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Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, can be a hidden danger in property transactions. This odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas can seep into homes through cracks in the foundation, floors, or walls, posing significant health risks to inhabitants. The inability to detect radon without proper testing emphasizes the importance of informing buyers and sellers about its presence.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “nearly one in 15 homes in the United States has a radon level that should be reduced.” In many states, that percentage is much higher. By understanding the importance of radon awareness, buyers and sellers can make informed decisions to ensure the safety of their homes and the well-being of those who occupy them.
“High indoor radon levels pose long-term health risks,” highlights Insoo Park, CEO and founder of leading radon detection and monitoring device company Ecosense, “especially if the property has not undergone proper mitigation measures.” As part of the due diligence process, it is highly recommended that homebuyers request radon testing and carefully review the results before finalizing the purchase.
Radon testing provides valuable information about the radon levels present in the property. Reviewing the test report lets you gain insight into your lung cancer risk and make an informed decision before finalizing the purchase, allowing you to assess whether further actions — such as radon mitigation — are necessary to ensure a safe living environment for you and your family.
While some may question the additional expense or effort of radon testing, it is essential to recognize that the potential health risks associated with indoor radon exposure outweigh any inconvenience. According to the EPA, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer only behind smoking. Radon is a symptom-less health hazard, and most people don’t find out they have radon poisoning until they’ve been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.
“As a potential home buyer, you have the right to request a professional 48-hour radon test, or you can conveniently conduct your own test with consumer devices like EcoQube or EcoBlu,” Park shares. “These devices offer easy-to-use functionality and capture fluctuating radon levels every 10 minutes, giving you a reliable result within an hour.” By being proactive, you can mitigate potential dangers and make an informed decision that aligns with your well-being.
As a seller, it is crucial to recognize your ethical and legal responsibility when disclosing information about radon levels in your home. Taking steps to address radon gas issues demonstrates your commitment to the well-being of potential buyers.
“By continuously monitoring your indoor radon level with your own home radon detector,” Park says, “and implementing mitigation measures, if necessary, you can provide documentation that assures buyers of the safety of the property.” This leads to a smoother sales process, as buyers will appreciate the transparency and efforts to address radon concerns.
In many jurisdictions, sellers must provide a radon disclosure statement or complete radon testing and mitigation before listing their property for sale. According to the LawAtlas Project, 37 states “have a law requiring sellers to disclose known radon levels in the sale of homes.” Interestingly, of those 37, only 22 require radon testing in schools or childcare facilities and with the exception of Montgomery County Maryland, none require homes to be tested during real estate transactions.
This discrepancy in radon testing and mitigation is because it wasn’t until the last 50 years that radon has been considered a public health risk. While medical professionals knew that underground miners in the 1940s had a high risk of lung cancer, “elevated levels of radon in homes weren’t recognized as a potential public health threat until the mid-1980s.”
Fortunately, in recent years there has been a positive trend and movement toward more proactive and responsive legislative actions. For example, on June 5, Governor of Colorado Jared Polis, signed a bill that “establishes that buyers or renters of residential property have the right to be informed of whether radon tests have been performed and if a radon system is present in the home.” This kind of action helps people know what action to take to protect themselves and their families.
Radon and property values
Radon can potentially impede a property sale if high concentrations are discovered during the inspection. Sellers can address radon issues by conducting tests, proactively mitigating the problem, and providing documentation to potential buyers, ensuring a smoother sales process.
In fact, a significant portion of the US has a high incidence of homes containing dangerous levels of radon. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), any level above 4pCi/L should be disclosed and mitigated. Brian Thomas, a real estate agent in Denver, Colorado, states, “It’s not a question of whether your home has radon, but rather how much.” It is noteworthy that the EPA’s recommended radon action level of 4pCi/L is higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended level of 2.7 pCi/L.
Because of the prevalence of radon throughout the US and the ability to mitigate when necessary, radon doesn’t negatively impact property values. However, what does impact property values is when the seller isn’t forthcoming about this potential health hazard. “Being transparent at the beginning helps avoid unnecessary negotiations later on,” Park suggests.
Radon measurement and mitigation specialists, and most real estate agents and home inspectors are qualified to help with radon concerns. Since any home has the potential to have elevated radon levels, consulting a qualified professional for assistance is highly recommended.
With professional guidance, both buyers and sellers can gain a comprehensive understanding of radon and its implications on the transaction and receive recommendations tailored to the situation.
Buyers should prioritize radon testing as part of their due diligence process and sellers are responsible for disclosing any known radon information regarding the property.
In summary, both buyers and sellers can create a more secure living environment by prioritizing radon awareness and contributing to a smoother, more transparent real estate transaction.
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