Scary Homeowner Nightmares

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Pressed for time and can't do everything your home requires to keep it in tip-top shape? If so, you could be at risk for any number of disastrous situations -- from creepy, moldy crawl spaces to crawling critters.
In honor of Halloween, we're taking a look at home nightmares and giving you five tips to sidestep these hair-raising problems.
1. Don't let the vampires bite.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Pressed for time and can't do everything your home requires to keep it in tip-top shape? If so, you could be at risk for any number of disastrous situations -- from creepy, moldy crawl spaces to crawling critters.

In honor of Halloween, we're taking a look at home nightmares and giving you five tips to sidestep these hair-raising problems.

1. Don't let the vampires bite.

Bed bugs are little vampires feed on human blood. Eeewww! They can live in box springs and in mattress folds, but they don't always live in your bed.

According to Cindy Mannes from the National Pest Management Association, they make their homes under rugs or carpeting, in draperies and even in picture frames. You might have picked them up at a hotel during a recent vacation. (Even four-star hotels have them.) But they also exist in dorms, airplanes and movie theaters.

These little bloodsuckers are great hitchhikers. They come home with you in your luggage and in your pant cuffs. They can live for six months without a blood meal and they multiply quickly. In fact, a bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.

You'll know you've got them if you find itchy little bumps from their bites on your skin. You may also see drops of blood on your bed sheets. Like vampires, bedbugs are also nocturnal so you won't see them during the day.

To make matters worse, they're great hiders so they're hard to find. If you do spot one, you should know they're about the size and shape of a lentil and they're brown -- until they drink your blood. (Then they turn a reddish brown color.)

The good news is they're not known to cause or transmit any diseases. But to get rid of them you'll need to call a pest control professional. For more information on bed bugs go to

2. Avoid eight-legged terrors.

Black widows and brown recluse spiders are two poisonous eight-legged terrors you'll want to steer clear of.

According to Walt Cline of Atlanta-based Do Your Own Pest Control, black widows can be found in almost every state. Female black widow spiders are most easily recognized by their shiny, black bodies and red, hourglass markings on their abdomens.

Cline says they can be found on firewood that's been brought indoors, in basements, attics, sheds and garages...places where they're most likely to find other insects to eat. Their bites may not be painful at first but a few hours later, the bite site generally becomes more painful.

According to Cline, some common reactions include body aches, profuse sweating, swollen eyelids, elevated blood pressure, nausea and abdominal pain. It's recommended that you seek medical attention if you've been bitten by a black widow. There were 2,100 reported black widows bites last year, says Mannes.

Brown recluse spiders are most common in Tennessee, the lower mid-west and the south. They're usually found indoors, in bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, garages and cellars. They are known to hide in stored clothing, shoes and linens.

Eight to 12 hours after a bite, pain often becomes intense. 24 to 36 hours after a bite, the victim could show signs of fever, chills, nausea, and joint pain.

The venom of this spider has an enzyme that destroys cell membranes in the wounded area. After a few days a large sore forms. The sore heals very slowly and often leaves a disfiguring scar. Mannes says there were 1,835 reported brown recluse bite cases last year. For more information on spiders and other pests, visit

3. Keep creepy critters out.

For many homeowners, nothing makes their skin crawl like seeing a mouse. If you don't want to be terrorized by rodents, you've got to take some preventive measures.

Rodents aren't just creepy, their dander and droppings can make people with asthma sicker. They can also cause damage to the electrical system of your home by gnawing on wires.

To keep rodents from moving in, Lou Manfredini, a home improvement expert with Ace Hardware, recommends removing any safe havens. Start by doing a visual inspection around the perimeter of your home. Move any potential food sources -- like compost piles -- away from a location near the home and put them as far away as possible.

It's also a good idea to clear away debris rodents can use to nest. Look for cracks in the foundation of your home that could be an entry point for rodents.

If you suspect that a mouse has already infiltrated your home, you've probably already found its calling card. Mice tend to leave behind droppings, musky odors and teeth marks where they've gnawed baseboards, door or window casings. Another obvious sign is scuttling noises inside your walls at night.

To evict these unwanted guests Manfredini says, "Don't be so quick to patch up the holes in your foundation." He recommends placing bait just outside the hole (on the outside of the home). That way, the animal will be drawn out and will (hopefully) "expire" outside your home.

Once you've gotten rid of your unwanted tenant, you can use some coarse steel wool to plug the hole and caulk over it. If the culprit is a crack in your cement foundation, you can use pre-mixed patching cement to block the passageway.

4. Stop festering mold.

Combine moisture with poor ventilation and you could have a scary situation on your hands...namely creeping, crawling mold growth. Molds can seriously damage your home and some can even make you sick.

Ed Del Grande of the Do It Yourself Network's "Ed the Plumber" recommends good exhaust fans in bathrooms where moisture can easily collect after showers.

Dark, damp basements and crawl spaces can also be mold hotbeds. Watch for leaks from your hot water heater, plumbing system and seeping rain water. Serious floods will require pumping to remove the water.

But if what you've got is just a damp basement, Ed recommends using a dehumidifier to help remedy the problem.

He also says every homeowner should know where their plumbing valves are. That way, if you spring a leak somewhere in your home, you'll know how to shut water off at the source and prevent further flooding and potential mold growth.

Manfredini says if you've got surface mold in your bathroom or in a crawl space, bleach and water should take care of it. But if it comes back, it may be embedded. If that's the case, you'll probably want find a specialist to check it out. They'll know how to deal safely with all kinds of molds, including the toxic strains.

5. Get a grip on ghouls.

You've just moved in and already things are going wrong with your new house. Your toilets flush on their own. Your sinks turn on all by themselves. Is it just faulty plumbing or is there something more sinister happening in your house?

If there's no practical explanation for the odd occurrences, you may have just bought yourself a haunted house (officially classified as "stigmatized or psychologically impacted houses.") Stigmatized homes are defined as houses that have no physical defects but have a lower value or are more difficult to sell for emotional or psychological reasons.

Typically, those reasons are a murder, suicide or other untoward activity that's taken place in the home. If you suspect you've purchased one of these and you're not happy, you may have legal recourse.

However, according to Walter Molony of the National Association of Realtors, you'll first have to check with your state's real estate commission to find out if laws exist requiring the disclosure of stigmatized property. If you were duped, you may be able to sue to get the sale rescinded.

According to Dave Considine, founder and director of Phantasm Psychic Research (, 20 states including California, Connecticut, Virginia and Texas require sellers disclose these kinds of issues to new buyers.

If you want to stay in the house (without the ghosts), you should find a professional to help you get rid of your home's otherworldly inhabitants. Considine says he helps over 100 people a year in these kinds of circumstances. He charges nothing for his services. For more information on stigmatized homes, visit

Read Full Story

Find a home

Powered by Zillow