, a source of food and humidity.
âIf you eliminate any of these three, you won’t have a mold problem,â Hopkin said.
If only it was that easy. The temperature in most homes is almost always ideal for mold growth. Mold feeds on dust or dirt, which is almost impossible to eradicate from a home. This leaves moisture.
âMost people think it takes a water intrusion or a broken pipe to grow mold,â Barnes said. “If you have a relative humidity over 60% and you have organic debris, which we all have, which is dust, you can develop mold.”
the Environmental Protection Agency warns that if damp or wet building materials or furniture are not cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours, moisture can lead to mold growth. So if it takes a few days to notice that leaking faucet or rainwater that has seeped into the basement, mold is probably there.
âThat funny smell – we usually call it a musty smell – that comes from the mold spores feeding on nutrients and giving off gases,â Barnes said. “This is the first key the owner can tell that I have something going on here.”
According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, the most common indoor molds are cladosporium, penicillium, alternaria and aspergillus. Stachybotrys chartarum, often referred to as toxic mold, is rare. This thick, dense black mold is most often caused by a long-term moisture problem. Foreclosed homes that have been empty for months are usually candidates for toxic mold.
âMost of the mold we see is not toxic mold,â Hopkin said. âMost of the molds we see are allergenic molds. . . . Some people will be sensitive to it, others will not. ”
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to tell what type of mold you have by looking at it. Mold is colored more by what it eats than by what it is; therefore, it is indistinguishable without testing by a professional.
Some steps to take
Mold affects people differently. For some, exposure to mold causes nothing more than itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing. For others, it can lead to asthma attacks and lung problems.
âPeople ask us all the time, ‘Is this a dangerous mold? Is this going to be a problem for us? ‘ Hopkin said. âThe answer is: I don’t know. For some people, that probably would be the case. For many people, this may not be the case.
âMold is a plant,â Barnes said. “If you didn’t touch or eat it, you wouldn’t mind.” Here’s the problem: This plant’s reproductive facet sends spores into the air, and it’s the germs we breathe in that are causing the problem. “
Barnes, who has given expert testimony in court cases and drives a truck with the “Moldman” license plate, said he believes many homeowners can fix their mold problems on their own, and this didn’t mind helping them over the phone.
âI’m known to get the scary mold out,â he said.
But there are times when it’s best to call a professional because of the magnitude of the problem. The EPA recommends contacting a specialist if the mold covers an area greater than 10 square feet.
âThe most important thing, the most important thing in mold removal is spore removal,â Barnes said. “Because with surface mold you can come in, clean it, wipe it up, put on a dehumidifier and you haven’t done anything to control the spores.” ”
He advises using a mixture of detergent and bleach to remove mold. But this is only the first step.
âIf you get rid of the mold, but you don’t fix the moisture problem, the mold will come back,â he said.
The best way to control the presence of mold in your home is to prevent moisture from building up. Here are some simple steps homeowners can take:
â Clean gutters and extend downspouts so that they deposit water away from the house.
â Check that leveling near the foundation causes water to flow out of the house, not toward it.
â Make sure the house is properly ventilated, especially the basement, with adequate supply and return air ducts.
â Operate a fan to promote air circulation.
â Replace the air filters regularly.
Spend a little, save a lot
The mold problem in the Potomac home that Burton was considering buying was mainly the result of neglect. The owner at the time had moved into a retirement home and had let the maintenance of the residence perish.
The sellers “had to disclose [the mold]”Burton said.” They basically had a blemish on the house. ”
Burton bought the 1967 home for 10% less than the original contract and spent $ 6,500 to remove the mold and fix the underlying issues.
“As a result, I got a fantastic house at a fantastic price.” Burton said. “If people are more educated on [mold], then they can actually get a good deal.
The home was valued at $ 650,000, leaving Burton with approximately $ 50,000 equity when it closed.
âWe did a complete renovation of the house,â he said. âWe were able to do it because we got a good price for it. ”