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Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:05 pm
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Default Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

After 6 months living in rented accomodation & a LOT of house-hunting, my husband & I feel we've found a real possibility. The house in question is in less-than-stellar shape, and has been on the market quite a while (8 months) both factors that probably explain why the price is as pleasingly low as it is . . .

We seen some things that we *know* will need work, & we're fine with doing that work. What I'm worried about are the surprises that we have no clue about. A good inspection will turn those up (we hope). If we add together the stuff we know now we'll need to fix plus some big or small surprises, the result may well be a deal-breaker for us.

From some evidence we've seen in the basement, we strongly suspect radon has been found at some point & perhaps (?)remedied. This is an absolute deal-breaker for my husband, who has had near relatives with lung cancer. We've probed the realtors about this & been brushed off (IMO).

Should we ask our buyer's agent to ask the seller's agent to question the sellers about this, & if we do, are the sellers legally obligated to reveal any knowledge of radon to us, including any test they have done & measures they may have taken to mitigate it? Must the sellers (or their realtors) reveal any tests done by potential past buyers who may have pulled out? We are worried because the sellers have changed realty companies.

Actually this radon thing is just the tip of the iceberg, as there could be water-drainage problems under part of the house as well (or perhaps connected to the radon?), subsidance, etc. Really wondering if this house isn't too much trouble for us, but we love the house itself & the location . . . .

Last edited by WEBlue; Mar 21st 2012 at 3:08 pm.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:12 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

When you get the inspection done you can ask for a radon test to be done as well. We've had this done - I think it cost about 250 bucks. For the house we actually bought, it was probably academic, as there was a brand new (less than six months old) radon mitigation system in place, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. Getting a radon mitigation system in is about $2000 I believe.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:23 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

You can get Radon test kits free from the town quite often - where are you buying in CT? Radon is not the end of the world. I'd be more concerned if the basement itself is wet, damp or there is an earthy floor (Not concrete) and the foundation/basement walls show any signs of buckling inwards - a sure sign of frost heave/failing foundation.

A lot of folks have radon issues - usually overcome by installing extract fans.

How old is the house?
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:28 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by MadRad View Post
When you get the inspection done you can ask for a radon test to be done as well. We've had this done - I think it cost about 250 bucks. For the house we actually bought, it was probably academic, as there was a brand new (less than six months old) radon mitigation system in place, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. Getting a radon mitigation system in is about $2000 I believe.
Thanks for your helpful info, MadRad! The cost of putting in a radon mitigation system is very useful.

This is not a new build, so we would *definitely* ask for the radon test on top of the normal inspection. We'd do it for any house we're serious about, because this is a high risk radon area. I can't imagine us NOT asking for this to be part of the inspection, no matter what we hear from the seller about the issue.

But we would love to save ourselves the steps of putting in the offer, then hiring the inspection, then waiting for the results, THEN making the decision, etc. We're trying to reaearch in advance & crunch numbers now to show what this house could possibly cost us in terms of work needing doing. My feeling is if there is radon that hasn't already been mitigated to a decent level, we don't want the house. I would love to have a clue one way or the other before putting in any offer.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:43 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by King Gimp View Post
You can get Radon test kits free from the town quite often - where are you buying in CT?
Yes, I've read about the tests you can get for low cost or free. But would the sellers let us put it in their basement? (They are still living in the house.) I wonder if it would be appropriate to ask? We haven't bought a house in a long time, & the rules have changed so much since we last lived in the States . . . .


Radon is not the end of the world. I'd be more concerned if the basement itself is wet, damp or there is an earthy floor (Not concrete) and the foundation/basement walls show any signs of buckling inwards - a sure sign of frost heave/failing foundation.
A lot of folks have radon issues - usually overcome by installing extract fans.
Yes, it's fine with me if radon HAD been tested for, and especially I'd like the sellers (or previous owners) to have put in a good mitigation system. That would be ideal IMO. We'd still test for radon as part of the inspection--to check-- but we'd feel better having all that info *before* putting in an offer & starting the whole ball rolling.

How old is the house?
Originally built in the early 30s. BUT . . . several owners have done extentions.

There's a very odd section of the basement that really puzzles us. No access to it fromn the regular basement. One realtor said to us that it was a small newer foundation dug for an extra screened porch above that is now enclosed to be a small room. It's a crawl-space, but what startles us is that the surface of this crawl-space is totally covered with waterproof fabric that looks new. It looks like that area is hiding something LOL!

At first my husband said I'm finding conspiracies where none exist, & it's true I'm very suspicious of some houses we've seen . . AND I don't trust real estate agents much. But now that I've done research on radon, he's freaking out too. We're close to doing a U-turn & walking away from this house, but I wonder if we can get this info from the sellers or their realtors to relieve our worries . . . .

Last edited by WEBlue; Mar 21st 2012 at 3:46 pm. Reason: spelling
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:46 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by WEBlue View Post
But now that I've done research on radon, he's freaking out too. We're close to doing a U-turn & walking away from this house, but I wonder if we can get this info from the sellers or their realtors to relieve our worries . . . .
The only answer to avoid radon would be to move to a totally different area.If there's natural uranium in the rock, then it isn't going to magically disappear two blocks down.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 3:53 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by fatbrit View Post
The only answer to avoid radon would be to move to a totally different area.If there's natural uranium in the rock, then it isn't going to magically disappear two blocks down.
Yes, we know we can't avoid the possibility of radon. This state has a lot of it in the areas we're looking for a house.

What I DO want to know is 1.) if the sellers have tested & put in a mitigation system that works, or 2.) if any potential buyers have tested for & found radon there (meaning that either the owners have NOT put a mitigation system in, or they have but it doesn't work).

We'd love to have this info first, before we get our offer together. But we're wondering if the sellers are required to tell us either 1. or 2. by law before we put in an offer & get the place inspected. Do we have the legal right to that info up front if the sellers know it?

Last edited by WEBlue; Mar 21st 2012 at 4:04 pm. Reason: clarity!
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 4:03 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by WEBlue View Post
Yes, we know we can't avoid the possibility of radon. This state has a lot of it in the areas we're looking for a house.

What I DO want to know is 1.) if the sellers have tested & put in a mitigation system that works, or 2.) if any potential buyers have tested for & found radon there (meaning that either the owners have NOT put a mitigation system in, or they have but it doesn't work).

We'd love to have this info first, before we get our offer together. But we're wondering if the sellers are required to tell us either 1. or 2. by law before we put in an offer & get the place inspected. Do we have the legal right to that info if the sellers know it?
There's usually a property disclosure requirement in most states. You get to sue them if they lied. Some people are worth suing, others not so much.

You don't usually get to kick the tires until you put an offer in. Line up your radon test so you're ready to go as soon as they've accepted the offer.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 4:18 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by fatbrit View Post
There's usually a property disclosure requirement in most states. You get to sue them if they lied. Some people are worth suing, others not so much.
Very true! We actually met the sellers previously (not related to their selling the house) & they're a nice young couple with some issues that make my heart go out to them. They bought near the peak & seem to have had some bad luck & now may face a short sale. This is the sad part of house-hunting in a recession, that the sellers can be perfectly decent people in a bad way.

You don't usually get to kick the tires until you put an offer in. Line up your radon test so you're ready to go as soon as they've accepted the offer.
Is that true about the tires? Haha, but can't you nudge them with your foot a little?

Just don't know if we will make it to offer. The other half is already near to writing it off, just too many issues to deal with . . . .
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 4:21 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

CT has a great deal of radon, because so much is built on rock ledge. A radon check was done on the house I now live in as part of the inspection process and proved positive. The seller's realtor advised her that she wasn't going to be able to sell to anyone without putting in a mitigation system, so she paid for the installation. We have now lived here 14 years and test the basement at intervals and no radon has been found. The system chugs away around the clock!

And yes, if there has been a prior positive test, disclosure is required. Has your realtor asked the seller's agent point blank? He/she should do so.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 4:24 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Our sellers just put 'don't know' for everything on the disclosure form, hard to chase them down for it later.

The inspectors don't look for much either.

All you can do is get specific inspections as mentioned above and be prepared to shell out if you like the place.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 6:28 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by Nutmegger View Post
CT has a great deal of radon, because so much is built on rock ledge.
Yes, we were surprised that the southern half of the state is high risk for radon. Inland is supposed to be lower risk, but the OH likes a town with access to the beach.
A radon check was done on the house I now live in as part of the inspection process and proved positive. The seller's realtor advised her that she wasn't going to be able to sell to anyone without putting in a mitigation system, so she paid for the installation. We have now lived here 14 years and test the basement at intervals and no radon has been found. The system chugs away around the clock!
We'd love it if what happened in your case is true for this house too. and I can't think why the seller wouldn't want to disclose that they had put in a mitigation system--that's a strong selling point!

And yes, if there has been a prior positive test, disclosure is required. Has your realtor asked the seller's agent point blank? He/she should do so.
Our buyer's agent seems oddly reluctant to push for this info! He also seems to know less about the house than we do, but this is possibly because it's a new realty company handling it (?).

We've viewed the house several times, at two open houses (different agents sitting in each time) & once with this new buyer's agent. We've had to point out some things to the new guy. He seems decent, but I can't figure out where he's coming from. In a way he almost seems to be trying to steer us away from this house.

I guess if we're really serious we do need to push him to dig up some preliminary info on the house. We worked for a time with another agent who would search Town Hall records for us. She was so pro-active it was a little scary but now I wish we were back with her, but that was another town . . .
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 6:29 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by Nutmegger View Post
CT has a great deal of radon, because so much is built on rock ledge. A radon check was done on the house I now live in as part of the inspection process and proved positive.
All radon tests are positive. Radon is everywhere - indoors and outdoors. The important thing is knowing how high the number is.

A reading of >4 pCi/L indoors is generally considered the trigger to do something to reduce the levels. However, readings should be taken at different times of the year as they do fluctuate with changes in weather and atmospheric pressure.

I have a LED radon detector that I got from Amazon. I have readings of 6-14 in my unfinished basement. However, everywhere else in the house is <4. Generally the higher you go in the house, the lower the reading.
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 6:32 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by MarylandNed View Post
All radon tests are positive. Radon is everywhere - indoors and outdoors. The important thing is knowing how high the number is.

Indeed, I should have been specific in saying "positive at a level which required remediation."
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Old Mar 21st 2012, 6:34 pm
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Default Re: Another house-buying question: radon & other unpleasant surprises

Originally Posted by WEBlue View Post

In a way he almost seems to be trying to steer us away from this house.

.
Perhaps it's a deal and he wants to snap it up himself!
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