Expectations of Buying a New Home


We all have expectations or should. We expect the sun to rise and set, the family to be content with what you have and the family’s health to be great, or at the least understood and getting better. We expect that if our kids are sick, they got it from someone at school. Personally, I like to blame my coughing, wheezing and sneezing on the walking petri dishes called grandkids. However, many times the coughing, wheezing and sneezing is to be blamed on an unhealthy home.

As REALTORS®, you have come to expect and accept that radon is something that needs to be tested and determined before any home sale can be completed. The threat of someone being killed from a long term exposure to a radon infested home that you sold, has created an industry that is costing many involved in the real estate transactions a lot of glowing dollars. My point is not whether or not radon is something that needs to be addressed; my point is that immediate health issues should be more important to a couple making that first large purchase for their family. Will the actual health of the home keep their kids from coughing, wheezing or sneezing?
The American Cancer Society reported that radon can be a cause of illness or death, to 22,000 people per year. Their suffering pales in comparison to the 4.6 million new cases of mold related asthma illnesses per year, according to a 2007 Berkley Lab EPA Study.

How often do we hear about more and more kids suffering from asthma, allergies, reduced immune systems, etc..? Many of these ailments can be and are blamed on mold. Mold in a home is often not visible, has no smell and can be very toxic in the right circumstances. Sounds like radon, right? The basic difference between mold and radon is mold can have an immediate effect on a person’s health with long-lasting consequences. Radon usually takes a long time to deliver its lethal dose.

Most first time home buyers are choosing a home that will not only be their first home for them, but a family starter home as well. They are looking to purchase as much room as they can afford, which means a used home and hope there won’t be any big surprises. Those homes tend to be contractor cookie cutter builds using low budget products meeting minimum codes at best. They will typically have failures of the windows allowing water into the walls, attics that aren’t properly insulated or vented causing ice dams draining into the walls, exterior doors that leak into the floors because they lack the strength to handle any abuse, not to mention the flat grade surrounding the home that settles around the foundation allowing water into the minimally water proofed block foundations. Add to all of the probable construction short cuts or defects, it has not been properly maintained. In other words, these homes have the potential to be very unhealthy with mold growth in the walls.

When young buyers decide to purchase their first castle, they are usually relying on the visual services of a home inspector to advise them of the home’s potential problems. How many homes on the market are freshly painted, hiding significant staining, air freshened and smelling delightful with furniture, boxes or rugs strategically placed to hide problems? Home inspections are visual only; meaning problem areas are not addressed. These visual inspections usually don’t find hidden problems like mold in the walls. Based on no visual problems, they will offer a clean bill of health to an otherwise unhealthy home. While more often than not they will recommend radon testing, but they don’t always recommend moisture or mold testing.

When a doctor tells a parent their child’s ability to breathe is threatened by mold, they begin looking at the home trying to determine where the mold is. Based on the home inspector’s report, they shouldn’t be able to find the source, but it will probably be there. Knowing what, where and how to find hidden mold takes a special certified inspector. It’s like hiring a general practitioner doctor to cure a cancer. You need an oncologist. Their expectation is the REALTOR® and home inspector should be providing those recommendations. Once the source is discovered, additional money is necessary to make repairs, which you know they probably don’t have.

As a REALTOR®, it’s one thing if the buyer is purchasing a new home. Chances of it being unhealthy shortly after closing are slim. It’s another issue if your client is spending their life savings on a home that will potentially make them sick shortly after moving in. While the REALTOR® can pass off the guilt of a sick home onto the home inspector, don’t all REALTORS® involved in the transaction share in the responsibility, especially if young kids are, or will be living in the home? As mentioned before, radon testing has become an accepted test prior to a purchase closing. Shouldn’t the expectations be changed? Always recommend a moisture and mold test.

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Moisture & Structural Assessments in Residential and Commercial Properties


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