By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Ever since toxic mold oozed its way in to the public consciousness several years ago, it’s remained a hot real estate topic. Concerns about the health risks of mold have sparked lawsuits, raised insurance rates, and lowered the value of some homes. Beyond following any disclosure requirements in your state, one of the best ways to protect yourself from mold hysteria is by helping your buyers educate themselves. What Every Home Owner Needs to Know About Mold (And What to Do About It) by Vicki Lankarge. (McGraw-Hill, 2003; $12.95.) provides a field guide to mold infestations and how to get rid of them that you can recommend to customers or read yourself.
“Chapter 2: The Fungus Among Us” lists several mold warning signs that you can pass along to buyers and sellers. These red flags include:
- Home (or area in home) has an earthy or musty odor
- Stains on areas that come in prolonged or frequent contact with moisture, such as wallboards or wallpaper near a window, walls that contain water pipes or air conditioning vents
- Indentations in base board or trim
- Whitish mats under the carpet, linoleum, behind furniture or in cabinets
- Mushroomlike growths (fruiting bodies) on rotten wood on flooring or cabinets’ underside.
- Swelling or crumbling plaster or sheetrock
- Vinelike branches (rhizomorphs) growing from the soil to my home’s foundation, framing or the flooring’s underside.
If any of these problems are present, advise buyers to consider hiring an expert in mold to assess the extent of the damage and what can be done to remedy the situation before closing the sale.
“Chapter 7: The Mold House: How to Avoid a Real Estate Nightmare” is required reading for homeowners. It advises sellers to repair water intrusion or mold damages before placing the property on the marker. For larger problems, the author advises sellers to hire a professional remediator to eliminate the mold, and then carefully document the repairs. Most importantly, the book stresses the importance of full disclosure. With some court awards on mold cases in the millions, it’s important to impress upon sellers that failing to mention even a minor water problem could be the start of a legal nightmare if buyers later find mold.
To protect themselves against purchasing a property with mold problems, the book recommends that buyers schedule an inspection after it has rained. A heavy storm may reveal leakage areas that could give rise to mold. If the inspector spots any leaks or if any leaks or water damage appears in the sellers’ disclosure statement, buyers should consider having the property inspected by a mold specialist, the author advises.
The book also helps homeowners recognize that not every mold infestation is the kiss of death to a sale. Small infestation can often be cleaned up easily by the homeowners themselves, using household bleach and water, according to “Chapter 5: What to Do When You Spot Mold.” To optimize safety, owners should make sure they don’t suffer from mold allergies, wear a mask and gloves while cleaning, and open a window for ventilation. Larger infestations will necessitate that they hire a professional mold remediator. These services are expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. Homeowners should also note that their insurance policies probably won’t cover the cleanup costs since insurers often exclude mold from standard policies you’re your client does need expert help, “Chapter 8: Where to Turn for Help,” provides contact information for state health departments, state insurance departments, and Web sites that provide advice on handling mold.
The best way to deal with mold is to stop it before it starts, the book says. “Chapter 4: What’s Moisture Got to Do With It?” provides tips to prevent mold from the Insurance Information Institute. Simple strategies such as venting bathrooms and dryers outside; using air conditions and dehumidifiers; and turning on exhaust fans during cooking, dish washing, and cleaning can significantly lower indoor mold growth. Additionally, owners can add insulation to windows, pipes, exterior walls, roofs, and floors to prevent condensation on cold surfaces. Inspecting washing machine hoses, shower tile grout, and water heaters to ensure that leaks are repaired promptly are other good ways to ensure that you never get a mold problem, the book suggests.
Because no national standards exist for acceptable mold levels, there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to how much risk mold actually represents. But as long as buyers are concerned, you can’t afford to take the issue lightly. What Every Home Owner Needs to Know About Mold (And What to Do About It) will help you ensure that a mold problem won’t creep up on you or your customers.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
You studied, you struggled, and you aced your state licensing exam. But that doesn’t mean you really understand how to sell real estate. In fact, you may not even know enough about the business to know what you don’t know. If you feel like you’re floundering, turn to 21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me: Practical Advice for New Real Estate Professionals (Dearborn Real Estate Education, 2002; $17.30) by Frank Cook. This easy-to-read paperback compiles advice from top-producing real estate professionals that can guide you from the first day you pull into the brokerage parking lot through your first sale and beyond. Brokers might even want to recommend the book as an introductory resource for new associates or read it themselves to gain insight on what they should tell new associates. This book may also offer help reminders of the basics to help experienced salespeople jumpstart their sales.
21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me covers a broad range of topics–teaching you how to hit the ground running, develop effective real estate work habits, and balance work and family–with humor and candor. “Chapter 3: Great Expectations” literally walks you through your first day at a brokerage, describing what to expect, from the initial office tour to entering your sphere of influence into a contact database program. It provides questions that you might be too inexperienced to ask, such as whether the company offers mentoring and training programs, what wording should you use when answering calls, and what the dates are for any local REALTOR® association meetings. It also includes common sense tips that might slip your mind in the hubbub of your first day. For example, study the office’s layout, computer systems, and company policies, and ask what legal things you must say to sellers. Additionally, the chapter explains several prospect categories, such as FSBOS and expireds, you’ll want to cold call in your opening weeks of work.
Once you’ve learned your way around the office, “Chapter 6: It’s Your Money,” introduces you to the importance of setting a realistic budget. Many newbies misjudge how much a real estate career will cost, the author says. Since you may have more money flowing out than coming in during your early months, this mistake can become fatal. The author advises stockpiling cash before you enter the real estate field to provide a buffer. Additionally, it provides an itemized list of expenses, including conventions, dues, entertainment, auto and health insurance, MLS fees, and marketing. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t provide a step-by-step guide to creating a budget—a notable omission.
Another must-read section is “Chapter 21: You’ve Just Been Asked to Commit a Crime, What Do You Do Now?” This section examines fair housing violations that could land both you and your broker in trouble. For example, if your prospects start to sound like Archie Bunker during a listing presentation, the book advises you to immediately stop the conversation, announce explicitly that they’re asking you to commit a crime, and state unequivocally that neither you nor your company engages in housing discrimination. Then, leave, tell your supervisor what happened, and write down the conversation’s details.
Later chapters teach work skills that aren’t covered in real estate licensing classes. For example, “Chapter 20: Practice Good Habits” examines common beginner pitfalls, such as “failing to feed the front end.” This common mistake happens when you become so wrapped up in servicing one client that you fail to farm for new business. The chapter also warns against the “never-ending client,” who keeps stringing you along, but never signs a contract. Finally, if you find yourself coming in late, skipping meetings, or avoiding prospecting, the book advises to heed these behavioral red flags and work with your broker to devise a game plan for generating new business.
But the book isn’t all dollars and sense; it also examines the toll that the business can take on your personal life. “Chapter 9: Family Matters” dispenses advice on balancing work and family when you sell homes. It honestly appraises the sacrifices that you might have to make in your real estate career, an aspect of the game that few managing brokers address. One strategy for parents of young children involves taking children along on listings (with owners and buyers approval, of course). Another tip is to gain control of your schedule by setting firm boundaries on your work hours. People don’t call their attorneys or accountants at all hours of the day, why should they be able to call you?
Beginning a new career can be rough, and real estate sales is not for the fainthearted. The practical advice in 21Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me will help you fill some of the gaps in your knowledge so you don’t have to be calling your broker every hour with question.