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Should I Have An Asbestos Inspection During a Real Estate Transaction?

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Purchasing a new home can be an exciting and difficult experience. The inspection period of a real estate transaction typically involves a general home inspection to evaluate the condition of a property. However, one thing that is often overlooked during these inspections is asbestos. In this blog, we will discuss why an asbestos inspection is often not conducted during the home inspection period and why it could be a good idea.

Home Inspector vs Asbestos Inspector

During a typical home inspection, the inspector will evaluate the structure of the home, along with the conditions of walls, plumbing, HVAC systems, and various other critical components of the property. In some cases, a home inspector may be able to identify suspected asbestos-containing materials in their assessments due to their work experience. However, the vast majority of home inspectors are not trained and licensed asbestos inspectors. In fact, most every home inspection contract will explicitly state that they will not report on the presence/absence of asbestos. This may lead to asbestos-containing materials being overlooked.

Can I Have an Asbestos Inspection During My Inspection Period?

Doing a separate asbestos inspection is possible, but there are some limitations. The sellers of the property may not allow certain asbestos samples to be collected during the inspection period. This is generally due to the fact that asbestos sampling can be a destructive process that involves collecting a small bulk sample of the suspect material. As one could understand, a homeowner may be reluctant to allow the buyer to destructively collect materials without purchasing the property. However, often there can be a compromise.  For example, a small piece of the wall could be cut out behind an electrical outlet plate that no one will see. Or maybe a sample of the ceiling can be collected in a closet. Perhaps one reason a seller may be reluctant to perform an inspection is that if a suspected asbestos-containing material is uncovered during an inspection and disclosed, it could negatively impact the sale and value of the property. 

What Types of Non-destructive Asbestos Inspections Are Possible?

It is best for the buyer and seller to come up with a reasonable plan for what suspect materials are to be cut out. But what if the seller absolutely refuses to allow any destructive testing?  The seller is not obligated by law to allow destructive asbestos testing during the inspection period (although prohibiting an asbestos inspection may kill the deal). A possible solution is to coordinate an asbestos inspector to conduct a visible walkthrough of the property without sampling. Although materials cannot be determined to be asbestos-containing without proper lab analysis, some materials can be visually pointed out as concern areas, such as pipe insulation, 9” x 9” floor tile, vermiculite, etc. 

A possible avenue could also be conducting TEM asbestos dust testing in areas of concern. This may not reveal if asbestos is present in the specific materials of the home, but may give some indication if there is deteriorated asbestos in the home and provide historical information if asbestos was removed improperly in the past.  

Conclusions

In conclusion, homeowners selling their properties may at times not allow destructive asbestos inspections due to the sampling’s nature and the potential impact it may have on the sale. We recommend considering factors such as the age of the property and previous inspection records, and possibly coordinating with a licensed asbestos inspector to assist in your decision to purchase a property. Once the property is purchased, it is the new homeowner’s responsibility for managing the potential asbestos-containing materials which may impact renovations, indoor air quality, and possibly the health of the occupants. It is our opinion that it is best for the buyer to figure these things out before they own the problem when there is still a chance to negotiate any repairs. If you would like to evaluate a property in the Chicagoland area, please reach out to us.

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.”

2 thoughts on “Should I Have An Asbestos Inspection During a Real Estate Transaction?

    I have heard of a dangerous chemical inspection service that my friends were talking about and wondered what it was. It helped a lot when you stated that a house sale could be affected by the inspection of asbestos because my sister is planning to start browsing for listings for her first house and she would like to make sure it’s as secure as possible. Seeing as how I want my sister’s first choice to be her best, I’ll refer her to this article and hopefully, we can find an inspection service that can help us out. Thank you!

    It’s helpful to know that asbestos could potentially be detected visually if destructive testing isn’t an option. My wife and I are thinking of buying a home and want to make sure that there isn’t asbestos that we’d have to remove later. We’ll have to look into what options we have so that we can be confident we’re moving somewhere safe.