8 Tips to Baby-Proofing Your Home

Babies are innocent, but they still manage to get themselves into trouble when they become mobile. Once they start crawling and (gasp) walking, they can easily get into some mischief that can lead to injury. That’s why it’s so important to take measures to keep your child out of harm’s way.

Of course, you’ll definitely want to prevent them from touching a hot stove or falling down the stairs, but there are plenty of other not-so-obvious potential hazards that you’ll want to take care of to protect your precious little one.

1. Secure Bookshelves and Other Furniture

Babies have a tendency to climb things, and if they happen to latch onto a shelf, they can send it tumbling on top of them. To prevent this from happening, secure your bookshelves to the walls.

Any other piece of furniture that has the possibility of toppling over should also be affixed to prevent them from tipping over on top of your child.

2. Cover Electrical Outlets

Electrical outlet plugs have been around for decades to help parents baby-proof their homes. They’re handy at preventing babies from sticking their little fingers in the sockets and getting a major shock.

But be sure to choose outlet covers that make it easy for parents to still access the outlets. The traditional covers can be tough to remove whenever you need to plug something in, so consider getting yourself covers that come with sliders that still make it easier for you to gain access to the outlets while making it tough for your little one to do the same.

3. Cover Stove/Oven Knobs

Once babies are able to stand up and reach the knobs on the stove, you can be sure that they’ll want to grab onto them and see what they are. Unfortunately, they can inadvertently turn them on while satisfying their curiosity.

To prevent them from turning on the stove or oven, place transparent covers over them, which you can find at stores catering to babies and young children.

4. Keep Items Over the Crib Lightweight

Whether you have a mobile, light fixture, or artwork hanging over your baby’s crib, make sure it’s not too heavy. If your baby grabs a hold of it or it falls on its own, it can really cause harm if the item in question falls on top of your little one. As such, make sure that whatever you’ve got over the top of the crib is safe enough to be hung in that spot.

5. Remove Glass From Wall Art

It doesn’t take much for babies and toddlers to lift up artwork hanging on walls (if they’re tall enough to reach or the art is hanging low). And once that artwork comes off the hook, it can easily come crashing down on your baby.

That glass can quickly shatter when it hits the floor, leaving your baby in a sea of sharp-edged glass pieces. To keep your baby safe, remove the glass in front of any artwork that’s within reach.

6. Cushion Sharp Corners and Edges

As babies learn to walk, they inevitably bump into things, and many times their heads are what come into contact with things that are in their way. While this might be OK with many furniture pieces, it’s the sharp corner and edges that you have to watch out for. Smacking their head onto a sharp edge or poking their eyes with a sharp corner can do some damage.

To avoid these mishaps, consider covering these sharp edges and corners with specially-made cushions that you stick onto the areas that need attention.

7. Turn Down the Water Temperature

The temperature of your water can be adjusted, so you’ll want to take advantage of this flexibility. The water that comes out of your hot water spout can be piping hot, which can scald your baby’s delicate skin immediately. As such, be sure to reduce the temperature of your hot water.

Speaking of tubs, be sure to place a non-slip mat along the bottom to prevent any slips and falls. And while you’re at it, consider covering the bathtub spout with something soft in case your baby bumps his or her head on it.

8. Prevent Strangulation By Cutting Looped Cords on Blinds

If your home’s windows are outfitted with blinds, odds are there are dangling cords that are just begging to be tugged at by your little one. The problem with these cords is that they present a real danger to little children in the form of accidental strangulation.

If your baby gets caught in the cord, this can spell disaster. To prevent any mishaps from occurring, cut the loops of the blinds’ cords, and keep them out of reach completely.

The Bottom Line

The aesthetics of your home are certainly important, but with a baby in the home, safety always takes top priority. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to baby-proof your home without compromising style. Just a few simple tactics can make your home a lot safer for your little one.

What California Homeowners Should Know About Earthquake Insurance

Earthquakes can have devastating effects. And considering the fact that there are fault lines throughout the Golden State, this west coast state is prone to earthquakes more than most other states in the US.

You already have homeowner’s insurance (or at least you should), but should you take out an extra policy to protect against damage caused by earthquakes? Before you do, be sure to consider everything about these types of policies.

Earthquake Insurance Isn’t Mandatory

Homeowner’s insurance is required if you plan to take out a mortgage on a home. Lenders want to make sure a home is insurable before they extend a loan. But not every homeowner necessarily needs earthquake insurance. Depending on where you live, earthquakes might be a rarity, while they may be more commonplace in other parts.

Only you can decide whether or not you should get earthquake insurance, as it’s not a mandatory type of coverage that homeowners are required to take out. That said, California is one of the states in the US that is prone to earthquakes – especially along fault lines – so it’s something that may be worth considering.

Coverage Required Depends on Several Components

The amount of earthquake insurance that you take out will depend on certain things, such as the value of your home, the cost to rebuild it, and the value of your personal possessions. Consider the value of everything that may be at risk when determining how much insurance to take out.

Coverage is Expensive

Insurance itself is not exactly cheap. But earthquake insurance, in particular, is quite expensive compared to standard policies. And the cost of coverage becomes even more expensive in earthquake-prone regions. You can expect to pay an average of $3.50 per $1,000 of coverage in California. So, for a home that’s worth $500,000, the annual premium would be $1,750.

Several Factors Influence Rates

The above figure is an average ballpark amount you can expect to pay. But the actual cost of your policy depends not only on the value of your home and the cost to rebuild it, but also the following:

  • ZIP code
  • Proximity to fault lines
  • Age of the home
  • Number of stories
  • Building materials used
  • Soil type

Deductibles Need to Be Paid First

Just like any other type of insurance policy, a deductible will need to be paid when you file a claim. The amount of your deductible will sometimes depend on what you decided on when you first took out your policy, if your insurance provider allows you to choose. For instance, you may have chosen a higher deductible amount in exchange for a lower annual premium. Or else, a lower deductible amount will mean a higher premium.

Otherwise, many insurance companies offer set deductibles based on the overall policy limit, usually somewhere in the range of 15%. That means that if you file a claim for a $300,000 policy, you would have to pay a deductible of $45,000.

Consider what your deductible is and the extent of the damage done to your home as a result of an earthquake before you decide to file a claim. If the damage done is minimal, it might not be worth paying the deductible and seeing your premiums increase as a result. On the other hand, extensive damage will likely be worth tapping into the policy you took out to protect your finances in the event of an earthquake.

Possessions Are Covered to a Set Amount

With earthquake coverage, your personal belongings are generally covered up to a set dollar figure. Let’s say your limit is $5,000, which would be fine if the damage done to your possessions doesn’t amount to any more than that.

But this can be a bit of an issue if expensive entertainment systems, electronics, and other high-ticket valuables that are valued much higher than $5,000 are broken. If you have a lot of valuable goods in your home, consider taking out more coverage for contents.

Exclusions May Exist

Not everything will necessarily be covered in an earthquake insurance policy. Certain things may be excluded, so you’d be well advised to find out what is and is not included in your policy when you take one out.

Examples of things that an earthquake policy may cover include:

  • Repairs to your home and any attached structures
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Additional living expenses if your home is uninhabitable

Things that an earthquake policy probably won’t cover include:

  • Fences
  • Pools
  • Separate structures
  • Vehicles
  • Fine china and other delicates
  • Masonry
  • Sinkholes
  • Fires caused by an earthquake
  • Floods caused by an earthquake

Discounts Exist For Retrofitted Homes

If you’ve taken precautions to ward against damage caused by earthquakes, you may be eligible for a discount on your policy. For example, bolting down appliances, securing the home to the foundation, and bracing interior walls can all help to keep the structure standing despite an earthquake. Whatever you do to solidify your home’s structure, you can reap the rewards with a lower premium.

The Bottom Line

Earthquake insurance is by no means required. But considering the state in which you live, it might be a viable policy to think about. That said, the expenses need to be considered, as does the type of coverage that you’ll get. Be sure to speak with an insurance provider and ask plenty of questions about these types of policies before you take one out.

7 Advantages of Living in a 55+ Community

When you reach a certain age, your needs and tastes may be different than what they may have been in your younger years, and that includes your housing arrangement.

Maybe your current home is getting to be too much for you to maintain, or perhaps climbing up and down the stairs is becoming tiresome and even difficult. Or maybe you’re ready to be surrounded by peers within the same age group and are looking for something to keep you engaged and active when you retire.

If that’s the case, then a 55+ community might be the right move to make at this stage in your life.

What is a 55+ Community?

As the name suggests, a 55+ community is geared towards those who are 55 years of age and older. They’re not designed for young families with children or even middle-aged professionals. Instead, they’re designed with people who are nearing or in their retirement years.

This particular age demographic has many different needs and tastes that those who are much younger, and as such, they’re designed to accommodate these specific requirements.

Here are some of the benefits of 55+ communities.

1. Properties Are Designed Specifically For Seniors

The home that you may have bought when you were younger may have suited you well back then, but perhaps it doesn’t work as well for you today. Rather than making structural changes to your current home to suit your needs or your changing mobility issues, moving into a place that’s already structured to make mobility much easier might be a better idea. 

2. Residents Are in the Same Age Demographic

One of the biggest advantages of living in a 55+ active community is that you’ll be surrounded by others in the same age group. If there are no friends or family nearby, seniors can end up becoming increasingly lonely in a neighborhood filled with younger residents or children.

A 55+ community solves this issue by attracting those who are in the same age demographic and who are looking for the same types of amenities and activities.

3. Quiet Environment

As the name suggests, no one under the age of 55 is permitted to live on the premises. While family can visit, no children will be running around on a regular basis, which makes these communities quieter places to live. If you’re looking for a tranquil home and community, these active senior living communities are a great option.

4. Security

Active 55+ communities typically come with on-site security that residents can take advantage of. If you’re on your own, living in a community that offers 24/7 security features can not only make you feel more secure but can help your family ease their worries about you living on your own. If security is an important feature for you, then a 55+ community may be an ideal choice for you.

5. Plenty of Amenities and Events

Active living communities typically implement a number of amenities and events that are designed to keep residents active, engaged, and entertained. These communities usually offer onsite opportunities to socialize, stay physically fit, and even volunteer.

You can expect to have amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, yoga classes, social events and gatherings, and even organized outings. Such amenities and events can help fill your days with enjoyment and can help you stay active and engaged in your community.

6. Less Maintenance to Worry About

No one really enjoys the regular ongoing maintenance that usually accompanies homeownership. But in a 55+ community, the majority of maintenance is taken care of. That means less work and time spent maintaining your property and more time enjoying the company and amenities that your new community has to offer.

7. Medical Facilities in Close Proximity

As you age, having quick and easy access to medical assistance becomes an increasingly important concern. The great thing about 55+ communities is that they’re typically constructed within close proximity to healthcare centers. While there might not be any physicians or nurses on site, you can rest easy knowing that medical help is usually just a quick commute away.

Should You Buy Into a 55+ Community?

There are definitely plenty of perks of buying into a 55+ community, but it may not necessarily be right for everyone. It’s important to note that while these communities are designed for those who are in their later stages of life, they don’t provide onsite medical care or support that assisted living facilities do. Instead, these are active lifestyle communities.

Those who are 55 years of age or over and are relatively healthy would benefit best from communities like these. If onsite healthcare services are not required on a daily basis, this type of investment might be better suited for them as opposed to someone who may require more hands-on medical care and attention.

The Bottom Line

If you’re approaching your senior years and have a penchant for staying active and being surrounded by like-minded peers, then perhaps a move to a 55+ community may be the right one for to you make at some point. Just be sure to ask plenty of questions and find out everything there is to know about a particular community, including amenities and rules. With a trusted real estate agent by your side, you’ll have all the support and guidance you need to choose the community that’s best suited for you.

Are You Ready to Go From Renting to Buying?

Making the leap from “renter” to “homeowner” status is a big deal, for obvious reasons. If you’ve been renting for a while, the thought of homeownership may have crossed your mind once or twice. But are you ready to take the plunge?

If you meet all of the following criteria, then you might be ready to make the move from renting to buying.

You Plan to Live in the Area For the Long Haul

For some who prefer a transient lifestyle, renting is a more attractive option. If you like the idea of being able to move from one city to another without all the expenses and red tape associated with buying and selling, then renting may be a better alternative.

But if you’ve come to a point in your life where you love the area you’re living in and have plans to stick around for years to come, then perhaps homeownership may be in the cards.

Selling a home is not as simple as terminating a month-to-month lease and packing your bags. It’s a big undertaking and isn’t something that you want to do every couple of years. If you’re considering buying, it’s important that you choose an area that you can see yourself living in over the next few years. 

When you find a neighborhood that you love and have a stable job close by, purchasing a house might make sense.

You’ve Got Enough For a Down Payment

Although rent comes with some upfront expenses, they typically pale in comparison to the costs you’ll need to cover when you first buy a home. More specifically, your down payment will be a major upfront expense that you’ll need to deal with when buying a home.

A minimum down payment for a conventional mortgage is 5%, though 20% is typically recommended in order to avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). If you have decent credit, you may be able to pay as little as 3.5% for an FHA loan. Either way, 3.5% or 5% on a purchase that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars is a lot of money.

That said, if you’ve spent the last few years saving up for a down payment and have more than enough to cover this big cost, homeownership may be closer to becoming reality. Just make sure that you’ve got leftover savings to cover additional costs that come with buying a home, which we’ll take about next.

You Have Money Saved For Closing Costs

In addition to the down payment, there are also miscellaneous closing costs that are associated with buying a home. Here are just a few of the expenses that can be included in these additional costs:

  • Appraisal fees
  • Lender fees
  • Title insurance
  • Lawyer fees (if applicable)
  • Survey fees
  • Home inspection
  • Transfer taxes (if the seller doesn’t cover them)
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • New furniture

Generally speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere between 2% to 5% of the purchase price of the home in closing costs. If you’ve got enough money – and then some – to cover these costs, you may be ready to make a purchase.

Your Income is Sufficient Enough to Handle Surprise Expenses

Homeownership comes with a number of expenses that you may not be responsible for when renting. Things such as maintenance, utilities, and property taxes are additional expenses you’ll need to cover. There are will also be some last-minute repairs that you’ll be responsible for handling when they creep up, all of which require readily accessible funds to deal with.

From replacing the roof to repairing the siding, to fixing the air conditioner, these are all expenses that you’ll need to pay for when such issues arise. As such, your income will need to be strong enough to be able to deal with such costs when they come up.

You’re Settled in Your Job

Earning a decent income is a crucial factor when it comes to buying a home, for obvious reasons. You certainly want to earn enough to pay your mortgage on time every month while still having plenty left over to cover all other expenses.

But the stability of your job also plays a key role in your ability to handle a mortgage. If you plan to buy a home sometime soon, having strong job security and being happy to stay where you are career-wise is important.

Your Credit Score is Strong

Having a good credit score is important for getting approved for a mortgage. If you’re planning to buy some time soon, be sure to pull your credit report to see where your score is at. If it could use some improvement, you may want to take a few months to bring your credit score back up to par before applying for a mortgage.

Your Current Debt is Manageable

Taking out a mortgage when you buy a home will add debt to the books. Ideally, your current debt should be low enough to allow for an additional bill.

Your lender will want to assess your current debt to make sure you’re eligible for mortgage approval. If your debt is at a manageable level and your income is sufficient enough to handle another payment, then perhaps you’re ready to buy.

Mortgage Payments Are at Par With Rent in Your Area

In some areas, it may actually be more economical to buy rather than rent. In communities where rent is sky-high, mortgage payments may be at par – or even lower – than rent. If that’s the case in your area, maybe buying might make more financial sense for you. Plus, every mortgage payment you make will go towards building your own equity.

You’re Emotionally and Psychologically Ready to Be a Homeowner

You could be in a strong financial position to make a purchase, but at the end of the day, you need to be emotionally and psychologically ready to buy. Before you make a move, it’s essential that you take the time to assess your feelings about committing to a home. If you’re confident that you’re ready to make a purchase, perhaps now is the time to do so.

The Bottom Line

While there may be some benefits to renting, there are also plenty of perks to buying. But before you make that move, it’s important that you take the time to carefully assess your situation to make sure you’re ready for the transition. If the above situations apply to you, you may be ready for homeownership. Just be sure to team up with a seasoned real estate agent to help you make the transition a seamless one.

Mortgage Versus Rent: What’s the Real Difference?

Whether you rent or own, you still have monthly expenses to pay in exchange for a place to live. That said, there are clear differences between paying a mortgage versus paying rent every month. But while rent may often be the more affordable and easier option for paying for a home, mortgages can sometimes be the better route to take.

There are definitely perks to each, and one may be better than the other for different people. The decision between one and the other comes down to a number of factors, such as your financial situation, your lifestyle, and the market where you live.

If you’re currently trying to decide whether to rent or buy, consider the following differences between a mortgage and rent.

Ability to Remain on Site For the Long Haul

If you’re paying a mortgage, you’re in charge. You own the place, and as such, it’s completely up to you whether or not you decide to stay put for the long term or choose to sell and move at your discretion.

If you rent, however, you’re always at the mercy of your landlord. Of course, your lease is a legal document that does not permit your landlord to force you to move out with little notice before the expiry date arrives, unless you have breached the contract.

But once your 12 months are over, your landlord has the right to request that you move out if they follow the landlord-tenant rules in your jurisdiction. That means you could find yourself looking for a new place to live, even though you may have enjoyed where you were living.

Freedom to Move at Will

On the flip side to what was just discussed, renting provides you with much more freedom and flexibility when it comes to moving. While you still have to honor the 12-month lease stipulation (unless you have a valid reason to move out sooner), vacating a rental unit and moving to another is a lot easier and filled with less red tape compared to having to sell a home and buy a new one.

If your lifestyle is rather transient or you’re simply not the type to be tied down to any particular place, then renting might be a better option. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell whenever you’d like to. But renting certainly makes these transitions much easier.

Tax Deductions

While part of each mortgage payment goes towards paying down the principal portion of the mortgage, a big chunk also goes towards interest. That can add up to a lot of money being dished out to the lender by the time the loan is fully paid off.

But as frustrating as it can be to pay interest every month, homeowners can take advantage of certain tax breaks that come with homeownership, and one of these perks is deducting the interest portion of their mortgage payments. This can help to reduce the overall cost at the end of the year. In the majority of cases, rent is not tax deductible, which means you could owe a lot more in taxes compared to having a mortgage.

Credit Boost

Having a mortgage – and being responsible with it – can help to improve your credit score and keep it up there. As long as you make your mortgage payments on time every month, your credit score will be affected positively. Lenders report mortgage payments to the major credit bureaus that will then note your activity on your credit report.

While paying rent on time every month could potentially help with your credit score, this will only be the case if your landlord reports your activity to the credit bureaus, which they’re not obligated to do.

Upfront Expenses

There are very few up-front costs to renting, aside from providing first and last months’ rent and buying a few pieces of furniture. But buying a home requires a lot more in out-of-pocket expenses in comparison.

Taking out a mortgage typically requires any of the following:

  • Down payment
  • Appraisal fees
  • Underwriting fees
  • Lender fees
  • Title insurance
  • Home inspection
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI)

Generally speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere between 2% to 5% of the purchase price of your home when you buy. These are costs you won’t have to worry about with rent.

Increase in Monthly Payments

Both renting and paying a mortgage can come with the risk of an increase in monthly payments. If you rent, your landlord can increase the rent every year, as long as they follow the protocol for rent increases in your jurisdiction.

But mortgages can also increase. If you take out an adjustable-rate mortgage, your payments can fluctuate based on changes in the interest rate. That said, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, the payments will remain the same until the mortgage is renewed.

Additional Costs

In addition to mortgage payments, there are a number of other costs associated with owning that you wouldn’t have to worry about with renting. For instance, maintenance, repairs, property insurance, and property taxes are costs that you have to deal with that renters typically don’t pay.

Equity Accumulation

A mortgage payment gives you the opportunity to build equity in your home. Equity is the difference between the value of the home and what you owe on the mortgage. With each payment you make, the equity in the home builds, as long as the property doesn’t depreciate in value. You can then use that equity (once a certain amount is built up) to be used to cover the cost of home improvements, consolidate debt, or for other major expenses.

Rent does not provide such an opportunity. You need to keep on paying rent month after month without seeing any fruits of your labor. On the plus side, however, you can use whatever money you save from not having to pay for ongoing costs associated with homeownership to invest in other vehicles that can help you build wealth over time.

The Bottom Line

While mortgage payments or rent payments are necessary to cover the cost of living, they’re certainly not the same. Both come with their own benefits and drawbacks, and the decision you make between paying rent versus a mortgage will depend on a number of things, including your financial position and your desire from freedom versus stability.

9 Surprising Things That Can Affect Your Credit Score

Thinking of applying for a mortgage any time soon? If so, you’d be well-advised to get your finances in order, and that includes ensuring that your credit score is up to par.

You certainly don’t want to be missing any debt payments, which is an obvious way to pull your credit score down. But there are plenty of not-so-obvious ways that could negatively impact your credit score without you even realizing it. Here are a few surprising things that can put in a ding in your credit score.

1. Having No Loans

This might sound counter-intuitive, right? After all, isn’t the goal to be completely debt-free? While you certainly don’t want to be drowning in debt, having no debt at all might actually not be such a positive thing for your credit score. That’s because your credit score is based on your financial activity, including your ability to keep up with debt payments. But if you have no debt to pay off, the credit bureaus will have nothing to go on in terms of calculating your credit score.

Credit scoring systems tend to boost credit scores for consumers who have a diversified portfolio of debt. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should go out and apply for a bunch of loans, as this can have a negative impact on your credit score. That said, having a few debts on the books can be a good thing for your credit score if you’re keeping up with your payments.

2. Unpaid Child Support

If you are responsible for paying child support, make sure not to miss a payment. Any unpaid child support can be reported to the credit bureaus. If that happens, your credit score will certainly suffer. 

3. Unpaid Utility Bills

If you have a habit of missing payments to the gas or electric company, you could suffer a lot more than just having your lights shut off. If the credit bureaus get wind of your missed payments, your credit score could take a dip.

4. Only Spending Cash

There’s nothing wrong with spending cash, especially if you want to keep your credit card utilization down (more on this later). It’s also a great way to avoid increasing your debt. But spending cash exclusively might not actually be a good thing for your credit score.

After a few months of not using a credit card, your credit card issuer could stop reporting your activity to the credit bureaus, which can lower your score. You can effectively prevent this from happening by using your credit card once in a while just to show your credit card company that you’re still active with your credit and are responsible with your payments.

5. Unpaid Parking Tickets

Finding a parking ticket on your dashboard can be incredibly frustrating, but you still have to pay it. If you neglect to pay it or wait too long to deal with it, the municipality in which the ticket was issued will likely get collections after you.

If this happens, you run the risk of such a situation being noted on your credit report, which can then have a negative effect on your credit score. Not only that, but collections accounts can stay on your credit report for years before being dropped off.

6. Closing Old Accounts

Paying off a high credit card balance is a commendable feat, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily close that account after you’ve reached that goal. Although paying down debt can be a good thing, closing an account might not be. In fact, closing old accounts can reduce your credit history, which is a bad thing for your credit score.

Instead, keep your accounts open, even if you’ve paid them off. And if you think that you’ve got too many accounts, consider closing the newer accounts and leave the older ones open.

7. Requesting a Change on Your Credit Card Terms

Whether you ask your credit card issuer to reduce your interest rate or increase your credit limit, such changes could impact your credit score. That’s because your credit card provider will likely pull your credit report to make sure that such changes are justified according to your credit health. Every time a lender or creditor pulls your credit report, a “hard inquiry” will be noted, which can pull down your credit score.

It should be noted that asking for a credit limit increase can be a good thing. That’s because it can reduce your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of revolving credit that you currently use divided by the credit you have available to you. A low credit utilization ratio is typically a good thing for your credit score, but just be wary that such a request can temporarily affect it in a negative way.

8. Not Paying Library Fines

A few dollars owed in library fines might not sound like a big deal, but if the library decides that you’ve waited too long to pay, they could call a collections agency to get on you to pay up. If that happens, it could be reported on your credit report and your score can be pulled down.

9. Being Late on Rent Payments

Like any other bill, your rent needs to be paid on time every month. If not, you could suffer a reduction in your credit score if your landlord decides to call a collections agency to come after you. This delinquency can the stay on your credit report for a few years, which can not only affect your credit score, but it can also make it harder for you to land another rental in the future.

The Bottom Line

The best way to keep your credit score healthy is to understand exactly what things can give your score a boost and what can drag it down. Once you know what can affect your score – both positively and negatively – you can be more prudent about maintaining a healthy score in order to boost your odds of securing a mortgage with rates and terms you can be comfortable with.

7 Hazards in a Home For Buyers to Look Out For

Buying a home always comes with inherent risks. You really never know what you’re truly inheriting without a thorough inspection. That’s exactly why buyers are encouraged to hire a home inspector to scope out the property that they have put an offer on. This will allow you to make sure there’s nothing seriously wrong with it that could pose a danger or force you to incur extra expenses.

When you’re on the prowl for a new home, be sure to pay attention to specific hazards that could compromise the health and safety of you and your family.

1. Asbestos

Not necessarily a material that you should be concerned about when buying a newer home, asbestos is still a hazard that continues to exist in older homes.

Asbestos was widely used in home construction decades ago because it is a very effective and affordable fire-retardant material. It’s also known to be a thermal and acoustic insulator. But as convenient as asbestos may have been years ago, it has been found to be linked to a number of health conditions, including mesothelioma.

Many household components may contain asbestos, including siding, roofing, insulation, floor tiles, wall plaster, textured paint, popcorn ceilings, and patching compounds. Although the use of asbestos was banned in 1977, it might still be present in older homes.

Sellers are required to disclose the known presence of asbestos in a home they’re selling, but it’s still possible that they may not be aware of its presence. It’s helpful to have a trained professional scope out the home in great detail and even have certain components tested for the presence of asbestos.

2. Lead

Another environmental hazard that can be found in homes is lead. Most often, this poisonous metal is present in paint, but it can also be found in soil or dust as well. While newer homes will not likely have any lead in it, older homes are more cause for concern.

Long-term exposure to lead paint can lead to nervous system conditions. Young children and pets – who are more likely to put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t – may be in particular danger from lead paint. That said, lead can also be ingested through inhalation, though fumes are more likely during construction.

3. Radon

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas, making it impossible to detect without being tested. This gas has been shown to potentially cause cancer, which is why it’s important to rule out the presence of radon in any home.

This naturally-occurring gas is usually found in soil and can make its way into a home without homeowners even knowing that they’re exposed. It can enter a home through cracks and crevices very easily and seep into the interior air for all to breathe in. Areas that are near water sources and wells are often more susceptible to being exposed to radon, so these areas should also be checked out.

4. Unfenced Pools

Swimming pools are common amenities in residential homes across California. But pools that are not equipped with the proper safety protocols – including a safety fence – can prove to be a safety hazard.

Small children and pets are particularly at risk for accidental falls into swimming pools, which is why fences are typically required to protect them.

Not only are fences around swimming pools a great idea, but they’re also required by law. There are rules governing how close the fence must be to the pool, as well as how high it should be to prevent unwarranted access to the pool.

There are also regulations that dictate the gate of entry, including which direction it should open and how far from the ground the locking or latching device should be. It’s important that you check with your specific jurisdiction to see what the laws are to make sure you’re in compliance should you buy a home with a pool. 

5. Faulty Stairs

Older homes may have stairs that not as safe as they should be and may not adhere to current building codes and standards. For starters, stairways should be properly lit to provide enough light for people to see where they’re going.

Further, the spacing between the railings should not have gaps that are too wide that a small child could fit through. In addition, the handrails should be sturdy and durable enough to withstand the weight of a person who is holding onto to them.

Slips and falls on staircases are a common occurrence that often warrants trips to the ER, so it’s important that the stairs in the home you’re checking out are in sturdy shape. If not, repairs will be required.

6. Old Electrical Wiring

Old homes that have never had their electrical wiring and panels updated could be a hazard. In fact, you might find that your insurance company may not provide you with homeowner’s insurance – which is needed to get a mortgage – if the electrical wiring is out of date.

Outdated wiring can pose a fire hazard, which is why any old wiring should be dealt with. Signs of a faulty electrical system include frequent power outages, sparks at outlets, sizzling sounds, burning smells, flickering lights, damaged insulation, and warm switches.

Further, if the electrical panel has fuses or circuit breakers that are rated higher than the currents allow, this could also pose a danger. In this case, the panel will need to be upgraded.

7. Pests

Termites are a huge problem in a home, as they can compromise the integrity of the home’s structure. Not only do termites cause structural damage to a home, but they also pose a potential danger to the home’s occupants. Other pests, such as rodents, can create an unsanitary environment.

Look out for obvious signs of pest infestation, such as chew marks in wood, droppings, and damaged wiring. If there is a potential pest infestation, an exterminator should be called in to scope out the home in great detail and deal with the issue accordingly.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, so you want to make sure that what you’re buying is a sound investment. Not only do you want to avoid spending more money fixing issues in the home, but you’ll also want to keep your family safe from any potential hazards. Be on the lookout for issues like these and have a home inspector and other professionals check out the home in greater detail before signing on the dotted line.