First Things First: Accepting the Inevitable

Like it or not, radon concerns are not going away. The U.S. EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, National Cancer Institute and Consumer Federation of America recommend that ALL home buyers test for radon. Employee relocation companies accepted this fact several years ago. Ignoring it, or worse yet, fighting it, will eventually cause you problems.

Once you’ve learned to put radon into proper perspective, however, there is NO reason for it to interfere with your deal. Legal experts suggest informing buyers of EPA’s radon test recommendation is the best way to protect yourself from liability. Then no one can later accuse you of negligence.


There is No Reason for Radon to Ever Kill Your Deal!

“Radon – It just gets in the way of making the sale. If the house tests “high,” everybody’s in a panic. The seller is angry, the buyer is apprehensive, and we’re left scrambling to keep the deal together. And for what? Nobody seems to be sure it’s even a health risk. Besides, I’ve heard there’s not much of a problem around here, anyway. To be honest, I cringe at the very sound of the word!”
 – An unidentified real estate agent.

Click Either Option Below to Read More

Talking to Buyers

When Talking to the Buyer, Have All the Right Answers

Once the buyer is aware of EPA’s radon test recommendation, avoid making any statement that could be construed as an attempt to talk them out of it, leaving you responsible.

Don’t Say,“Radon isn’t a problem around here.” Although some areas certainly have a lower incidence, houses with elevated levels can be found almost everywhere. And, two houses side-by-side can have different indoor concentrations. If the buyer later discovers a problem, they will likely remember it was you who told them a test was unnecessary. Remember EPA test recommendations don’t exclude the home buyers in your community.

Don’t Say, “There’s no reason to test this house because……it’s a new house,” or
it’s on a crawlspace,”
 or it doesn’t have a basement.” Radon is an equal opportunity pollutant. New houses, as well as those with a crawlspace or slab-on-grade foundations, are all susceptible. Only homes built on pier foundations or apartments above the third floor are unlikely candidates.

Don’t Say,“Radon isn’t even proven to be a health risk.” Radon is a Class A carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans. The scientific community and every significant health organization rank radon as the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, causing an estimated 22,000 U.S. deaths annually.

Like it or not, the buyer will look to you for guidance and expertise. If your responses are inconsistent with government agencies and major health organizations, the buyer will be more apprehensive, and you could be held accountable should that buyer discover a problem in the future.

Like sellers, buyers generally have little or no experience with radon. Their concerns are two-fold. “Will living in this house jeopardize the health of our family?” and “Does the presence of elevated radon diminish the property value?” 
Because buyers rely on you for assurance, it is vital for you to have the correct responses. Any uncertainty on your part will only feed their anxiety. Radon is not the black plague. Treat the situation as routine – a molehill, not a mountain. Radon mitigation is simple and effective, permanently reducing concentrations to well below the EPA Action Level. And since most systems prevent damp soil air from entering the house, the buyers may notice other indoor air quality improvement as well. No more musty odors!

Very little maintenance is required, and operating costs are generally less than $10 a month for the fan electricity (similar to a 70 watt light bulb) and minor loss of conditioned air exfiltrating to the ground. The fan isn’t “maxed” to capacity air flow or suction capability, meaning there is minimal “load” on the motor. And since it runs continuously, it doesn’t receive the wear and tear of cycling on and off. In other words, it will last a long time. And, since the control system is so quiet and unobtrusive, the homeowner will barely notice it exists.

Radon control systems in no way diminish the dollar value of the home and are accepted nationally as a home improvement.
Since reduction systems lower the radon concentrations so efficiently and eliminate peak fluctuations, living in a mitigated home reduces one’s risk of getting lung cancer to as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) – even lower than living in most houses testing below the EPA Action Level (4 pCi/l) with no control system.

There is absolutely no reason for buyers to allow elevated radon to keep them from purchasing a house they otherwise adore. 

Remind them of how much they like the kitchen, the master bathroom, the scenic view, or the convenient location. A radon problem is no problem at all – permanently solved by an easy home improvement.

What if the test is just barely over the EPA Action Level of 4 pCi/l? Does it need to be mitigated?

EPA technical support documents reveal that a short-term test made according to EPA Real Estate Testing Protocols will result in making the correct decision 95% of the time. In other words, a house testing high very likely has an annual average radon concentration exceeding 4 pCi/l, and the buyer would be justified in insisting on remedial action.

However, the most significant likelihood of making an incorrect decision occurs when the short-term test is at or barely above the Action Level. For example, if the two-day test result is 4.1 pCi/l, there is a 50% chance the long-term average concentration is actually less than 4 pCi/l.

What can be done in this situation to protect both the buyer and seller?

One popular solution, if everyone is agreeable, is to obtain a couple of remedial cost estimates and place the necessary funds in an escrow account. Then after the buyer moves in the house, a 90-day test is performed. If the result of the longer test confirms the average concentration is at or above 4 pCi/l, remediation can be performed with the escrowed funds. If the 90-day test indicates the average is less than 4 pCi/l, the escrow can be returned to the appropriate party. Naturally, this option must be agreeable to the buyers. Sometimes they will not want to wait, or the closing attorneys will balk at setting up the escrow. But often this is a sensible way of handling those borderline situations.

Talking to Sellers

When Talking to the Seller – Avoid the Blame Game

Few sellers will have any previous experience with radon. When told their home contains an invisible pollutant, their first reaction may often be to blame someone for what they perceive to be a fuss over nothing. “Humph, I’ve lived in this house for sixteen years and I ain’t dead. This is just a rip-off the federal government made up to make life miserable.”

If the real estate agents join in the blame game, the molehill quickly becomes a mountain.

Don’t Say, “Yeah, you’re right. The blasted EPA is full of it. I hear they can’t prove it’s harmful. I could just shoot that inspector for bringing radon up in the first place. This test can’t be right; I’ve never heard of other problems in the neighborhood.”

Statements like that from the agent will reinforce the seller’s initial anger and convince them they’re being victimized. You’ll only divide a wedge between the buyer and seller that’s difficult to remove.

To effectively keep the high test from being an obstacle, keep it in proper perspective.

For example, if the inspector had discovered all the gutters’ downspouts around the house were rusty and needed to be replaced, the seller would accept with minimal grumbling. After all, he can justify the necessity because he can see the rusty hole rooted gutter boards or water in the basement.

Quickly explain that fixing a radon problem is just another home repair, easily and inexpensively performed by an EPA or State qualified contractor. Although the cost may vary depending on the size and design of the home, it seldom runs more than $800 – $1200. This is a negotiating point. Assure them the problem is easily resolved and won’t interfere with their ability to sell the house. Remember, the seller is looking to you for validation that the buyer’s concern is justified.

Radon Mitigation - Buyers and Sellers