Myths Vs. Facts About Home Appraisals

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Appraisals are almost always a part of a real estate transaction, but many buyers and sellers often have misconceptions about what they are and how they’re carried out. Even those who have some experience buying and selling in the past may still be misinformed about appraisals.

Here are some of the most common myths about appraisals, from the standpoint of lenders, borrowers, sellers, and real estate agents, and borrowers.

Myth #1: Home Inspections Can Take the Place of Appraisals

Some buyers may be under the impression that a home inspection can determine the value of a property in addition to its condition. While the latter is certainly true, the former is not. Home inspections are conducted to uncover any possible issues with the property that may need attention before a deal closes, but they do not determine property value. That’s where an appraisal comes into the picture.

The fact is, appraisals and home inspections are certainly not the same thing, nor do they perform the same function. And while home inspections are optional (although highly recommended), appraisals are typically required by the lender.

Myth #2: All Upgrades Add Value to a Property

The truth is, not every type of improvement necessarily boosts the value of a home. Unfortunately, many homeowners are under the false impression that they will recoup every dollar spent investing in renovations. In turn, they may assume that their home is valued higher than what it actually is.

In fact, certain types of upgrades provide a poor return on investment. More specifically, projects that “over-improve” a home according to the surrounding neighborhood can actually lower its value. If the upgrades do not match the standard in the area, they will be considered excessive and will result in an appraisal that’s lower than what may be expected.

Myth #3: There’s Nothing a Buyer Can Do if an Appraisal Comes in Low

Getting a low appraisal is not something you would have wanted, but all is not lost just yet. If your appraisal comes in low, you have some options.

For starters, you may request to have another appraisal done by a new appraiser. While these professionals are highly trained and accredited, there may be the odd time when errors were made in bad judgment, or inadequate data was used to make accurate calculations. Buyers and their real estate agents are highly encouraged to review the appraiser’s report carefully to confirm the accuracy of the information contained within it. If errors are discovered, you may request to have another appraiser brought in (at your expense) to see if a different value for the home is determined.

You may also renegotiate with the seller for a lower price based on the lower appraised value of the home. If done right, the appraisal will be an accurate indication of the current market value of the home. If the appraised value comes in lower than what was agreed to purchase the home for, obviously the sale price is too high, in which case you have proof to show the seller during the renegotiation process.

Myth #4: Appraisals Are Optional

If you are applying for a government-backed mortgage, such as an FHA loan or VA loan, then an appraisal is a mandatory part of the mortgage process. Without an accurate appraisal, your lender will likely not approve you for the loan amount requested. Just about every federal agency that deals with insuring a mortgage requires a home appraisal.

However, appraisals for mortgages that come from private lenders for non-government backed mortgages are typically optional. Having said that, it would be challenging to find a lender who would be willing to take the risk of extending a home loan for a property that has not been appraised. If they offer loans for well over what a home is actually worth, they will be placed in a vulnerable position should the borrower default on the mortgage. In this case, the lender would not be able to recoup the investment upon selling a foreclosed home.

The Bottom Line

Like any other component of a real estate transaction, it’s very helpful that you understand the appraisal process. However, appraisals are often an infrequent experience for the majority of first-time buyers, who may then have some misconceptions about the process and the inevitable results. Be careful of what you hear about appraisals and any other part of the real estate process, and instead let your real estate representative provide you with factual information.

10 Factors That Affect Your Home Appraisal

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Before your lender approves your home loan, the property you agreed to purchase will need to be appraised first. Your lender will want to get an objective and professional assessment of the home’s actual market value before matching that price with a home loan. As such, an appraiser will be appointed by the lender to determine what the home is worth according to current market conditions and how it compares to other similar homes in the neighborhood.

The value that your appraiser assesses your home at is very important; if it’s lower than what you’ve agreed to pay for it, you could lose out on a mortgage, so it’s certainly a crucial step in the process. But what exactly affects the final appraised value of the home?

1. The Local Market

A key factor that will impact your appraisal is the condition of the local housing market. Comparables – which are similar homes in the neighborhood that have either recently sold or are still active on the market – can tell you a lot about how much other homes are selling for, as well as appreciation or depreciation of property values. Appraisers will use the information collected on similar properties in the area and use it to calculate the final appraised value of the subject property.

2. Location

Exactly where the property is situated in relation to other homes and amenities in the neighborhood is another critical factor that appraisers will look at. For instance, a home that sits on a large pie-shaped lot that backs on to a ravine will be worth more than a home with a standard-sized lot that’s on the main road. The appraiser will also look at the how close the home is located to schools, shops, hospitals, parks, public transit, and main roadways, to name a few.

3. Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Generally speaking, a home with more bedrooms and bathrooms is considered worth more, as long as these numbers are in line with what the neighborhood calls for. The appraiser will compare your property to others in the area that have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms to make a value comparison. For instance, a home with two full bathrooms will typically be appraised higher than a property with only one.

4. Size

The overall square footage of the home plays a big role in its overall appraised value. After determining the exact size of the home, the appraiser will identify how many stories it has and precisely how much of the space is usable and livable when evaluating the square footage of the property.

5. Structural Strength

A home that’s in sound condition will be appraised higher than a similar home that’s got structural issues. Appraisers will look at the condition of the home’s structure and construction, and will identify the exact types of materials used to build the home. A home that’s been built or updated with modern materials will be appraised higher than a home that hasn’t been improved since it was originally constructed. Other updated materials, such as the roof and windows, can also add value to the home because they boost the safety and efficiency of the home’s structure.

6. Recent Improvements

Tying in with the previous point, any recent cosmetic upgrades that have been done to the home can increase the appraised value of the home. A kitchen or bathroom remodel, for instance, will contribute to the appraisal value.

7. Curb Appeal

Home appraisers consider curb appeal when valuing a home, which essentially refers to how a property looks from the street. A clean, esthetically appealing front yard and home exterior add to the appraisal value, as does the size of the lot and the views from the property.

8. Age of the Home

The age of the property is a factor that the appraiser will consider when calculating its value. Having said that, a newer home doesn’t necessarily mean it will be valued higher than an older home. New homes are obviously less likely to have any issues, so they’re typically a lower risk to purchase, which will positively affect the appraisal value. On the other hand, many older homes are located in historic districts which will also have high appraisals. Regardless of age, property values will be higher if the home has been well cared for and improved.

9. Style of the Home

The overall design of the home is another factor that is assessed when determining its appraisal value. Certain classic designs stand the test of time, while other trendy designs quickly go out of style. The latter can actually have a negative impact on the appraisal value compared to the former.   

10. Condition of Major Systems and Appliances

The age and condition of the home’s HVAC units, appliances, and electrical and plumbing systems will be considered in the home’s overall appraised value. Obviously, if these components are in bad shape, this will negatively affect the appraisal. On the other hand, if they’ve all been well cared for or have even been replaced in the recent past, this will increase the value of the property.

The Bottom Line

All of the above factors play a big role in a home appraisal. If your appraisal is in line with the sale price, you’ll be one step closer to solidifying a mortgage. On the other hand, if it comes in below what you bought the house for, you may either request another appraisal (which you will likely have to pay for), renegotiate with the seller for a lower price based on the appraised value, come up with the extra money required to bridge the gap between the home loan amount and the purchase price, or walk away from the deal altogether.

What Are Bridge Loans and How Do They Work?

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If you’ve bought a new home that closes before your current home does, you may be stuck with the responsibility of paying for two homes for a brief period of time. As daunting as that might sound, you may be able to arrange for a bridge loan to help alleviate this financial burden.

Like the name suggests, a bridge loan bridges the gap between closings and is taken out against your current property to finance the purchase of your new home. Also known as “swing loans” or “gap financing,” these short-term home loans provide cash flow right away to help you meet your financial obligations while you’re setting up long-term financing for your new home. That way you’re not left carrying more of a financial load than you’re comfortable with.

Bridge loans can also be used for multi-family or commercial properties when funding is needed to complete the sale of a current property while meeting the requirements of another mortgage. Like a standard single family home, multi-family and commercial properties also need collateral to back a bridge loan.

How Does a Bridge Loan Work?

Before a lender approves a borrower for a bridge loan, a minimum credit score or debt-to-income ratio may need to be met. However, there aren’t any specific guidelines associated with these types of loans. Instead, they’re typically dependent on the long-term financing that’s being secured.

Bridge loan lenders may be more willing to accept a higher debt-to-income ratio if your new home loan is with a traditional lender at a standard interest rate. However, if you’re taking out a jumbo loan for your new mortgage – which is a home loan amount that exceeds the conforming loan limit of $417,000 – the lender will likely put a limit on the debt-to-income ratio.

Bridge loans can be arranged so that they pay off the entire existing home loan on a current property. In this case, the bridge loan will pay off any and all existing liens and use whatever money is left over to be put towards a down payment for the new property. Instead of making monthly payments on your bridge loan, you’ll be making mortgage payments on your new home. After the house sells, the proceeds of the sale will be used to pay off the bridge loan, as well as any associated interest.

A bridge loan can also be structured as a second home loan that is paid on top of the existing loan. In this case, the bridge loan is taken out as a second (or even third) mortgage and is used only as a down payment towards your new home. You will still be required to make your old mortgage payments and the new mortgage on your new house, which can be pretty expensive and put you in a tough situation if your finances can’t adequately handle all these payments.

Benefits of Bridge Loans

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a bridge loan is the fact that you can buy another home with minimal restrictions while putting your current home up for sale at the same time. Rather than being stuck paying for two mortgages, you’ll have the advantage of not making any monthly payments towards the bridge loan for a few months. In addition, if you insert a contingency in your offer on a new home and the seller issues a Notice to Perform, you can waive the contingency to sell your home and still go ahead with your purchase.

Costs Associated With Bridge Loans

While bridge loans can be convenient, they’re not without cost. In fact, bridge loans often come with a steep price tag. Before you consider taking out a bridge loan, consider all the expenses associated with them, including the following:

  • Administration fees
  • Appraisal fee
  • Escrow fee
  • Title policy fee
  • Legal fees
  • Recording fee
  • Loan origination fee

The interest rates associated with bridge loans, in particular, should be carefully looked at before going ahead with a bridge loan. These rates are typically higher than the average posted rate, usually around 2% more. However, the rates will depend on things such as your credit score and the current prime rate.

There’s also a risk of your current property not selling within the life of the bridge loan. On the other hand, if your home sells before the bridge loan expires, you could be slapped with prepayment penalties if you pay the off the loan too early.

The Bottom Line

Before you decide to go the bridge loan route, make sure you do your homework on them first. Check out what the typical asking prices are in the neighborhood and how long homes are typically taking to sell. If the market is a strong one, you might not need to take out a bridge loan. However, if you think you need one, work with your lender to ensure you’re provided with terms on both your bridge loan and long-term home loan that you’re comfortable with and that meet your needs.

How to Make Sure Your Home Sells Faster Than Others on the Block

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Having the only home on the block that’s up for sale means less competition for you. But what happens when one or more of the neighbors decide to follow suit and plant their own For Sale signs on their front lawns? How can you compete to make sure your home stands out from the crowd?

Going up against other listings in the neighborhood can make the marketing and selling process more challenging, but there are ways that you can beat out your competition and sell faster.

Keep the following tips in mind to help entice buyers to choose your home over your neighbor’s.

Boost Your Curb Appeal

It’s not uncommon for sellers to spend a lot of time and effort getting the interior of their homes ready for showing, but overlook the exterior. The first thing that buyers will notice before they ever step foot inside your home is the curb appeal. Is your home’s exterior well-maintained and welcoming, or is it in dire need of some TLC and sending buyers running before they even open your front door?

When you’re competing with other listings, you need to ensure that every aspect of your home has been prepped, and that includes your home’s exterior. Be sure to spruce up your landscaping, and ensure your front door and garage doors are in proper condition. When the competition is fierce, you can’t afford to leave any stone unturned, and that includes dealing with your home’s curb appeal.

Make Your Home Move-In Ready

Your home’s decor may be esthetically appealing, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left for buyers to do when they move in. Leaky faucets, burned-out light bulbs, squeaky doors, and other little issues like these will need to be dealt with. You want to be sure that your home is in move-in condition so that prospective buyers have the impression that all they’ll need to do is move their things in and start enjoying their new home instead of having to fix it up first.

Have Your Home Professionally Staged

Many sellers have the impression that hiring professional home stagers is only something that the very wealthy are able to afford. However, home staging should be thought of as an investment. Whatever money you may have to pay a home stager upfront for their services will be recouped – and then some – when you sell your home.

Home staging is definitely not something you want to skimp on, especially if you’re competing with other listings on the block. By staging your home to make it more appealing to the masses of buyers looking in your area, you can boost your chances of making a really good impression and selling more quickly and for top dollar.

Price it Right

No matter how amazing your home may look to buyers, it’s still imperative to price it appropriately according to its current market value. Allow your agent to conduct some research and check out what other similar homes in the area have recently sold for to gauge what type of price your home should be listed at.

It’s essential that the listing price reflects what other comparable properties on the market are listed at. Pricing too high will just scare off buyers and send them right to the house down the street that’s also for sale.

Use Professional Photography

Given the fact that the majority of homebuyers are beginning their search for a home online, it’s imperative that your home’s listing photos show really well. These images will be the first glimpse that most buyers will get of your home, so make sure they’re high quality.

Your online photos will play a key role in whether or not buyers decide to book a showing, so make sure they stand out. Rather than snapping pictures with your smartphone, have the photos taken by a professional who uses the right camera and techniques to ensure the images are of the highest quality and show really well online.

Make Strategic Improvements

There are certain features in homes that buyers are really drawn to, such as an updated kitchen or new flooring. Bring your home up to snuff by investing in certain strategic updates that will impress buyers. Such updates can include a refaced kitchen or new hardwood flooring, which are among the more popular traits that buyers look for. Taking on this tactic can be even more effective if your home is lacking in other tings – such as square footage – and if your neighbor’s home doesn’t feature these traits. 

The Bottom Line

Contending with stiff competition can be tough, but there’s no reason why your home can’t sell any faster than other listings in your area. Take the time to prep every facet of your home, and heed the advice of your real estate professional, especially when it comes to the listing price. A little effort can go a long way at positioning your home to be the top contender in your neighborhood.

6 Reasons You Were Turned Down For a Mortgage

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The prospect of buying a home is an exciting one, but a rejected mortgage application can put a damper on things. Instead of wallowing in despair, look at this situation as a learning experience. Find out why you were denied a mortgage, then take the steps required to make the necessary changes.

If you were turned down for a mortgage, odds are it was because of one of the following reasons.

1. Bad Credit

With a poor credit score, not only will you likely be turned down for a home loan, you’ll likely even be rejected for an apartment and even a job. Your lender will want to know what your credit score is in order to help them determine whether or not you’re a risky investment. Not only is your credit score going to be assessed, so will any negative comments that may be included on your credit report.

Generally speaking, a credit score of less than 620 is considered too low for mortgage approval. If your credit score is the reason for your mortgage application rejection, take steps to improve it. Start by pulling your credit report and identifying any potential errors, paying down your debt, avoiding additional loans, and paying every monthly bill on time and in full.

2. Insufficient Income

You will need to have a certain level of income in order to get approved for a home loan. After all, you will need to be able to afford a mortgage, or else you will surely be denied. You will need to supply documents of your finances and assets along with your income statements, as well as tax returns from the past few years.

A mortgage denial because of insufficient income just might mean that you need to look at homes in a lower price range. Or else, you may just need to work on your career and take the steps necessary to advance it – and eventually make more money.

3. High Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) goes hand-in-hand with your income. More specifically, it’s your income compared to all of your debt that will be weighed heavily upon. If it’s too high, you probably won’t be approved for a home loan. In fact, the most common reason for mortgage denial is debt; namely, too much debt compared to how much money you make. Having said that, even if you have enough money to make your mortgage payments, you’ll be viewed as a risky investment in the eyes of your lender if your debt is sky-high.

Lenders calculate both your “front-end” and “back-end” debt-to-income ratios. The front-end ratio uses your gross income and takes into account your new mortgage payment that includes taxes, interest, and insurance. A front-end DTI of 28% or less of your gross monthly income is considered acceptable.

The back-end ratio incorporates your income and all monthly debt payments that you’re responsible for, including your rent, credit card payments, student loan payments, and so forth. A back-end DTI of 34% and under is considered acceptable for conventional mortgages, and even as high as 41% for FHA-backed mortgages.

If your DTI was at the root of being turned down for a mortgage, work to either reduce your debt or raise your income to help bring your debt-to-income ratio down.

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4. Short Employment History

You might be making a decent income right now, but if you can’t provide enough evidence of a long track record of consistent employment, your lender may be hesitant to extend a mortgage. The majority of lenders will want you to have at least two years of consistent employment before they approve your home loan.

That’s because they want to be sure that you’re able to keep a job long enough to comfortably repay the money they loaned out to you. If the reason you were turned down for a mortgage is because your employment history is still rather short, you may just need to sit tight and wait until it’s sufficient in the eyes of your lender.

5. Inadequate Down Payment

The down payment goes towards the purchase price of the home. The higher the down payment, the smaller the loan amount required. A high down payment will make your lender feel more confident that you’ll be able to repay your loan. But the opposite is also true: a low down payment will make your lender feel uneasy of approving you for a mortgage.

In general, homebuyers will require a down payment of at least 5% of the total value of a home for a conventional mortgage. However, some government-backed mortgage programs require less, and there are even those that don’t require a down payment at all. However, if it’s a conventional mortgage you’re looking for, a minimum of 5% is necessary. If your skimpy down payment was the cause of your mortgage application getting rejected, start saving now.

6. Low Appraisal on the Property

Once your offer has been accepted by the seller, your lender will send a professional appraiser to the home to assess its market value. If the appraisal comes in a lot less than what you agreed to pay for the home, your loan will likely be denied.

There’s still some hope, however. You can always renegotiate the price of the home with the seller in hopes that they will reduce the price. You can use the information from the appraisal as support for a lower price.

You may also try to come up with the extra money needed to bridge the gap between what your lender will loan you and the actual purchase price of the home. It’s also possible to have the home reappraised by a completely different appraiser in case the one that conducted the initial appraisal made some errors that led to an inaccurate result.

The Bottom Line

If your mortgage application was rejected, don’t fret. While this may be a snag in your homebuying process, you can eventually realize your dream of becoming a homeowner. Identify the reasons that you were turned down and make a valiant effort to turn things around. That way, you can bump up the odds of being accepted the next time.

6 Questions to Ask Before Converting Your Attic Into a Usable Space

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If adding some livable space in your home in on your agenda, then transforming your attic into a usable area may be just the ticket. Rather than going through the trouble of building a completely new addition to your home, converting your attic will likely take a lot less work.

But before you take hammer to nail, you need to be certain that your attic will be suitable for whatever it is you want to use it for. Make sure you get the answers to the following questions beforehand.

1. How Strong is the Flooring?

Think about all the heavy items that the attic will have to hold, including furniture. Verifying the structural reinforcement of the space is crucial before adding different components to the space. If there are no trusses or rafters up there, you won’t be able to convert the space into a livable area. In this case, you will need to have them constructed. This is definitely not a job for the novice, as it can be very complex. Considering the importance of these components, you’d be well advised to let the professionals in home construction handle this job.

If you plan on building a bathroom up there, that’s even more reason to identify how strong the flooring is, and everything beneath it. Get a structural engineer in there to determine whether the framing can withstand all the extra weight, even if your attic has already been housing lots of heavy storage boxes. If adjustments need to be made – such as strengthening the floor joists – do what needs to be done first before you start any further construction.

2. Do You Have Direct Access Via a Staircase?

If you have existing stairs that lead to the attic, determine whether they’re adequate enough or if they need to be expanded to make accessing the attic easier and safer. If there currently aren’t any stairs leading up there, you’ll need to construct them as building codes won’t allow you to transform the space into a living area without them.

In this case, you’ll need to come up with a new staircase design. Depending on how much space you have to work with, you may want to consider a spiral staircase which takes up much less space. Considering the fact that a straight staircase takes up to 14 horizontal feet across the floor while a spiral staircase takes up only 5 feet, the latter may be a better option.

3. Is There Adequate Headroom?

Not only will a room that has very short ceiling heights be extremely uncomfortable to navigate, it will likely not meet building codes. While these codes will vary from one city or county to the next, most require that a minimum of half of the attic must have a height of 7 feet 6 inches from the top of the flooring to the bottom of the ceiling materials. The total living space should also be at least 70 square feet and at least 7 feet wide.

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4. How is it Insulated?

An attic is usually the part of the house that gets the hottest or coldest. As such, it will need to be properly insulated if you plan on using it as living space. Additionally, you will likely have to install electrical lines, plumbing pipes, and HVAC systems behind the walls, so make sure to get that done before adding drywall. Building codes will require the space to be able to be maintained at a certain temperature – usually at around 68 degrees F – before it can be considered a viable living space. Speak with a professional for help in this department.

5. How Much Lighting Do You Have?

Your attic’s newly transformed space will need to be adequately lit, so you’ll need to make some plans for lighting before installing your drywall and flooring. Be sure to adequately plan for electrical wiring and outlets to plug in lamps and hard-wire other types of permanent light fixtures. If you can swing it, consider installing a skylight which can light up a typically dark space. If you can install one that opens, you can even boost the ventilation factor up there.

6. Are There Windows Up There?

Like skylights, windows can let in plenty of natural light without having to depend on artificial lighting. Having windows that open will also help fill the attic space with fresh air, which will be especially helpful during the sizzling summer months.

The Bottom Line

If your family needs more room to grow, a great way to add some square footage without going the whole room-addition route is to convert your attic into a livable, useful space. Whether you need an extra bedroom, office space, or even room to add another bathroom, the attic may be a viable option. Just make sure you enlist the right professionals and adhere to your local building codes before you start construction.

What You Need to Know About Lead Paint in Your Home

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If your home is over 50 years old and hasn’t been renovated since it was originally built, there’s a chance that there’s lead paint lurking somewhere within the space.

Why should you care? Because lead paint can pose some potentially serious health risks that could compromise your health and that of your family.

In fact, thousands of people – mostly children – suffer from some level of lead poisoning every year, and other family members can also have poisonous lead in their bloodstream. While some of these poisonings may come from toys that are covered in lead-based paint, other times the source of lead is from in the house itself.

Why is Lead Toxic?

Lead is a type of metal that’s found in the earth’s crust, and has been extensively used in various products – including paint – from the 1920’s up until the late 1970’s, when the toxicity levels of lead and its potential danger to humans became well known. In fact, over half of all homes built in the U.S. between 1940 to 1960 were coated with lead paint. Since then, lead contents started getting phased out of American manufacturing facilities and store shelves, and lead paint itself was even banned by the U.S. government.

However, the presence of lead paint still exists in homes that were painted prior to these products being banned. Years after lead paint stopped selling, many homes still have lead paint covering their walls, and kids who live in these homes are still being exposed to it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 25% of kids today live in homes with lead paint.

There are many reasons why lead paint poses more of a threat to kids than anyone else. For starters, children’s bodies are able to absorb lead a lot faster compared to adults. In addition, their nervous systems are still developing, and as such, they’re more susceptible to a negative reaction to the presence of lead.

Perhaps a more obvious reason why kids are more vulnerable to the presence of lead is that they’re more likely to put all sorts of objects in their mouths and even lick walls, not to mention the fact that they tend to put their dirty hands in their mouths and roll around in environments that are littered in lead-filled dust.

However, the most common way for lead to get into the system is by inhaling it. Lead dust can be generated in all sorts of ways, including opening and closing windows with lead-based frames, and walking on paint chips and crushing them, all of which can send lead dust into the air.

Lead can cause hyperactivity, irritability, dizziness, clumsiness, behavioral issues hearing problems, lower IQ, delayed speech, seizures, anemia, and even coma or death in extreme cases. That’s all because of the harmful effects that lead can have on the nervous system and kidneys.

Pregnant women can also be at risk for lead poisoning. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pregnant mothers with previous exposure to lead can release it from their bones and bloodstream during pregnancy and into the bones of the developing baby as it’s forming. As a result, reduced fetal growth and premature birth have been reported.

Why is Lead-Based Paint So Dangerous?

Lead can be anywhere. The problem with lead is that it does not break down naturally and can eventually contaminate drinking water, dust, food, and toys. But the most dangerous source of lead is from paint; namely, from breathing in lead dust or eating paint flakes that come from lead-based paint.

This type of paint can be anywhere, including on interior and exterior walls, doors, trim, and ceilings. The problem arises when the paint starts chipping and flaking off, which is highly possible given the age of this surface coating. The lead-based flakes and chips are easily seen, but it’s a lot more difficult to steer clear of lead-based dust that is nearly invisible to the naked eye and easily inhaled.

Testing for Lead

If your home was built before 1978, you might want to have its surfaces tested, especially if you’re planning on renovating. You don’t want to send lead-based paint airborne after sanding or scraping.

Testing can be done in a few ways. For starters, you can hire a professional service to come into your home and use X-ray fluorescence equipment to detect the presence of lead. You may also send paint chip samples to a laboratory to be tested. Or else, you might choose to go the DIY route and buy a lead paint test kit that uses either sodium sulfide or rhodizonate to determine if the paint in your home is lead-based.

Removing Lead Paint

Having a professional contractor who is experienced and certified in lead removal is your safest bet rather than doing it yourself. While renovations are taking place or lead paint is being removed, consider relocating in the meantime to avoid the risk of inhaling any lead that may become airborne after being tampered with. At the very least, the area being worked on should be entirely sealed off from the rest of the home.

While you’re at it, disconnect the ductwork to avoid spreading dust all over the house. Remove all furniture, food, and toys, and thoroughly clean the construction area regularly while wearing a respirator. Of course, wash your hands often during the cleanup.

The Bottom Line

If your home is old and you’ve noticed certain health issues with anyone in your family, have your home tested for lead. If you detect it, have it removed. Doing so will drastically cut down on any potential hazards that you and your family will be exposed to, not to mention even increase the value of your home!

5 Tips For Moving With Kids in Tow

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Moving isn’t exactly fun or easy, but this is even more true when you’ve got young children to contend with. It can be tough to have to deal with packing, purging, organizing, and all the other tasks that come with a big move while trying to entertain your kids and keep them out of everything you’re trying to haul out.

Having said that, moving with children doesn’t have to be torturous. With some savvy tips, you can make your move a seamless one, despite having your kids running around!

Pack Your Kids’ Stuff Last

Your kids want to have quick and easy access to all their toys and will be looking for them if you pack them away first. Instead of the kids rummaging through everything in search of their favorite stuffed animal or game, leave these things out until the very last minute so they don’t have to bother you for them when you’re in the middle of packing.

Unpack Your Kids’ Stuff Last

In much the same way that the kids will want to play with their things up to the very last moment that you’re in your home, they’ll also want to get their little hands on their belongings the second they step foot over the threshold of your new place. Not only will unpacking their items help get them out of your hair while you’re unpacking the rest of your belongings, it will also help them feel settled in a lot faster. Setting up their rooms with their bedding and decor will help them feel at home as they start to get familiar with new surroundings.

Let Them Play a Role in the Moving Process

Kids want to be a part of everything, and considering the magnitude of a move and how difficult it can be for little ones, letting them take an active role in the process can help them feel a sense of control over the whole ordeal. While they weren’t able to make the big decisions of moving and where to buy a new home, they can help make some smaller decisions like which boxes to pack their things in or how to decorate their new room. This will make adjusting a little easier.

Purge the Junk

You might be very sentimental when it comes to your kids’ things, but you can’t keep everything. Moving provides the perfect opportunity to get rid of all sorts of things that are just taking up space. A good rule of thumb is to purge anything that hasn’t been used in 6 months. If your children haven’t played with Teddy in a while or have totally forgotten about that Dora puzzle set that’s been collecting dust in the closet, get rid of it  It will help lessen the load and make moving and unpacking that much easier.

Call the Babysitters

Call someone to watch the kids for the day while you spend a few hours packing. Whether it’s a family member, babysitter, neighbor, or their friends’ parents, having some help watching your kids can prove to be a real life-saver, especially if your kids are toddler age or younger. At the very least, split the task with your partner – one takes the kids while the other packs, and reverse the roles the next day.

Have the Movers Pack For You

If possible, hire the movers to do all the packing in addition to the hauling. This will take a huge load off your shoulders while you’re trying to keep the kids out of the way. Take the kids out for the day or even for the weekend and stay out of the way as the pros bring in their packing materials and tackle this huge job for you. It may cost a little more, but that extra expense might be well worth the stress you’ll be freeing yourself from.

Organize Playdates With Neighborhood Kids

Being the new kid in school can be overwhelming and downright scary, but starting a new school can be a lot easier if your kids know someone. If at all possible, try to schedule your move during the summer before the new school year starts. Help them meet new kids in the area by introducing yourself to other parents and setting up playdates at your home or at the local park. A fun playdate can do wonders at  making them feel more comfortable.

The Bottom Line

No matter how organized you try to be on moving day, the presence of children will likely complicate things if you’re not prepared. Take steps to keep your children entertained and happy during your move to help lessen the frustrations that will inevitably be felt. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help, and embrace the challenges as they arise with grace. The better you’re able to handle the hurdles, the more smoothly the move will go. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your new abode, and your children will find themselves loving it sooner rather than later as they quickly settle in. Kids may not like change, but it’s amazing how quickly they’re able to adapt.