Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Why Test For Radon?

 

If you're buying a home in Minnesota, get it tested for radon.  There are two reasons I give for having radon tested; lung cancer and money.

A few quick facts about radon

  • Radon is a gas formed by the breakdown of uranium and radium, both of which are found in high levels in Minnesota.
  • Every home is susceptible to radon, even new construction.
  • There are a large number of homes in Minnesota with high radon levels.  We've found that about one out of three houses have high levels of radon.
  • Radon is unpredictable.  Two houses built right next to each other, at the same time, with the same construction methods, may have very different radon levels.

Lung Cancer

Radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of cancer in America.  Radon testing is recommended by the EPA, the Surgeon General, theAmerican Lung Association, and the Minnesota Department of Health.  The area most at risk in a home is the lowest level that gets lived in.

Money

When we conduct a radon test and the test results come up high, the buyer typically asks the seller to pay for or install a radon mitigation system.  These systems are extremely effective at lowering radon levels, and they cost about $1500 on average.    If you buy a home and you decide not to test for radon as part of the home purchase, you can still test for radon after you own the home, but if a radon mitigation system needs to be installed, you won't have the luxury of asking someone else to pay for it.  Well, I suppose you could always ask...

Picture this scenario: you buy a home, but don't have it tested for radon.  Several years down the road, you sell your house.  The new buyers have a radon test performed, the radon test comes up high, so the buyers ask you to install or pay for a mitigation system.   You'll probably wonder why you never tested for radon when you bought the house.  This happens a lot.

Objections to radon testing

We hear many objections to radon testing - some are valid, some aren't.

The home doesn't have a basement. Ok, that's a good objection.  We've found that most homes without basements have very low levels of radon.  Basements with a walkout generally have lower levels, but we've still found our share of high radon tests at basements with walkouts.

It's new construction. Minnesota requires a passive radon mitigation system installed in every new house; this doesn't mean radon will be eliminated, it just means the chances for elevated radon levels will be reduced.

The home already has a mitigation system. If the system is working properly, the radon levels are probably very low.  We've never found high radon levels in a home with a mitigation system.

I'm buying a bank owned property or short sale, so it doesn't matter if the house has high radon levels.  The sellers won't be paying to fix it, and I'll still want the house either way. Fair enough.  It's still a good idea to get a do-it-yourself test after you own the house though.

I'm going to do my own test. Not as a part of the real estate transation!

Radon is a conspiracy of the government.  Oh boy.  I've heard this before, and I'm not going to get in to that discussion... but just for the sake of argument, let's pretend that radon is a conspiracy. Who cares?  Even if radon was only a percieved health problem, it would still be a liability.

 

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 16 commentsReuben Saltzman • April 05 2011 05:41AM

Comments

I agree buyers should have home inspected for radon. The test costs about $100 but the mitigation costs much more.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 7 years ago

Hi Rueben, Not really an issue here. I can't sell one test. The radon sets at about 1.5-2.9 all year. Not really an issue in the desert. But up north and other parts of the country it's a major issue.

Get tested anyway.

Clint

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

New hampshire has our share of radon too...after all we are called the GRANITE STATE!

Posted by Brin Realty Associates Team At Bean Group, Amherst NH homes and Southern NH real estate (Bean Group | Brin Realty Associates) over 7 years ago

Radon pockets are here,there and everywhere in southeastern Wisconsin...we recommend the test as part of the home inspection and mitigation is an easy fix.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Gita - that's exactly it.

Clint - I suppose you don't have basements, do you?

Rene - Granite... I'll be writing a post about that next week.  Radon and granite certainly isn't a new topic, but I still get people asking about it.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Sally & David - I find the same thing here in Minnesota.  Some day I'd like to compile all of our test results and create a map of the hot spots.  I know of a few neighborhoods that almost always have high radon tests.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

It's the best 50$ I ever spent, the radon test that is..... some towns are doing them for free.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 7 years ago

David - $50 is a good deal.  That must have been one of those DIY kits, right?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Reuben,

Testing for radon is pretty much standard in New Hampshire. The radon levels change over time and at different times of the year. A passing radon air test five years ago doesn't mean it will pass today. Always best to test anyway.

Posted by John McCarthy, Realtor - Seacoast NH (Bean Group Portsmouth NH) over 7 years ago

I always advise having a radon test. Why would anyone want to take a chance?

Posted by Peggy Chirico, REALTOR® 860-748-8900, Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate (Prudential CT Realty) over 7 years ago

Reuben....this is excellent advice! Canton MA & Milton MA also have a lot of rock & ledge so it comes up here too.  As for a system already being in place, I still advise my buyers to test for it to make sure the system is working.  I've heard stories where there was a mitigation system that was not working, testing was done & the problem was discovered - and rectified.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - www.BuyersBrokersOnly.com) over 7 years ago

The majority of homes that I get to inspect are sitting in a deep strata os clay silt, which geologically is a barrier layer. This means that radon occurrence is low and testing for it is correspondingly in low demand. However for any home on rock bases or on hillsides I recommend the testing. 

This is a well written post Reuben, and I especially liked the last line which you high lighted in bold. So true!

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 7 years ago

Connecticut is a state with radon, so most home inspectors offer testing. The last client I had didn't want the test because of the cost. The house he is buying in a town that is known for high radon levels. Like you said he may end up paying for a mitigation system down the road.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Reuben, NC has radon in the central and western regions.  Down east where I am now, not very prevalent.  Good summary, thanks.  

Posted by Dale Ganfield over 7 years ago

John - you're right, radon levels constantly fluctuate.  It's a bummer when we test the same house five years later and find a high test.

Peggy - I'm pretty sure it's called 'penny wise and pound foolish.'

Christine - that's good advice.  Thanks for re-blogging.

Robert - thanks!  

James - as I said to Peggy, 'penny wise and pound foolish'.  Hey, if you're in to saving money today, why not skip the home inspection too?

Dale - thanks for reading.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Sorry Reubs.  Due to Rain Camp I missed this one!  Pretty solid stuff.  There is so much crap out there about radon, you don't know what to believe.  I had a test the other day come out at 2.4 and the people were shocked and the wife very worried.  You cannot educate enough!  Give me a break...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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