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Buying a home? Get A Mold Inspection!

buy-homeDo you think mold might be growing somewhere in the home you want to buy? If so then you should have a mold inspection performed.

There are two goals of a mold inspection. The first is to find if and where mold is growing in your home. The second is to find the water problem which caused the mold to grow in the first place. It’s always best to hire a professional mold inspector to do the mold inspection for you. Thanks to mold inspectors’ experience and their knowledge of spots where mold most often hides, you can be sure that if there’s any mold in your home that they will find it. Mold inspectors also use special equipment like moisture meters and fiber optics. This allows them to find hot spots where mold is most likely growing and look into hidden areas such as behind walls. This way they can find any and all hidden mold while barely disturbing your home.

Here are some common places in a home where mold is likely to take hold:

  • around leaking pipes, windows, or roofs (the constant supply of water gives mold spores the start they need)
  • basements or other places that have flooded and haven’t been thoroughly dried
  • tightly sealed buildings (common with new construction), which trap excess moisture inside, and
  • homes with poor ventilation, numerous over-watered houseplants, and housekeeping habits that ignore obvious dampness and don’t include airing the place out.

You won’t always know if there is mold in a house you’re considering buying, but you can take a few easy steps to try and find out.

Be on the lookout for mold. When you’re thinking about buying a home, look for the elements above to figure out if there are any obvious signs of mold or the potential for mold. Keep your eyes peeled for standing water in the basement, water marks on walls (particularly recent-looking stains), or musty smells (particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, cabinets with plumbing, or other areas with plumbing). If you’re looking at a newer home, find out whether it is built with “synthetic stucco,” also called the Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). This airtight barrier is supposed to improve insulation but, if improperly installed, may allow water penetration and mold growth on the inside of walls.

Ask your home inspector. If you have the home professionally inspected before you buy it, your home inspector may see obvious signs of mold or water damage. While it’s not the inspector’s job to look for mold, most home inspectors will mention obvious signs of water damage and the possible presence of mold. And, because the inspector will poke around in spaces you might not, he or she may see things you wouldn’t. Don’t hesitate to ask whether the inspector saw signs of mold or potential mold dangers, and ask that these results be included in the inspection report. Some inspectors may be wary of this, because they want to avoid liability for any mold-related problems. But all should be comfortable talking to you about whether they saw anything suspicious.

Ask the seller to disclose any mold or water-related problems.  Some states require sellers to disclose information about mold. Keep in mind that the seller’s duty to disclose only relates to things the seller knows about or reasonably should know about — he or she doesn’t have a duty to go poking around in the walls to see if there’s mold, for example.  In states where mold disclosure is not required, you can still ask for such disclosure. In addition, ask questions about things that could lead to mold growth, such as “Have any pipes ever burst?” or “Have any of the windows ever leaked?”

Listen to agents and appraisers. In some states, real estate agents or brokers have a duty to disclose problems they know about. Likewise, an appraiser should notify you of any obvious sign of a mold problem if it could affect the value of the property.

Add a mold-related contingency to your offer. Assuming you’re interested enough in the house to place an offer on it, making the sale contingent on your satisfaction with the results of specific inspections for mold lets you back out if the inspection finds a mold problem. Unfortunately, tests for mold are difficult to conduct and expensive. And, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testing for mold isn’t usually necessary when it’s visible on surfaces. Most people will end up relying on the detection methods discussed above.

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