As a Real Estate Buyer or Seller Should I Be Worried by the Discovery of Radon in the Home?

While it must be disclosed by the seller, you are most likely to find out about radon when your home inspector does a test for the gas in the basement of the home. Radon is found in most homes across the USA, but in varying levels and in homes both new and old, but the good news for any home buyer - and seller for that matter - is that it is a problem that can be fixed or mitigated.

What is radon?

As a gas, radon is both colorless and odorless, so it will only be identified by specifically testing for it.  It seeps up through the ground beneath us and it will enter your home via the cracks and holes of your basement, which is why it is more likely to be detected there than anywhere else in the home, but it is present in homes without basements too.  It is part of a process in which naturally occurring uranium breaks down in the soil and then escapes into the air.

The reason that radon is the subject of such close attention during the real estate transaction is because it is poses a risk to the home owner.  It is a carcinogen and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the USA. Homes adjacent to each other may have different levels of radon and testing is the only way that this can be determined.

How do we test for radon?

Testing can either be done by the home owner with a simple testing kit, but most people choose to have it done by a professional, often the home inspector, or a certified radon measurement professional.  Tests are generally conducted over two or three days with the kit placed in the lowest level of the home, which is either the first floor, but more usually the basement.

The tests are designed to check for a safe level of radon and this is deemed to be anything below 4 pCi/L (standing for picocuries, which is a measurement of the concentration of radiation).  The average indoor level is 1.4 pCi/L and the usual level in the outside air is lower at around 0.4 pCi/L.

What can be done?

If testing shows a level above 4 pCi/L, then there is nothing to be concerned about, because this can be mitigated with specific treatment that will bring the level to below the safe limit. Most home inspectors or your realtor will be able to put you in contact with licensed contractors who can do the work for you. And the good news is that the remediation treatment is highly effective.

Sometimes the seller may offer a sum at closing to cover the cost of remediation or they may undertake the work themselves. So, as a real estate buyer or seller, it is clear that while radon may be an issue that arises during the transaction, with accurate testing and agreement between the parties for remediation, this is something that can be resolved and treated effectively.

Will Trevor

Picture Credit: Radiation by John Jones:

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