Mold. Don’t let that four letter word turn your dream home into a nightmare.

Guest Blogger: Bob Pavlik, Certified Master Inspector, Gold Key Home Inspections

Toxic black mold. Toxic mold. Organic growth. The horror stories are all over the news. A family moves into a home, only to have it condemned after they develop serious health issues because of toxic black mold….

If you hear that four-letter word, STOP. Don’t run for the door.

1.       According to the CDC, molds are not toxic. Some produce toxins, but they themselves are not toxic or otherwise poisonous. In fact, while there is evidence to support a link between certain respiratory issues and certain molds, the above example is extremely rare.

2.       Mold exists everywhere, both indoors and outside. There are good molds and bad molds. Mold grows very quickly – a perfectly healthy environment can become overgrown with mold in as little as 48 hours. Some molds can be easily remedied, and other mold conditions will require remediation by an approved contractor.

The important thing to remember is that the presence of mold can only truly be confirmed through testing by an approved lab. So, if you suspect mold or your home inspector suggests that your new home has “organic growth,” ask to have it tested.

A mold inspector will examine areas in the house that are conducive to water intrusion and look for signs of growth.  The inspector will then take air samples and/or swab surfaces and submit the samples to a lab to determine if mold is present and, if so, what kind and at what concentration. Once you have the results in hand indicating elevated mold levels, your next move should be to

1.       Determine the cause or source of the mold. Ask your mold inspector if the cause can be easily fixed or if a hygienist will be required to remediate. If the presence of mold is contained to less than 10 square feet, HUD says you can clean it yourself (or hire a contractor to clean the mold). However, if the presence is greater than 10 square feet, you will need to hire a hygienist to write a remediation plan. Remediation will involve finding where the moisture is entering the house or where it’s originating within the house as well as making necessary repairs. It also involves removal and replacement of damaged cellulose materials as well as drying out the damp areas.

2.       Take the test results to your doctor or an allergist to determine if the molds found in your house are a potential health issue.

The bottom line is that most mold issues can be remedied. The key is to repair or remove the source of moisture and to clean the mold in a recommended manner to restore a healthy home environment.


·         Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum and Other Molds, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

·         Molds and Moisture, Environmental Protection Agency,

Need to Sell Furniture? You Have Options! Guest Blogger Dakota Downsizing

The Bottom Line. Most household furniture is considered "second-hand" - usable, but not of high value. Keep in mind that what you paid for an item is only the starting point of what drives the price. The memories you have of your favorite piece provide no benefit to the buyer. Other factors affecting the value include condition, manufacturer, and size.

What is often overlooked is time involved, moving costs and supply and demand. Because a large number of seniors are now downsizing, the market is being flooded with antiques and basic furniture.

Whom to call - plus two DIY options. The list below addresses the pros and cons of each with respect to selling price, time, and costs.

Specialty Dealers. $$$ Start by sending a picture and receive a timely response. No moving costs, quick sale. i.e. Mid-century modern styles are in high demand; dealers abound.

Auction Houses. $$$+/- Great option for high-end or antiques; not interested in basic furniture. Start by sending pictures. Auctions can insure sale but NOT price. Commission is 25-30% plus moving costs. May take 45 days to receive a check.

Craigslist. $$ /- You set the price and need to write an effective ad. Free listing. Time consuming dealing with emails and no-shows. Safety concerns. Upholstered and pressed wood furniture is hardest to sell; this is your best option for these items.

Consignment Shops. $$ /- Automatic price drops over three months. Commission is 50%. Receive check one month after sale. Moving costs. If item does not sell - find another option.

Pickers. $ Buy in quantity, minimum wait time, quick sale. No moving costs. Buy fair condition items to repurpose; so do not trash a damaged antique!

Yard Sale. $ Very time consuming, weather dependent and expect to negotiate. Does not sell - find another option.

Donate. ($) Tax deduction only. Only a few charitable organizations are allowed to enter your home to retrieve furniture. Good condition only. Need at least one-week lead-time, may have to wait hours for pickup.

~Eileen Golian,

Owner Dakota Downsizing


Dakota Downsizing has a team of professional organizers who assist families as they part with decades of possessions. If you need help, give us a call - we will coordinate all the details.

Three Little Fixes You Can Make When Prepping a Home for Sale - Guest Blogger Pillar to Post

For Sale (Almost)

Homeowners make a lot of memories in their houses, and there's no doubt it's emotional to say goodbye to your well-loved kitchens and family rooms when you put your home on the market. Potential Buyers will not be charmed by that "lived-in look"!

Here are a few simple DIY projects that you can do to get your home ready to sell. These little fixes will rejuvenate some common trouble areas and make homes more appealing to most Buyers...something you'll definitely want to do!

1) Busted tiles are not classy.

Oops. Did an anvil drop on that tile countertop? Tile holds up almost indefinitely to all kinds of wear-but sadly tile cracks if something heavy is dropped on it.

What you can do: 

  • It's relatively simple to replace broken tile: remove the grout, mask the surrounding tiles with tape, loosen the tile, chisel out the pieces, set the new tile, fill the perimeter with new grout and allow the grout to dry. Goodbye, shabby tile.

2) Scratches and dings and gouges, oh my!

We know your brother-in-law didn't mean to smack his favorite chair into the built-in bookshelves. While that's a funny time to remember, there's no value-add for the prospective home buyer!  So, it's probably best that the you get rid of any and all visible scratches, dings and gouges.

What you can do

  • Minor scratches can be wiped clean with mineral oil, lightly sanded with fine grade sandpaper and sealed with polyurethane.
  • Scratches that penetrate the finish can be filled with a like-colored furniture repair stick. The product consists of wax and putty, and is easy to apply. Follow with a coat of polyurethane.
  • Not quite a gouge, but deeper than a scratch? Use wood putty in a matching color. Gouges also can be treated with wood putty. Make the repair, let it dry and apply the polyurethane.

3) Counter intelligence?

Bags of groceries, stubborn food stains and the occasional misfire with a kitchen knife are all to blame for laminate or Corian counter surfaces looking scuffed and sad. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that won't leave you with an empty wallet.

What you can do:

  • Laminate is a repair-friendly surface: a color-matched repair pen or paste will camouflage most scratches. Be careful not to overfill, and gently sand the excess when dry.
  • The remnants of past meals can be removed using a paste made from baking soda and water. Leave the paste for a few hours and wipe away. No need to rub or scrub.
  • Minor scratches on Corian can be treated by using a mild abrasive liquid cleaner on a damp sponge, rubbing over the scratch in small, overlapping circular motions, and rinsing with clean water. Be sure to wipe the surface completely dry, and repeat if the blemish is still visible. Deeper scratches should be treated following the manufacturer's instructions.

That was easy, wasn't it? With a little elbow grease and a modest investment of time and money, you can bring the sexy back to worn surfaces.

~Rachel Oslund

Pillar to Post

                                                          Cracked tile can be fixed!

                                                          Cracked tile can be fixed!

Five Things to Consider Before Making an Offer on a Home that has a Well and Septic - Guest Blogger Home Land Septic Consulting, LLC


  • Hire a company that offers the MD 4-step Septic Evaluation procedure.  Home Land Septic Consulting follows all procedures and guidelines in accordance with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).
  • Avoid a Dye Test Septic test.  Dye Testing finds 5% of the problems, 5% of the time. Dye Testing has never been a practical application for determining the health of a septic system, although they were more successful in years past. Septic systems, in the past, were generally no deeper than 1-2 feet under grade.
  • Understand that all Septic Systems will eventually fail.  A Septic System typically lasts 30-40 years.  The cost to replace the system can range greatly.  After evaluating a system we can give you an idea of what to budget for.


  • Testing the well will require two different tests.  We can test the QUALITY of the water and the QUANITY of the water.  We offer a variety of well yields and can advise on what you need depending on what county the property is located in.  We also can discuss what impurities to consider testing for.  A Buyer may have to follow certain loan requirements depending on what loan product they are using (Conventional, FHA or VA).
  • It is a good practice to obtain County Records from the local Health Department.  Home Land Septic does this as a standard practice; once an appointment is made.  But a buyer can access these records for free (most counties) and obtain pertinent information prior to any home inspections.

Visit our website for more information – and to see some great illustrations. Of course you can also give us a call if you have any questions about well and/or septic testing. We’re happy to help!

Homeland Septic

Top 5 Flooring questions - Guest Blogger Bill Iampieri

Before and After Flooring

If I have had these questions asked once… I have had them asked a million times. Here are the top 5 questions I get about the purchase of new flooring.

1) I want the carpet that will “wear” the best. Can you show me that?

When it comes to wear, we are usually talking about “crushing and matting” and “staining and soiling”. These are the main factors to how well your carpet will perform:

a) type of carper fiber used. You may be familiar with nylon carpet, but there is also polyester carpet and a new fiber called triexta. The fiber is important, but not the only factor.

b) how much fiber is used is obviously an important part of performance. But not just how much is used…but how dense the carpet is. Density is created by how close the strands of carpet are stitched together and how long each strand of carpet is. The denser the carpet is, the less chance the carpet can crush and mat.

c) the twist of the carpet fiber. Most people do not realize this is important as well. Carpet will “wear” better the more twists that each strand has. The higher the twist count…the better the carpet will perform.

We will work together to determine which fiber type works best for your particular flooring project.

2) Will this hardwood scratch?

Hardwood has a finish that protects and seals the wood. That finish (polyurethane) can scratch and that is what most consumers are referring to when they say "scratch". You can also penetrate the wood itself, but that is not typically what consumers are referring to. The good news is, that you can get a new urethane finish to restore the original luster and remove most, if not all of the surface scratches at a fraction of the cost of new hardwood…and get a new hardwood look! Ask me about sand and refinishing to see how we can restore your original hardwood look!

3) Does pad make a difference in how long my carpet will last?

Yes and No. Generally speaking, pad helps with the "walk and feel" of the new carpet. The better the pad, the better it will feel to walk on. Does it help the carpet perform well? Not necessarily. In the end, the carpet itself is the most important factor in how the carpet will perform relative to "wear" (crushing and matting). Also if the pad is not a high quality, it will begin to crush along with the carpet in traffic areas and that contributes to the look of carpet beginning to "wear out". I always recommend the best pad for your new carpet, as it is the least expensive part of the carpet installation.

4) Are your installers sub-contractors?

No our installation mechanics are not what most consumers refer to as "sub-contractors" that go from company to company or job to job. Our installation mechanics provide quality craftsmanship and in many instances have been installing with us for many years. A good installation mechanic is where the rubber hits the road. And like any other profession, some are better than others. I personally hand pick the installer that will work on your new flooring.

5) If I drop a can on my vinyl floor will it damage it?

If you drop a can on any hard surface it could damage it. Tile could crack. A can could penetrate hardwood surface and leave a dent. I always tell consumers, no flooring is bullet proof. Let's talk about your lifestyle and determine if we can find a product that suits you best. In the end, we have to care for our flooring and yes it can damage. I get people all the time trying to fix a section of their floor. That's the good many cases the damage can be fixed. In the end, most consumers want to feel that their new flooring will last and be beautiful for many years. With my guidance and experience, we will choose the new flooring that is best for your home!

For more information about flooring of all kinds and more, call Bill Iampieri Jr. at (410)-988-2834 or visit for more information and our current special offers. "Flooring of all kinds....service that's one of a kind!"

Title Insurance…why bother? (Guest Blogger MD Title Works)

People ask us all the time,

 “Why should I purchase title insurance?”

 “Do I really need title insurance?”

Buying a home is most likely the biggest investment you will ever make.  It is also probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. So why anyone would ever consider NOT purchasing title insurance is crazy! We purchase life insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, insurance for our phones etc. We pay yearly and/or monthly premiums without thinking twice. We wouldn't consider NOT owning homeowners’ insurance (which protects us against the cost of physical damage to our home) and we pay a hefty annual premium for it too.  No questions asked.

The interesting thing about the title to our homes is…it CAN be defective.  Believe it or not, builders have built houses on the wrong parcel of land, owners have forged documents, bogus mortgage releases have been filed, judgments have been missed when searching the title or have been indexed incorrectly among the land records, deeds have been filed with clerical and typographical errors or properties have been transferred by the wrong parties making them invalid.  The list of possible title defects is endless.  There are years and years and years of transactions for every parcel of land.  And these transactions have involved all kinds of people who, at anytime, can make a mistake or, even worse, intentionally commit fraud or wrong doing.

 “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”

~ Albert Einstein

That being said, because of the Title Insurance industry, regulations and standards have been created that help diminish fraud and/or human error, making title defects few and far between. Hooray, Hooray! (patting ourselves on our backs here).  However, it just takes one and,  if you are anything like Charlie Brown…it’s your property that is the one with the problem.

Title Insurance is a ONE time premium you pay at the time of purchase.  It is effective the entire time you own your home.  Most attorney fees are covered if you need to fight a claim.  In addition, it provides you with a reissue rate, meaning if you refinance your home at anytime, you will get a discount on the Lender’s Title Insurance that is required by most lenders.  That’s another thing—if the lenders require it, shouldn't you?

For the cost, Title Insurance is a no brainer.  It is what insurance SHOULD be.  It can protect you in most cases of fraud, errors and omissions and it is relatively inexpensive.  You buy the insurance ONE time and you have a policy....period.

So our answer is this:  You buy insurance, of any kind, as protection; protection against a loss that would result in a large, unforeseen expense.  Protecting the title to your home (probably your largest investment) is a must!  So we highly recommend buying it at settlement so you don't wake up one day to find there's a title problem and you end up paying thousands of dollars and spending countless hours trying to correct it. Whaa Whaa….Charlie Brown.

Maryland Title Works Unlimited

A lender explains the sudden change in rates

Our guest blogger - Allen Tayman of C&F Mortgage - sent us this information about the sudden drop in rates that occurred on Friday:

A wide range of economic news was favorable for mortgage rates on Friday. The Employment data was weaker than expected, Japan expanded its bond-buying program, and tensions with North Korea increased. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week significantly lower.  This is the sharpest reaction seen to mortgage rates in months.  The market will continue to see high volatility, as traders feel out this new floor.  Now is a perfect time to jump on these low rates.

Guest Blogger - Handyman Matters

Bathroom renovation is something that most homeowners consider at some point while owning a home. Many times, it’s one of the first things on the list to be remodeled after purchasing an older home. Given that it’s such a popular starting place, we decided we’d pinpoint the top 4 benefits to renovating your bathroom.

1. Increase the resale value of your home. Renovating a bathroom – or really any part of your home – increases its resale value. New appliances, new showerheads, updated tile – these are all cosmetic details that can improve the look and value of your home, which is an increasingly important thing to remember in a down real estate market.

2. Improve the water efficiency of your home. The majority of the water we use each day is centered around the bathroom. From taking showers and baths to flushing the toilet to brushing our teeth, we use gallons of water each day. Replacing the toilet with a low-flush model or switching out a regular showerhead for a low-flow model can drastically decrease a family’s water usage, costing less money and helping the environment.

3.  Make better use of space.  Bathrooms are often designed poorly – shoving a sink, toilet and bathtub into a tight space as easily as possible without trying to intelligently make the best use of space for the room. By remodeling, you can add more free space and cultivate a better bathroom layout – especially when you get to choose which pieces of furniture and appliances will be used.

4.  Have full creative control.  One of the biggest benefits to remodeling your bathroom, aside from the increase in resale value, is the ability to make your bathroom uniquely your own. You get to choose the cabinets and countertops. You can pick out the perfect tub or shower, and you can handpick the tile and any other design elements so that they match your home and your personality perfectly.

Remodeling a bathroom can be a fun and exciting process for many homeowners. However daunting the task of designing and installing your new hardware, Handyman Matters can help you pick out the right materials for you and your home. Call us today at 410-549-9696 to set up a phone consultation to get started.

Handyman Matters Coupon