How Reliable Is Your Home Inspection?
It’s that time of year when the real estate market begins heating up in Atlanta, Georgia. More houses on the market to fill the need of anxious home buyers.
Many homes built since the 1970s are showing signs of mold growth because of the oil crisis that occurred. This event encouraged home builders to make the homes more air-tight, meaning there were less drafts that brought outdoor air into the home.
This trend to energy efficiency has led to mold problems because mold needs water and moisture to thrive and the air-tight environments trap moisture in.
The upside is energy efficiency has saved you costs on utilities.
The downside, indoor air quality has suffered because of mold growth! This has led to higher incidences of mold related illness and reduced home values because mold literally feeds on the home, impacting its structural integrity.
The major problem with mold is that it can be hidden. You could have mold in your home and not even know that you have it. Sometimes the only clue that you have mold is family members may be getting sick more often. The problem with hidden mold is the mold spores are not visible and because of modern day HVAC systems, the air borne spores will continue to be circulated in your home, thereby spreading the spores in every room of your home.
As a home seller or home buyer, you need to be aware of the potential concerns caused by mold.
If you are selling your home and know that you have mold, had past water leaks that have been fixed and/or experienced a major water event like a flood or sewage backup, you should disclose this information to the realtor listing your home to avoid potential litigation.
In a perfect world, the home seller will disclose this information, but let’s face it, we are not living in a perfect world.
When a home seller wants to sell their home, their objective is to list the property and get the highest price for their home. This is the reason they get the help of a realtor.
The only way home buyers can protect themselves is to take matters into their own hands and make sure that the home they are buying does not have mold or moisture concerns that could lead to mold.
Most home buyers rely on the expertise of their home inspector, but as this article explains, can you really just rely on the opinion of your home inspector? Are they experts in mold? Most home inspectors are not and they rely on the goodwill of referrals from realtors, so there could be an inherent conflict of interest.
This article explains why you should submit an offer to purchase, subject to a home inspection AND a mold inspection. It also reveals the top 3 reasons to have a mold inspection before buying a home.
What Is Mold?
A fungus, some molds are visible, in various colors–black, white, green, gray–and will likely give off a smell.
Mold is nature’s recycler. It is everywhere because it has an important purpose in our eco-system: to breakdown and eat dead organic matter.
Mold needs three important ingredients to grow.
First, a food source, dead organic material like wood, paper, carpet, etc.
Second, the ideal temperature of 41 degrees fahrenheit up to 100 degrees fahrenheit.
Third, and most importantly, moisture. Without moisture, mold will not grow.
Why Is Mold A Problem?
Common reasons and areas of the home that mold can be found include:
- Around leaking pipes, windows, or roofs. Water provides mold spores the moisture they need to grow.
- Basements or other areas of the home that have flooded and were not dried properly.
- Common with new construction is the practice of tightly sealing the building, which can trap moisture leading to mold growth.
- Poorly ventilated homes that does not enable outside air to circulate in the home.
Some other clues that there could be mold in the home include the following:
- Water stains on the walls and ceilings.
- Musty odors in areas of the home like the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and basement, where leaky pipes are commonly found.
- Standing water in the basement.
Be particularly careful if you are looking at purchasing a foreclosed home. These homes are susceptible to mold growth because cost saving measures by the banks usually means they will shut down the HVAC system, which is a major concern because it results in high humidity levels and ultimately mold growth.
Recently renovated homes are another concern because improperly trained contractors or the home seller could have found mold, but not addressed it properly.
A Brand New Home Could Have Mold!
If you are buying a new home, you may think that mold will not be an issue either. New does not necessarily mean mold free for several reasons:
- The trend towards building energy efficient homes may save money on heating and cooling. The negative, however, is that by building homes so that they are air tight could result in a lack of proper ventilation, leading to mold growth.
- Simple construction errors like installing the vapor barrier when there is moisture present. This error will lead to mold growth because the moisture is trapped.
- The time of year the home was built could also be a factor. If the home was built when there was lots of rain and the foundation was not allowed to completely dry before installing the insulation and vapor barrier, then moisture could be trapped behind the walls.
- Cost saving construction measures is another factor. Home builders are using more Orient Strand Board (OSB) and less plywood and timber which provided some resistance to mold because these materials are semi-porous. In contrast, OSB and particle board are porous and susceptible to mold growth.
Top 3 Reasons To Have a Mold Inspection Before Buying a Home
Aside from the peace of mind that mold inspection offers, here are the top three reasons why you should consider a mold inspection when you buy a home:
1. Mold Remediation Can Be Costly!
2. Real Estate Agents Are Not Mold Experts!
3. Home Inspectors Are Not Mold Experts!
#1 Mold Remediation Can Be Costly!
As stated in an earlier article, the cost of mold remediation will depend on three key factors:
1. How much of the area is infected with mold?
2. What kind of materials are infected?
3. How easy is it to access the mold?
On average, the typical household mold removal project will range from $2,000 to $6,000, but can be as high as $30,000 or more depending on the extent of contamination.
Considering the potential cost of mold removal, you are much better off finding out if there is a potential mold problem before purchasing the home. A mold inspection will provide you with the data you require to make an informed decision.
Best case scenario, no mold is found. Worst case scenario, mold is found, but then if you still have your heart set on the home, at least you now have some negotiating power to bring down the price so the home can be properly remediated before you move in.
#2 Real Estate Agents Are Not Mold Experts!
The goal of every real estate professional is to list and sell homes. They will only make their commission when the property sells, so they have significant motivation to do what it takes to facilitate the sale. Their end goal is pretty defined: sell the home and collect the commission.
In addition, real estate agents are sales and marketing professionals, they are not construction experts and likely know very little about mold, where it could be found, and why it is a problem.
When listing a home, the agent is relying on the honesty and integrity of the seller who fills in a property disclosure form. If the seller fails to disclose a mold problem that has not been fixed and is trying to hide the mold problem by painting over it or trying to hide it, how is the agent going to know. How will you know?
Buyers should pay close attention to the property disclosure form because it could provide you with clues of potential moisture problems that could cause mold. Some clues include YES answers to these types of questions:
- Is the property in a flood hazard area or an inland wetlands area?
- Does the home have basement water, seepage, or dampness issues?
- Has the home had roof leaks?
- Does the home have any rot and water damage problems?
- Does the home have any water drainage problems?
- Does the home have any sump pump problems?
#3 Home Inspectors Are Not Mold Experts!
Mold sickness is considered a hidden epidemic for two key reasons. First, most physicians are not trained to identify or treat mold illness. Second, most homes have mold, but the owners do not realize they have mold because it is hidden.
Since some people get sick from mold and other’s do not, a family could have been living in a moldy home and never experienced any major health concerns. In short, a seller of a home could have mold and not know because mold can be hidden underneath carpet, a new paint job, baseboards, behind walls, above ceiling, etc.
Taking this into consideration, when you hire a home inspector, their primary concern is not to identify if the home has mold. Rather, they are inspecting the overall structural integrity of the home, the roof, wiring, bathrooms, plumbing, etc.
A home inspector may point out water stains or moisture concerns in areas of the home, advise you that your basement has an odor, identify water seepage or a leaky roof, but they will not tell you if you have mold, what type of mold you have, and how extensive the mold problem is.
As a final note, like many business owners, home inspectors rely on referrals. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest sources of referrals tends to be real estate agents, whose primary objective is to sell property. Mold concerns present challenges to home sellers and their agents. Could there be a potential conflict of interest?
Mold Inspections Are Important!
The process of buying a home is an exciting process. You have big plans for your new home! You are looking forward to the future in your dream home to raise your family.
But in all the excitement, many home buyers forget about the future problems that mold and past moisture issues could have caused. This fact is ignored because many home buyers think a home inspection is a enough to protect them from future and costly repair problems. This is the #1 mistake home buyers make; home inspectors are not mold experts!
The worst case scenario is you move your family and all your possessions into your new home and eventually discover mold. Now what? You can ignore the problem which could cause future health and structural concerns for your property or you make the financial decision to deal with your mold problem.
Both options can be costly. Ignoring the problem will reduce your property value as the mold eats away at your home, not to mention the potential health issues. Addressing the mold concern can also be costly because proper remediation needs to be done by professionals.
Likely, the last concern you have when you are purchasing a home is the potential problems that mold could cause. Once you find your dream home, you want to submit your offer and close the deal.
However, I caution against being too hasty. In addition to hiring a reputable home inspector, seriously consider the services of a mold inspector.
Mold inspectors are trained to not only identify the moisture issue causing the mold but will also provide you with information on what type of mold is growing in your home and how extensive the problem is.
As mentioned earlier, the best case scenario is that no mold is found in your home.
However, if the mold inspector does find a mold problem it is better to be aware of the problem so that you can adjust your offer, subject to mold removal by the seller along with proper clearance letters. If the seller does not want to cover the cost of the removal, then at least you can factor in the cost of the mold removal into the purchase price.
Bottom line, it is better to be safe and informed, then sorry. The relative cost of a mold inspection is minor compared to the overall investment into the home and the potential costly headaches you will face if you have to pay for mold removal in the future.
— Mold B Gone (@moldbgonega) April 28, 2016