Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 by Bill Cowley
Are you buying or selling a home? Nothing can put the kibosh on a real estate transaction faster than discovering mold. The possibility of mold in any property sale should always be considered. Here at the Jersey Shore, mold awareness should be on the front burner of every buyer, seller, and real estate agent. Whenever a home has water or moisture problems, the threat of mold is always lurking in the background. We live in an area with a naturally high water table, and, in many low-lying areas, it doesn’t take much for major flooding to occur.
So, what is a home seller or buyer to do if mold is discovered during a real estate transaction?
First, understand the basic facts of mold. Mold is a group of fungi that have thread-like filaments. It’s alive and needs what most living things need: food, moisture, warmth, and oxygen. The one necessity that we can control for mold to grow and thrive is moisture, and even then, it’s not always easy. Mold does not just happen from leaky pipes and floods. Some molds can get enough moisture just from moist, humid air. According to the CDC, the relative indoor humidity level of a home should be kept at no more than 50% throughout the day in order to prevent mold growth. Vented crawl spaces, basements, and attics are naturally at risk of mold growth if humidity levels are not controlled. Often, we can resolve these issues through home improvements such as crawl space encapsulation and installing commercial-grade dehumidifiers. Mold left untreated spreads and recolonizes through airborne spores. Its enzymes dissolve any organic material, including processed wood like drywall and acoustic panels. These same airborne mold spores lead to unhealthy indoor air quality and serious respiratory conditions, especially with the very young, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those predisposed to mold allergies.
Now that you understand how and why mold grows, we can move to the really big question: How do you get rid of this stuff? Traditionally, mold problems have been tackled through a process called mold remediation. This process gets rid of the mold by demolishing and removing all of the mold-affected building materials followed by reconstruction. Needless to say, this is an expensive and often unnecessarily invasive approach to the mold problem. It’s a classic example of that idiom “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Mold remediation also runs the risk of not fixing the problem for the long-term because the demolition and removal of the affected areas allows mold spores to become airborne and spread where they reattach and colonize elsewhere.
Fortunately, homeowners now have another option based on new technologies leveraged from scientific advances in the medical field: mold bioremediation. Mold bioremediation treats the mold itself right where it stands, so building materials that are not structurally damaged (which is often the case) do not have to be removed. This process uses an EPA-registered fungicide to kill the mold, followed by a patented polymer sealant that is moisture-sensitive and reactivates to prevent mold from returning to the treated areas. In conjunction with bioremediation, you also have to resolve the underlying water and moisture problem by fixing any leaks and, if needed, lowering the humidity level with a commercial grade dehumidifier. Take a look at how we handled the mold problem in this Neptune NJ facility.
So, if you are involved in a real estate transaction, here’s some advice that can potentially save you some problems down the road, including potential litigation.
Sellers: Before you put your house on the market, thoroughly investigation for mold. Pay special attention to those areas that naturally have higher amounts of moisture like vented crawl spaces, basements, bathrooms, attics, kitchens, and behind steam-generating appliances like hot water heaters. You should know your house and the potential problem areas where moisture accumulates better than anyone. If you have or had leaky pipes or some other water issue, then there is a good possibility of mold. If you have had water problems in the past or recurrent water intrusion problems, under the law, it has to be properly disclosed.
Buyers: Thoroughly inspect for mold during the home inspection process. When walking through the home, is it damp, not well ventilated, or have a musty smell? Pay special attention to vented crawl spaces, basements, and attics as well as overlooked areas such as stains or discoloration on baseboards, walls, and ceilings. Not all home inspectors are looking for mold. Instruct your home inspector that you want to be alerted if there is even a reason to suspect mold. If you have any doubts, get an inspection by a trained mold professional. If mold is found, in addition to treating the mold, the water or moisture source must be determined so these issues are addressed with the seller before the closing.
To learn more about mold visit our online Mold Learning Center.
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