Radon in Real Estate Transactions

Contact: 800-723-6642 or radon@michigan.gov
Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

photo of house key in open palmMore and more informed buyers are having radon tests performed when considering the purchase of a home or office building.  But what if an elevated concentration of radon is found?  Does this mean you should walk away from your dream home?  No!  Radon reduction technology has improved so much over the last few years that reducing radon is easy and affordable.  If you like a home, buy it! The radon can be reduced.

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas created from natural deposits of uranium in the soil.  Radon gas can be drawn into a building and accumulate to concentrations that can cause a health concern.  Finding high levels of radon in the home has nothing do to with the age, quality, or upkeep of the home. 

Surveys conducted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Indoor Radon Program show that one-in-four Michigan homes has radon in excess of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's action level of 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/l). In some counties, as many as 40-45% of the homes may have levels exceeding that guideline.  The only way to tell if a home has elevated levels of radon is to have the home tested.  This is easy to do and there are many testing companies and home inspectors who offer radon testing services.  Look for individuals certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) or the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB).

Don't despair if you find elevated radon concentrations!  Reliable reduction techniques have been developed that will effectively control radon in buildings. Finding a home with a radon system already installed is a plus. Having one installed is affordable, reduces radon, and can enhance future resale value.   

If you find a home with a radon problem and look for another home, especially in the same area, chances are good that the other homes in the area have the same radon concern.  This is because radon is associated with the rocks and soils.  It you like the home, take action to reduce the radon.  Just like a water drainage concern can be fixed with a sump, or a leaky roof can be replaced, a radon system can be installed to reduce the radon and at far less cost than these other home repairs.  A radon system will actively draw the radon from beneath the home and exhaust it outside.  Of the problems that a house can have, radon is one of the easiest to identify and fix!

If you are interested in a home that either has an existing radon reduction system, or tests have shown that a radon system may be warranted, rest assured that your dream house will only be improved by a radon system.  In fact, it has been shown that radon mitigation systems have additional benefits beyond reducing radon, such as reducing molds and mildews to which some people are allergic.

Be sure to ask about radon before you buy or before you build! Know how expensive the systems are to install and operate.  A radon mitigation system consists of plastic pipe connected to the soil either through a hole in a slab, via a sump lid connection, or beneath a plastic sheet in a crawl space.  Attached to the pipe is a quiet, continuously operating fan that discharges the radon outdoors.  Typical costs for installing a radon mitigation system run from $800 to $1,500 and they normally last around 11 years.  The average monthly operating cost is $3, there are no periodic maintenance costs, and fan replacement normally runs from $145 to $300. 

Simply sealing cracks in the floor will generally not take care of the problem?  Sealing floor cracks to keep radon out is as difficult as sealing floors and walls to keep water from seeping in.  To control radon in an existing home, a radon mitigation system must be installed to draw the radon from the soil (like a sump collects water) and exhaust it to a safe location outside. 

Radon mitigation technology has advanced to the point that the buyer can have the home fixed before or after purchasing it, with equal confidence of success.  Having the seller install the system removes it from your "to-do" list, but the quality of materials and aesthetics are left to someone else.  Waiting until after you take possession gives you control of these items and also allows for the use of a long-term test to verify elevated radon levels.  Funds can be escrowed for this purpose, but if this cannot be arranged and you want the house, you should be confident that the radon level can be reduced; so there is no need to walk away from your dream home.

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