Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'environment' Category

Mold. What should you do about it?

     I see it all the time – mold on bathroom ceilings, mold in shower enclosures, mold in kitchens and laundry rooms. It’s more than just an aesthetic problem; mold can cause serious health problems, especially for people with allergies or asthma.

But it’s not necessarily a reason to walk away from buying a home.

First, let’s look at what mold is and how it gets into houses:

Mold is a kind of fungus. Its purpose in nature is to help with the decomposition of dead organic material such as trees and plants.  Dig through a pile of dead leaves and you will usually find plenty of mold.

IMG_9706Mold travels through the air in the form of microscopic spores that you can’t see without a microscope. There’s plenty of those little spores around and you probably breathe them in every day.

But that black, dark blue or green mold that you may see on an interior wall results when mold spores find a wet or damp surface. Dampness on organic material is what mold spores love to find.

Mold is bad for humans because it can cause allergenic reactions – sneezing, rashes or even asthmatic attacks. Reactions to mold can run the gamut from a minor annoyance to a life-threatening asthma attack.

It’s possible to remove mold, but if you don’t deal with the moisture that attracted it, there’s a very good chance that the mold will reappear. So if you buy a home that has visible mold, you have to be concerned about removing the mold AND dealing with the source of the moisture that attracted those mold spores in the first place.

There are different kinds of mold, and there are tests available that can tell you what kind of mold you are dealing with. But mold testing can be costly, and mold in a home should be removed and dealt with no matter what kind of mold it is.

So, let’s say you find mold in your home and decide to deal with it. If the mold is on wood, tile or painted drywall, you should be able to use a good detergent and scrub it off with a sponge. You can use bleach or a commercial mold killer if you want, but remember what we said about those mold spores being everywhere; even if you kill all the visible mold, it may well come back if new mold spores come into contact with a damp surface.

If you are dealing with unpainted drywall, you should cut the drywall out and replace it, because drywall is porous and the mold will have penetrated it.

Also, remember that if mold is on one side of a wall, it’s likely to be on the inside surface as well. You could successfully get all the mold of a drywall surface, only to find that a similar mold outbreak is taking place on the inside drywall surface as well. So think seriously about replacing the moldy drywall.

A couple of cautions:

1. Wear gloves

2. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, get a friend (or hire someone) to do the work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a page on its website devoted to mold and how to get rid of it. Take a look.

And don’t forget – getting rid of the mold will be a useless exercise if you don’t deal with the dampness that attracted it. So deal with that dampness, whether it’s a leaky pipe, bad condensation or water seeping into the home from outside.

Also, some insurance companies may be leery about providing insurance on a home that has an active or recent mold problem, so check that out ahead of time. If you are planning on financing the home through FHA, be aware that FHA may refuse to guarantee a mortgage on a home that has, or has had, mold problems.

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Things I love about Pinellas County, and Florida in general

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which season it is in Florida, because it’s always warm. The only difference is DEGREES of warm.

So I have learned to watch for seasonal cues – like the arrival of Plant City strawberries, which tells me it is February, and I get to consume luscious berries while folks in other parts of the country stoke their woodstoves.

And that brings me to the Jacaranda tree.

Jacaranda tree

Jacaranda tree

Spotting these violet beauties in the Tampa Bay area means it is spring, so it is likely April or May.

The Jacaranda is native to South America. But since it likes bright sunny conditions and sandy soil, it is  right at home in Florida.

And that, my friends, is another thing I like about Florida!

Waterfowl love living in Dunedin

As I’ve said before here, I love Florida’s birds — they are one of things that make living here so interesting.

crane in pondThere’s a pond a few steps from my back door, and it attracts all sorts of different birds. There’s a family of ducks that live there, and they are there every day, but other waterfowl pop in for vistits pretty regularly.

I was outside the other day when this big guy dropped in. I think it’s a heron of some sort, but I’m no expert and I couldn’t find a picture on the internet of a bird that exactly matched this fellow, so I’m not really sure what he is. If you recognize it, please post what you know.

What’s the point of bird pictures on a blog that specializes in Pinellas County real estate? Good question. But it’s my blog, and I like birds, so you can expect to see some photos of birds that I come across in Pinellas County. This particular guy is in Dunedin, a little south of Palm Harbor.

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Tampa Bay ranks last when it comes to public transit

Tampa Bay scores again; Forbes Magazine took a look at the 60 major metro areas in the country and then rated their rapid transit systems. Tampa Bay made the list — in last place.

That should come as only a mild surprise to anyone who has had to drive to work on either side of Tampa Bay. Traffic here is a nightmare, and there are few alternatives to driving your own car to work. We do have a bus system, but there is no rapid transit system, no subway, no passenger rail.

A great light rail system opened a few months ago in Phoenix. So far, it's been very popular with local residents.

A great light rail system opened a few months ago in Phoenix. So far, it's been very popular with local residents.

Many of our major roadways started life as sleepy two-lanes.  US19N, the major north-south road that runs the length of Pinellas County, was once a rural two-lane road that passed through miles of orange groves, at least in the northern part of the county where I live. Someone recently told me that he remembered when there was just a flashing light at the intersection of 19 and Tampa Road, a busy major intersection today that serves six lanes of US19 and four of Tampa Road. 

If you want to cross the bay between Pinellas (Where St. Petersburg is located) and Hillsborough (Tampa), you have four choices: The Gandy bridge; the Howard Franklin Bridge; the Courtney Campbell Causeway; and Hillsborough Avenue, the only land route, located at the northern tip of Tampa Bay. If you attempt this crossing in rush hour, be prepared to sit.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I am a fan of light rail, and we might — just might — have such a system in our sights.

A month or two ago, President Obama came to town and announced that the federal government would fund the majority share of a high-speed rail line between Tampa Bay and Orlando. That’s nice, because it would eliminate the drive on I-4, a really difficult bit of Interstate between those two cities.

But the real value of such a line would be the possibility of a light rail system at this end of it. The high-speed line could connect to a light-rail system that would circumnavigate Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and provide an alternative to the automobile.

We have something called the Tampa Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (TBARTA), which would like to build that system. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who serves on the TBARTA board, spoke at St. Petersburg College recently about rapid transit in Tampa Bay, and said such a system is necessary both for current residents and to respond to companies that may consider locating facilities in Tampa Bay. 

All that said, I do have a bone or two to pick with Forbes about this ranking.  We used to live in Washington, DC,  and it would be hard to imagine a worse commuting city than that. before we lived in Florida we lived in Maine, and that meant the occasional drive to the biggest metro center in that neck of the woods, Boston. If you’ve never driven in Boston at rush hour, it is a breathtaking experience. Still, both those cities have good subway systems and buses that run frequently.

I think it is fair to say that Palm Harbor real estate, Dunedin real estate, or Pinellas County real estate in general would be more attractive if it was served by an efficient light rail system

What would offshore oil drilling mean to Pinellas County beaches?

offshoreoilSmallThere’s supposed to be crude oil reserves out in the Gulf of Mexico, not too many miles west of the Pinellas County beaches. Most of us agree that a higher degree of energy independence would be a good thing.  So, drill baby drill. Right?

People are pretty split on this issue. Those in favor of drilling say we need the oil, and we need to depend less on foriegn sources. Those against say the Gulf reserves would only produce oil for a decade or so, and an oil spill in the Gulf would foul the beaches and be devastating to Florida’s major industry, tourism. 

Polling seems to indicate that Floridians are fairly split on the issue, with the edge going to the pro-drillers.

Yesterday (that would be Feb. 14, 2010), hundreds of people turned out on the Pinellas County beaches to protest the possibility of oil drilling along the coast. Hundreds more turned out at beaches around Florida. Most of them wore black, to represent the color of crude oil.

St. Pete Beach near the Don Cesar

St. Pete Beach near the Don Cesar

Anti-drillers say we need to invest in alternative sources of energy — solar, wind, even nuclear. Pro-drillers say we still need to drill in places like the Gulf to get the energy we need while those alternative sources are developed.

How do you think Pinellas County would be changed by drilling in the Gulf?

Oil drilling would create some high-pay jobs (although not a whole lot of them), and the oil that gets produced (some of it, anyway) could be refined into jet fuel which could power the planes that bring tourists to the county.

On the other hand, one good spill could foul Pinellas beaches for years to come, driving away tourists and ruining the natural habitat for many sea creatures and plants.

And what would all this mean to real estate values? (This is a real estate blog, after all).

Not a simple issue.

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Pinellas County is #57 when it comes to water quality

We’re Number 57! We’re Number 57!

Okay, I’m not really sure this is something to rejoice over, but Pinellas County was recently ranked 57th in terms of the quality of its drinking water.

Drinking Water Against SunsetLet me explain.

An organization called the Environmental Working Group recently looked at the quality of tap water in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. It measured all that water for such pollutants as herbicides, factory solvents, radium, arsenic, and cyanide — more than 300 substances in all.
Miami-Dade’s water utility was the best in Florida, ranked 46th on the nationwife list of 100; Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood and four other Broward County utilities logged only a few violations.

Pinellas County was ranked 57th, Hillsborough County 65th, Tampa Water Department 68th, and Orlando Utilities Commission was 81st.

Pensacola made the list, but was last at Number 100. 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says water users in Pensacola shouldn’t worry — overall, Florida has very high-quality drinking water.

Personally, I’d rank Florida very high when it comes to taste.  The worst water I’ve tasted was in Iowa, and the next-worst was in Southern California. In both places, you really don’t want to drink the water out of the tap.

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Environmentally-friendly Sweetbay Market opens in Tarpon Springs

SweetBay's new LEED-certified supermarket in Tarpon Springs

SweetBay's new LEED-certified supermarket in Tarpon Springs

Sweetbay Supermarkets has opened a new store in Tarpon Springs, on South Pinellas Ave. (Alt. 19) just a short distance south of the Tarpon Springs downtown area.

What makes this more than just a grocery store opening is that this store is LEED-certified, meaning it is environmentally and energy sensitive in a number of different ways. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a designation of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the LEED designation makes note of the store’s energy efficiency and sustainable development practices.
veterans day 022We saw all sorts of different examples of those sustainable practices during our visit on Saturday, everything from special reserved parking spots for energy-efficient cars (and car pool cars) to reusable shopping bags.

Some of the features we did NOT see were the store’s low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures, the use of reclaimed water for toilets,  and free air for people who ride their bikes to the store.

The store also offers all kinds of special food displays, as well. One thing that really caught our eye was a major display in the produce section devoted solely to all kinds of fresh peppers. We saw peppers we had never seen before, and we were very taken by the eye appeal of so many of the displays.

veterans day 017Here’s how SweetBay describes the mission of its new market (as printed on a sign inside the store): “We thought why not create a store that is as committed to the planet as much as it is to delivering freshness to the people, a store that is environmentally-friendly and committed to conserving energy and water. A store that wastes less and recycles more, a store that puts planet, people and product first. So we did.”

If you get a chance, you should take a tour of the new SweetBay store. It may offer some insights into the way grocery stores will look in the future.