As the weather gets colder and windows are closed, it is important to give your home a check-up. There is a false sense of security when it comes to being safe at home. When people buy or sell a home, most of the problems are identified; the rest of us may live with hazardous situations for years.

  Check your attic for bat droppings, rodent trails in the insulation, bird nests, mold or water stains.

  Walk around your furnace and water heater and look for combustible materials, laundry, or storage items that are too close. Change your furnace filter and smell for gas. I have seen many furnaces test positive for carbon monoxide and gas leaks. If you have an air-exchanger, make sure it is running; newer homes are more air-tight and need fresh air circulating.

  Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be a smoke detector in each bedroom and a carbon monoxide detector within 10’ of each bedroom, in addition to other areas. It is recommended that the detectors be replaced every 10 years.

  Inspect your down spouts, extensions, and grade around the house. Water should drain away from the house.

  In older homes, check for peeling paint or asbestos. Both are hazardous to breath, so have an abatement specialist recommend the correction. You can purchase a lead test from the hardware store.

  Test your drinking water. I have seen water test positive for bacteria, lead, and we often see rust and manganese. You can purchase water test kits from Chisago County, or you can contact water treatment companies.

  Test your home for radon. One home can be radon free and the neighboring home can be hazardous. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can purchase test kits at the hardware store or contact a radon mitigation company.

  Look for mold in the basement, bathrooms, under sinks, and leaky windows. If mold penetrates wood, insulation, or sheetrock it will be expensive to remove and repair.

  If an outlet, light fixture or switch isn’t working, have an electrician inspect and repair to avoid an electrical fire.

  Walk around your house, garage, and yard and look for anything that may need attention. Be safe and be pro-active. In addition to protecting your safety and health, regular maintenance checks will save you time and money when you decide to sell your home.

     Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.