Real Estate

National Radon Action Month

The EPA has deemed January as Radon Action Month, they state radon is an issue in 1 out of 6 homes in the United States. Radon isn’t a discussion point in most careers, but it should be for Realtors®. When going over professional services and inspections with my clients I know a radon test will need a bit more explaining than say a termite inspection. This is a breakdown on radon, and why testing for it is worth the money.

I am not a scientist, and my explanation of radon is rudimentary, but here goes. Traces of uranium can be found in rocks, sediment, and soil under our homes. This uranium will breakdown in a process known as radioactive decay. The decaying uranium will form into other elements, one of which is radon. When the radon continues this decaying process it becomes an odorless radioactive gas in the form of alpha particles. The particles can enter through basement walls, slab foundation, or even a crawlspace. It can also enter through basement drains, wall cavities, and tiny gaps around water or gas fittings, and more. Once in a home this is when it could become harmful.

How harmful? Per the CDC website: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. When you breathe in radon, radioactive particles from radon gas can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear.”

So, how can a home be tested? In my region many licensed home inspectors are also licensed to perform radon tests. They set up computerized equipment in the property and leave it for several days. The equipment does constant readings, and gives an overall view of radon in the home. The fee is generally around $100.

Radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. Levels of 4 pCi/L or higher are considered hazardous, while under 4 pCi/L is considered acceptable. However, the EPA stated that any radon that is present could cause an issue, but it is difficult to reduce levels below 2 pCi/L even with treatment. (Note: a picocurie is a common unit for measuring amounts of radioactivity).

The installation of a radon mitigation system by a remediation specialist can be the answer. In every instance of a higher than normal test result we, my buyer and I, have asked the seller to have a licensed specialist install a radon mitigation system. The least expensive was $1,100 and the highest was $1,500. The EPA states the average across the United States if $1,200.

Why do most sellers agree to install the system? First, because they believe it is the right thing to do, but also because it is now a material fact (at least in my state). Meaning should the buyer terminate the contract for any reason, the radon issue will have to be disclosed to all future buyers. What if the seller doesn’t have an extra $1,500 during the selling process? Funds can be held from closing proceeds to have the system installed after closing, or whatever is a legal avenue in the region.

This is a very basic explanation about what radon is, and doesn’t begin to cover the extent of its existence or health issues it may cause. Google is a great resource to learn more, but here are a few links on the EPA site.

EPA on Radon
EPA Consumer Guide to Radon Reduction
EPA Debunks 10 Myths About Radon


Pasta Meatball Bake

Some time ago I purchased an Instant Pot, and while it is great for some things, I do not like it for pasta. I tried a couple of times and the texture was just wrong. It was, hmmm, what word am I searching for here? Gummy, and not at all appetizing. However, the idea of making pasta all in one dish seemed practically genius to me.

I started looking and found a video where a home cook placed spaghetti and other ingredients in a baking dish and voila, a short time later, not gummy pasta. Since then I have tried various pasta shapes, ingredients, and sauces.

This is a great dish to make on days I know I’ll be working late. In a magical world I would go to the freezer and get a container of homemade marinara, and a packet of twelve small prebaked homemade meatballs and set them in the fridge to defrost all day. However, in reality, that happens about one out of ten times. Most of the time I make this dish with a good quality marinara like Rao’s. It is worth the money, and as close to homemade as I have ever found. If the freezer is depleted of homemade meatballs too, there is usually a bag of fully cooked Italian style meatballs from the grocery, I like Nature’s Rancher.

Pasta Meatball Bake

1 16 ounce box pasta (I like penne, rotini, or riccioli)
1 24 ounce jar sauce (I like Rao’s Marinara or Arrabbiata for some spice)
12 thawed fully cooked small meatballs (I like Italian style)
3 cups water
1 cup shredded good mozzarella cheese (I use shredded Swiss)
Garnish with fresh basil or Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 425

Give a 9 x 13 baking dish a light coat of cooking spray. In the dish put the pasta, meatballs, pasta sauce, and water. I like to swirl some of the water in the sauce jar to get it all. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add red pepper flakes if you want a bit of heat.

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Check the pasta, it should be just about done. Stir and add the cheese. We don’t like a lot of cheese so 1 cup is enough, you can add more. I use swiss cheese most of the time, because Dean doesn’t like mozzarella unless it is fresh.

Leave it uncovered and put it back in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove and sprinkle the herb of choice on top. I serve it with a refreshing salad with a tangy vinaigrette.

Real Estate

Things to Do Six Weeks Before a Move

Being a military family we did numerous moves. I like to think I am a pro when it comes to moving, and am happy to share what I’ve learned with my clients. In the military we could move across the country or around the world, and planning was essential to keep it from becoming overly stressful.

When should you start planning the move? I like to have six weeks. This allows ample time to get everything done, and to take care of any situations that may come up.

The first thing I do is get a notebook and title the top of three pages, these titles are “Going”, “Staying”, and “Charity”. I then pick a room and get started by deciding what furniture is going, what is staying, and what is being donated. All these furniture items are listed on the appropriate page. Then, still working in that room, I get three boxes and mark them “Going”, “Staying”, and “Charity”. You may be asking why I have a “Staying” box. In this box I will put any instruction manuals, keys, extra batteries for home systems, paint color information, Homeowner Association contact info, and anything else the new owners may need.

I do this in each room, and can get through the entire house in a couple of days. I always end up with several boxes of items, and some furniture that we will donate to charity. I call the charity and schedule a pick-up. This is really convenient, and is a great way to get rid of things in good condition. Please know I don’t touch the garage, that is always Dean’s thing and if I started tossing what I thought wasn’t important, let me say he wouldn’t be happy.

Once the house is organized it is time to call the movers. In the military I was fortunate because Dean always took care of that through admin. He would schedule for them to come to the house so they could figure the weight total and number of boxes. For my clients, I tell them to call three separate moving companies and setup appointments to get estimates. I include a contact sheet for several companies in their seller’s packet.

It is also important to contact your insurance company and make sure your belongings will be insured while in transit. I learned, before a cross country move, that the popular insurance company we had been with for years would only give 10% of the total value should something happen in transit. When I heard that and thought about our belongings crashing down a mountain in a mass of flames (totally over dramatic) we immediately dumped them and got better insurance.

Also during this sixth week be sure to have your family’s necessary paperwork together. I like to keep it together all the time. These papers include passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, marriage license, insurance policies, and so on.

Last thing to do in the sixth week is tell the people who do services at your home that you are moving. This includes contracted pest company, gardener, pool service, window washer, and anyone else who does things around your house. You can settle your account, and let them know when the last date of their service is needed. Be sure to write a list of all these companies plus their contact information for the new homeowner. You guessed it, it goes in the “Staying” box.

Countdown through other moving weeks to follow.