Should You Get a Radon Test When Buying a Home?Should You Get a Radon Test When Buying a Home?

If you live within a radon zone, as shown on this EPA radon map, yes, absolutely get a test done. If not, it is still wise, especially if the home has a basement. Short-term DIY tests are relatively cheap ($20), and they only take 48 hours. That makes radon testing a no-brainer.

The test will give you a rough idea if the home has dangerous levels of radon. Be sure to do the test in the basement or crawl space. These areas are where you will most likely find radon.

Radon Gas in Residential U.S. Homes
When shopping for a new house, you typically pay attention to things like the neighborhood, the foundation, the number of bathrooms, the yard, and so on. However, you also need to scrutinize the homes themselves and pay attention to any potential disasters waiting to happen.

Physical disasters like leaky faucets, a cracked or sinking foundation, or terrible feng shui can be problematic. You should also know if the house has a radon problem. That is because radon is deadly, literally. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the country, with around 21,000 deaths annually.

You may not know it, but that new house could come with radioactivity. Unfortunately, because radon is so prevalent, most properties you look at will have it. What matters, however, is how much.

So, considering that, we will look at radon and how it affects your home-buying experience. Here is what you need to know.

What is Radon Gas in Homes?
Radon is a naturally occurring organic radioactive gas that comes from uranium deposits in rocks and soil. It is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless substance that could be lurking in your home right now. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that up to one in 15 houses has elevated radon levels.

But what does it mean when you have high levels of radon? The EPA recommends having around four picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) to stay safe. However, lower levels are much better if possible.

Should I Buy a House with Radon?
Although radon is radioactive, it will not turn you into the toxic avenger right away. Usually, it takes years or decades for radon poisoning to build up and cause cancer. So, even if a home has high radon levels, it is not exactly a death sentence -- today. But it is long-term unless you install a radon mitigation system.

The EPA offers some guidance for homebuyers when trying to buy a house with radon. The first step is to conduct a radon test. Unless you know where the levels are right now, you cannot determine whether to buy the house or what to do to ensure your safety. Thankfully, you can install a radon mitigation system, but until the house is yours, you might not have to pay for it (more on that later).

Should I Buy a House in a Radon Affected Area?
Unfortunately, radon exists in all 50 states, with the highest concentrations in the Midwest. Here is a map that shows radon zones. That said, even if you plan on moving to one of these zones, do not assume that you are signing a death warrant. Radon mitigation systems work and can ensure the health and safety of your family.

Therefore, if you buy in a radon-affected area, be sure to get the house tested for radon regularly and install a radon mitigation system immediately if your radon test results are four picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) or higher.

Should I Get a Radon Test When Buying a Home?
The short answer is yes; test for radon if the homeowners have not yet. However, even if the sellers have, there are a few factors to consider when looking at past radon tests:

  • Type. A radon test kit comes in two flavors: short and long-term. Short-term testing (48 hours) can indicate elevated or safe levels. However, the problem is that it is hard to tell whether those levels change throughout the year. Long-term test results (90 days) are far more accurate and give you a better idea of what to expect.
  • Age. If the test result is more than two years old, you should reverify the home's current radon levels with a new home inspection. Ask your home real estate agent for a list of qualified home inspectors.
  • Testing Area. Radon gas comes from uranium underground, meaning that basements and crawl spaces will have higher concentrations. If the homeowner only tested the upper floors, the results are likely skewed.

Buying a House with a Radon Mitigation System
In some cases, you may come across a home with a radon mitigator. Typically, a vent fan is all that is needed for reducing radon levels. These systems are not intrusive, meaning that you likely will not notice them.

That said, some homes have a passive radon detector, which beeps whenever the levels get too high. In those instances, you might consider installing a radon mitigation system instead. Or for extra protection, use both.

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Who Pays for Radon Mitigation?
Every real estate transaction is like a tango, with buyers and sellers going back and forth regarding prices, upgrades, and conditions. When it comes to radon, sellers pay for testing and mitigation, assuming they want to close the deal. As a buyer, you can request testing. If the levels are high, ask them to install a mitigation system.

However, know that this protocol is not law. So, if you are in a competitive market, the seller can refuse. 
Real estate agents can guide this process by recommending a home inspector for testing, as well as certified mitigation installers. If you wait until after you buy the house, all those costs fall onto your shoulders.

DIY radon test kits typically cost around $20. A licensed radon home inspector typically charges $125 to $275.

Radon mitigation systems vary based on the home's size, design, foundation, local climate, and construction materials. Radon reduction systems range from $800 - $1500, and the national average is $1,200.

Is Radon Testing Covered by Home Insurance?
Part of the buying process is finding the best homeowners insurance for your new property. When reading through your policy, you will notice that it pays for damages that are "sudden and accidental." Unfortunately, radon does not qualify as either since it is naturally occurring and ongoing. Radon mitigation is also not covered for the same reasons.

Get a Home Insurance Quote!
If you are already looking at new houses, now is the time to compare home insurance plans and quotes. Do not wait until it is too late and delay your closing process. Click below to get started!

Hope that helps!

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Young Alfred