Should I Get a Mold Inspection When Buying a Home?
We just finished another mold inspection that turned out like so many before. It’s a predictable scenario, and we hate it for the family every time.
A family just purchased a new home. The boxes are unpacked and pictures are on the walls. They’ve got a few pieces of new furniture picked out, and she has excitedly filled Pinterest with a dozen projects. He’s trying to figure out how to tell her he can’t quite pull that last one off.
Then, they realize that they are feeling sick more than normal. It started as a cold but then didn’t go away. The doctor suggested that they look into their indoor air quality to see if something more is going on.
That’s when we show up for a Mold & Indoor Air Quality Inspection.
He doesn’t buy it, but is willing to give it a shot. Really just to check it off the list. Sure, there may be a little dust on top of the fridge, but they keep a clean house. Besides, they had the home inspected before the purchase.
Our investigator spent about 2 hours combing through their house from the basement to the attic. Walking back into the kitchen, we had some bad news to deliver.
“So I found quite a few areas of mold in your home. The good news is everything can be fixed, and you will start feeling a lot better when we are done. Unfortunately, you’re looking at about $20,000 to get it all taken care of and put back together.”
Just like that, the Pinterest boards were wiped clean, and the new furniture kicked down the road. So what went wrong?
The Big Miss
Home inspections are an important part of any real estate transaction. They make sure the home is in good working order, the trim is not rotting, the appliances are working, the roof is sound, and the foundation is sturdy.
But mold and water damage are tricky beasts. They follow unpredictable paths and hide in the dark recesses of places that are hard to get to.
It takes a different kind of eye to find a problem that’s really good at hiding. It takes someone willing to keep digging until all the possibilities have been uncovered. It takes someone who is an expert at mold to find mold. It takes an investigator not an inspector.
That’s simply not what a home inspection is trying to be. In fact, some home inspections exclude mold altogether. Here is a quick line taken from a typical home inspection:
‘XYZ Home Inspections is not responsible for discovering or reporting on the presence or absence of mold or mildew. Furthermore, we are not responsible for any damages that arise from or are related to mold, even if the mold is a direct consequence of a condition that XYZ Home Inspections reported.’
While most home inspectors will report mold they see through the course of their inspection, they aren’t going to go out of their way to find it. They certainly aren’t going to take any responsibility for it.
But wait… My home inspector took a mold sample. So I’m covered. Right? We wish we could say yes, but… well, keep reading.
The Fallacy Of The Air Sample
If there was one single thing we could change in this industry it would be air sampling. Using an air sample as an add-on to see if mold is present is borderline negligent. Strike that. It is straight up negligent.
It gives incomplete data to an untrained interpreter who makes mis-guided decisions based on mis-understood results.
We see it all the time. Home inspectors do it all the time. People use DIY test kits all the time. Then, they find themselves $20K on the wrong side of the deal, with those Pinterest projects a distant memory.
Okay, it sounds overly dramatic. However, we did just leave the home of a couple in this very situation! It’s real, and mold is way too easy to prevent.
Here’s the rub with air samples or DIY mold tests. They are only one tool that shows one very specific thing. A mold air sample can’t paint a complete picture, and they don’t create their own context.
Air samples are like shining a laser beam on a very specific slice of space at a singular moment in time. If mold spores happen to be in the laser beam at just the right time, you’ve got a positive result. If the mold spores are a few feet to the left, or are in the next room over… there is a negative result.
A good mold inspector will utilize air sampling or other mold tests as one method in a comprehensive evaluation. But those results are only supporting details. They don’t stand alone. To learn more about air sampling and why it’s not a good idea as a stand alone metric, see our post: Branch Tells You The Truth About Mold Air Sampling In The Next 60 Seconds.
At the end of the day, it’s the expertise and experience of the mold inspector, and the interpretation of the big picture that matters. If you are being offered mold air sampling test results as a stand-alone answer, you’re just not getting the information you need to make a good decision.
So It’s A Lose-Lose Situation?
No! Not at all! There’s another couple just down the road that had a huge win. You see, they had mold issues in their last house. They were a little paranoid, but rightfully so. They’ve lived it once, and weren’t planning on living it again.
The homeowners had 10 days left in due diligence, and the home inspection was clear and free of problems. It was their dream house. Nobody suspected anything, but just to be on the safe side they scheduled a mold inspection with us. We met them at the new home with the seller’s agent, and spent the afternoon in the crawlspace, attic, and everywhere in between.
It was a very nice house. Well taken care of. But…
While we told you earlier that mold & water damage is good at hiding, it’s also one of those things that people try to hide. A quick coat of primer and paint, and it’s like it was never there. Except, our inspectors live for this kind of thing. When we start to sniff a trail all bets are off.
By then end of the inspection, we had traced a trail of previous water damages, covered up mold, and a crawl space with some serious water issues. The issues were so bad the home was not only unhealthy, the foundation was literally being eaten away by mold.
But all the cards were on the table now. With a week of due diligence left, the buyers were in a position of calling their next shot. They could walk, or negotiate. Either way they weren’t flying blind.
The Big Win
Our clients negotiated the purchase price down to accommodate the repairs armed with the knowledge they gained from our inspection. Our clients not only got their dream house, they got it with an updated bathroom, and fresh coat of paint. All without giving up on a single Pinterest project.
The Bottom Line
We know that the thought of mold strikes fear into most people. Real Estate agents aren’t going to bring the issue up. Some home inspectors will let you know if they find something. Others will simply keep their mouths shut. You’ve been to the house a half-dozen times now, and it looks and smells clean.
The reality is that you are about to sink the majority of your wealth into this single investment. You’re going to end up with a great home in a great part of town, without any equity to borrow against for unexpected repairs.
You simply don’t know what is hiding on the other side of the drywall or just beneath the floorboards or right there in the crawlspace. Your home inspector doesn’t either.
Adding a Mold & Indoor Air Quality Inspection to your due diligence package is such a small price to pay at this juncture. We would go as far as to say, it is the single best thing you can do to protect your purchase.
To learn even more about mold and how to prevent it, check out the ‘For more Information’ section at the end of this post.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Only mold experts can tell you for sure if you have a mold problem. Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. We treat each inspection as an investigation. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Beyond Mold Inspections, Branch Delivers Mold Investigations
- Branch Tells You The Truth About Mold Air Sampling In The Next 60 Seconds
- Mold Remediation and Reconstruction Together Saves Time and Money – Branch Environmental
- Where Does Mold Hide? – Branch Environmental
- Top 6 Types of Water Damage and How to Avoid Them – Branch Environmental
- Home Mold Remediation – Branch Environmental
- How To Navigate an Insurance Claim – Branch Environmental
- 5 Expectations about Mold vs. Eye-Opening Reality – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Top 10 Ways to Prevent Water Damage – Branch Environmental
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