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Home inspection

Radon, lead paint and mold:

Inspecting and testing for radon, mold and lead paint has become increasingly common in home sales. They are all potential health related problems. All can be addressed and remediated.       

Radon:

Radon is the release of radon gas from deep in the bowels of the earth as uranium continues to break down. It dissipates into the air unless it becomes trapped in spaces with limited air movement. It is typically found in basements and crawl areas. Heavy concentrations are suspected of having a cancer causing effect when exposure to radon is continued for many years.

  • Test procedure

A radon test is performed with recording devices left in your home (usually basement and crawl areas) over a period of two to three days. Inspectors may tape windows shut to eliminate tampering and request that you not open windows and doors so that an accurate reading can be secured. Radon levels fluctuate and readings will vary if taken one month to the next, even one day to the next.
  • Remediation

Professional treatment today typically costs  $800 to $1500. The remediation of choice now is for a 4" pipe of PVC that is inserted into a hole that is drilled into the basement floor. The PVC tube is brought up into the house, then extended through the wall to the outside. A small electric motor is attached on the exterior and extended to the top of the home where the odorless, invisible gas is expelled to the outside air.

Higher radon readings are recorded in the winter months. That's because people keep the windows closed during this colder period and doors are quickly shut, minimizing the exchange of inside and outside air resulting in more of the radon particles being trapped inside the house.

Some homeowners periodically use fans and open windows to exchange the air in their basement with fresh outside air to eliminate radon gas build-up. Fans are especially useful in crawl spaces where the air is stagnant.

If you get a "bad" reading (above 4 picos), you may be able to alleviate the buyers’ fear by showing them a map that gives local radon levels. Go to the US government radon info web site and find your state and county.

If radon is high throughout your area, point this out to the buyers. They may not hold it against your home and realize that everybody’s in the same boat. You may still have to confront the problem, but this may save the sale.

If the buyers still want the radon remediated, negotiate to pay for half of the cost. After all, they will have paid for the testing already and they are the ones who will get the full benefit from this new remediation system. 

                                 KEEP IN MIND:  

If your home had a test that showed you have a higher than acceptable rate of radon and did no remediation, you’ll have to disclose this problem to potential buyers.

Lead paint:

This is a potentially lethal toxin when ingested even in moderately small doses.
  • Common exposure

If your house was built before 1978, federal law requires that you disclose any knowledge of the presence of lead based paint. Since lead was last used as a legal paint ingredient over 35 years ago, most people have no idea what the paint in their current home contains. If your ceiling or wall paint is old and peeling, this could be a problem. Most interior and exterior surfaces have been repainted since then with non-leaded paint.                         
  • Calming buyer fears

If the buyers have expressed their desire to have a lead test, find out what is the basis for their concern. Let them know that you don’t know of any lead paint problems with the home (assuming you don't). Show them your disclosure. Point out that almost all pre 1978 homes were painted with lead based paint. Their parents and relatives were most likely raised in homes that had it. 

If your windows and doors have exposed natural wood, point this out. Buyers with young children are fearful that toddlers could teethe on the sill of a painted window frame. A sample for testing is usually taken from a (painted) door jam or windowsill where rubbing can cause it to powder. It can also come loose where ceiling or wall peeling paint is evident.

If you are suspicious of lead paint in critical areas, inexpensive lead paint kits can be purchased at the local hardware store. If lead paint is present, you could have it painted over before you put your home on the market. A minority of homes undergo such an examination since most painted surfaces have been repainted since 1978.

Mold:

Toxic mold, black mold and an array of fungi create serious asthmatic and respiratory problems. Mold smells, degrades air quality, destroys many types of materials and is making its way to the forefront of health related concerns. Testing has dropped dramatically in cost and is becoming more common.
  • Cause of mold

Mold is caused by water and moisture becoming trapped, especially in poorly ventilated areas. Be suspicious of continuous damp and humid conditions: clothes dryers that don’t vent outdoors, bathrooms without exhaust fans, leaky water pipes, soft areas surrounding window sills, damp attic boards, etc.
  • Eliminating the problem

Clean off existing mold with specific mold removal products while using proper ventilation. Air-out crawl spaces and use a layer of plastic sheeting as a moisture barrier. Rip out and replace water damaged ceiling tiles and solid ceiling areas. Find and repair the source of the leak. Eliminate carpeting in damp areas. Eliminate interior condensation with tightly fitting storm windows, insulating water pipes and installing water/air stoppers on the bottom of exterior doors. Make sure rainwater can drain at least six to ten feet away from your house. To learn more about addressing mold issues, go to the  government website.

Consequences:

If you have buyers who are insistent on testing for these problems, take a hard look at your interior and consider its condition and the possibilities of an existing problem. During the negotiating, see if the buyers will agree to modify the purchase contract so it contains wording such that if any of these problems exist, that they would accept the house if the problem is fixed or if they would accept a dollar amount, at closing, for remediation of the problem.

The problem with buyers who request these tests is that if the condition does exist, they will probably not want your property even if the problem can be eliminated. Now you'll have to market your home stating you have this issue (or had it, even if you do successfully address it).

When these types of problems are found and the buyers back out of the sale, then the house goes back on the market. You must now disclose the presence of this current problem, greatly stigmatizing any future sale. This is the kind of problem to attack ahead of time.

More on HOME INSPECTIONS

 

 

 

 

                                 BIGGER PROBLEM

When these types of problems are found and the buyers back out of the sale, then the house goes back on the market. You must now disclose the presence of this current problem, greatly stigmatizing any future sale. This is the kind of problem to attack ahead of time.

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