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VOL. 40 | NO. 18 | Friday, April 29, 2016

What you don’t know about mold can kill you

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Houses are dangerous, but they are not death traps. Now if a house fell on a person, it might kill them. Just ask any witch you know.

Other than that, a house might serve as home to things that can make a person very sick, but most of those things are easily mitigated. Some, such as mold, have reached infamy status, and that little fungus has now achieved a place of fear last held by the plague.

All fungus is not mold, and all types of mold are not bad. Some experts say there are 20,000 different forms of mold, and those same people will tell anyone within earshot that only four of those are bad, and only one is really, really bad.

Stachybotrys chartarum can cause many physical ailments for those who breathe it. Black and green in color, it is often referred to as black mold and can cause irreparable harm to the human body.

Even kings of DIY should leave removal to the pros. When it goes airborne, it can be deadly.

One of Nashville’s most successful songwriters and record producers built a studio in his family’s Leiper’s Fork home with a “green” HVAC system and bought a state-of-the-art model.

So state-of-the-art was it that the technicians had never installed one like it and created a situation wherein the ductwork collected water in a puddle. That moisture spawned spores of the stachybotrys variety.

This music whiz was married with children, and the infant child became very, very ill. Her condition baffled all of the doctors in the area, and even those at Johns Hopkins. Finally, someone at Mayo diagnosed the illness as mold-related, and the homeowners began the search for the mold, which was finally discovered it in the ductwork.

They tried a number of procedures to mitigate the mold and were unsuccessful. Finally, the wing of the house with mold was demolished and hauled away.

The family decided to leave their two-year nightmare behind and move to Los Angeles and did not want to fly as the immune system of the young child was still weak.

On the ride to LA, the mother retrieved one of the daughter’s favorite books to read. By Phoenix, the child was again exhibiting the mold-induced symptoms.

Once in the hospital, the search began for what could have caused the outbreak. After testing several belongings, spores were found within the pages of the book.

In the 1970s, in my hometown of Columbia, brown recluse spiders infiltrated the city. A farmer was asked how he rid brown recluses from his barn when he discovered them living there. “It ain’t that hard to get rid of them, “he deadpanned, “I just burn the barn down.”

Sale of the Week

“How much is a teardown?” Inquiring minds want to know.

The answer is based on how much the developer/builder can receive for the final product. The acquisition price must be 45 percent to 33 percent in most cases.

In the Belle Meade Highlands, or Highlands of Belle Meade, if you so prefer, the price for a teardown has reached at least $477,500, as evidenced by the sale of 130 Alton Road in late 2014.

130 Alton Road

The Highlands, as they are known, are composed of streets such as Cheek, which runs next to Cheekwood and stretches to West Tyne.

With Page Road and the Belle Meade Country Club forming one boundary, and Highway 100 the other, a visitor to the neighborhood will find Gilman Avenue, Taggart Avenue and Brookfield Avenue, as well as Heady Drive, Page Road and one side of Nichol Lane.

On Nichol, the even-numbered houses are in Belle Meade, and the odd-numbered houses are in the Highlands.

As it borders Belle Meade and was at one time much more affordable, the homes in the area have proven to be sound investments in non-Recession years.

For example the property at 130 Alton increased in value from $79,000 in 1983 to $125,000 in 1986. By 1999, the value had nearly doubled, with it selling for $247,000. It then almost doubled again by 2008 when it sold for $485,000.

Another inquiring-mind question: “What did the Recession do to property values?” Once again, 130 Alton.

It was sold in 2012 for $428,000, a drop of $57,000 during the Recession after years of steady increases. The good news is that in 2014, when the owners relocated to a different area, their $428,000 investment had ballooned to $477,500, still slightly below the pre-Recession price $485,000.

Last week it sold for $1,769,890 with 5,816 brand new square feet featuring 12-foot ceilings in the great room, according to Starling Davis, the daughter of the grande dame of Columbia, Tennessee, Starling Davis the first, and mother of Starling Davis III of mortgage lending fame, who has given birth to Starling IV, heir apparent to the real estate kingdom.

Fridrich and Clark’s Starling II listed the house, which is as elegant as she and Davis described it. The home also features “marvelous ship lap walls” and cast-iron pedestal tub in the bath.

Keller Williams’ Paula Hinegardner delivered the buyer to the Highlands estate, which once served as home for a structure that sold for in 1959 for $58,500.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Paterson, Courtney and Associates and can be reached at

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