My Real Estate Blog

A little of this and A little of that 614.778.4520

SOLD! The business that is……

Brandi J. Newland ( aka Brandi Newland) & Michael Blakeman received an offer they couldn’t refuse.  RE/MAX Right Now is now RE/MAX Revealty located at 2051 Stingtown Road Grove City, Ohio 43123.  Brandi is still a Broker for RE/MAX.

To reach Brandi J. Newland – 614-778-4520

To reach Michael Blakeman – 614-596-1279


LAND for Sale in Ashville!

This land is SO CHEAP!  


Status: Active

List Number: 217004235

Listing Agreement Type: Exclusive Right to Sell

Listing Service:

List Price: $1,909,250

Original List Price: 2,291,220

Showing Start Date: 02/15/2017


Parcel #: D14-0-001-00-002-00

Addl Parcel Numbers: NEW PRICE!! D14-0-001-00-001-00 (an additional 21.957 acres) directly to the east of the property. A new survey was completed in 2016 and this will all be combined into 1 Parcel. This parcel is already included in the price.

Traffic Count PerDay:500,000

Zoning: Agriculture

Previous Use: Farm Crops

Tax District: D14
Acreage: 76.37

Minimum Acreage: 0

Minimum SF Avail:

Tillable Acres: 67.1

Lot Size (Front): 83

Lot Size (Side): 82

Lot Characteristics:

Max Contiguous SF Av:

Road Frontage: 83′

Useable Acres: 76.37

General Information
Address: 0 Ashville Road

Unit/Suite #:

Zip Code: 43103

Between Street: 23 High Street & 316 Ashville Road

City: South Bloomfield

Corp Limit: South Bloomfield


County: Pickaway

Township: Harrison

Dist To Intersxn: 15.7

Multiple Parcels:

School District: TEAYS VALLEY LSD 6503 PIC CO.

Gross Income: 0
Tax Abatement: Yes
Taxes (Yrly): 1,977
For Sale: Yes
For Lease: No
For Exchange: No
Tax Incentive: Yes
Abatement End Date: 05/08/2027
Tax Year: 2016
Price Per Acre: 25,000
Lease Price:
Addl Acceptance Cond: None Known
Net Operating Income: 0
Total Expenses: 0
Assessment: Main Ditch $67.97
Mortgage Balance: 0
Term Desired:


Property Description
NEW PRICE!! Location Location Location! 76.374 acres that sits right on 23/High Street. This could not be a better opportunity to get a great deal in Ashville/South Bloomfield especially during the development stages. The only store there right now is a Dollar General and its so busy that they just put in another Dollar General just a few miles away! What I love about this is that there is road frontage on 23 and 316. There is already a stop light at the corner of 316 & 23 so cars are already slowing down. Very desirable Teays Valley School District. If you build it, they will come! Working on a Tax Abatement.

D14-0-001-00-001-00 (an additional 21.957 acres) directly to the east of the property. A new survey was completed in 2016 and this will all be combined into 1 Parcel. Parcel # D14-0-001-00-001-00 is already included in the price. The total acreage is 76.374 per the survey. Please see attachments.

Listing Office:10529

RE/MAX Right Now


Ofc Fax:614-474-1737

Listing Member: 2007005457

Co-listing Member: 2006005209

Brandi J Newland

Cheryl J Dean


Agent Other Phone:614-778-4520

Agent EMail: BrandiNewland@remax.NET

Broker #ExperienceMatters

Pref Agt Fax:614-474-1737

Showing Phone #: 614-778-4520

Addl Contact Info:

2017 Tentative Market Value Assessment

Mortgage CalculatorDid your house get appropriately appraised?  Is it too high? Or to low? Well here is what you need to know. This is courtesy of the Franklin County Auditor.

Informal Value Reviews

The Franklin County Auditor’s Office will be sending out a tentative value mailer in August 2017. This letter will offer the opportunity for a Franklin County property owner to meet with an appraiser to offer additional information pertinent to the value of his or her property.

These Informal Value Review sessions will take place from Tuesday, Sept. 5 through Thursday, Sept. 28. Owners can then present information to support a different value. If you have paperwork to bring forward to justify a possible change in your 2017 tentative value, please bring the suggested information listed below to an Informal Value Review. Please submit copies of your documentation as the documents submitted will not be returned.  Submit ONLINE HERE!

You can bring one or more of these supporting documents:

  • Any evidence of detrimental property conditions.
  • Any sale of a comparable property in the past two years that is considered an arms-length transaction. Please note that we do not utilize Short Sales, Foreclosure Sales, Sheriff Sales, or any other type of distressed transactions.
  • If you have recently had your property for sale, bring evidence of any listings or offers that were made.
  • A property appraisal that was done within the past year by a certified or licensed appraiser.
  • A copy of the conveyance form and/or the final purchase agreement if you recently purchased the home.
  • If your property is a rental property, please bring evidence of the rental amount.

All property values will be finalized in November for use in the December tax billing. We cannot calculate your taxes until after the November election results are finalized and the new tax rates are released in December.

2017 Reappraisal Timeline

August 2017
Tentative values released
September 2017
Informal Value Review sessions
October – November 2017
Franklin County to finalize values
December 2017 – April 2, 2018
Open filing period for Board of Revision


Upcoming Informal Reviews

If you would like the opportunity to meet with an appraiser to offer additional information pertinent to the value your property, please attend one of our Informal Review sessions in September.  The location for GROVE CITY is

Monday, Sept. 11 
Tuesday, Sept. 12 
11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Grove City Church of the Nazarene
4770 Hoover Rd
Grove City, OH 43123





Crappy REALTOR® Photos








Zillow says your house is worth “say what”?

4 minute READ  Inman News Article

Brandi J. Newland – RE/MAX on Stringtown Road | 2051 Stringtown Road Grove City, Ohio 43123 |614.778.4520 |

You’re in the listing presentation, showing your potential clients the comparable listings in their neighborhood and making a recommendation about price, and it comes — the statement you’ve been dreading: “But Zillow‘s Zestimate puts our house at $X higher than that price.”

Clearly these sellers didn’t read the company’s own fine print on its value calculation mechanism — so you can point them to that, or respond as Anne M. Rubin suggested in a session at Century 21’s One21 conference this year:

“Are you familiar with how Zestimates work?

“Zestimates take the deed recordings in a geographic area to determine the number. They don’t include the condition of the home or any upgrades. They can often be too high or too low.

“I will supply you with accurate information from the MLS, which includes interior photos, of the properties that are most likely to be seen by buyers when they are also looking at your house. In addition, I can show you the recent sales in the area that appraisers will look at when they’re determining the value of your house from the buyer’s mortgage company.

“Don’t you want the best information available when you decide how to price your house and when to place it on the market?”

And here are a few more options for how to tackle that objection, sourced from a discussion on Inman’s Coast to Coast Facebook Group.

What’s included — and what’s not

The data sets used to create the Zestimate are cleaned up before numbers are crunched, explained Zillow senior managing economist Skylar Olsen — for example, any properties transferring ownership to and from people with the same last name (indicating a family deed transfer) or involving an unusually high or low sales price will get flagged.

Foreclosures, auctions and quit claims are also removed, and the Zestimate algorithm uses the remaining property data and relevant prices to come up with the magic number — which, Olsen notes, is an estimate.

“The estimate is going to have an associated band of error,” she said. “If there are more transactions in their area, good data in their area, if the homes are more similar to each other, if all homes are in a similar place and similar quality, then the Zestimate is usually pretty close.”

However, “quality is very hard to capture,” Olsen added, “which is why we’re pursuing major machine-learning techniques to elicit new signals.”

‘Have you claimed your house on Zillow? Because if not …’

Olsen notes that the Zestimate data comes from primary sources like the assessor’s office. “We use a lot of public records to power and estimate the statistical models,” she said, “and then what we use to score your Zestimate is not just those public record details but also user-inputted data.

“Incomplete information is really where we see the largest error,” she added. “When we have to infer how many bedrooms or bathrooms there are because the county didn’t put in that data.”

And sometimes, Olsen says, the records are coming from two different sources that record different features of the property.

So if the client has simply pulled up her address on Zillow without claiming the home, she may have no idea what Zillow “knows” about the property — and whether that’s accurate information.

‘Has Zillow been inside your house?’

Most reasonable humans will understand that in order to accurately value a property, it should be visited and examined — inside and out.

“Zillow has never been in your home,” suggested Gaithersburg, Maryland-based agent Scott Leidner as a potential response.

“Has anyone from Zillow ever actually been inside your house, or did they do a property tour?” added Lakeland, Florida’s Bill Kilpatrick.

Ashley Dortch, an agent in Locust Valley, New York, took her suggestion a step further: “Has Zillow been inside of your house and all of the homes it’s using for comps? Well, I have.”

Fullerton, California, agent Erica Boisvert suggested asking sellers whether they’d updated their home’s information on Zillow and reminding them that it’s a mathematical guess in addition to throwing in the statement, “Zillow has never walked your home, the comps or the neighborhood.

“Have you updated Zillow as a homeowner?” she added. “No? Then it’s just a mathematical guess.

“This is what I’ve seen in your neighborhood …” (A beautiful segue to demonstrate your value to potential clients, if we do say so.)

And Philadelphia agent Dennis McGuinn threw in a mention of the inexact nature of house pricing, which can never hurt when it comes to a discussion about Zestimates and other automated valuation models (AVMs).

“There’s no perfect science to pricing a house. But at least I’ve been to your house to see what it offers a buyer. Has Zillow been here?” he recommends asking. And closing with: “And what happens to Zillow if the Zestimate is wrong?”

“Ultimately we’ve never been inside the house,” noted Olsen, “and there’s so much nuance to what’s valuable to a home and cues people to think ‘Gosh, I really like this — I want to bid more.’”

‘Is Zillow going to put in an offer?’

Twin Cities broker Teresa Boardman put it pretty bluntly: “Zillow isn’t going to buy your house, now, are they?”

“Sell it to Zillow!” chimed in Scott Geller of Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

Homing In CEO Todd Miller had an even more tongue-in-cheek way to phrase it:

“You should accept Zillow’s cash offer for your house immediately!”

‘Doesn’t matter what Zillow (or I) think — it’s what buyers think’

Michael Tessaro in San Jose, California, gets straight to the heart of the matter with his objection handler.

“Doesn’t matter what I think or what Zillow thinks,” he suggests telling sellers. “All that matters is the offer you receive from a buyer. You sign it and we close the sale — that’s what your house is worth.”

Not the only AVM in town

Flagstaff, Arizona, agent Emmy Simpson offers a simple, “Let me show you how AVMs work …”

This can be effective because many different brokerage and other real estate companies now offer AVMs — and often they are backed by a big brand that the consumer will recognize.

Explaining how and why each valuation is different can help build trust with your sellers (and show that you really do understand the nuances of pricing).

Point out the numbers game

Marblehead, Massachusetts-based agent Jack Attridge uses math to illustrate how difficult it is to land on the right price at the right time.

“I have a hard enough time pricing homes one at a time,” he tells sellers. “And it is impossible for the local assessor to accurately price the 9,000 homes in my market.

“That is why they tell you that when you get serious, you should reach out to a local agent like myself.”

Get under the hood

Chicago-based team lead Leslie Ebersole points out that this conversation is an opportunity to “validate the work the client is doing on their own behalf and then to demonstrate agent expertise.”

It’s a bad idea to argue with the Zestimate or bash the company behind it, she adds. “Millions and millions of consumers trust Zillow more than they do real estate agents.”

She suggests using this script: “Millions of consumers visit Zillow every month. Most understand that the Zestimate is exactly that — an estimate of the value of the home. Let me show you how the Zestimate is calculated and the Zestimate Data Accuracy table.”

This gives the agent a chance to explain why a Zestimate is “a good starting point as well as a historical reference, but should not be used for pricing a home,” Ebersole noted.

Anne Marie Vespo in Chicago points out to sellers that the Zestimate is based on numbers — namely, the property’s physical attributes, tax assessments and prior and current transactions.

“So if you have a neighborhood of older, smaller homes with a few teardown, new-construction homes, it may bring the value of one up and the other down — but it doesn’t mean it’s accurate as they’re not taking into account what is inside the home,” she pointed out.

Zestimates might be more accurate “in planned-unit developments with cookie-cutter homes, or townhouse and condo communities,” she added, but the Zestimate still doesn’t encompass updates or improvements.

‘Great place to start!’

Your seller has gone to the trouble to educate himself or herself about the potential price of the property in question — so applaud their impulse and use that as a jumping-off point to showcase what tools you have that could help.

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii-based Lance Owens usually begins with, “Great place to start, Seller! I love clients who do their homework and actually put effort into selling the home.”

Then, he says, he pulls up Realtors Property Resource (RPR) and offers to go over the comparative sales in the area, showing sellers with their own eyes what’s happening in their market.

Figure out why the Zestimate doesn’t align with your price

For Jim Weix in Palm City, Florida, the Zestimate is an opportunity to show your clients how much you know (and how much a computer can’t) about their property and area.

“If the Zestimate is off, it will normally be easy to see why,” Weix said. “Zillow doesn’t know the difference between a deep-water ocean-access canal and a glorified ocean-access drainage ditch, since both show up as ‘ocean access canal’ properties.

“Rather than attack or simply reject a Zestimate, it is quite simple to show the errors in it,” he noted.

And showing instead of telling always wins fans, no?

Dig up the past

When Spencer Rascoff sold his Seattle home for significantly less than the Zestimate price, he “may have … given real estate agents a gift they won’t soon forget,” wrote Teke Wiggin at the time.

A few agents revealed that they haven’t yet forgotten the gift and are still using the sale to showcase the potential pitfalls of relying solely on a Zestimate to their clients.

Bottom line: Never take an overpriced listing

“Are there any reasons besides the Zestimate why you think your house is worth that amount?” offered Juan Gabriel Molina of Oxnard, California.

“Tackle the objections, present the data and market facts.”

One thing you should never do, though, is agree to take on an overpriced listing, he added.

“If they’re unrealistic and not motivated, simply tell them you cannot assist them at this time,” he advised.


Inman News Article

Brandi J. Newland – RE/MAX on Stringtown Road | 2051 Stringtown Road Grove City, Ohio 43123 |614.778.4520 |


How to find a HUD HOME

Its really quite simple these days because the Government has taken over the job and responsibility of listing them all in one place.  So every HUD Home in the Continental United States and also these countries – Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Alaska and American Samoa is located at

by Brandi J. Newland, Broker @ RE/MAX Right Now

Visit me on my website –

Visit me on Facebook – Brandi J. Newland, RE/MAX Broker & Agent

Visit me on my favorite site – Pinterest! So many great ideas for your home buying or selling experience!


8 ways to survive the Winter Blues

1. Stay active

It’s easy to bury yourself on the couch during the winter, eating too much and watching TV. If you’re going to stay healthy, you need to make that effort to get outside and do something. Running, skiing, snowshoeing and biking are all options, but even something as easy as going for a walk every day will get your endorphins going.

2. Fight off the blues

Looking out my window, the gray gloom feels like it is late afternoon. It’s 10:30 in the morning. Winter can have that effect on you. Even if you don’t have seasonal affective disorder, the gloaming can be wearing. Try to focus on things you can enjoy about the winter: sitting by fires, reading books, snow sports, cocoa, etc. TURN lights on, ALL of them!

3. Heat wisely

It’s tempting to match every degree drop outside by raising the thermostat one degree inside, but that’ll end up costing you a fortune. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can drop your thermostat gradually to get used to colder temps and save heating money.

4. Static Electricity     Image result for static electricity in human body

Invest in a couple of good humidifiers to slow down the static electricity. Winter’s dry air can be rough on you without getting zapped, too. We’ve also been dealing with dry eyes and skin, so eye lubricants and moisturizers have come into play.  You will feel so much better!

5. Snowmageddon

Winter isn’t complete without some kind of event that gets the weather forecasters fired up. It’s just a storm – but make sure you take the necessary precautions. Prepare emergency kits for your home and car, including lights, batteries, water, nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars and a first-aid kit.


6. Stay healthy

Getting socked in by weather is one thing – being stuck at home and sick is something far worse. Make sure you get enough sleep, wash your hands often with antibacterial soap and stay active. Try to keep your stress levels down and drink lots of water.

7. Heat the inside, not the outside

The doors and windows might be closed, but heat can still escape your home in the wintertime. Make sure plumbing entrances, ducts, fireplaces and ceilings are insulated – you can even use bubble wrap if you can’t afford anything else. Also, run fans clockwise to keep rising heat down closer to the floor.

8. Heat you, not the house       Image result for lady all bundled up on couch

If you live by yourself, it’s more efficient to heat you than the house or apartment around you. Embrace wearing a fleece jacket indoors – it’s both warming and cozy. It’s also not the best time to be going barefoot – splurge on some thick fuzzy socks.

FHA Cuts their Rates!!

FHA opens door to homeownership for more borrowers

Federal agency says the cut will save borrowers $500 a year on average.

Low- to moderate-income homebuyers will get a boost in 2017, with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) set to cut mortgage insurance premiums later this month.

The move “will mean a whole lot more responsible borrowers are suddenly eligible to purchase a home through FHA,” said National Association of Realtors President William E. Brown in a statement.

Annual premiums going down

The FHA will reduce the annual mortgage insurance premium most FHA borrowers pay by a quarter of a percentage point starting January 27. Annual premiums will drop to 0.6 percent from 0.85 percent, according to NAR.

“Every time we cut the cost of mortgage insurance it means more borrowers meet the debt-to-income ratio required to purchase a home,” said Brown, explaining why the move should lead more aspiring homebuyers to pull the trigger.

The rate cut means new borrowers who take out mortgages insured by the FHA will save an average of $500 this year, according to HUD.

The action “comes at the right time for consumers who are facing higher credit costs as mortgage interest rates are increasing,” according to Julián Castro, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, which oversees the FHA.

Why this is good news

The FHA makes it possible for banks to lend to borrowers who might not qualify for conventional mortgages, serving as a wellspring of credit for those buyers.

FHA borrowers pay both an insurance premium to the FHA and higher interest rates in return for a mortgage that requires as little as a 3.5 percent down payment.

“FHA mortgage products exist to serve an important mission: providing homeownership opportunities to creditworthy borrowers who are overlooked by conventional lenders,” said NAR President William E. Brown in a statement.

“The high cost of mortgage insurance has unfortunately put those opportunities out of reach for many young, first-time- and lower-income borrowers. Now, we have a real opportunity to get back on track.”

“After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” Castro said in a statement.

“This is a fiscally responsible measure to price our mortgage insurance in a way that protects our insurance fund while preserving the dream of homeownership for credit-qualified borrowers.”

According to Guy Cecala, CEO and publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, FHA’s share of the home purchase market in first three quarters of 2016 was 16.6 percent.

“That was way down from the 33.8 percent market share seen as recently as 2010, but up from the 13.5 percent share seen right before FHA first lowered its annual MIP in early 2015,” Cecala told Inman via email.


Can FHA afford to do it?

The health of the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MKIF) has improved for four straight years, gaining $44 billion in value since 2012, according to HUD. The fund pays FHA lenders when borrowers default on FHA-insured mortgages.

An independent analysis found that the fund’s capital ratio now stands at 2.32 percent of all insurance in force — the second consecutive year since 2008 that the FHA’s reserve ratio exceeded the mandatory 2.0 percent threshold, HUD said.

The FHA started insuring a much larger share of purchase mortgages to help fill a credit void after the mortgage meltdown.

Losses largely stemming from loans the FHA made from 2007 to 2009 forced the agency to take a bailout of $1.7 billion in 2013 to ensure it had enough reserves to cover anticipated losses on the loans it insured.

“We’ve carefully weighed the risks associated with lower premiums with our historic mission to provide safe and sustainable mortgage financing to responsible homebuyers,” said Ed Golding, principal deputy assistant secretary for HUD’s office of housing, in a statement.

Article by Inman and Teke Wiggin

Toxic Substances when Remodeling Can be Scary

Understanding VOCs and Indoor Air Quality

Freshly painted walls, gleaming wood floorboards, and tightly insulated attics are on many buyers’ wish lists. But some materials, processes, and finishes can make for toxic spaces. Help your buyers and sellers keep their homes healthy.
Living room renovation

When the TV news show “60 Minutes” reported that Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring, a synthetic product produced in China, failed to meet certain health and safety standards, many home owners panicked. Were their floors also releasing into the air (off-gassing) formaldehyde, a chemical commonly used in many building products?

Afterward, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tested levels released from some of the laminate flooring that had been sold in Lumber Liquidators’ U.S. stores. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined exposure to the formaldehyde tested could cause irritation and breathing problems. But formaldehyde can potentially cause greater damage; it’s listed in a President’s Cancer Panel report as a known carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is just one in a huge family of chemical compounds that are lumped under the volatile organic compound umbrella. These substances raise concerns because the gasses they release can be toxic. Furthermore, VOCs are common in paints, stains, adhesives, and glues, which means that many otherwise safe building materials may make indoor air toxic because they’re paired with them.

That’s why more home owners are beginning to ask retailers, manufacturers, and contractors what VOCs may be in the materials, products, and furnishings they bring into their homes. But they also need to understand where these products originated and how they were made, installed, and finished, since unhealthy VOCs may be incorporated at various stages.

Joe Reina of No Limits Paint in Elmhurst, Ill., is among contractors already hearing these concerns and taking action. Clients ask him more frequently whether he exclusively uses paints with no or low VOCs (he does). “It started about one-and-a-half years ago and has picked up, especially with customers who have young children and are concerned about their overall health, not just if they have asthma or allergies,” says Reina.

Though the U.S. government is taking steps to outlaw many harmful chemicals in housing products, other countries like China have not moved in this direction. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t yet set a benchmark for what’s safe. That lack of guidance means that labels that claim products are green may be misleading, says Joel Hirschberg, president and co-owner of Iowa-based Green Building Supply store, among the first in the country to focus on selling safe, environmentally friendly products to home owners and home builders.

These are just a few of the reasons why you, as a real estate professional, need to understand the issue. Advise clients to ask questions when they buy a house and when they purchase products, materials, and systems to remodel a home they already own or are thinking about selling.

Consider Common Sources of VOCs

Make sure you’re educated on this important subject. One detailed resource you might consider is Green Building Advisor, published online by The Taunton Press with information about designing, building, and remodeling sustainable, healthy homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is another good source of information.

Key categories of potential off-gassing include:

  • Insulation. In the past, some options contained asbestos or fiberglass batting with formaldehyde, though neither is permitted in new construction. Smarter choices include insulation from cotton (often blue-jean scraps), paper, soybeans, and milo (a grain). Caroline Blazovsky, author, national healthy-home expert, and founder of My Healthy Home, warns that some types like cellulose may be touted as safe but then are treated with unhealthy chemicals. In other cases, the problem stems from the installer not following a manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Paints and stains. Many manufacturers, including well-known larger companies, are debuting low- or zero-VOC lines, such as Benjamin Moore with its Aura and Natura brands. A small but growing number of manufacturers are making paints that contain no VOCs, such as Ecos and SafeCoat. Steve Skodak, executive director of the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association, says that as more consumers pay attention to and favor these low- or no-VOC options, the market will see an uptick in these types of products manufactured and sold.
  • Flooring. The key in this category is to pay attention not just to the product, which may pass muster, but also to the adhesives and varnishes that adhere layers of solid pre-engineered boards together. One easy choice is to go with reclaimed boards that lack these attached layers. But if a finish is used to protect them, make sure it too is a healthy one, such as a natural oil, says Craig Margolies, product manager at The Hudson Co., based in Pine Plains, N.Y. The same guidelines also apply to certain cabinetry, walls, and beams, he says.
  • HVAC systems appropriately vented to the outdoors will help remove unhealthy off-gassed air from a home, says Green Building Advisor senior editor Martin Holladay, who is also a former remodeler and builder. As homes have been sealed and tightened to be more energy-efficient, ventilation has become more important. Air purifiers are an additional aid, Hirschberg says. Furnaces, hot water heaters, and appliances should be serviced annually, too. “If they don’t work correctly, they put VOCs and unhealthy gases such as carbon monoxide into the air,” Blazovsky says.
  • Furnishings may contain flame-retardant foam in cushions and pillows that off-gas. Stain repellants can also pose a risk. Again, suggest home owners check labels.
  • Pesticides and household cleaning products can be another source of unhealthy chemicals, so go with nontoxic choices. Even plug-in air fresheners can release VOCs, says Holladay.

How to Minimize the Effect of VOCs

The positive news is that VOCs generally decrease over time as they evaporate into the air, and fresh air, good ventilation, and higher temperatures can speed evaporation. Some may “hang around” for varying periods depending on the level of VOC composition, air, and temperature, which is why home owners’ “behavior can make a difference,” says Blazovsky.

How home owners can be healthful occupants 

Not all indoor air quality problems can be blamed on building products and a home’s tight envelope. Home owners often are the main polluters of their own environment, says Martin Holladay, editor of Green Building Advisor, which publishes methods for making a home green and healthy. He says the two biggest changes your clients can undertake to reduce unhealthy air are to avoid smoking indoors and to cook safely. A gas range can produce formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, so switching to an electric or induction range may be prudent, he says. However, no matter what kind of appliances they use, they should employ an adequately sized exhaust fan to vent unsafe air outdoors. And unless it’s someone’s birthday, Holladay suggests avoiding lighting candles indoors. “They also release small particulates into the air.”

Besides making informed product choices, Hirschberg suggests you and your clients pay attention to how a room smells. “Go with your nose,” he says. “If something smells too strong, almost like a new car, it may be unhealthy. Find out what it is.”

Weigh Healthy Alternatives on the Market

It takes work to research a product’s chemical make-up by reading labels and asking experts, but your clients will appreciate your ready knowledge and sources you can recommend. The International Future Living Institute’s “Red List” cites chemicals to watch out for. Two other useful guides include the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and Tree Hugger.

Soybean-based spray foam insulation, which doesn’t rely on synthetic chemicals and which has a high R-value, can be found through a resource such as Biobased from Rhino Linings. Then there are retailers such as Hirschberg’s aforementioned Green Building Supply and Green Depot, a brick-and-mortar and online retailer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., with hundreds of products and a knowledgeable staff. Architecture and design firms such as Lake Flato in Austin, Texas, can help steer clients toward healthy choices such as formaldehyde-free cabinetry and millwork along with local products such as limestone, where there’s reduced concern about the chemical processes in the item’s country of origin.

But it’s also important to realize that just because a product is greener doesn’t mean that your clients won’t be chemically sensitive to it. “People react differently, so home owners need to find what works for them regardless of whether it’s green,” says Blazovsky.

Consider Hiring an Expert

It’s common for home buyers and sellers to bring in an inspector or structural engineer to check a listing’s stability and safety. But they can also have a home health inspector or environmental investigator assess indoor air quality. Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group in Stamford, Conn., is often hired when a client detects a continuing bad odor or someone in the family develops respiratory problems or headaches. He typically charges by a home’s square footage, with an average fee between $495 and $600. Blazovsky, a certified Healthy Home Specialist and member of the Indoor Air Quality Association, performs similar inspections. Her price ranges from $400 to $800. Both will take air samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. Blazovsky also conducts water safety and mold tests.

Weitz cautions buyers against assuming sellers will disclose indoor air quality problems. “They can make smart choices if they’re choosing, but need to know that the seller may not have all the information if they didn’t make the changes,” he says. Blazovsky agrees. “When in doubt, test!” she says. “It may be an expense up front, but it can help home owners avoid a bigger financial mistake in buying a home that could bring health problems.”

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