Selling A Home With Mold: What You Need to Know
October 25, 2013
By Bill Gassett
I am selling my home and found mold! Now what? The potential is there for mold to be found in almost every home. Where there is any amount of moisture, mold can and will grow.
However, the real estate community has become increasingly aware of serious mold issues – ones that can do significant damage to home sales.
Molds such as stachybotrys chart arum, or black mold, can cause serious health complications, and substantial liability issues for the sellers of homes that contain black mold.
As a home seller, you cannot afford to mess around with mold growth. You can deal with mold in a responsible way that should help you sell your home for a fair price, and clear you of any liability should the
mold return after the sale – but you must deal with the problem directly.
There are not many things that will scare a home buyer away from your property than faster than mold!
How Does Mold Affect Home Sales
Selling a home with mold is not something you want to mess around with. There are buyers that will bail out of a home sale at the first mention of mold discovered in a property!
Everyone is familiar with common household mold, the fungi that pops up in all kinds of moist environments. It grows on food left too long in the fridge, for instance.
Unfortunately for homeowners, it also grows in attics, bathrooms, basements and virtually any moist surface around your home.
If you see black spots developing on a wall in a poorly ventilated room, for example, you are probably noticing the beginning stages of a mold problem.
Mold is all around you, generally in airborne spores searching for an ideal place to land and develop. In small amounts it is not a problem, but when it finds a moist place in your home and you fail to notice it, it can quickly develop into a serious problem.
The Dangers of Mold
Of the thousands of different molds in your environment, there are a select few that prove harmful to humans through their proximity.
These toxic molds, of which black mold is the most common, produce airborne byproducts that can damage your lungs and lead to general ill health.
Asthma sufferers and others with lung complications experience the most problems with toxic mold, but it is capable of making healthy people sick as well.
The most vulnerable populations to toxic mold are the elderly and infants.
In reality, serious health complications from indoor molds are quite rare. Most people experience minor reactions from mold exposure, such as sneezing, runny nose or coughing – if they experience any symptoms at all.
However, this argument will hold little weight with potential buyers should they discover black mold growing in your property.
Mold Problems for Home Sellers
Why buy a house with mold?
No matter how slight the chances of developing serious complications from mold exposure, home buyers have every right to be cautious when mold issues might be present. This is probably one of the biggest purchases of their lives, and they could be planning to raise a family in the home.
Also, there is no reason why they should pay for a home with mold as a home inspection problem when they could find an equally good deal on a home without such issues.
As a home seller, you must take all of this into account. Those that have any kind of allergies that effect their respiratory track will be especially susceptible to mold.
If a home buyer purchases your home and soon finds that there is a mold problem, there is a very good chance he or she could come after you with a lawsuit.
Whether you knew about the problem and failed to mention it, or you did not take the time and expense to determine if there was a problem before the sale, you may find yourself facing some heavy consequences. Again selling a home with mold is not something you want to take lightly!
If the buyer’s home inspector discovers a mold problem in your home, you will have difficulty getting the price you want for the home. The reduction in price will depend on the severity of the problem, but you have little hope of realizing your maximum asking price with a mold infestation.
Many times the discovery is enough to drive off buyers altogether. In fact the chances of a buyer backing out of the sale are fairly high even if you agree to take care of the problem. Right or wrong mold is one of those things that really spook home buyers.
What You Can Do As A Seller
Ideally, you should begin addressing potential mold problems before you ever put your house on the market. Mold cleanup can take time, and you do not want buyers associating your home with ongoing mold remediation if you can help it.
Begin by looking your home over as thoroughly as possible. Are there any areas where moisture tends to accumulate? Are there any places that you have not looked in a while, such is behind the water heater, in the basement or in the attic? Have you had any water damage problems, such as a leaking roof or a flooded basement?
Examine your house from top to bottom for moisture penetration or accumulation. Not every home has a mold problem, or is even at particular risk of developing one. While every property has the potential for mold in small quantities, not all homes encourage serious mold growth.
You should be able to determine where any major water infiltration has occurred, if any, and you should be able to see any major mold growth on exterior surfaces.
Water damage is the main cause of mold infestations. Repair any such problems now, and keep an eye out for mold while making your repairs. In removing damaged materials you may discover infestations behind walls or in ceilings. If you do discover serious mold growth, stop work immediately and contact a mold cleanup professional.
Get a mold inspection
If you think there is a possibility of mold contamination, it may be a good idea to just bite the bullet and get an inspection done. Inspections are not cheap, but they can tell you whether there really is a problem.
If there is, you can take care of it now. If there is not, you will have records demonstrating this fact to potential buyers.
There are numerous companies that perform “mold remediation”. Typical a mold remediation will follow a two step process. The first phase would be treating the mold with chemicals that will kill the mold.
The second phase is a treatment that prevents the mold from growing back.
A good mold removal company will typically offer a warranty for a number of years for the mold not returning to the home.
Document all repairs you make and all testing results you receive. This is important for two reasons. First, you want to have these documents available to buyers with questions about mold, to demonstrate that you have addressed the problem as thoroughly as possible. Second, these documents will help protect you in the event that the buyer pursues legal action after they purchase the home.
It is not unheard of for a buyer to go after a seller for problems that were not in fact the seller’s fault. Documentation will help protect you from this type of situation.
Pre-listing mold inspection
If you did have problems with mold or serious water damage, but have done the necessary repairs to fix the problem, you may want to get an official inspection done to prove that the situation has been resolved. Having such documents available will make you look good to buyers and will quickly resolve any concerns they may have.
Assume partial mold removal costs
There are situations where your home may be prone to infestations of mold. Even If you have addressed the problem, done the necessary repairs and hired a mold remediation expert, there may still be a possibility of mold problems in the future.
Testing may still show that some mold exists, even after all of your efforts. Levels may be low enough to be safe, but any mold could be enough to worry a potential buyer. Don’t have your head buried in the sand thinking you will find a buyer that won’t care about mold. That is highly unlikely to happen!
When you are in a situation like this, what you have to do is find out what is still causing the mold to return. While a mold remediation company can get rid of the mold via their chemical treatments if the underlying cause of the mold growing is not taken care of, the potential for mold to return will always exist.
This is a situation where it would make sense to either address the suspected cause of the issue or at the very least give the buyer a credit to deal with it.
While you may not want to pay for repairs on a house that will no longer be yours, you may save yourself greater expenses later on. If the mold does come back, the buyer will have a very hard time getting any more money from you than the amount agreed to.
Of course, you should consult with an attorney before signing any agreement. However, this could save you money in the long run on a problem property.
Face Mold Head On
Mold is a fact of home ownership for most people. Like all sellers, you want to sell your home for as much as possible as quickly as possible. However, failing to deal with mold issues is asking for trouble, and could cause you problems long after the sale is supposedly over.
Keep in mind that if a buyer discovers mold in your home they are most likely going to ask you for remediation.
Don’t be stubborn enough to think that if you decide not to deal with the problem the next buyer will be fine with taking on a mold issue. That is highly unlikely and your real estate agent is going to be required to disclose this issue to any future buyers.
Address your mold problems head on, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a clean and certain sale. Below you will find a good educational video about selling a home with mold. It is well worth a look for those people who flat out decide they will not buy a home where mold has been discovered.
Gassett, B. (2013). Selling A Home With Mold: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.maxrealestateexposure.com/need-know-mold-selling-home/#menu-upper-menu