From dream home to devastating nightmare

UPPER PENINSULA — A former candidate for state representative had her life turned around when she moved in to what appeared to be a dream house. After discovering a potentially life threatening entity, she became someone she didn’t know.

A picture perfect home on 80 acres – Melody Wagner and her husband at the time, had big plans for this home. After living in the home for only 4 and a half months, they were informed they had a severe mold problem.

“I know what COPD symptoms are because I was having them. I ran outside and I just stood on the porch and just toke in a bunch of deep breaths and I had no idea what was in the walls and what it was doing to us,” said Resident, Melody Joy Wagner.
The state inspected home was originally built in the 1970’s and the owners prior ran the house as an adult foster care facility.

The pre-buy Inspection was underway and the family was told everything was, quote ‘fine enough,’ according to Wagner. The house was purchased with cash rather than going through the bank for a mortgage. Several months later while getting quotes on new windows, they were told there was mold.

“First time that we were aware of the mold, we were getting quotes on having the windows replaced and he said there was mold there on the window and then he saw it on some of the belongings in that room,” said Wagner. During the few months in the house, a lot changed amongst the family.

The 23-year old daughter was facing hair loss, Melody having colds and an aching body, along with the husband who had a persistent cough. Melody also lost her cat, whose death was believed to have been caused by the mold. “There was a lot of stress upon moving in and so the health problems were associated with the stress. I never thought anything was happening with the mold because I cleaned it up and I didn’t really think there was any mold that could hurt us,” said Wagner.

Melody then reached out for further inspections from contractors across Marquette County. When a contractor visited the home, she heard some alarming news.

“Within the first half-hour into 45 minutes, I said you just met me and you just spent $310,000 on this home and I’m going to have to ask you to leave immediately, this home is dangerous. This is mildew infested, my entire face, my entire body tells me it is not right with this house at all,” said Licensed Contractor, Jorma Lankinen.

Lankinen was working in the business for over 40 years at this time and found the house to have a double vapor wrap, in total it was a defective home. The levels of mold found in the home were believed to be pre-existing and not something brought in by the family. “The entire system failed, the real estate system failed, the code department failed because they don’t have any particular rules, and the whole process unfortunately failed for those guys,” said Lankinen.

Since discovering the mold, Melody has moved into a mobile home on the property. In regards to getting rid of the mold, demolishing the house is the only answer. Although Melody has faced a living nightmare with this property, she is happy it happened because now she can educate others on the dangers of mold in the home.

“Everybody has the potential for mold growth in their home because spores are brought in from outside and if your home has a high moisture level and I can’t air properly or you don’t have a home that was built right, mold can potentially grow,” said Wagner.

Melody advises others to be active with home inspections before signing on a home. She also wants to raise awareness for the need of more intrinsic inspections to be conducted by the state. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, toxins produced by indoor mold have the potential to be harmful.

Most common side effects include upper respiratory tract symptoms and wheezing. It’s vital to keep in mind that not all mold is harmful and can be found almost everywhere in the environment.

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