The Importance of a Pre-purchase Mold Inspection
Updated: Jun 5, 2022
Justin H. Joe, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, CPE, and Paula Shearer
Can you sell a home with mold? Worried about your health or that you may be saddled with expensive repairs? Many buyers have the same questions and concerns.
Is It Legal to Sell a House With Mold
Yes, it is legal to sell a house with mold. There are no federal or state laws that prohibit owners from selling a property containing mold. That’s right…zero laws. However, some states require the seller to disclose known defects in their home. If a seller misrepresented the house and actively lies about known defects, the buyer may have cause for legal action. Of course, the burden of proving misrepresentation falls on the buyer. Therefore, it is always best for a seller to disclose the presence of mold and for a buyer to hire an independent mold inspector.
There is no guarantee of full disclosure when buying a home, and selling a house with mold has many disadvantages. Disclosing mold can scare off buyers and reduce the value of a property. Quick internet searches may tempt sellers to bleach out or paint over mold colonies. The result would be mold becoming visible again after the sale and a new homeowner saddled with a ticking fuzzy timebomb and any associated remediation costs. No one enjoys adding items to their pre-purchase to-do list, but a mold inspection would save you from such a scenario.
Why a Mold Inspection is Important
Americans spend 80 to 90 percent of their time indoors where, according to the World Health Organization, almost half of the buildings in North America are at high risk for mold due to water damage. Mold can be extremely harmful to a person's health and the structural integrity of building materials. Even healthy individuals can experience a multitude of respiratory illnesses resulting from the fungus. As a natural decomposer of dead plant and animal matter, mold enables the rot and decay necessary in our ecosystem to break down organic matter. This makes mold colonies extremely beneficial to mother nature but detrimental in man-made environments. Think of a fallen tree you have seen that resulted from wood rot, the outcome of moisture and decay.
Home mold test kits are insufficient in helping to identify or understand the full scope of any mold contamination (https://www.askbnf.com/post/don-t-waste-on-home-mold-test-kits ). As a buyer, you will want to know the extent of the contamination, the types of mold present, and the source or cause of the mold growth. While obvious reasons for water damage are floods and leaking pipes, the source can be more benign. The moisture in humidity combined with temperatures found indoors is often a stable enough environment for mold to grow. This creates any number of scenarios for hidden mold where a seller, or buyer, would be unaware of the problem.
Home Inspectors and Mold
The reality is a home inspector is not a licensed mold inspector. Home Inspectors have a general inspection list covering major, minor, material, and cosmetic defects. It is not their job to inspect for mold. They are not trained on the difference in mold types, how to analyze the results of a mold test, or how to explain why one type may be worse than another…including which molds release mycotoxins. The responsibility for thoroughly investigating a property and identifying potential problems or defects lies with the buyer.
Because mold can hide in ceilings and behind walls, a buyer's familial circumstances may indicate they should have the house professionally tested even if the home inspection report comes back without any signs of dampness or mold. If young children, elderly family members, or anyone who may suffer from breathing problems or allergies will be living in the house, getting a mold inspection will bring peace of mind. It’s better to spend the money on the front end for that peace of mind than have to bring in a mold remediation team after you’ve signed the contract.
Hard-to-find mold growth doesn’t always surface during a home inspection. Catching signs during pre-purchase allows you, as the buyer, an opportunity to negotiate with the seller and
avoid a costly fix. When you consider the value of any home as an asset, along with the value of your or your family’s health, the price of a mold inspection should not deter a buyer from getting one. Make sure you hire a certified and experienced mold and moisture detection specialist, like the inspectors and hygienists at BNF Consulting Inc. Protect yourself and protect your investment; recognize potential problems or defects before buying a house!
About The Author
Justin H. Joe, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, CPE, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Ph.D. and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education.