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Environmental Inspections During Real Estate Transactions

Now that spring is right around the corner, we have been receiving a lot of phone calls about environmental inspections and testing prior to purchasing a new property. Some people have a general idea of things they want checked out per recommendations of their traditional home inspector. Examples include potential mold in an attic or 9”x9” tile in the basement which may contain asbestos. However, more and more we are getting calls from people who want testing beyond what is covered in a traditional home inspection, but don’t know where to start. Here are three common things that we recommend checking out prior to purchasing a new property.

Mold and Moisture
Although traditional home inspectors will find major moisture issues and many structural issues which may cause moisture problems, finding subtle moisture issues may require calling a specialist. Not many home inspectors are trained in mold inspections or testing. We believe scanning the property with an infrared camera and moisture meter is a key step during pre-purchase inspections. Having mold sampling and testing isn’t always needed, however if there is visible growth, moisture issues, or if you are sensitive to mold it should be something to consider. Moisture is not only a key requirement for mold growth indoors, but high moisture levels also pose other risks in a home such as pests like insects or rodents. Moisture problems can be complex and hard to fix completely, so the best time to find out these details is before you own the property!

Radon
Radon is a colorless and odorless soil gas which is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind tobacco smoke. The EPA says 1 in 15 homes in the US have elevated levels of radon, and the only way to know if your home or prospective home has high radon is to test. The EPA has placed each county in the US into “zones” which predict the average radon level indoors. Several Illinois counties are in the highest radon zone. Radon testing is an easy step to have peace of mind. It is best performed during a real estate transaction so the price of any needed mitigation system can be negotiated into the final sale price. If any problems are found, we can connect you to licensed contractors with a proven track record.

Asbestos
Asbestos has been phased out or banned for use in most building materials for years, however with the average age of homes in the US at around 35 years there are still a large amount of homes which could have asbestos containing materials. Asbestos was used in a number of building materials due to its natural fire resistance. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral which can cause various respiratory diseases when it becomes airborne and inhaled by humans. When asbestos containing materials are undamaged and undisturbed there is very little risk of health issues, however when friable materials become damaged, fibers can be released into the air. If you or your home inspector find any suspect materials, especially if they are worn or damaged, you should call a licensed inspector to check it out.

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One thought on “Environmental Inspections During Real Estate Transactions”

  1. I am currently working to purchase a home in the south east U.S. During our inspection, a small area (maybe 8″x4″) of mold growth was found in a cabinet under a sink as well as several spots on an air vent in another room. I’m not sure how to interpret the report we received and if we need further investigation. Of course our inspector says he he can’t help us interpret the results. Basically the report shows this:

    Cabinet- Low Asp/Pen, High Chaetomium, Low Cladosporium
    Vent- Rare Alternaria, Rare Bipolaris++, Rare Curvularia, Rare Epicoccum, Rare Taeniolella

    Key indicates measurement is “count/per area analyzed” and that Rare = 1 to 10, Low = 11 to 100, medium = 101 to 1000, and high = >1000

    Any help in interpreting would be greatly appreciated!

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