Purchasing a home with a mold issue isn’t desirable, but it also needn’t be a deal breaker. Mold can be removed, walls or other features replaced (if it comes to that), and the moisture issue that led to the mold growth can be repaired. Even so, buyers need to understand any mold problems that might be present or have been present, so they can make an educated decision. If there is mold, there are steps that buyers and sellers can take to negotiate a solution.
How Does Mold Get into a House?
Mold, believe it or not, does serve a purpose. Outdoors, mold aids in decomposition. Indoors, however, it serves no purpose other than to trigger allergies and asthma attacks and, even worse, to cause lung infections in some people. Mold is destructive; you don’t want it anywhere indoors.
Rooms like bathrooms are most vulnerable to mold because they tend to be rich with moisture. Such rooms can become breeding grounds for mold spores. But mold can occur in any room or area of the home or garage if there is a moisture issue left unaddressed. Often, people don’t even know that there is a mold issue, especially if it’s growing behind a wall. Therefore, a home inspection is so essential.
As mentioned, mold can trigger allergies and lung infections. It’s not something anyone should be breathing in. Mold can also cause eye irritations and skin rashes. Some people have developed with asthma because of living in a mold-infested home. A careful inspection should help buyers and sellers determine whether mold is present in the home.
The home inspection is important for several reasons. Obviously, buyers need to be aware about the state of the home’s major systems. However, inspecting for mold is also important. First, be sure that the inspection is conducted by a licensed inspector. It’s never a good idea to purchase any home without a professionally rendered inspection conducted by an experienced inspector.
If your inspector determines that there is a mold problem, you can request sampling and testing to see what type of mold is involved. Black mold is the most insidious, but all mold problems need to be addressed. Believe it or not—testing the mold is not quite as important for buyers as determining the source of the moisture problem that’s causing the mold to grow. If there was no moisture problem, there’d likely be no mold.
In some cases, the seller might have some idea of the issue. They might have had a flood, for example, an occurrence that they are legally required to disclose. Leaky pipes, cracks in walls or the foundation, or rotting wood can lead to mold overgrowth. Unless the moisture problem is repaired, the mold will continue to grow. In fact, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to clean up the mold until the moisture problem is dealt with.
Many states have passed legislation requiring sellers to disclose issues pertaining to mold growth. Typically, when a seller has knowledge about a mold problem, they are required by law to tell potential buyers about it. Of course, there are instances when sellers simply aren’t aware that there is mold growing within their walls, for example.
If a seller has reason to suspect a mold issue, they should tell potential buyers so that they aren’t libel once the sale goes through. If the seller conducts a home inspection and the inspector has reason to think there could be mold behind a wall, the seller should pass that information along even if they haven’t seen the mold. Mold can be dealt with responsibly—and it should be to protect everyone on both sides of the transaction.
Some buyers might consider backing away from a home with a mold problem. They might wonder why the seller didn’t address the problem before listing the home for sale. A buyer might understandably conclude that the mold issue must be tremendous—or tremendously expensive to remedy. Buyers should keep in mind, however, that some people are sensitive to mold and might not want to risk tearing up walls and exposing themselves to an abundance of spores. In addition, some sellers might not have been aware of a mold problem until the buyer’s inspector uncovered it.
Sellers can and often will take steps to remove mold from surfaces like walls, bathtubs, and shower stalls. Mold that can be seen on a surface is easy to address with bleach or detergent and soap. On the other hand, if the mold is growing behind a wall, a company that specializes in mold removal should be called to tackle the cleaning.
Remember, cleaning the mold doesn’t prevent it from coming back. It will come back if the moisture problem is not also handled. Usually, a licensed inspector will have little trouble determining why the mold is growing where it is. A pipe might need to be repaired. A crack that’s been seeping water can be filled or repaired in some permanent way.
If the seller promises to complete the remediation, buyers should insist on having the work documented. In fact, to guard against future lawsuits, both sides need to have documentation that the work has been completed by a licensed mold removal specialist.
Insurance and Mortgages
Some buyers might find it quite difficult to buy a home that has an active mold problem. For instance, FHA guaranteed mortgages are likely to be delayed until the mold problem is completely dealt with. The FHA appraisal is usually contingent on the mold’s remediation. Unless the mold is eradicated, the closing date will be postponed.
Additionally, many insurance providers will not greenlight an insurance policy on a home that has a mold issue. If you want to buy a home with a mold problem, you need to be aware that your mortgage lender and insurance company may not approve until the seller addresses the problem. In other words—no sale until the mold is gone.
Any buyer who is not scared off by a mold problem has options. If the home inspection does uncover a previously undisclosed mold problem, the buyer can negotiate with the seller. First, potential buyers have every right to ask the seller to remediate the mold. Many buyers will take on the task, knowing that a mold issue might make their house difficult to sell.
On the other hand, some sellers might simply want to unload the house as is. Many will not want to remediate the problem but would be willing to negotiate in some way. The buyer can request the seller to get estimates for cleaning up the mold and repairing the issue that led to it. The cost can then be deducted from the home’s selling price, and the buyer can deal with the problem after the transfer of the title.
The estimates are important. Otherwise, the buyer could be taking a substantial risk in purchasing a home with an active mold problem, particularly if the scope and size of the problem is unknown at the time of sale. The key is for buyers to have all the information they need upfront to make an educated buying decision.
To Sign or Not to Sign
If the seller won’t remediate the mold and won’t budge on the price of the house, the buyer needs to do some hard thinking. If the mold issue is small, they might forge ahead and complete the deal. On the other hand, if the size of the issue is substantial and likely to involve major repairs to walls or the roof, it can sabotage the investment. After all, a house is an investment and buyers need to consider resale value. If a home has a long history of mold issues, it might be worth passing on unless the problem can truly be remediated once and for all.
On the other hand, many home sellers will drop the home’s price if a major mold issue is uncovered and they don’t want to address it themselves. Again, buyers can feel more comfortable with this arrangement if estimates for remediation have taken place and the full scope of the problem is determined. Most sellers understand the mold can spook away buyers. If they have a serious buyer who is still willing to make the deal, they’ll often negotiate to make that deal happen. Sometimes, the buyer and seller can even agree to split some costs. The entire negotiation process should be documented to protect both parties.
Discovering that the home of your dreams is brimming with mold doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Mold can be cleaned up and moisture problems can—and should—be repaired no matter who lives in the house. The important thing is that the mold issue is discovered or disclosed before the closing of the sale. Take time to find a licensed inspector that has experience spotting mold. If mold is discovered, keep these tips in mind before signing on the dotted line and completing the home purchase.
This information is provided courtesy of The Eastside Real Estate Team. Keep us in mind for all your real estate needs. Call us today at 425-200-4093.