If You Have Mold in Your Home or Business, it May Not Be as Bad as You Think | Keystone Home Inspection   |   Cuyahoga County Home Inspections   |   Geauga County Home Inspections   |   Lake County Home Inspections

If You Have Mold in Your Home or Business, it May Not Be as Bad as You Think

January 23, 2017

At one point in the not too distant past, finding mold in a building you were trying to sell was like a death sentence.  Spurred on by sensational media reports and stories of huge lawsuits, potential buyers were driven away from properties with even a hint of mold.  However, more recently, people have started to realize that a little bit of mold may not be as big of a problem as it might seem.  

There are two primary factors in the recent trend to accept—albeit a bit reluctantly—properties that may have some degree of mold in them.  These, and other, considerations have worked to change buyers’ mindsets about both the level of danger that mold poses as well as the extent of the threat.

The first development is that people have become more educated on the topic.  Rather than hitting the panic button at the first sign of mold, many people take the time to learn more about mold and the effects that mold exposure can have.  And what they are finding is that some small amount of mold exposure is not nearly as devastating on an otherwise healthy person’s state of well-being as many people believe.  

Indeed, the vast majority of buildings have at least a small amount of mold growing somewhere.  Merely the fact that mold has been detected should not, without more, cause a potential buyer to run for the door.  

A second factor that has contributed to a would-be buyer’s increased acceptance of the presence of mold is the evolution of new and more effective remediation techniques.  Once upon a time, the presence of mold meant you had to try to dry things out, replace the damage, and hope for the best.  Now there are a number of new techniques available, and they are proving more effective at treating the problem.  As such, discovering that a building has some mold no longer means it’s a lost cause; it simply means that it is time to consider whether to remedy it (and how to go about doing so).

So, how much mold is acceptable?

Given that some mold exposure is both inevitable and acceptable, the question for a would-be purchaser of a building is just how much mold can someone be exposed without adverse health effects?  The answer, as with so many things in life, is this: it depends.

The issue of an acceptable level of mold exposure is determined largely by two factors: individual sensitivity, and the type of mold that is present.  Individual sensitivity will (obviously) fluctuate from person to person.  Some people are highly sensitive to environmental contaminants, including mold spores.  Others, for a multitude of reasons, are much less likely to be bothered by anything but the most severe of mold issues.  If you are not sure how sensitive you are to mold spores, you can visit with a medical specialist who can administer a variety of tests to determine your allergens and your level of sensitivity to them.

Just as mold sensitivity can vary from person to person, so it can also vary with a given person depending on other factors in his or her life.  Although you may not normally be sensitive to mold spores, if you have other things going on in your life—such as recent surgery, a prolonged illness, or other factors which might lower your immune resistance—you may find that you are more susceptible to a mold-related illness than you otherwise normally would be.

A second factor in determining your reaction to mold exposure is the type of mold to which you are being exposed.  Scientists have classified more than 100,000 types of mold.  Some of these varieties are extremely harmful, while many others are completely harmless.  Most molds are somewhere in the spectrum between harmless and very dangerous.  As such, if you are considering purchasing a home or business office where mold is present, it is a good idea to attempt to determine which type of mold it is.

When should you attempt to remove the mold, and when should you just walk away?

If you discover that mold is present in a building which you are considering purchasing the next question you will face is whether you should try to remedy the situation, or simply pass on the building.  Frequently, potential buyers who expressed a willingness to work to remove the mold may be able to use it to their advantage: Sellers will be willing to negotiate on price depending upon the amount of time and money a purchaser will have to spend in mold remediation.

Some fixes—such as adjusting the way water drains away from a house by installing a new gutter or other means of directing water—can be done easily and with very little cost.  If you are considering a building with a mold issue, and the fix is a minor one such as this one, you probably should not let it dissuade you from purchasing the building if you otherwise like it.  You can use the fact that mold is there as a way to strengthen your bargaining position while at the same time knowing that it will not require a great deal of money or effort on your part to fix the problem.

Other fixes—such as tearing open a wall to redirect the venting of a bathroom exhaust fan—can be more problematic and require more time and money.  If you are considering a property that is going to require extensive renovation before it is habitable, you may want to think again.  At the very least, the seller should be willing to reduce the asking price by an amount adequate to reflect both the money and hassle of performing the necessary repairs.

 

Frequently, the mold can be cleaned up by the property owner without the need for specialized equipment or training.  According to the U.S. EPA, a patch of mold which is smaller than 10 square feet is usually not serious enough to warrant a professional intervention.  However, if you or a member of your family tend to be highly allergic to allergens, or if it seems likely that there is a significant amount of hidden mold, you should probably have a professional mold remediation expert take a look.

Finally, keep in mind that mold damage may be evidence that there has been significant water damage to the structure.  This could mean that you may have a difficult time finding insurance.  Also, keep in mind that most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover mold damage—at least not when the mold is due to certain causes.

If you are considering purchasing a building where you have seen evidence of mold damage you should ask the seller about the status of any insurance claims relating thereto.  This will help you determine whether the issue was something that is likely to occur again in the future.

While purchasing a home or office with mold in it does present a degree of risk, by doing your homework and uncovering both the cause of the mold, you can save yourself money by using the mold damage as a bargaining chip in your negotiations.  At the same time, you need to know when it is time to move on to another property, as some types of mold issues are simply not worth the hassle and risk.

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