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     Mold infestation growth on  
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Home Buying & Selling Questions and Answers from Mold Expert Phillip Fry

(Feb. 19, 2012) I looked at a very nice house for sale in Elba, Alabama. It is a foreclosure and the price is fantastic. However, there is a bedroom in the basement with walls covered in mold. I have attached pictures. This is the only room in the house that has any visible mold. I would love to make an offer on this home, but the mold concerns me. I would not want to purchase a home that is unsafe. Is there a way I can know if this mold can be removed and not come back. Should it be my responsibility to have this mold tested or is that the responsibility of the realtor? I appreciate any help or advice you can give me.
A. Your mold pictures show really big mold and water leak problems: (1) you can count on having to remove most of the basement walls because of both visible and not yet visible mold growth, and then rebuilding the walls with new building materials after you have done this more basic step: (2) dig out the earth from the outside all the way down to below the foundations of the basement walls so that the basement walls can be properly waterproofed (a major and expensive job). It is also likely that the basement ceilings might have mold growth (possibly not yet visible) from mold growth from the walls. You should also worry about airborne mold spores may have traveled in air currents from the basement to mold cross contaminate the entire house and its heating/cooling equipment and ducts. Expect to spend at least one thousand dollars for a thorough mold inspection and testing of this moldy house for sale. The expense of mold inspection of a house for sale is yours as the prospective buyer. You want to be the one to hire the mold inspector so that you will get a truthful inspection and lab testing report. Then, expect to spend at least $5,000 to $10,000 upward for exterior basement waterproofing and mold remediation. Please read the 25 steps for safe and effective mold remediation.  Unless you can buy this house at a huge discount from its otherwise fair market value, you might want to look for another house to buy. You would be helped big-time in evaluating houses for sale if you read my in depth mold advice ebook Do It Best Yourself Mold Inspection, Testing, Remediation, and Prevention, only $15 for email attachment delivery to you from If you have follow up questions, please email me. Best wishes, Phillip Fry Certified Environmental Hygienist, Certified Mold Inspector, and Certified Mold Remediator
Home Selling and Home Buying and Water, Mold, or other Environmental Problems and Dangers Encountered in the Sale of Homes and Real Estate

       Whether you want to sell or buy a home or other real estate, you need to be concerned about the possible presence of mold infestation and other environmental health threats which may be resident in the home, condominium, apartment complex, office, store, or other real estate.

        If you are the home seller, you should consult with your local real estate attorney about whether or not your state requires real estate sellers to disclose any water, mold, or other environmental problems known to the seller. You need to comply in good faith with all of your state's laws. If you know your home or property has a water, mold, or other environmental problem, or if you have a reasonable suspicion that there may exist such a problem, you would be wise to remedy the water problem, mold infestation, or environmental threat prior to even offering the property for sale and prior to even listing the property for sale with a realtor. To find both the visible and hidden mold problems in the property you wish to sell, hire a comprehensive mold inspection and mold testing by a Certified Mold Inspector, or, follow the do-it-yourself mold tips provided at Mold Inspection, including the use of do it yourself mold test kits available from a large hardware, home improvement, or safety store. Learn the steps recommended for safe and effective mold remediation. Ask your attorney to be the one to draft which a home sales contract which might include the following items [plus any other helpful provisions recommended by your attorney]: (1) the buyer is encouraged to hire [at his or her own expense] a qualified home inspector to inspect the entire home or building for water or environmental defects or problems of any kind, plus a Certified Mold Inspector for comprehensive mold inspection and mold testing; (2) a detailed listing of home or building water,  mold, and other environmental problems currently known to the seller[s]; (3) a provision that the home is being sold "as is" with no home, plumbing, mold, or environmental warranty or guarantee of any kind; and (4) a provision that the buyer accepts full responsibility for any home, water, mold, and environmental problems which may be now in the home or property being sold, or which may ever arise in the future.

         If you are the home buyer,  you should consult with your local real estate attorney about whether or not your state requires real estate sellers to disclose any water, mold, or other environmental problems known to the seller. Regardless of any state requirement to do so, prior to making an offer to purchase the home or other real estate, insist that the seller[s] provide a signed and dated written disclosure [written by your attorney, if possible] of all seller-known home, water, mold, and environmental property problems of any kind. Your goal should not to be the home or property "as is," but to try to obtain whatever written assurance [in the sales agreement] that you are able to negotiate from the seller [s], if any, about the home condition, water, mold, and environmental status of the home or property. Have your attorney insert a 21 day [14 day minimum, but 21 is better] environmental inspection time period [beginning at contract signing] for you to have the home or property thoroughly inspected by a Certified Mold Inspector, and/or other environmental professions whose expertise may be required, with your retaining the right to cancel your purchase offer and receive back promptly a full refund of your earnest money deposit [in the hands of a title insurance company or the licensed realtor in the realtor escrow account] should there be any physical or environmental problems of any kind which are unacceptable to you as the prospective buyer. Do not rely on any mold testing and mold remediation done by the seller or mold professionals not hired by you. During the environmental inspection time period, pay for a comprehensive mold inspection and mold testing by a Certified Mold Inspector, or, follow the do-it-yourself mold tips provided at Mold Inspection, including the use of do it yourself mold test kits.  Learn the steps recommended for safe and effective mold remediation. Get legal help from your attorney before waiving any present or future legal claims you may have in regard to water damage, mold problems, and environmental problems.  Please be aware that it is very easy for the costs of mold remediation to exceed the value of the remediated home.

Home Buying and Selling Questions

      Q. I wanted to ask your opinion on a house we put a bid on. During the inspection, the inspector found black mold saturating the entire attic. The plywood was covered, not spotted. We asked for a release, but the seller's realtor feels strongly that the owner will try to remediate the problem instead. What do you feel would need to be done to remediate? In addition to replacing the plywood, would a new roof need to be installed (the inspector also cited insufficient ventilation) How can you determine if a wall has been infested?  I know it is difficult to advise sight unseen, but we are really concerned from the little we know about this area that there is no absolute cure. I have a chronic sinus problem and we are hoping to start a family in this house. I don't know if I will ever feel comfortable living there. Thanks for your input; I appreciate having an expert out there to bounce questions off of.
     A. It is very likely that: (1) the attic mold will have grown into the insides of the ceilings and walls above; (2) airborne mold spores will have traveled in air currents from the attic vents to re-enter the home thru open windows, doors, and the fresh air intake of the heating/cooling system. Learn the 25 steps for safe and effective mold remediation. Expect to spend from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for effective mold remediation. If you want to buy a moldy home, please realize that even if all mold is found and remediated, the home still has a mold history that you will probably have to disclose to insurers, future buyer prospects, and future tenants. If you are serious about buying a mold hell, have the insides of all walls, floors, ceilings, and the heating/cooling duct registers inspected by a Certified Mold Inspector. If the seller does mold remediation, it is likely to be inadequate and you would need to do the extensive testing after alleged mold remediation to know the safety of the home.

      Q. I am considering buying an end unit town home that is consumed with mold. It is everywhere! It is a foreclosure, so is sold as is. Is it possible to rid a place like this completely with no return of the mold if professionally done? It is probably 1000 sq ft. Is it possible it has gotten into the neighbors unit as well. If so, can I keep it from coming back into mine? How do I go about getting an estimate on this before I actually purchase it and about how much would it cost to rid the home of it (worse case scenario)? The home is located in Georgia.
[Jan. 20, 2005]
      A. For the purchase of a home or any other building, you should insert a 21 day environmental inspection contingency clause into your purchase contract to enable you to thoroughly inspect and test the home for mold and other environmental threats. Highly accurate mold species identification by a mold laboratory is best achieved by viable mold testing which takes at least 7 days of mold growth of the collected mold samples in mold culture plates. It is very likely that the entire townhouse has many areas of hidden mold infestation inside the ceilings, walls, floor, heating/cooling system, basement/crawl space, attic, and garage. To get an accurate mold status of the townhome, you should hire a Certified Mold Inspector to thoroughly inspect and mold test the entire house, including fiber optics inspection inside the walls, floors, ceiling, and heating/cooling system. Learn the 27 steps recommended for safe and effective mold remediation. Expect to pay from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in mold remediation expenses. Even if you can find and fix all of the mold problems, you still have to worry about mold cross-contamination from the adjacent townhouse [because of townhouse to townhouse mold growth and the movement of airborne mold spores]. You would also still own a townhouse whose mold history you would probably need to disclose to prospective future buyers and tenants.

    Q. I am selling my house, and during a buyers’ home inspection, some white mold was found in my attic. My real estate agent brought over his inspector which said he probably would not even had disclosed it as it is part of the vintage of an older home in southern Wisconsin. There is no leak, and when I asked him what is causing it he said just the humid Wisconsin summers. I know the buyer wants it tested which I am willing to do, but is it necessary to have to do a remediation for an attic crawl space, which my buyer will never actually go into, and most older homes in the area have this problem? If I do clean it up, won’t it just come back? [March 12, 2005]
A. Attic mold can easily grow into the ceilings and walls beneath. In addition, airborne mold spores from the attic mold can travel
in air currents to mold cross contaminate your entire house and its heating/cooling system by entering through the attic access opening,
open windows and doors, and the fresh air intake of your heating/cooling system. Of course, simply cleaning up the mold might not permanently fix the mold problem. You need to find and fix the moisture problem that enabled the mold to grow in the first place---such as high attic humidity or a roof leak. You need to follow the 25 steps for safe and effective mold remediation. For your well-being, it should be the buyer who hires and pays for the mold inspector to check out your home mold-wise. The mold inspector needs to be reporting his or her findings directly to your buyer to make the buyer feel comfortable about buying your home. Of course, it would also be a good idea for you to hire your own independent mold inspection of your home to learn the real mold status of your entire home.

       Q. We sold our home and used a real estate agent. The agent advised us on how to complete the contract and MLS and told us to sell "as is" since real estate is a hot commodity in our state. He told us that we did not need to offer to make repairs because we would get multiple full price offers on the home "as is". The buyers hired a home inspection before closing and the inspector did not find any issues with the home.We closed on the house but the seller recently contacted us indicating we "knew there was a mold issue" and that we should pay a bill in the thousands of dollars to remediate.$5000 to be exact.We had NO idea the house even had the potential for mold! We had a child living in that home for a year and would not have subjected him or ourselves to mold. Also, we only bought the home a year ago and even our inspection came back with no major issues found, so there was nothing to tip us off that mold could even exist. We were never sick, and there was no visible presence of mold. The seller has apologized for approaching us with accusations, but still insists we pay the repair bill. Since you are an expert in this field, have you seen this scenario before? We have never been involved in anything like this? Do you know what our rights are? Do you have any suggestions? Shouldn't the buyer be looking at his home inspector for negligence versus us? Or his realtor for not encouraging him to get a mold inspection? We are really confused.

      A. The number of disputes over mold between sellers and buyers is growing-rapidly. A wise seller would put a specific mold disclaimer into the real estate sales contract and encourage in the sales contract that the buyer hire and rely upon the buyer's own independent mold inspection and testing of the home by a Certified Mold Inspector. But that advice is like water already over the dam in your circumstances today. You should hire a local real estate-oriented attorney to defend you against the mold claim, utilizing the good points you have raised and others developed by your prospective attorney. You and your attorney should both read the in depth ebook Mold Legal Guide to learn the pro's and con's of various mold legal issues and arguments.

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