Everyone has heard of these common home hazards: lead paint, radon, asbestos, and mold. But when you're house shopping, are any of these deal breakers?
If you're looking at a house that was built in or before 1978, then it may have lead paint on interior and/or exterior walls. Ingestion of lead-based paint, or inhalation of lead-based paint dust, can cause lead poisoning. However, according to the EPA, lead-based paint isn't usually an issue if it's in good condition.
When lead-based paint is chipping or peeling, or if small children live in the home, the EPA recommends taking steps to mitigate the hazard, especially in places like window sills and stair railings. Methods for dealing with lead paint include encapsulation, enclosure, and removal.
Bottom line: Lead paint doesn't have to be a deal breaker, as long as it's in good shape. However, if the paint is damaged or in poor condition, or you're simply not comfortable raising a family in a home with lead paint, removal can be expensive and time-consuming. According to Fixr.com, the average cost to have lead-based paint removed is about $10,000.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the soil and travels through the air. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Radon is common in all parts of the United States. The EPA estimates that one in fifteen homes in the US contains elevated levels of radon. Because of its prevalence and the danger associated with it, the EPA suggests testing to determine the concentration of radon present in a home before you buy it.
If an inspection reveals elevated radon levels, don’t be discouraged — you can usually correct this issue. For between $800 and $2,000, depending on where you live, you can hire a contractor to install a system that reduces radon levels in the home.
Bottom line: You don't necessarily need to walk away from a home if testing reveals that it has a high concentration of radon. It's common and relatively easy to fix. The approach you'll need to take depends on the home's foundation type, so make sure to do your research before deciding on a plan of action.
If you're considering purchasing a home built before 1980, it may have been built with asbestos-containing materials. If the seller is aware of asbestos in the home, they are supposed to disclose that information; however, your home inspector may also notice it.
If you learn that there is asbestos in the home, the first thing to do is hire a licensed asbestos inspector to fully assess the situation and recommend a plan of action. According to the EPA, asbestos-containing materials in your home may not pose a threat if you don't disturb them, so the best thing to do is leave them alone. But if you're in the purchase process and the home inspector finds asbestos, you may feel differently.
Bottom line: If asbestos is a deal-breaker for you, you still have options. Asbestos removal is a relatively common service with an average cost of under $2,000. Be sure to hire a licensed professional — asbestos repair and removal are not safe to do yourself.
Mold can be found just about anywhere. In homes, it is most commonly found in basements, attics, and crawl spaces. The Institute of Medicine has linked mold with upper respiratory symptoms similar to hay fever. In addition, mold can trigger asthma attacks in people who suffer from the inflammatory disease, and people with impaired autoimmune systems may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of mold.
You may have heard that you should be extra concerned about "toxic mold" or "black mold." But according to the CDC, this information isn't accurate. While some types of mold can produce toxins, the molds themselves are no more harmful than other common types of mold.
Bottom line: Mold doesn't have to be a deal breaker. It is easy to clean — the CDC recommends cleaning mold from solid surfaces with a solution of up to one cup of bleach per gallon of water. But more importantly, you'll need to identify and eliminate the source of moisture, to prevent it from returning. If you discover an underlying problem leading to mold formation, then you may need to reconsider your options.
If your home inspector turns up any of these hazards, it's worth a closer look to determine whether it's necessary to walk away. In many cases, these issues are relatively easy to mitigate, so consider negotiating repairs with the seller.