Everything You Need to Know About Radon When Buying a Home
If you’re buying a house, then radon should be on your radar.
This dangerous gas can cause serious health problems, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s present (at worrisome high levels) in one out of every 15 U.S. homes.
Could it be in the home you’re looking to buy? What if it is? How can you protect yourself and make sure your health isn’t at risk? This guide can help.
What Is Radon?
Radon is a tasteless, odorless radioactive gas that, if inhaled in large quantities, can cause serious health issues and even death. In fact, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.
Radon comes from uranium breaking down in water, soil, rock, and other natural elements, which then releases the dangerous gas into the air. It can seep into a home through cracks, via well water or via foundation holes. It then gets trapped in the property, forcing the homeowners to breathe the radon-tainted air day in and day out for many years.
All homes are susceptible to radon gas — not just older homes or properties in specific areas of the country. Because of this, the EPA recommends that homebuyers have their potential properties tested for radon. Depending on where you live, your home inspector may be able to test for radon when evaluating the house. In some cases, you might need to call in a specialized radon testing service in order to gauge the radon levels on the property. Radon testing generally costs between $150 and $700. The average cost, according to Home Advisor, is $450.
In order to be deemed dangerous, radon levels must be 4 pCi/L or higher. Any radon levels below that “still pose a risk” according to EPA, but that risk is significantly reduced.
What to Do if Radon Is Found on the Property
Finding out the home you’re eyeing has radon in it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. You can enlist radon mitigation services, which are designed to re-route radon-tainted air from the soil and foundation of the home, up through the roof and out of the structure.
You can also:
- Seal up cracks and openings in the floors, walls, and exterior, which could be allowing radon to enter the home
- Install radon mitigation systems in crawl spaces
- Slab depressurization, if you have a slab or basement-style home
You’ll likely want to negotiate with the seller in order to cover the costs of these services, which typically run $1,200 or more. You may be able to ask the seller to handle the radon mitigation process before you close on the home. You can also ask for a reduction in sales price, so you can cover the costs of radon mitigation on your own.
If the seller refuses to help at all, you may be able to back out of the deal. This depends on what stage of the process you’re in, your state’s radon disclosure requirements, and your unique sales contract.
Since radon is a result of the environment around your home, it likely won’t go away forever. It’s important to regularly test the property for the presence of radon, so you can take the appropriate steps to mitigate it should it appear again. Test within the first 30 days of installing a radon mitigation system and then again every two years just to be safe.
You can also use a passive radon testing device, which can be found at any hardware store. Simply sit it in your home, and use the device to measure radon levels over time. While these aren’t as accurate as professional and active tests, they can help warn you if levels get too high.
Radon in New Construction Homes
If you’re considering buying a new construction home, you may be able to stipulate that the property have radon-resistant features built into it. These include things like gas-permeable floor barriers, sheeting in any crawl spaces, attic vent fans, vent pipes, attic-located junction boxes, and more. Talk to your builder about making your home as radon-resistant as possible.
More Information on Radon
Each state has its own radon office, so make sure to get in touch with yours if you have concerns, questions, or need help. Head to EPA.gov to find the right radon office in your area. Your radon office should have a list of approved mitigation contracts as well.
And remember, a radon test is just one of many steps you should take to ensure your new home is safe for inhabiting. Getting a third-party home inspection can also help protect your loved ones (and your investment), as can inspections on specific features, like pools, septic systems, and more. Ask your real estate agent or loan officer for guidance on which inspections you should consider on your property.