What follows are suggestions to home buyers who, during the course of the home buying process, have had a radon measurement test come back above the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/l. Knowing that each situation is different, there may be additional items not included in this discourse that you might want to consider or ones that do not apply to your home purchase. Specific questions can be forwarded to your realtor, mitigation company, or Katz Family Home inspection. For Katz Family Home Inspection, LLC, we always take a non-vested interest in this process (we are not trying to sell you anything additional). Our priority is always to pass on complete, accurate, and detailed information to our clients so they can make the most informed decision when purchasing a home.
A bit of background first.
· Radon is measured on the pico-Curie scale (pCi/l).
· The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set, and The Minnesota Department of Health has adopted an action level of 4.0 pCi/l.
· At 4.0 pCi/l it is said to be equivalent to 200 chest x-rays or smoking eight cigarettes per day (source – Sun Radon Corp).
· For a frame of reference, the outside national average is 1.3 pCi/l.
· In Minnesota, we have an average three times higher than the national average.
· For real estate transactions in Minnesota, the action level is the accepted standard. If test results come back at or above that level the likely next step would be to have the parties negotiate for the installation of a sub-slab (basement or SOG homes) or sub-membrane (homes with a crawl space).
Pro tip – Once the test results come back and the seller's side is notified of the results, they would be obligated to disclose this information if the current deal falls through. As such, this is normally incentive enough for the sellers to come out of pocket for the installation of a system.
· At the time of the writing of this piece the cost to install a standard, one-suction point system is about $2,500.00.
Things to consider when negotiating for the installation of a system.
Let's assume that the sellers have agreed to install an active mitigation system. Here are items that I would personally ask for if I were in this situation. In my mind, these are not unreasonable requests.
Who installs the system?
· I believe that, if I am in control of choosing the company and I am able to manage the process to my standards, the outcome will (potentially) be better than if the seller controls this process. It would be natural to assume that some sellers would be focused on getting the lowest bid for the work, with little interest in the quality of work done.
o Recently, the State of Minnesota has required that new mitigation systems be inspected by the State for compliance and workmanship. This may make it less important which company is used, but I would still want to choose the company.
· Finding a quality mitigation company could be as easy as reaching out to Katz Family Home Inspection or your realtor for a referral.
· Sadly, there are companies that do less than great work, so doing a bit of research is important.
How is paying for the system covered?
There are three basic approaches.
· The sellers lower the sale price of the home to cover the cost of installing the mitigation system. In my mind, this is the worst option. Lowering the sale price of a home by $2500 dollars will lower the monthly mortgage payment by a very small amount. How long will it take for the new owners to recoup the $2500? This would not be a good use of your hard-earned money.
· The seller pays for the installation directly. This is not a bad approach as long as the buyers can choose the company that does the work.
· The sellers reimburse or give cash at closing to cover the cost of the installation of a mitigation system by a company of the buyer's choosing. This is the option that I would choose.
One more critical piece.
By state statute, the radon levels in the home have to be retested within two and 30 days of installing the system.
· As part of the negotiation, agreeing that the post-mitigation levels in the home are at 2.0 or lower is, in my mind, critical.
o Getting the levels to only under 4.0 pCi/l would not be acceptable.
o Most mitigation companies will guarantee retest levels below 2.0 pCi/l. Another good reason to be in control of choosing the company that does the work.
I am always available to be a resource or to answer questions.
Katz Family Home Inspection, LLC