Attack of the killer house: You won’t see it coming

Friday, January 12, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 2

Your house may be trying to kill you. In order to understand how, it is time to revert to high school chemistry class or wherever the periodic table may have been first introduced to you.

While radon is often mentioned when discussing home inspections, many fail to recognize the gas for what it is. Radon is a bona fide chemical element with its own symbol and everything.

With Rn as a symbol, its atomic number is 86. It also is a noble gas, one of few gases to achieve nobility. While the noble gases are inert, they are dangerous as they even include Krypton, and everyone knows about Krypton and its family of ties, red Kryptonite and green Kryptonite.

Radon is to humans as Kryptonite is to Superpeople and their pets. Both are colorless, tasteless, odorless and radioactive, just like the material in Kim Jong-Un’s silos. A visit to the chemistry class reveals that radon has a half life of 3.8 days, and that time period is enough for a full crisis in the homes of Middle Tennessee.

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, killing 21,000 people in the United States each year with 9,000 of those deaths falling upon non-smokers. That’s 21,000 each year, every three years, more than the Vietnam War.

Fortunately, radon is more easily mitigated than Kim Jong-Un. There are several companies in the area that deal with mitigation and the cost is usually in the $1,200 range.

Then there is natural gas. In many houses across in the Nashville area, the pipes that carry the gas from the HVAC system, the gas fireplace, or the water heater, or all of the above, are failing. When there is a natural gas leak, a flame of spark could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. All homes should be checked for natural gas leaks.

Carbon monoxide must be monitored, of course, and the devices are sold alongside smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide kills about 430 people each year in the United States.

Following the disaster in Flint, Michigan, where the tap water was found to be toxic, Metro and other counties have continued to monitor water quality regularly, but having a water purification system can eliminate contaminated water. The Flint crisis caused an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease and a number of fetal deaths.

Lead-based paint is dangerous when airborne, and in renovations of homes built prior to 1978 there is the chance of lead flying through the air. Another stagnant threat that can kill when dismantled and airborne is asbestos, which can be found in the glue in the flooring adhering vinyl in older houses and in the tape that is often wrapped around ductwork of HVAC systems in houses built in the1930s through the 1960s.

Sale of the Week

Prices in the Wedgewood-Houston area (WeHo) are soaring, and 608A Hamilton Avenue sold for $550,000 last week to prove it. Squeezed onto .09 acres, this 2,911-square-foot house sold for $199 per square foot within days of completion.

608A Hamilton Avenue

It was originally listed for $579,999, a somewhat aggressive price, but sold for the lower price, a trend that is becoming more prevalent as new construction has dominated the market in the area. It is doubtful that anyone would pay $199 per square foot for the houses that existed there prior to 2005.

In the period from 2002 to 2006, from boom to bust, the area had become a popular locale for affordable housing units as dilapidated homes could be purchased for $25,000 to $35,000. Today, any of the survivors could not be touched for less than $350,000. Once again affordability was driven away by prosperity.

With four bedrooms, three full baths, one half bath and what Aaron Goins of Deselms Real Estate described as “amazing views of downtown” and “top of the line everything.” Megaproducer Terry DeSelms has spawned a brilliantly trained cadre of real estate brokers that have achieved spectacular results.

Goins – well known for his creativity – states that the builder is “willing to customize and upgrade your finishes.” To recap, the price dropped $29,997, the seller paid $2,000 in closing costs and is willing to customize the house.

The Hamilton property includes most of the elements required to move properties in this market such as a one-car garage, hardwoods, nine-foot ceilings, energy star appliances, two porches off the rear of the house and the open kitchen look.

It does not have a master on the main level and, for some reason, four-bedroom homes often sell for less than three-bedroom homes in that price range.

Perhaps if they had referred to it as an office …

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at