Radon Testing As Part Of A Sales Contract
There are many questions regarding Radon Testing in a real estate transaction. Here we will cover the basic steps for having a valid test and the possible outcomes. But, first a quick discussion about Radon:
What is Radon?
Much like carbon monoxide, Radon gas is tasteless, odorless, invisible and deadly. It is a radioactive gas that results from the natural breakdown or decay of uranium in rock, soils, or water which then seep upward through the ground (or water). Radon gas can enter a home in a number of ways, such as cracks or flaws in a home's foundation, floor drains, construction joints, open sump crocks, penetrations in a basement floor (such as pipes), etc. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that Radon can cause lung cancer, especially if an individual also happens to be a smoker.
Radon occurs at very low levels in most environments, so that even measurements from outdoor air samples will register some level (typically less than a "1" reading) and indoor levels of "1" to "2" are not uncommon. The higher readings indoor are explained by the buildup of Radon which may occur within confined spaces, such as a home, especially with the efforts that most homeowners undertake to prevent energy loss (energy efficiency) and air flow in/out of their home. So, if Radon gas is coming in, an energy efficient home may keep it in.
Experts differ somewhat on the threshold limits of Radon, however, the EPA has set its 'actionable level' at a "4.0" That means a reading of 4.0 pCi per Liter of air. So, if a reading is 4.0 or higher, homeowners are encouraged to take corrective action.
How Is Radon Testing Handled In A Sale?
Radon Testing is a separate Contingency than a general Home Inspection. It requires that the firm conducting the test be properly licensed and trained regarding Radon and that the testing follows professional guidelines and testing methods established by the EPA. If agreed upon in the sales contract, a Radon Test will usually occur upfront within the first week or 10 days of the contract, typically at the expense of the Buyer. Such a test runs approximately $125.00 on average, and results are typically known in 2 - 3 days.
To allow for a valid test, the Seller of the home agrees to follow certain EPA testing guidelines and testing recommendations, such as:
All windows shall remain shut during the testing period.
Exterior doors remain closed except for normal ingress into and egress out of the home
Whole house fans cannot be operated; no fans shall operate near testing equipment
What Happens When It's A 'High' Radon Test?
If the results of the test are 4.0 or higher, then most Sellers will elect to perform remediation work prior to Settlement. This cost varies, but averages in the $750.00 to $1,200.00 range, and includes follow-up testing to confirm that the new Radon mitigation system is working (lowering the level to below 4.0).
The Seller is not, however, obligated to 'fix' a high Radon reading. It is unreasonable, though, to expect a Buyer to move forward with the transaction without corrective action by the Seller, and therefore in the overwhelming majority of cases, the Seller will take corrective action in order not to lose the sale. By the way, most Real Estate Brokers consider a high Radon test to be a disclosure item for any other future Buyer, should the initial Buyer not wish to proceed because the Seller refuses to correct a high Radon level, so fixing it upfront works best for most Sellers.
You can get more information about Radon by visiting the EPA's website concerning Radon: www.epa.gov/radon
We at The Art of Real Estate Team are here to answer your questions regarding how Real Estate works here in Northern Virginia - - after all, we've assisted hundreds of Home Buyers and Home Sellers throughout our area! How may we be of assistance to you?
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