Mortgage rates are reaching rock bottom and home buyers seem to be coming out of the woodwork, but here's a warning before you buy.
A leading home inspector just found toxic drywall in a very nice, fairly new Houston-area home.
"This is probably Chinese drywall," Fox Inspection Group owner Gordon Fox said, pointing to sheetrock samples in his test kit.
This stuff is corrosive, can cause serious health issues, and has turned thousands of American dreams into very expensive nightmares.
"Thousands of dollars, in the six figure range, to get rid of it in the average house," Fox said.
How do you know the home you're about to buy wasn't built with "Chinese drywall"?
"One of the indicators of Chinese drywall is the smell of sulfur," Fox said. "Most people relate that to burnt matches, fireworks."
But it only takes a little fresh paint to mask the smell, so there must be another way to find this unhealthy sheetrock? Some of it has the "made in china" stamp.
"Also, there's a tendency for electronic devices left in the home to fail," Fox said.
If your microwave has gone out a couple of times, your color TVs have gone out, your computer hard drives have failed, the house may be built with toxic drywall, he said. Air-conditioning coils also tend to go bad every six to 12 months in a home with this drywall.
The high levels of sulfuric gas given off by this drywall can cause health issues like breathing problems, nausea, itching and eye irritation, the Centers for Disease Control say.
It also corrodes metal.
"Your chrome plated brass fixtures, your plumbing fixtures will show that. Your silver jewelry will tarnish," Fox said. "On a mirror, you will have areas where it does not reflect; it will actually be a black spot."
There's one more way to tell if a house has "Chinese drywall".
"Pull a couple face plates off your outlets and switches and look at the bare copper wire that's exposed. If it looks like a regular penny, a tarnished penny, you are good to go. If it's black, you may have an issue," Fox said.
This toxic drywall seems to be more of an issue with homes built in 2006, he said. After 2005's Hurricane Katrina, there was a shortage of US drywall. Much of the sheetrock was imported.
A proposed bill banning this sheetrock from coming in from China just passed the House and is now going to the Senate for vote.
You can have a home inspected for this toxic drywall. It costs more than just having a standard home inspection.