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Common Myths about Radon Testing and Home Buying

Home for sale, inspection, Radon myth

Well, spring is in the air and that means that the real estate market is in full swing.  Your checklist for the new home seems daunting with mortgage applications, credit checks, moving vans, building inspections, and a host of other issues.  I don’t mean to throw another issue on the pile, but by all means, get that radon inspection done! But first, let’s debunk a few radon myths.

The EPA has an excellent resource for buyers and sellers on this topic (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/hmbuygud.pdf).  With this in mind, let’s explore the myths and realities of home buying and radon.

Myth – You don’t need to do a radon test if the current owner already had it tested.

Reality – Wrong!  Just because a property passed a radon test a number of years ago doesn’t mean that it would pass today.  The reasons are many. An older home can settle and shift, making cracks in the foundation, which could allow radon gas to enter the home.  Also, if the seller had performed any recent remodeling to the property (new windows and roof, reinsulating, remodeled basement, etc…) this could make the home more airtight, thus making it more difficult for the gas to escape.  Testing is the only way to know for certain if the levels are acceptable.

Myth – If you live in a Chicago neighborhood, you don’t need to test for it.

Reality – The EPA recommends all homes be tested for radon, no matter what the location.  In our area, there is a common misconception that radon is only a problem in the suburbs of Chicago, not the city itself. I already addressed that myth in my prior blog post, “Your Realtor is Wrong. Radon CAN be High in Chicago.

Myth – If the home you are buying already has a passive radon mitigation system installed, you don’t need to test for radon.  

Reality – For the last several years, Illinois has required new homes to put in a passive radon mitigation system. However, a passive radon system in a home is no guarantee that radon levels are under control.  Again, testing is the only way to know for certain. I have personally seen passive systems fail a test. One home had a level more than 4 times the recommended limit despite having a passive system. The good news is that if the property with a passive system fails, it is a relatively easy and cheap fix to install a fan into the system that would create the negative pressure to help reduce the levels.  

Myth – Brand new homes don’t have radon problems.

Reality – Just because you are purchasing a new house doesn’t mean that the radon levels will be acceptable.  In fact, the EPA advises asking your contractor if the home was built with radon-resistant construction features and if the property had any official radon testing 1.

Myth – Only buyers do radon testing.

Reality – If you’re the seller, testing your home for radon is always a good idea.  In addition to looking out for your family’s health and well being while you’re still in the property, testing can also greatly help in the sales process.  As they say in real estate “Time is of the essence”. Real estate transactions can occur pretty rapidly and Illinois requires leaving radon devices at the property for a minimum of 48 hours.  The results often come in at the very end of the contract’s week-long inspection period. If a radon problem is found, it can possibly derail the entire sales process. By performing the test in advance and sharing the paperwork with the buyer, you help to ensure a smooth selling experience (in addition to providing a great deal of goodwill).

Although there are home kits available, it is advisable to use a licensed radon tester.  A licensed tester can act as an impartial third party to give accurate results that both parties can trust.  

So go out there and pursue that dream house!  Even if elevated levels of radon are discovered, it’s usually not the end of the transaction.  The cost to put in a mitigation system is just a small percent of the overall property sale. Radon testing can take the worry out of one of the biggest purchases of your life – your (radon-free) home!

  1. https://www.epa.gov/radon/how-protect-your-family-radon-when-buying-newly-built-home

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”