For home buyers and home sellers alike, the idea of mold in the house is a particularly worrying one. Buyers are concerned that their dream home could be riddled with damaging, invasive mold, and sellers dread their property selling below market value thanks to a mold problem. So what happens if a house on the market has mold?
It is not strictly illegal to sell a house with mold, however, in most states, there are several protections and regulations in place to ensure transparency and fairness when it comes to buying and selling homes with past or present mold problems.
There are options and avenues open to buyers and sellers before, during, and after the sales process that will ensure both parties obtain the greatest possible value while still reducing and minimizing risk.
While there are no legal requirements dictating that a seller must fix or remediate any mold problems before listing their house, the reality of selling a house with past or present mold problems is slightly more complex.
Some states will require the seller to disclose whether there have been past mold issues or past remediations at the property. Even if you do not live in one of these states, failure to disclose any former or ongoing issues with mold prior to sale can cause you problems down the line.
Even if sellers are not legally bound to disclose mold issues, they can still be liable for litigious proceedings if the home buyer discovers that a mold problem was hidden from them.
So what should you do before selling?
Mold remediation can be extremely costly in terms of both time and money. As well as potentially being found liable for any mold remediation that may be required on the property, sellers may also find themselves required to pay for the buyer’s legal costs. Additionally, mold litigation proceedings may take several weeks or even months!
It is almost always easier to remove and remediate any mold issues in a house before attempting to sell it. However, if a seller does not wish to do this and has made a full disclosure about the state of the mold issue in the home, they are within their rights to sell the property to a willing buyer.
In this situation, the seller will most likely have to accept a reduced price for the property, and both buying and selling parties should ensure that all disclosures and communications relating to the mold issue have been properly documented. This will safeguard the seller against future prosecution, as they will be able to demonstrate that the buyer was aware and accepting of the property’s state at the time of purchase.
What is a Toxic Mold Disclosure?
When selling a house with mold issues, either past or present, the mold itself is often not the issue, but whether or not you have disclosed it.
A Toxic Mold Disclosure is a document that is countersigned by buyers and sellers during the sale process, or by landlords and tenants during the rental process. It is intended to catalog any mold sightings in the property and often contains other relevant information.
The signing of a Toxic Mold Disclosure acts as a release form. It signifies that the buyer (or tenant) has accepted the disclosed mold issues and absolves the seller of any responsibility relating to these issues.
There are no official forms for toxic mold disclosure, but many realtors often have their own Toxic Mold Disclosure forms available. It may be best to have an attorney who is well versed in real estate law in your state draw up a Toxic Mold Disclosure Form on your behalf, to ensure maximum peace of mind.
Do you have to disclose mold remediation when selling a house?
Depending upon which state you live in, you may have to disclose any past mold remediation that was conducted on your property. A full list of the disclosures required for each state can be found here.
As a homeowner, you should always ensure any mold remediation is properly documented. If you have engaged a professional mold remediator, ensure that they have provided you with all the necessary details and information about the remediation process.
This could include anything from information about the type and extent of mold growing in your property, details of the location of the mold growth, as well as description of any repairs required to fully remediate the mold problem.
Can mold be completely removed from a house?
Whether you are indoors or outdoors, you are exposed to some mold every single day. Mold is everywhere. It is a key part of the wider ecosystem, and plays a vital role in breaking down dead and decaying matter.
Mold becomes an issue when there are large growths of it in a close, contained environment. Unfortunately, this close, contained environment can very often be the family home, and this is when mold remediation is required.
So although it may be impossible to permanently remove every single mold spore from your house, it is certainly possible to remove large, excessive mold growths.
Depending upon the size of the mold growth, you may be able to remove it yourself. Guidance from the Environment Protection Agency indicates that mold growths measuring less than 3 feet by 3 feet are able to be remediated without engaging professional remediators.
If you have a larger mold growth than this however, you will need to call in some professional help.
When a remediation is performed by professionals, they will cover every facet of the mold removal process. From identifying the source of the moisture or dampness issue that is causing the mold, to containing and cleaning the mold itself, to removing any unsalvageable items, a professional mold remediation is an extensive process.
Following a professional mold remediation, you can be assured that the mold growth has been completely removed and that the source of the growth, whether that be a leaky pipe or a flooded bathroom, has been fixed.
What percentage of homes have mold?
It is difficult to pinpoint just how many homes in the U.S. might have mold problems. Mold growths typically fluctuate according to the seasons, where you live, and even what your house is made out of!
Some estimates place the percentage of homes with mold at more than 50%. As many mold growths also fall into the category of hidden mold – that is, mold that grows out of view behind walls, under carpets, and in other out-of-sight places – this number may well be higher.
Is it ok to buy a house with mold?
As a buyer, the choice whether or not to buy a house with mold is entirely yours. You may wish to secure your dream home for a great price, and deal with the remediation of any mold problems yourself.
If you have a mold allergy, or suffer from asthma, you may wish to have this remediation performed sooner rather than later. This especially applies if you intend to live in your new home straight away. Prolonged exposure to mold can exacerbate symptoms of asthma and can trigger a variety of issues for allergy sufferers.
If you are intending to purchase a home with mold issues, ensure that you understand the cost of any mold remediation required. If the remediation will be very extensive, the lower purchase price of your home may not be so lucrative after all!
How to check a house for mold
Whether you are intending to buy or sell a home, it is easy to check for potential mold growths.
Mold grows in damp or moist areas, so rooms such as the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry may need to be closely inspected for any mold growths. Apart from the distinctive, visible patches of mold that may be growing, mold is often accompanied by a damp, musty smell.
Other rooms that are susceptible to mold growth include basements and attics.
If you cannot see any visible mold growths but suspect that some hidden mold might be lurking in the house, you can engage the services of a professional mold inspector who will be able to test the air for mold spores.
How do mold problems affect home sale prices?
Unsurprisingly, the presence of mold in a house negatively impacts its sale price. While this may not seem like a good thing, it can be potentially positive news for buyers who may wish to get a cheap property and perform the necessary renovations and remediations themselves.
Case studies have demonstrated that the average price decrease of a home that is affected by mold is between 17 to 23%. In some instances in which the home is very badly infected, this price devaluation can be expected to rise accordingly.
These price decreases are just in terms of sale value, however, and do not necessarily represent the full cost of purchasing a home with mold issues. Besides the cost of performing mold remediations, you should also consider the costs associated with things such as obtaining insurances, or even how purchasing a moldy home may impact your mortgage.