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  • Writer's pictureJeff Sorg

Don't Get Spooked: A Guide to Environmental Hazards in Home Buying

Updated: Apr 1

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Buying a home is exciting, but environmental hazards can lurk beneath the surface, posing health risks and financial burdens. Here's a rundown of some common hazards to be aware of:

  • Lead: Found in older paint (pre-1978) and sometimes in soil or plumbing components, lead is particularly harmful to young children because it can cause developmental problems. Lead testing, especially in older homes, is crucial.

  • Asbestos: This fire-resistant material used in older construction (pre-1980s) can cause severe lung problems if inhaled. Asbestos abatement by a certified professional can be expensive, so asbestos testing is essential before purchasing a home built before the late 1970s.

  • Radon: A naturally occurring radioactive gas, radon seeps up from the ground and can accumulate in homes, increasing the risk of lung cancer. Radon testing is recommended for all homes, regardless of location.

  • Mold: Usually caused by moisture problems, mold triggers respiratory problems and allergies. A professional inspection can identify potential mold issues.

  • Contaminated Water: Lead, arsenic, or bacteria may contaminate water from private wells or homes near industrial sites. Water testing can ensure that drinking water is safe.

  • Soil Contamination: Past industrial uses or improper disposal of hazardous materials can contaminate soil, posing health risks and impacting property values. Research the history of the property and surrounding area for any red flags.

Protecting Yourself:

  • Use a qualified real estate agent: Qualified local real estate agents are knowledgeable about specific environmental concerns unique to their practice area. They can guide you through the process and also recommend qualified inspectors. 

  • Disclosures: Most states require sellers to disclose known environmental hazards. Read disclosure forms carefully and ask questions if anything needs to be clarified.

  • Inspections: Don't skip home inspections! Licensed inspectors can identify potential hazards like lead, asbestos, and mold. Depending on location and risk factors, consider additional radon and water quality inspections.

  • Negotiation Power: Knowing about environmental hazards can give you leverage during negotiations. If the hazards are too significant, and your offer is appropriately and professionally written, you can request repairs, price reductions, or walk away from the deal entirely.

Taking precautions and educating yourself about environmental hazards helps you make knowledgeable decisions when buying a home. Don't let potential problems become a nightmare – be proactive and protect your health and investment.


(c) 2024 Jeff Sorg


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