What are the 4 types of problems that a home should be inspected for?
After months of attending open houses, navigating virtual tours, and hundreds of text exchanges with a real estate agent, you may have found the perfect home. Well, almost perfect. You still need to wait for the results of the home inspection. A home inspection is a lot like introducing a significant other to your family and friends. You think they are perfect. Your family on the other hand will judge objectively.
Consider a home inspector to be like the family member who will always tell you the truth. Home inspections provide an opportunity for a potential buyer to identify major problems with a home. The buyer is then provided with a detailed analysis of the findings.
Unlike overlooking a few minor flaws in your new love interest, there are some potential problems you cannot ignore when buying a new home.
Here are 4 of them:
It never fails to amaze the team at AMD Environmental the number of times prospective homeowners neglect to have a home inspected for mold. It’s as if none of the parties involved want to say the “M” word out loud despite how dangerous and costly mold can be to new homeowners.
Mold inspections are not part of a routine home inspection. Unless your home inspector is a certified mold assessor hired specifically to test and evaluate your prospective new home, you simply cannot trust that the job will be done well.
One of the biggest mistakes new homeowners make is failing to secure environmental testing prior to closing. One of our clients learned this lesson the hard way. Had she hired our team ahead of moving in, she could have avoided sick children, mold remediation, and an eventual remodel of an already finished basement.
This particular client purchased a home in a suburb of Buffalo and only had a routine home inspection (by a very qualified and thorough home inspector). After a year of living in the home, the children developed symptoms consistent with a neurological disorder and they experienced chronic upper respiratory infections. The youngest son developed asthma and would suffer from pneumonia 6 times as a toddler. As time went on, the children’s immune systems were obviously compromised and the parents suspected the house was making them sick.
AMD Environmental immediately sent a mold inspector to the house to conduct a thorough mold assessment in and around the home. You may be wondering why such an experienced home inspector failed to flag such a significant mold problem? Well, without x-ray vision, there was no way for the inspector to know that toxic mold had grown behind the walls of the basement due to flawed construction. What’s worse is that the highest concentration of toxic mold was recorded in the oldest son’s bedroom.
The lesson learned from our client’s traumatic experience is to always have a mold assessment no matter how beautiful the house is on the inside.
Skipping a mold inspection is a mistake. Environmental testing may prolong the house closing up to two weeks, but it gives long lasting peace of mind.
Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is linked to breast cancer. Radon is not something you want to take lightly, particularly when purchasing a new home.
A good home inspector should offer radon testing as part of the home inspection.
There are a few different scenarios that could happen when having radon levels checked:
- Your home inspector is licensed and can perform radon testing.
- Your home inspector will contract the testing to a licensed environmental testing company (for an additional cost).
- You hire a licensed environmental testing company directly and avoid extra “middleman” fees.
No matter which avenue you choose, be sure to pay close attention to the radon reading. You may need to negotiate with the seller to install a radon mitigation system. If you don’t, then you will be responsible for the cost, which on average is about $1500 for a mitigation system.
3. Hazardous Materials
Lead is a chemical element – a soft metal that is naturally found in the ground (or as dust in the air). In the past, lead was used in many consumer materials. For example, lead can still be present in surface coatings throughout older properties. Over time, accumulations of toxic dust can occur. If not identified, lead dust can cause physical and mental damage to both children and adults.
Lead-based paint was used extensively as a surface coating up until 1978, when the federal government banned its consumer use. Environmental problems arise when toxic lead paint degrades (chips, cracks, flakes, etc.) into paint chips and dust particles. There is a very real danger associated with lead poisoning, especially to developing children and pregnant women.
If you are purchasing a home that was built before 1978, federal law requires that the seller provides the buyer with any known information concerning the presence of lead-based paint hazards in the home.
Also, an attachment to the contract should include a Lead Warning Statement and language in the contract should state that the seller has complied with all notification requirements.
Federal law allows for a 10-day period to conduct a paint inspection or risk assessment for lead-based paint hazards.
Asbestos is a natural mineral, a rock that comes out of the ground. Unlike other rocks, asbestos does not break apart into pebbles when hit with a hammer. Instead, asbestos rock breaks apart into fine fibers. It is dangerous to human health because when the tiny, microscopic fibers are inhaled, they cause a cancer called mesothelioma.
Asbestos was used in building materials for years and is probably known more as a material in insulation. Transferring heat was not the only purpose asbestos served. It was a cheap filler used to bulk up materials like caulk, joint compound, flooring tiles, floor mastics, glue, and plaster.
But asbestos is not banned from use today and is STILL used in products to this day.
A minor renovation or minor construction project needs to be thoroughly inspected for asbestos to avoid potential health problems for the people around the project. A laboratory analysis will show if it is safe to disturb the materials in the space that is scheduled for renovation or construction.
4. Foundation Issues
If the seller is aware of foundation issues, then they should disclose the problems. Oftentimes, the seller is unaware of foundation issues and a home inspection reveals problems. A home inspector will look for structural integrity, cracks in the foundation, leaks in the basement, and the severity of the concerns.
Checking the foundation is not a step in the home buying process you want to skip. For people who waive an inspection, they are willing to take a chance and will be responsible for the cost of repairs and any issues associated with foundation problems. Most often, this includes leaks, moisture imbalances, and ultimately, undetected mold.
Who pays for a home inspection?
The home buyer is usually responsible for the home inspection. The fees can be wrapped up into closing costs, however, this is not common. More often than not, home inspection fees are paid at the time of service.
The average home inspection costs between $300 – $500. Fees may increase in areas with multi level homes, homes with gabled roofs, or severely damaged parts of the home. Basically, if a home inspector has to take extra measures to find potential issues, the service fee may be higher than the average.
The home seller may end up paying in other ways. Depending on the outcome of the home inspection, the seller may “pay” in the form of price reductions or home repairs.
Since the seller gets to secure their own home inspector, they should be able to trust that they’ll get an unbiased and thorough inspection.
Who pays for environmental testing?
Environmental testing for asbestos, lead, and mold are not services included in a routine home inspection. Many people ask who is responsible for environmental testing. The answer is not as cut and dry as one would hope. When purchasing a residential property, the buyer is typically responsible for the cost. This pertains to mold, asbestos, hazardous waste, and sometimes radon testing.
If there is a known environmental issue, the buyer may be able to negotiate testing costs with the seller. This, however, is where the testing can get a little hairy. Real estate deals implode all the time for different reasons, many of which are related to undisclosed environmental hazards. When negotiating the cost of environmental testing with the seller, be very clear on the type of testing you want and who will be responsible for remediation if necessary.
Performing environmental testing upfront can save you a big expense later. If you don’t test and a concern comes up after closing, you could face larger costs and potential health hazards.
How do I negotiate an environmental clean up if necessary?
Once the inspection report is reviewed and the environmental testing is complete, start to make a list of any pressing issues that you cannot live with. Buyers and sellers negotiate house repairs all the time so environmental issues are no different. For example, if there is a significant amount of mold in the home, the buyer is in a position to negotiate remediation costs. You would approach these issues in the same manner you would negotiate roof repairs or foundation problems.
How can AMD Environmental help me with a home inspection?
AMD Environmental Consultants has been working with home inspectors for years performing radon, mold, asbestos, and lead testing. Our expert team has the licensing and experience necessary to help you determine if your house has potential issues that could impact your health.
From the lab technicians to the field technicians, we’ve got you covered.