Don’t Trust, Always Check

A home owner was purchasing a new home and upon a walk through they noticed a small door leading to an attic was locked.  The seller said she locked it because she had family heirlooms and didn’t want them touched.  So, the perspective buyers took her word and respected her wishes and didn’t open the hatch.  During the inspections process, the inspector did the same.  A couple of weeks later, they finally did open the door and noticed mold growth all over the wood of the attic.  We were called out, provided an estimate and were hired to perform the remediation.  This particular attic cost just over six thousand dollars to clean, and because they didn’t have any proof that the previous home owner knew of the mold, and the fact that the inspector also didn’t check, there was nothing they could do, but take it as a life lesson.  Not everyone is deceptive, but when dealing with any form of transaction, especially large ones like a home, you should never trust anyone and always do everything within your power to know what you’re getting into.

My Own Mold Testing Experience

After months of searching for a new home, my wife and I finally found our dream house.  A grand two story entry, a cookers dream kitchen with Wolf appliances, two story living room and a bedroom bigger than most apartments.  Our excitement was too much to contain and we even started planning what furniture we would buy for each room, and which colors to change.  There was zero doubt during the inspection period that I wouldn’t get a mold test for two reasons.  One being how often I preach of the importance of mold testing, and two, I own the company and perform all testings so it’s nearly free.  I was slightly concerned when I saw suspect areas on the joists in the basement and crawl space, and more anxious about the attic.  I took nine interior air samples and four lifts prior to submitting the results.  After a few days, the results came back with nearly nothing on the air samples, but failed in both the attic and basement for the surfaces tested.

Saying I was disappointed was an understatement, as I passed this house after we had an agreement probably thirty times, and even took my parents to see it.  So now what?  I approached this house as if it was someone else’s home, which it still was, and wrote an estimate which turned out to be just over thirty eight thousand dollars.  You see, the basement was big but the attic was massive.  If it was a small mold issue, it would only cost me material and labor to remediate the problem.  But this was very different because it would take three weeks to complete, and that’s something I can’t just chalk as a loss. After trying to negotiate with the home owner, we couldn’t come to terms and I walked away from the house.

The point?  I can see some people saying, “How can you own a mold remediation company and not see the mold?”  The answer is simple.  The areas were suspect and not definitive, and warranted testing to confirm.  I also sampled a few random areas that had no visible discoloration, and they too failed because mold is microscopic.  The greater point.  If I hadn’t followed my own suggestions to all perspective home buyers I would have been stuck with a major mold remediation project, even be it that I own the company.  Mold testing does not cost much, but what it can find can save you way more.

Proper Mold Inspections

Recently I was called by a new home owner who saw mold in his basement.  He had just moved in three weeks previous and was planning to use a room in the basement for his tools when he discovered the mold both on the walls and under the steps.  I had asked him did he get the home inspected prior to his purchase and he said yes, and also stated that the home inspector did an air test as well.  Therein lies the problem.  There’s two lessons that can be taken from this situation so you don’t make the same mistake.

  1. Not all mold in airborne and an air sample will only pick up spores to which are in the air.  Some molds on surfaces will not be collected into air samples.
  2. Mold Tests should be done by only Mold Inspectors.  Home Inspectors use mold tests as another way to make money, but aren’t properly trained and usually are certified through one day online courses.

A mold inspection is not just setting up your testing equipment and then that’s it.  A proper mold inspection should have samples taken, but also a thorough visual inspection with moisture mapping.  In this situation, with visible mold in two locations, a proper mold inspection would have been able to pick this up visually or through surface sampling.  Unfortunately for this customer, it now becomes an out of pocket cost because the inspector missed it and it can become very difficult to prove when the growth began.

Why Test Before Buying a Home?

We field many calls from new home owners calling about mold concerns in their recently purchased homes.  When asked if they got a mold inspection prior to the sale, the answer is usually no.  This is because many new owners or first time buyers don’t know to ask for one, or they put too much trust into a home inspector who lacks proper training and may have a vested interest to get the home passed no matter what for the realtor or lender.  But mold inspections are very important prior to sales because it gives you the opportunity to see if there is mold in the property and then allows you to negotiate the sale price if mold is discovered.  Often times, sellers will do anything they can to cover up previous water damage and mold growth, so only a thorough inspection will allow you to see what may be lurking within the building envelope.  So, don’t falsely put your trust in a home inspector, realtor or seller’s word, rather have your home mold tested to insure you’re not buying a house that will later turn into a costly problem.

Buying a New Home?

There’s many calls which we field from new home owners suspecting their is mold or visibly seeing an issue after they moved in.  There are some cases upon inspection which have severe growth, or very costly remediation that went undetected by the home inspector.  I’ve spent years trying to inform everyone about home inspectors and how most do not do proper inspections or are in the back pocket of the realtor and/or lender. After the mold has been discovered, the new home owner faces unexpected costs after just shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars not only for the home, but also for closing costs, moving companies, etc.  How can you avoid this from happening to you?  The answer is simple: Getting a Mold Inspection Pre-Sale.  Prior to the purchase, it is within your right to have a mold inspection, and such an inspection should be completed by a Mold Inspector instead of the home inspector who is not fully trained in this type of inspection and is only looking to line his pockets a bit more.  A certified and insured home inspector, should take air samples and surface samples, primarily in the attic and on the basement joists, to insure that the home doesn’t have any growth or potential issues.  Several other inspection options can also aid you in knowing that your investment won’t drain your savings, like Moisture Mapping, Thermal Imaging and doing an Energy Audit. Remember, mold inspections are fairly inexpensive, do not take much time, and can put you in a position to know the home is clean and safe, or give you the proof that there are issues which could cost thousands of dollars, leading you to either renegotiate the price, or walk away.