Keith and Kinsey's Real Estate Update

Radon Testing When Buying a Home
September 20, 2012, 7:07 am
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In the last several years, radon testing has become a bit more common when buying or selling a home. I am far from a radon expert, but I often get drilled with questions about radon from buyers or sellers. Here’s what I know…

  • Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that forms from the decay of elements like uranium that are found in soil and rock.
  • Radon is considered a carcinogen and high levels of radon are linked to about 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year (according to the EPA).
  • Radon is more than 8 times heavier than air. So, testing would be done in the lowest level of a home.
  • Radon levels can sometimes be high in one home, and not the home next door. I’ve seen plenty of houses in Madison, Verona, Middleton, and Mt Horeb test good and bad. It is extremely hit or miss.
  • Radon levels are measured in picoCuries per lieter (pCi/L) and it is recommended to mitigate radon if levels are higher than 4.0 pCi/L. (or 2.0 pCi/L depending on who’s literature you read).
  • Radon has been found all over the world and the United States.
  • Dane county falls into the EPA’s zone 1 which means there is a high likely hood of radon gas.

When determining if you want to test your new home for radon here’s some things to ask:

  • Has the home recently been tested for radon?
  • Is the basement sealed to help reduce the risk of radon entering the home?
  • Is there a radon mitigation system currently installed, and is it functioning?
  • How much time do you plan to spend in the lower level?

If you choose to test for radon in the process of a real estate transaction, make sure your agent writes it into your offer as a contingency. Radon tests normally range from $100 – $150, and many home inspectors can do them. If you choose not to test for radon at the time of your real estate transaction, you can test later with a $15 test kit from any home improvement store. The reason this doesn’t work as part of a real estate transaction is you have to mail in the test in to a lab and wait for the results. This is not timely enough to satisfy most real estate contract requirements. A home inspectors test will provide you results in a shorter time frame.

What do you do if you have high radon levels?

Radon levels can be reduced in your home by, sealing cracks in the basement and exhausting air from below the basement slab. A typical radon system runs from $700 – $1300 to install, and can be installed by a quality contractor in a day. Who pays for it is entirely up to how you negotiate your real estate contract.



Dane County Housing Statistics
August 8, 2012, 8:45 pm
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If you have been thinking about selling your home, it’s a great time to list! Sales in Dane County are up 84% from last year. Pending sales are up 102% during the same period. Inventory is down 10%, which means there’s less competition! Our personal sales are up 142% over the same time frame last year! Prices are still near bottom, but if somebody is looking to upgrade in home, now is a great time. Take advantage of the sales activity, low prices, and low rates.

Home Build – Week 15

This week our home was getting the final touches. The appliances got delivered and hooked up. The lighting and electrical was finished (we still have some pendants to put up), the final trim work was completed, the house got cleaned, the towel bars and mirrors were put up in the bathroom, the fireplace was completed, and finally the yard was seeded.

Thursday this week we did a final walk through with the builder and noted a few items that will get touched up on Monday. Also, we signed off on the final payout, which will allow us to occupy the house once our lender disperses funds. Friday our lender got a completion certificate from his appraiser. Now it’s really just a matter of getting the the title company to coordinate with the lender for the final payment. Lastly, once this is all settled, our construction loan will be converted to a conventional 30 year fixed rate mortgage. We should be moving in by Tuesday evening! 🙂 If anybody is up for some heavy lifting, come on over. We’ll supply pizza, beer, and soda!

Today, we did sneak a few boxes into the basement in attempt to clear up space in our condo for more packing. We also, met the cable guy and got that all hooked up (a bit more involved with new construction). Lastly, we put up the shower rods (thanks to a friendly reminder that a shower after moving day is a good thing). Oh, and earlier this week, we installed an invisible pet fence, Happy Birthday Dyna.

Completed Kitchen!

Washer and dryer in master bedroom closet

Completed bathroom

Invisible fence system

Day 105 – 3 Days and counting.

Home Build – Week 14
July 7, 2012, 5:16 pm
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This week in our home build, the carpet, dishwasher, and hvac grills were installed. Also the electrical and lighting is almost complete. We spent today putting up shelves and rods in one of the closets, and helping Kinsey’s step-dad (our electrician) with some little things. If you remember, we didn’t have the builder finish out the bedroom closets. We decided to save a few bucks on the closets and build something more custom ourselves. The closet we did today was the easiest one, and we wanted it done just so we could hang some clothes up on moving day. We’ll finish out the rest of the closets after we get settled in.

All that’s left to do at this point are the finishing touches of electrical work, yard seeding, touch up, and cleaning. We are crossing our fingers that everything can get done this coming week so we can start moving in a week early. After things are finished the code inspector and the bank appraiser will need to inspect and approve the property. At that point we can get an occupancy permit, and the bank can release the final payment to the builder. Then it’s moving time! Stay tuned next week to see if it happens a week early! We’ll welcome any moving help too. 😉


Light fixtures installed

My handywork with the double row closet shelving and rods.

Tray ceiling with the ceiling fan

Day 98 – 13 Days and counting (or maybe 7).

Why Should A Condo Association Get FHA Approved?

Our condo association’s FHA approval recently expired and the condo board is currently debating whether or not to renew the qualification. Several of our board members have been rather opposed to getting the qualification with FHA extended. Although, the people opposed to this seem to view it as a low income housing program, which Is not the case at all. The board members have asked, “why would we want to get re-qualified?” I ask, “why wouldn’t we?” In my mind, the pro’s far outweigh the cons. In any case, I realized there are a lot of misconceptions out there about certain loan programs. So, here’s the real info…

An FHA mortgage is a loan provided by an FHA approved lender but backed by the Federal Housing Administration (providing additional security to the lender). This loan program only requires a 3.5% down payment (or equity for a refinance) for people with good credit scores. It is possible for someone with a weaker credit score to qualify for the FHA program with 10% down. The 3.5% down payment program is highly desirable to people that have the income to buy a home, but may not have much of a down payment (or those who just want to minimize their down payment).

FHA is not a low income housing program. It is merely a low down payment loan program. FHA still does a rigorous screening of loan applicants to check debt to income ratios, job history, income history, and credit. Maximum debt to income ratios are 31% for the mortgage and 43% in total debt. FHA even lends on properties up to $293,750 in Dane County.

So, why would a condo association want to be qualified for FHA?

  • FHA condo approval also qualifies the association for VA and USDA loan programs. This would open up a much larger pool of potential buyers.
  • Condo financing is actually more difficult than single family home financing these days. If people can’t get loans, it will negatively affect property values.
  • The more buyers there are capable of getting financing within a condo development the quicker units should sell and the stronger the home values should be.
  • Making refinancing easier for current owners will hopefully reduce the number of foreclosures- also helping keep values stronger.
  • Other agents keep asking us, “Is this development FHA approved? My buyer is looking for FHA”. So there is definitely demand.
  • Your association will have qualifications above the competition.

What are the misconceptions and questions of people opposed to getting a condo association FHA approved?

  • Won’t this bring in low income people? Answer: No, this is not a low income loan program.
  • Aren’t FHA buyers more likely not to pay their condo dues on time? Answer: No, they still have to meet similar debt to income ratios as conventional buyers. So, there’s no reason they should be less dependable.
  • Couldn’t these lead to more foreclosures since people can buy with less equity? I haven’t seen any statistics to prove this. In theory if units become easier to sell prices would increase and sales would improve. To me this means people in financial trouble would have an easier time selling, rather than walking away.

So again, what’s the downside of an association being FHA approved? I don’t know. All I see are benefits such as stronger prices, quicker sales, current owners ability to refinance, and an overall stronger association.

Home Build – Week 12

This week in our home build there’s not much new to take pictures of. The items that are left are mostly smaller detail type work, so the changes don’t look near as dramatic. In any case, our columns were completed and painted, the front door was painted, the window sills were stained, the fireplace mantel was installed, and the site grading was done. There really isn’t a whole lot left; a little trim work, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, seeding the yard, and little touch up stuff.

Site grading, columns, and front door.

Closeup of columns and door

Fireplace mantel

Window sills stained.

Day 84 – 27 days and counting

Home Build – Week 11

This week in our home construction more finish work was completed. The interior doors and trim were completed, the bathroom vanities were installed, the columns on the exterior were started, and the front door was changed. The front door originally came from the supplier with white grilles between the panes of glass when it was suppose to be beige. Nothing on the exterior of our house is going to be white so it would have looked rather odd. So they delivered the door with the correct color grills and made the swap this week. We are in the home stretch!

Exterior with garage door and columns started.

Kitchen with doors and trim

Office doors

Bathroom vanity

Day 77 – 34 days and counting