– It just gets in the way of making the sale. If the house tests “high,”
everybody’s in a panic. The
seller is angry, the buyer is apprehensive, and we’re left scrambling to keep
the deal together. And for what? Nobody seems to be sure it’s even a health risk.
Besides, I’ve heard there’s not much of a problem around here,
anyway. To be honest, I cringe at
the very sound of the word!”
real estate agent
If the quote above expresses your sentiments, this
guide is for you. Its purpose is to
provide real estate professionals with the information and perspective necessary
to effectively deal with the radon issue and keep it from ever interfering with
your livelihood – selling
Things First: Accepting the Inevitable
Like it or not, radon concerns are not going away.
The U.S. EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, National Cancer
Institute and Consumer Federation of America recommend that all homebuyers test
for radon. Employee relocation companies accepted this fact several
years ago. Ignoring it, or worse
yet, fighting it, will eventually cause you problems.
Once you’ve learned to put radon into proper
perspective, however, there is no reason for it to interfere with your deal.
Legal experts suggest informing buyers of EPA’s radon test
recommendation is the best way to protect yourself from liability.
Then no one can later accuse you of negligence.
NOT to Tell Buyers About Radon Testing
Once the buyer is aware of EPA’s radon test
recommendation, avoid making any statement that could be construed as an attempt
to talk them out of it, leaving you responsible.
really isn’t a problem around here.” Although some areas certainly have a lower incidence, houses with
elevated levels can be found most everywhere.
And, two houses side-by-side can have totally different indoor
concentrations. If the buyer later
discovers a problem, they will likely remember it was you who told them a test
was unnecessary. Remember EPA test recommendations don’t exclude the
homebuyers in your community.
“There’s no reason to test this house because…. it’s a new
it’s on a crawlspace,” or “
it doesn’t have a basement.”
is an equal opportunity pollutant. New
houses as well as those with crawlspace or slab-on-grade foundations are all
susceptible. Only houses built on
open pier foundations or apartments above the third floor are unlikely
“Radon isn’t even proven to be a health risk.” Radon is a Class A
carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans.
The scientific community and every major health organization rank radon
as the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, causing an estimated 14,000
U.S. deaths annually.
it or not, the buyer will look to you for guidance and expertise.
If your responses are inconsistent with government agencies and major
health organizations, the buyer will be more apprehensive, and you could be held
accountable should that buyer discover a problem in the future.
with a High Test when
talking to the Seller – Avoid the Blame Game
Few sellers will have any previous experience with radon.
When told their home contains an invisible pollutant, their first
reaction may often be to blame someone for what they perceive to be a big fuss
over nothing. “Humph,
I’ve lived in this home for sixteen years and I ain’t dead. This is just some rip-off the federal government made up to
make my life miserable.”
the real estate agents join in the blame game, a mole hill quickly becomes a
you’re absolutely right. That
blasted EPA is full of it. I hear
they can’t even prove it’s harmful. I
could just shoot that inspector for bringing radon up in the first place.
Besides, this test can’t be right;
I’ve never heard of any other problems in this neighborhood.”
like that from the agent will only reinforce the seller’s initial anger and
convince them they’re being victimized. You’ll
only drive a wedge between buyer and seller that’s difficult to remove.
effectively keep the high test from being an obstacle, keep it in proper
inspector had discovered all the gutters and downspouts around the house were
rusty and needed to be replaced, the seller would accept that with minimal
grumbling. After all, he can
justify the necessity because he can see the rusty holes, the rotted gutter
boards, or water in the basement.
explain that fixing a radon problem is just another home repair,
easily and inexpensively performed by a qualified contractor.
Although, the cost may vary depending on the size and design of the home,
it seldom runs more than $800-$2000. This
is a minor negotiation point. One
could spend considerably more replacing those rusty gutters.
Assure them the problem is easily resolved and won’t interfere with
their ability to sell the house. Remember,
the seller is looking to you for validation that the buyer’s concern is
Talking to the Buyer, Have All the Right Answers
sellers, buyers generally have little or no experience with radon.
Their concerns are two-fold: “Will living in this house jeopardize the health of our family?” and
“Does the presence of elevated radon
diminish the property value?”
buyers rely on you for assurance, it is important for you to have the correct
responses. Any uncertainty on your
part will only feed their anxiety. Radon
is not the black plague. Treat the
situation as routine – a mole hill, not a mountain.
mitigation is simple and effective, permanently reducing concentrations to well
below the EPA Action Level. And
since most systems prevent damp soil air from entering the house, the buyers may
notice other indoor air quality improvement as well.
No more musty odors!
little maintenance is required and operating costs are generally less than $10 a
month for the fan electricity (about a 70-watt light bulb) and minor loss of
conditioned air exfiltrating to the outside.
The fan isn’t “maxed” to capacity air flow or suction capability,
meaning there is very little “load” on the motor.
And since it runs constantly, it doesn’t receive the wear and tear of
cycling on and off. In other words,
it will last a long time. And,
since the control system is so quiet and unobtrusive, the homeowner will barely
notice it exists.
control systems in no way diminish the dollar value of the home and are accepted
nationally as a home improvement.
finally, since reduction systems lower the radon concentrations so effectively
and eliminate peak fluctuations, living in a mitigated home reduces one’s risk
of getting lung cancer to as low as
reasonably achievable (ALARA) – even lower than living in most houses
testing below the EPA Action Level (4pCi/l) with no control system.
is absolutely no reason for buyers to allow elevated radon to keep them from
purchasing a house they otherwise adore. Remind
them of how much they like the kitchen, the master bathroom, the scenic view, or
the convenient location. A radon
problem is really no problem at all – permanently solved by an easy home
Give them our brochure
– THERE'S NO CAUSE
(Click on the title to view the contents or
click here for a pdf copy.
If The Test Is Just Barely Over the EPA Action Level of 4pCi/l?
it really need to be mitigated?
technical support documents reveal that a short-term test made according to EPA
Real Estate Testing Protocols will result in making the correct decision 95% of
the time. In other words, a house
testing high very likely has an annual average radon concentration exceeding
4pCi/l, and the buyer would be justified in insisting on remedial action.
the greatest likelihood of making an incorrect decision occurs when the
short-term test is at or barely above the Action Level.
For example, if the two-day test result is 4.1 pCi/l, there is a 50%
chance the long-term average concentration is actually less than 4pCi/l.
What can be
done in this situation to protect both buyer and seller?
One popular solution, if everyone is agreeable, is to obtain a couple of
remedial cost estimates and place the necessary funds in an escrow account.
Then after the buyer moves in the house, a 90-day test is performed.
If the result of the longer test confirms the average concentration is at
or above 4.pCi/l, remediation can be performed with the escrowed funds.
If the 90 day test indicates the average is less than 4pCi/l, the escrow
can be returned to the appropriate party.
this option must be agreeable to the buyers.
Sometimes they will not want to wait, or the closing attorneys will balk
at setting up the escrow. But often
times this is a sensible way of handling those borderline situations, say