Problems with indoor mold have become increasingly frequent in the media. As people have become more and more aware of the threat of mold, it has become a common question in the real estate industry. It is especially concerning for new home buyers.
Unfortunately, the presence of mold and the airborne spores isn’t always easy to detect. If you are actively in the market to purchase a new home, mold is likely on your mind. Especially if you have found a home that you are starting to fall in love with, and contemplating an offer, or perhaps you have an offer in and the inspection is in progress.
How Dangerous Is Mold In A House?
Taxonomically, mold is a member of the fungus family. It lives wild and free all throughout nature. There are thousands of varieties in the world, that even create colonies in a wide range of colors. Some of the more common mold colors you might find in your home include black, white, green, orange or gray.
There are some strains of mold that are highly visible and even odorous, letting you know relatively quickly that there is a problem. Yet there some types of mold that also don’t easily reveal themselves.
Mold spores prefer moisture and need a little warmth to start establishing a colony. Once they do, they can spread relatively quickly. Mold can colonize a variety of surfaces and materials. It can also grow between walls, in subfloors, on woodwork, under the carpet, behind ceiling tiles, in attics and crawl spaces of the basement.
Mold tends to thrive in water-soaked materials like paneling, wallboard, and carpet. It is even more likely to occur after a water invasion event, like a local flood, roof leak, or leaky pipe. However, even something like highly humid weather, or failure to use a bathroom fan when the shower is running, could produce an environment that encourages mold colonization. There are even homes in the desert, where mold has been found.
While mold is visually unappealing and odoriferous disturbing, it’s a threat to a home and the health of the people who inhabit it, cannot be ignored. There are a few types of so-called “Toxic” mold that are known to produce mycotoxins, which on its own can cause respiratory issues, inflammation issues, rashes, seizures, and severe fatigue in some people. Fortunately, these toxic mold strains are somewhat rare.
What If A Home Tests Positive For Mold?
An increasing number of home mold inspections include testing for mold and other biological contaminants. However, this is not always the case. Mold testing requirements and mold disclosure laws vary from one state to the next. Make sure you are fully aware of your rights as a home buyer.
Watch out for signs and smells of mold when you are touring a home that you are thinking of buying. Look for the elements that help benefit mold development like the potentially humid areas of the house. Keep an eye out for any obvious signs of mold as well as moldy smells.
You should be particularly keen if there is standing water in the basement, past watermarks on basement walls or musty smells places like the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and lesser used parts of the basements. Take a look at areas around plumbing pipes and common drain areas.
If you have any concerns, you should consider requesting a mold test as part of the inspection process. You should also feel free to ask your home inspector if they see obvious signs of mold, moisture issues or past signs of water damage.
Technically, looking out for signs of mold is not in the inspector’s scope of duties. However, most good home inspectors will mention obvious signs of water damage and the possible presence of mold. If this information is mentioned in the documentation or in personal conversation, you should strongly consider a mold test.
If you have any concerns about mold you should ask the seller to disclose any mold or water-related problems that are active or have occurred in the past. There are some states that require sellers to disclose information about mold.
However, this is not always the case. You should also bear in mind that the seller’s duty to disclose any issues is only related directly to things they are aware of or that it’s reasonable to assume they know about. This doesn’t mean that they are specifically required to go digging around in their basement crawl space like Indiana Jones searching for moldy treasure.
Most home surveys include asking the seller question about if they have ever had ruptured pipes, leaky windows, water damage, basement flooding and the like. If you see any of these hallmark descriptors, you should be suspicious of mold.
Feel free to talk with your agent and appraiser to see what they advise or what they might happen to know about mold disclosure laws. An appraiser will often keep an eye out for any past or present signs of mold, as it could affect the value of the property.
How Is Mold Tested For In A Home?
Mold testing companies actively test the air in and around the home. When necessary they can also perform physical inspections which commonly includes surface swab tests. Where warranted they can also sample areas inside walls which can later be tested in a laboratory. This level of testing can potentially cost several hundred dollars. The more wall samples that are required the higher the cost may be.
Should You Consider Purchasing A Home With Mold Problems?
If the home you are interested in tests positive for a mold problem, it will likely cause mixed feelings. Especially if you fell in love with it before the mold test was performed. In a situation like this, you might be asking yourself “Should I buy it anyway?”
Right off the bat, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. If you or a family member with a respiratory condition like asthma or you have a baby or an elderly person who will be living in the home, you should keep in mind that they will be at increased risk.
You should then reach out to a mold remediation specialist to learn more about the estimated costs of mold remediation for the home. They will likely give you a very competitive estimate, that you should share with your real estate agent. They can help you take into account the remediation cost and other factors that can affect any potential offer you might put on the mold-affected home.