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Published on Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's That Sound? 7 Creepy House Noises You Shouldn't Ignore

1. What is that clanking sound when I turn on the heat?

The problem: When most homeowners first turn on their heating system in the fall, they hear a little moaning and groaning as theheating system expands and rubs against the frame of the house, says Mike Kuhn, the New Jersey owner of HouseMaster inspection service and coauthor of “The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Home Inspections.” With a baseboard hot-water system, you can also expect “normal clinking and knocking,” says Kuhn. The circulator pump or pumps to the system, however, “should be silent when they run,” says Kuhn. If you hear knocking or clanking, typically located at the boiler itself, it might be a sign of impending failure of the circulator pump, he says.

The solution: Get a repairman out to check on it, pronto.

2. There’s a strange scratching sound coming from behind the walls.

The problem: If you hear strange noises like scratching and possibly chittering coming from places where no one lives in the house, you could have mice, squirrels, raccoons or even bats sharing your quarters, says Richardson. “Any kind of wild critter could be up in the attic,” he says. And these freeloaders aren’t just a nuisance; bats can carry deadly rabies. In the Southwest, the droppings of mice can spread hantavirus. Some animals will tear up insulation to nest or chew through siding and even electrical wires, causing fires.

The solution: As soon as you suspect an intruder, get on it: Set traps. (Call in a pro if the animal is stubborn or large.) Finally, prevent the problem from reoccurring by sealing up the entrances to your house with steel wool, metal sheeting, caulk and/or hardware cloth.

To keep raccoons away, put garbage in sealed, secure metal cans that can’t be tipped. Bring pet food inside. After pests have been removed, make sure vents and chimneys are securely covered with mesh or a grille, so those spaces can still breathe.

3. There’s no one in the house and I can still hear running water. How can that be?

The problem: “You definitely don’t want to hear water running if nobody’s using anything,” says Richardson. The sound could indicate many things — a busted pipe in a wall, under the floor or even in the irrigation system.

The solution: If you hear running water when you shouldn’t, shut the main off and see if the noise goes away, says Richardson. If it does, you’ve got a leak somewhere — and a problem in need of fixing. Unless you’re really handy and ready to do surgery on your home, call in a plumber.

4. I hear a bubbling (or cracking) sound coming from the water heater. Is that normal?

The problem: A gas-fired hot-water heater works pretty much like boiling a pot of water: A fire is lit and the water inside is heated until it’s ready for use. “A lot of sediment builds up at the bottom of a hot water tank, and that sediment works like an insulator,” forcing the burner to work harder, Kuhn says. The strange noise you hear is the bubbling sediment — and a sign that the tank is probably experiencing fatigue and may be facing premature failure, he says.

The solution: Ideally, you should flush out your hot water tank every few months, using the drain valve near the bottom of the floor. “However, nobody does it,” says Kuhn, because it can be a pain to do. If your water heater is already making these noises, draining it might help. “It could (work) a little bit longer, [and] it could go a lot longer,” but the damage is probably done, says Kuhn.

5. My furnace is making a whistling (sucking) sound that it’s never made before. Is it going to need to be replaced?

The problem: “What that can connote is that your filter hasn’t been changed,” says Richardson. “And your furnace is trying to pull in air from around it.” That’s not good, he explains, because it means the furnace is working too hard. “What it will do is start sucking exhaust gasses from the furnace into the house.”

The solution: Install clean filters regularly — “anywhere from three months to monthly, depending on atmospheric conditions,” says Richardson.

6. I hear a switch turning on and off regularly but can’t seem to isolate where it’s coming from.

The problem: If you have a well for your water, you’ve got a well pump — either in the house or above the well in your yard. “If you are sitting in your house and hearing the pump-switch click on and off, you may have a problem,” says Kuhn. The pump pulls water from the well and into a holding tank, where it’s stored for your use. If you’re hearing it when you, say, turn on the faucet, something may be wrong. The pump “should not operate every time there is a call for water. The wear and tear would cause the pump to fail prematurely,” he says. It’s likely that you have a leak in the system. “The leak is either going to be in the well equipment itself, or in a fixture,” says Kuhn.” For example, a leaky toilet fixture could be causing the holding tank to drain.

The solution: First, check your fixtures for leaks. Then, if needed, call a plumber familiar with well systems.

7. What’s that hissing sound?

The problem: If your home has gas, a strange noise that sounds like hissing could indicate a gas leak, says Richardson. Sometimes you can hear a hissing outside at the gas meter, or at a home’s outdoor gas light post — places where the line could have corroded, he says. “You should be able to smell it, but you never know.”

The solution: If you you smell gas around the gas main, don’t mess with the gas shutoff unless you absolutely know what you’re doing because any mishandling or spark could make things much worse, Richardson explains. If you hear the noise and smell the gas, immediately evacuate the house and call the gas company.

 

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Landlord Knowledge Base

If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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