Waiving Home Inspection Radon Test — Indoor Air Quality Home Buyer Risk

In this sellers market, why is the home inspection radon test the first contingency to be waived? In this post we’ll explore the downside risk to home buyers when making this radon concession, and see what steps to take to ensure safe indoor air quality for the entire household.

Most of us can live our entire lives without knowing anything about Radon, until we buy a home. At that point, immediately after contract ratification, home buyers are given an overwhelming volume of information — including the possibility to test for radon. Highlights include: it’s in every home in America (1 in 15 homes has radon at unsafe levels), and is potentially fatal, kills 21,000 people per year, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer, beaten only by smoking.

Enlightened by these astonishing facts, it would be reasonable to assume that access to the property is only possible while wearing radioactive protective suits, at least until common sense testing was complete and any danger mitigated. This assumption would be false.

Radon testing in most States is an optional part of the Home Inspection Contingency Addendum to a real estate sales contract. This is the due diligence that a home buyer takes when they make possibly the largest investment of their lives on a single asset. The home inspection report identifies the integrity of the structure, major systems, and is very comprehensive and useful to a buyer. It provides information that can be beneficial when negotiating the final terms of the home purchase transaction.

Given the potential risk to public health, you would think that this would be mandatory, and a very routine component of a real estate sale. But it is completely optional (check your State regulations). Further, if you did conduct a test and unsafe radon levels were detected, then it is optional again for the purchaser to do any mitigation to alleviate the risk and remove the threat to the household occupants.

This is the state of the real estate industry when a radon test and subsequent mitigation is completely optional and the responsibility of the buyer. Contrast this with the termite inspection, which is a mandatory requirement by your mortgage lender, and any mitigation resulting must be addressed before proceeding. The latter ensures the underwritten asset, but your lender is not as concerned about indoor air pollution and your health.

Indoor Air Quality

As you rationalize your decision to waive your radon test, you might be considering whether in fact you are even concerned with indoor air quality or indoor air pollution. Here are a few scenarios to test your sensitivity.

If you walk into a home for sale and look at the sellers carpet, and then immediately resolve to ripping every square foot of it out before you move in, to avoid having to inhale years of someone else’s dust — then you are concerned with indoor air quality.

If you examine the HVAC air filter when viewing a listing to determine not only the level of upkeep and maintenance, but to see a measure of indoor air pollution — then you are concerned with indoor air quality.

If you look for moisture in a home that you are considering making an offer, and looking for mold that could potentially trigger allergies or sinus discomfort — then you are definitely concerned with indoor air quality and you should also be concerned with radon.

Testing for radon levels during a home purchase is an important positive action as it’s one of the only tests a home buyer can do that is a measure of indoor air quality. For a potentially fatal and easily mitigated gas, it’s a sensible course of action.

If you are shopping for a home purchase now — mid pandemic, no doubt you are acutely aware of the importance of indoor air quality and the implications for human health.

What Is Radon

Radon gas causes lung cancer, is naturally occurring, radioactive, inert, colorless, odorless and can’t be detected with our senses. It is detectable in trace amounts in the atmosphere and water, but is produced through the decay of uranium in the ground.

It is everywhere, and can be at elevated levels in every building — anywhere. Radon leaches through building slab floors, basements, and crawl spaces and is detectible at higher concentrations on lower levels.

Why Home Buyers Are Waiving Radon Tests

In a competitive home buyer environment the radon test is often an early concession. An offer inclusive of a radon test contingency is a hurdle to the seller and less attractive than an offer without.

Without the radon testing information, a home buyer relinquishes leverage to then negotiate possible mitigation. By selecting offers without this contingency, a seller removes this possible mitigation expense and impediment to sale.

With multiple offers on competitive listings, the home buyer basically has no other option but to yield this inspection to have any chance at successfully winning the bid to purchase.

How To Test For Radon

Radon testing kits are available through any hardware retailer. They’re inexpensive and easy to use. Testing duration can be as short as 2 days and as long as 90, depending on the type of testing system. Simply follow the instructions on your kit to record an accurate radon reading in your property.

Some precautions to follow include placing the test kit in the lowest livable room, and ensuring the flow of air through the home is limited. Open garages, HVAC fans, open windows and doors and people movement can all produce a false test result.

It’s relatively easy to test yourself, but a better way forward is to have your licensed and insured home inspector set up the test. It’s a convenient and inexpensive add-on to the inspection.

Radon Mitigation

If elevated levels of radon are detected then it is advisable to follow through and mitigate this health hazard. Although, this is not required — amazingly.

Select an accredited radon mitigation contractor to evaluate your property and design a system that will effectively resolve the radon concern.

Ensure that the radon tester is a different entity to the radon mitigation organization that you choose. Otherwise there is a clear conflict of interest.

Essentially, mitigation involves accessing the source of radon and then extracting it and venting above the roof line. In a slab, they would bore a hole through to the soil, shale, or bedrock before creating a small void. A tube is inserted to vent the gas, along with a small and efficient extractor fan. This fan will be hardwired to the home electric system. The straw like suction removes the radon by sucking it out of the material below the home. Similar systems are utilized for basements and crawl spaces.

A radon mitigation system can usually be installed for less than $2,000. Ensure that you hire an accredited contractor, and the installation should take no longer than a day.

Following the installation, a follow-up test should be conducted to confirm that the level of radon has in fact decreased to produce a safe living environment.

Best Home Buyer Course Of Action

Given the competitive nature of home buying in this out-of-balance sellers market, it’s reasonable that radon inspections are largely being waived. With the clear health risk, and simple, low cost solution — it is highly recommended that home buyers take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the household. The downside risk is too great, and even negligent.

Take the time and spend the money to test your home after settlement, if that is what is required. You won’t regret it.

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Hunter Montgomery

Hunter Montgomery


Home Hunter - Buying or Renting, unique perspectives on going after your next property.