Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Is the Water You Drink Safe?
North America has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, national statistics don't tell you specifically about the quality and safety of the water coming out of your tap. That's because drinking water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which
it is drawn and the treatment it receives.
There is no such thing as naturally pure water. In nature, all water
contains some impurities. However, it is crucial to know when and
how the quality of the water can affect your health.
Using the new information that is now available about drinking water,
citizens can both be aware of the challenges of keeping drinking water
safe and take an active role in protecting drinking water.
Is the Water You Drink Safe?
North America has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, national statistics don't tell you specifically about the quality and safety of the water coming out of your tap. That's because drinking water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which it is drawn and the treatment it receives.
What contaminants may be found in drinking water?
There is no such thing as naturally pure water. In nature, all water contains some impurities. As water flows in streams, sits in lakes, and filters through layers of soil and rock in the ground, it dissolves or absorbs the substances that it touches. Some of these substances are harmless. In fact, some people prefer mineral water precisely because minerals give it an appealing taste. However, at certain levels minerals, just like man-made chemicals, are considered contaminants that can make water unpalatable or even unsafe.
Some contaminants come from erosion of natural rock formations. Other contaminants are substances discharged from factories, applied to farmlands, or used by consumers in their homes and yards. Sources of contaminants might be in your
neighborhood or might be many miles away. Your local water quality report tells which contaminants are in your drinking water, the levels at which they were found, and the actual or likely source of each contaminant.
Some ground water systems have established wellhead protection programs to prevent substances from contaminating their wells. Similarly, some surface water systems protect the watershed around their reservoir to prevent contamination.
Where does drinking water come from?
A clean, constant supply of drinking water is essential to every community. People in large cities frequently drink water that comes from surface water sources, such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Sometimes these sources are close to the community. Other times, drinking water suppliers get their water from sources many miles away. In either case, when you think about where your drinking water comes from, it's important to consider not just the part of the river or lake that you can see, but the entire watershed. The watershed is the land area over which water flows into the river, lake, or reservoir.
In rural areas, people are more likely to drink ground water that was pumped from a well. These wells tap into aquifers--the natural reservoirs under the earth's surface--that may be only a few miles wide, or may span the borders of many regions. As with surface water, it is important to remember that activities many miles away from you may affect the quality of ground water.
How is drinking water treated?
When a water supplier takes untreated water from a river or reservoir, the water often contains dirt and tiny pieces of leaves and other organic matter, as well as trace amounts of certain contaminants. When it gets to the treatment plant, water suppliers often add chemicals called coagulants to the water. These act on the water as it flows very slowly through tanks so that the dirt and other contaminants form clumps that settle to the bottom. Usually, this water then flows through a filter for removal of the smallest contaminants like viruses and Giardia.
Ground water is naturally filtered as it passes through layers of the earth into underground reservoirs known as aquifers. Water that suppliers pump from wells generally contains less organic material than surface water and may not need to go through any or all of the treatments described in the previous paragraph. The quality of the water will depend on local conditions.
The most common drinking water treatment, considered by many to be one of the most important scientific advances of the 20th century, is disinfection. Most water suppliers add chlorine or another disinfectant to kill bacteria and other germs.
Water suppliers use other treatments as needed, according to the quality of their source water. For example, systems whose water is contaminated with organic chemicals can treat their water with activated carbon, which absorbs or attracts the chemicals dissolved in the water.
What are the health effects
of contaminants in drinking water?
The contaminants fall into two groups according to the health effects that they cause. Your water supplier will alert you through the media, mail, or other means if there is a potential acute or chronic health effect from compounds in the drinking water. You may want to contact the supplier for additional information specific to your area.
Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time that a person consumes a contaminant. People can suffer acute health effects from almost any contaminant if they are exposed to extraordinarily high levels (as in the case of a spill). In drinking water, microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, are the contaminants with the greatest chance of reaching levels high enough to cause acute health effects. Most people's bodies can fight off these microbial contaminants the way they fight off germs, and these acute contaminants typically don't have permanent effects. Nonetheless, when high enough levels occur, they can make people ill, and can be dangerous or deadly for a person whose immune system is already weak due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, steroid use, or another reason.
Chronic effects occur after people consume a contaminant at levels over safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are chemicals (such as disinfection by-products, solvents, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of the chronic effects of drinking water contaminants are cancer, liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.
How can I help protect drinking water?
Using the new information that is now available about drinking water, citizens can both be aware of the challenges of keeping drinking water safe and take an active role in protecting drinking water. There are lots of ways that individuals can get involved. Some people will help clean up the watershed that is the source of their community's water. Other people might get involved in wellhead protection activities to prevent the contamination of the ground water source that provides water to their community. These people will be able to make use of the information that local authorities and water systems are gathering as they assess their sources of water.
Other people will want to attend public meetings to ensure that the community's need for safe drinking water is considered in making decisions about land use. And all consumers can do their part to conserve water and to dispose properly of household chemicals.
6 Mistakes To Avoid When Trading Up to a Larger Home
".....you have to sell your present home at exactly the
right time in order to avoid either the financial burden of owning two homes or,
just as bad, the dilemma of having no place to live during the gap between
Unlike the experience of buying a first home, when you’re looking to
move-up, and already own a home, there are certain factors that can complicate
the situation. It’s very important for you to consider these issues before you
list your home for sale.
Not only is there the issue of financing to consider, but you also have to
sell your present home at exactly the right time in order to avoid either the
financial burden of owning two homes or, just as bad, the dilemma of having no
place to live during the gap between closings.
In this report, we outline the six most common mistakes homeowners make when
moving to a larger home. Knowledge of these six mistakes, and the strategies to
overcome them, will help you make informed choices before you put your existing
home on the market.
1. Rose-colored glasses
Most of us dream of improving our lifestyle and moving to a larger home. The
problem is that there's sometimes a discrepancy between our hearts and our bank
accounts. You drive by a home that you fall in love with only to find that it's
already sold or that it’s more than what you are willing to pay. Most
homeowners get caught in this hit or miss strategy of house hunting when there's
a much easier way of going about the process. For example, find out if your
agent offers a Buyer Profile System or House-hunting Service, which takes
the guesswork away and helps to put you in the home of your dreams. This type of
program will cross match your criteria with ALL available homes on the market
and supply you with printed information on an ongoing basis. A program like
this helps homeowners take off their rose-colored glasses and, affordably, move
into the home of their dreams.
2. Failing to make necessary improvements
If you want to get the best price for the home you're selling, there will
certainly be things you can do to enhance it in a prospective buyer's eyes.
These fix ups don't necessarily have to be expensive. But even if you do have to
make a minor investment, it will often come back to you ten fold in the price
you are able to get when you sell. It's very important that these improvements
be made before you put your home on the market. If cash is tight, investigate an
equity loan that you can repay on closing.
3. Not selling first
You should plan to sell before you buy. This way you will not find yourself
at a disadvantage at the negotiating table, feeling pressured to accept an offer
that is below market value because you have to meet a purchase deadline. If
you've already sold your home, you can buy your next one with no strings
attached. If you do get a tempting offer on your home but haven't made
significant headway on finding your next home, you might want to put in a
contingency clause in the sale contract which gives you a reasonable time to
find a home to buy. If the market is slow and you find your home is not selling
as quickly as you anticipated, another option could be renting your home and
putting it up on the market later - particularly if you are selling a smaller,
starter home. You'll have to investigate the tax rules if you choose this latter
option. Better still, find a way to eliminate this situation altogether by
getting your agent to guarantee the sale of your present home (see point number
4. Failing to get a pre-approved mortgage
Pre-approval is a very simple process that many homeowners fail to take
advantage of. While it doesn't cost or obligate you to anything, pre-approval
gives you a significant advantage when you put an offer on the home you want to
purchase because you know exactly how much house you can afford, and you already
have the green light from your lending institution. With a pre-approved
mortgage, your offer will be viewed far more favorably by a seller - sometimes
even if it's a little lower than another offer that's contingent on financing.
Don't fail to take this important step.
5. Getting caught in the Real Estate Catch 22
Your biggest dilemma when buying and selling is deciding which to do first.
Point number 3 above advises you to sell first. However there are ways to
eliminate this dilemma altogether. Some agents offer a Guaranteed Sale Trade-Up
Program that actually takes the problem away from you entirely by guaranteeing
the sale of your present home before you take possession of your next one. If
you find a home you wish to purchase and have not sold your current home yet,
they will buy your home from you themselves so you can make your move free of
stress and worry.
6. Failing to coordinate closings
With two major transactions to coordinate together with all the people
involved such as mortgage experts, appraisers, lawyers, loan officers, title
company representatives, home inspectors or pest inspectors the chances of
mix ups and miscommunication go up dramatically. To avoid a logistical nightmare
ensure you work closely with your agent.
Tips on Selecting a Contractor For Home Improvement
Home repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent
complaints. Here is a list of things to consider when selecting a
- Get recommendations and references. Talk to friends, family and other
people for whom the contractor has done similar work.
- Get at least three written estimates from contractors who have come to
your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based
on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.
- Make sure the contractor meets licensing and registration requirements
with your local consumer agency. Some areas require licensees to
pass tests for competency and scrutinize licensees for financial solvency.
They may also have a fund to cover some financial losses that result from
problems with licensed contractors.
- Check to see if local laws limit the amount by which the final
bill can exceed the estimate, unless you have approved the increase.
- Check contractor complaint records with the Better Business Bureau or
- Get the names of suppliers and ask if the contractor makes timely
- Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and
inspection requirements. Be wary if the contractor asks you to get the
permit. It could mean the firm is not licensed.
- Be sure your contractor has the required personal liability, property
damage and worker's compensation insurance for his/her workers and
subcontractors. Also check with your insurance company to find out if you
are covered for any injury or damage that might occur.
- Insist on a complete written contract. Know exactly what work will be
done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables,
the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job, and the
schedule of payments.
- Try to limit your down payment. Local law may specify that only a certain
percentage of the total cost may be made as a down payment.
- Understand your payment options. Compare the cost of getting your own loan
versus contractor financing.
- Don't make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you
are satisfied with the work and know that subcontractors and suppliers have
been paid. Local lien laws may allow unpaid subcontractors and/or unpaid
suppliers to attach your home.
- Pay by credit card when you can. This may allow you the right to withhold
payment to the credit card company until problems are corrected.
- Be especially cautious if the contractor:
- comes door-to-door or seeks you out;
- just happens to have material left over from a recent job;
- tells you your job will be a "demonstration";
- offers you discounts for finding other customers;
- quotes a price that's out of line with other estimates;
- pressures you for an immediate decision;
- offers exceptionally long guarantees;
- can only be reached by leaving messages with an answering service;
- drives an unmarked van or has out-of-area plates on his/her vehicles; or
- asks you to pay for the entire job up front.