It's beautiful on the outside, but is it really hazardous to live in?
When it comes to buying a home, there's something to be worried about everywhere you look. This home has great character. And it probably has lead paint. This one is sealed up tight as a drum. And its previous owners kept allergy and bronchial specialists in business. The question isn't whether a home has issues, but which issues should matter.
Is the house that you're in love with really your next home sweet home? Or is it a danger zone? Part of the answer lies in fact. And part is determined by what you're prepared to live with. If you get a home inspection, you'll have a better idea. Until then, here's what you should look out for:
Some Hazards Really Matter
Does the house of your dreams have older, loose-fill insulation in the attic? It's probably a good idea to look at a different house. That material might be asbestos in its most dangerous form - friable. When asbestos is friable, it's airborne and can land in your lungs.
What about the fireplace chimney? Is it filled with creosote? You can clean it and have it professionally lined. But if you don't, the first fire that you build will send CO2 into your home. It might also catch the flue on fire.
There are so many possible hazards, you'll probably never know them all. For example, Radon. You can't smell it or see it, but it can harm you in certain quantities. And any home might have it because it comes from the soil, not the structure.
When you find deal breakers, listen to your gut. Abatement is possible for most of them, including the mysterious black mold. But it's expensive, and might not be worth it.
sSometimes what a home buyer sees as mold is just ordinary mildew.
Some Hazards Aren't Especially Dangerous
The mere mention of asbestos and lead whips many people into a froth. If they're there, they must be obliterated. That mindset has lead to some unfortunate DIY abatement, which probably made the situation worse, not better.
Lead and asbestos are often used in the same sentence because home buyers are terrified of them. But asbestos can't harm you unless it's friable, like the older loose insulation. If it's undamaged or sealed, such as with floor or ceiling tiles, it's not friable and it's fine, says the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lead paint is also dangerous if it's damaged. But if it's in good shape, you can seal it with an encapsulant, which is like a special paint primer, and then paint over it. That's what the New York State Department of Health recommends. If you want to strip the surface to the bare wood, you'll probably want an abatement pro. But the mere existence of lead paint won't kill any of your brain cells.
Watch out for scare tactics. If a person sees mold that's black, he probably thinks that it's the black mold. Chances are it's probably not. There are thousands of molds in the world, and many of them are also black.
The best course of action is to get a good home inspection with all of the specialty bells and whistles. Some inspectors don't test for radon or look for asbestos in the course of a normal home inspection. Some do. You'll pay extra either way. But the important thing you'll get is information.
An inspector knows home defects inside and out in a way that you don't. And if you hire one independently, not one who works for anyone else in the home buying process, his loyalty will be to you. Once you get the report, you can move ahead, or not, with knowledge. Sometimes the scariest thing of all isn't what's known. Sometimes it's what might creep up later that keeps you up at night. With a home inspection, you'll know the right action to take.
There's a lot to learn about buying a house, especially if it's your first one. Check out our mortgage articles and get more information about the financial side of the process.