During the course of an inspection, there are a few words that almost always elicit grim responses: Mold, Radon, Lead, and Asbestos.
Yes, they are concerning, but so are ‘your roof needs replaced’ or ‘the HVAC system doesn’t work’. The difference is that people have been conditioned to be afraid of certain things, and to accept others as a normal part of home ownership. Also, the sources presenting information on lead, radon, and especially mold and asbestos, tend to make the information sensational and frightening in order to get more attention.
So, having been inspecting houses for many years now and having seen literally thousands of houses, let me say:Almost Everything Can Be Fixed.
A couple of years ago, the Washington Post had a neat article on a guy that was able to get a really good deal on a home because he wasn’t scared by mold. Yes, it was a problem, but fixing the problem cost him less than the reduction he was able to get on the home price, so he came out ahead. (Read the full article here). If, as a buyer, you can approach the issues your inspector finds as nothing more than problems to be solved, often times you will find the problem isn’t as scary as it felt initially.
We see this most often with radon. High radon levels increase the risk of lung cancer, and the idea of exposing your family to cancer-causing radiation (rightly so) makes people uncomfortable. But, remediation is typically $1000 or less, and is often covered by the seller under the contract. And, the remediation systems are extremely effective. It can be fixed.
Mold is very similar. Yes, mold is bad. And, it’s typically more expensive than radon to fix. But, mold is becoming a more common problem. Houses are built greener, with less air leakage; that means that homes don’t dry out as well when there is a water problem, and thus create easier, longer-lasting conditions for mold growth. That’s the trade-off for lower energy bills. So, we simply have to learn how to handle mold when it does show up. Our general advice is to be good about your home maintenance. Mold needs water. Most water leaks are caused by neglect of maintenance. Stop the water, stop the mold.
Lead and asbestos, since they are no longer used, are becoming less common issues as time goes on. However, should they be found, remediation is available. It generally isn’t cheap, but it’s a one-time problem. If the price of remediation gets factored into the projected costs of any planned renovations, then it becomes just another line-item to consider when making an offer on the house.
No house is perfect, and some are more imperfect than others. So, it is important to remember that there are an extremely small number of things that constitute a death sentence for a house. In the vast majority of cases, problems can be fixed as long as you are aware the problems exist (good thing you got a home inspection!) and you assess your options reasonably. If you have questions about the severity of any issues or about the available remediation options, ask your inspector, that’s what we do.
Stay safe and informed.
Hurlbert Home Inspection