Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that comes from the breakdown of Uranium into the ground. It escapes from the ground into the atmosphere. Because it is a gas, it can easily come through the foundation of a home. According to the EPA, Radon collected in levels greater than 4 PicoCuries Per Liter (pCi /L) is the second leading cause of Lung Cancer. When Radon levels are high, a mitigation system can be installed to remove the Radon gas from the house.
If a seller knows the Radon levels are high, they need to disclose that information to a prospective buyer. They are not required to remediate however, because Radon is a disclosure item, the seller typically agrees to pay for remediation or allow for a credit to the buyer to cover the expense. Each purchase and sale agreement is unique and the Buyer's Agent would be the best person to guide the buyer on what to ask for and accept.
As part of the Due Diligence period, the buyer should have an inspection done. A Radon test is an optional part of the inspection that should be done on all homes that have direct contact with the ground and have not been tested within the last 5 years. Most of North Georgia has a medium to high risk for elevated Radon.
The Radon test is a 48-hour test that takes air samples of the lowest livable section of a home. It is common for the Radon levels to spike up and down as the Radon enters the home and the ventilation system carries it out. We are looking for an average level. See the graph below where the Radon levels vary from roughly .25 to approximately 4.5. The overall average is 2.7. Mitigation would not be recommended at this point.
After the test is done, the buyer and their agent will be given the results. Together they will review them and decide the course of action they want to take. As it is a disclosure item, a seller is typically inclined to address the issue in some fashion. However, they are not required to do so. They are only required to disclose the high Radon levels to any other potential buyers.
Buying and selling homes with high Radon levels:
Sellers in areas of high risk of Radon would benefit from having a Radon test done prior to listing. If the levels are low, they have a current test that they can use to disclose low Radon levels.
If you are selling a home and the Radon levels are high, it is recommended to have a Radon Mitigation system installed. You will have the advantage of having the time to research mitigation companies and make sure a quality system is installed within your budget. The cost for mitigation varies widely and can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Waiting to see if a buyer wants a mitigation system installed can put you in a position where you have to react quickly in order to sell the home. This can result in you having to pay more than necessary or putting in an inferior system that could cause issues down the road.
If you are buying a home (or representing a buyer) and the seller has disclosed high Radon levels and has declined to install a mitigation system, the buyer should contact a mitigation company to get an estimate for installation. The buyer and their agent should have a clear conversation about that cost and how it will affect the contract negotiations of the home. Just because the Radon levels are high, you don't need to walk away from the home. It is simply one factor that needs to be considered as it can easily be remedied. There is no stigma attached to homes with Radon Mitigation and it should not affect the value of the home. The buyer should also plan on re-testing every 5 years to make sure the system is working properly.
Negotiating on a home with high Radon levels:
The buyer and their agent will need to have a conversation on what to ask for and how. Remember, each contract is unique. Perhaps you are already paying well below market value and the seller doesn't want to "give" anymore or they don't have the funds to pay for the mitigation. Perhaps the buyer has some renovations planned that would reduce the cost of the mitigation system and wants to handle it themselves. Or the buyer might be paying market value and not be in a position to cover the expense of Radon Mitigation right away. This is one of the ways having an agent represent a buyer will be beneficial. The agent will be able to provide the information and advice necessary for the buyer to make an informed decision.
One thing is clear though: A Radon Mitigation system should be installed quickly in homes with high Radon levels.
For Real Estate Agents:
You have the best interests of your client in mind. Encouraging them to get a Radon test in North Georgia is always a good thing regardless of the foundation of the home. While homes on basements and crawl spaces have the highest risk. Homes on a slab foundation are also at risk, especially in a high-risk area. A great resource to see what areas have higher risk levels is available HERE.
If the Radon levels come back high, you will be the best one to guide your clients as to their next steps. While we would always recommend a mitigation system be installed right away, we know that sometimes there are circumstances that would prevent that from happening. Making sure your client has the information to make the best decision is what makes you a great agent and makes sure you have a happy client!
How can you test for Radon:
You want to make sure you have a certified and trusted company that does the testing and is a third party. Meaning that they do not sell or install Radon Mitigation systems. LunsPro Home Inspections is a certified Radon tester and we do not offer any mitigation services. We do have mitigation companies we can refer if needed.
LunsPro Home Inspections is available to do Radon testing while a home is under contract or as a stand-alone service. We utilize a 48-hour Continuous Radon Monitoring system for our tests and will get the results to you as quickly as possible. We do not offer Radon Mitigation services as we are an independent third-party inspection company.