How to save a real estate transaction when mold is involved
Mold is a major problem in real estate. But Mold does not have to kill a transaction.
Here are ways to save a deal and your hard-earned commission when mold is involved in your transaction. These are six common scenarios our mold remediation company, Moldman LLC, sees regularly when working with real estate agents, buyers, and sellers daily.
Scenario 1: Mold is found in the home, and you need to handle the situation.
Not sure how to tell your client?
One of the first things you may want to tell them is: Not all molds are bad! Explain to your buyer or seller that mold is everywhere – in our homes, in our offices and in the fresh air we breathe outside.
Explain to them that many of the media reports on mold are over hyped and that mold is in fact a natural organism that most of the time makes life better. Mold improves our lives by breaking down dead leaves and trees, helping to make certain types of cheeses, and by being the basis of modern antibiotics like Penicillin.
Although mold can be hidden, such as on the backside of drywall, don’t worry. You can usually detect it through sight or smell. Educate your clients that it is impossible to find a completely mold free home because mold is in every home and serves many useful purposes in our environment. Educate them further that despite these facts about mold, you should not be able to see or smell mold in a home and if you can, the home has elevated amounts of mold.
Is the mold everywhere?
Here are some steps you can take if your client is worried that the mold is everywhere:
- Explain to your buyers or sellers that mold only grows where there is water or high relative humidity.
- If mold is identified around a single window where condensation is present, there is no need to start ripping out walls in other areas of the home that are dry.
- Focus on the area where the water and mold growth is occurring and remove the mold at its source (e.g. the drywall and wood trim around the window) and eliminate the water source (e.g. window condensation).
Once this is finished, there are other inexpensive, easy steps to take like scrubbing the air on all levels of the home with $100 HEPA air purifiers to remove the airborne mold spores. Explain to your buyers and sellers that, in such a scenario, the mold is confined to one small area. This can sometimes be remediated by a “do-it-yourself” client with a few basic skills, or by a professional remediation company like Moldman for far cheaper than you would expect.
Should there be further testing?
Testing can be useful in certain situations such as when someone identifies a moldy-like smell, but cannot actually see mold anywhere. In this case, testing can help determine if the smell is indeed mold and the source of the presumed mold. But if you can already see visible mold, most of the time testing is a waste of time and money. The reality is that testing is usually unnecessary and will slow up the transaction. Furthermore, the money allocated for testing could be used towards other things such as the remediation.
Concerned about health effects and a potential liability from mold?
Another fact most mold companies will not disclose: many health effects proclaimed to be caused by mold are not proven!
Hype and misinformation about mold and its impacts on our health flood the airwaves. Here’s the truth: What mold exposure does and does not do to the human body is a relatively new concern. For now, most experts agree that typical symptoms of mold are allergy related, i.e. coughing (including asthma aggravation), sneezing, eye irritation, nasal congestion, headaches, etc.
The bottom line is that most of the severe adverse health effects associated with mold have not been proven, according to the country’s leading medical authority, the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention.
“A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects. ” According to the CDC
We are not doctors, so please consult a physician if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing health problems from mold exposure. And do not get us wrong – it is unhealthy to live in a moldy environment. But much of what you hear and read about mold is often based on sensationalism and not backed by science.
Scenario 2: There is an extensive mold problem and a professional mold remediation company is needed to remove the mold before the deal can close.
If a mold remediation company is needed, protect yourself from dishonest contractors by remembering one undeniable fact: Mold Remediation Is Not Rocket Science! Do not let a mold removal company tell you otherwise to justify their outrageous estimate.
There are just two basic steps involved in mold remediation:
- Containment (e.g., using poly sheeting to prevent cross contamination), and
- Contamination Removal (e.g., safely removing moldy drywall, scrubbing/sanding 2x4s, removing airborne mold spores with HEPA air scrubbers, etc.)
There are other considerations involved like safety protocols (e.g., wearing respirators, gloves, etc. when needed), initial assessment, post remediation assessment, etc.
Be wary of any company or individual who implies that mold removal is as complex as open-heart surgery. Once you understand that mold remediation is not complicated, you are an empowered Realtor. If you represent the seller, you can advise him or her to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” when someone tries to tell them that a bedroom closet with a little bit of ceiling mold is going to cost $10,000 to be remediated. We have seen such outrageous bids before by other companies! There are plenty of honest mold removal companies too. Just do your homework, get multiple bids, and educate yourself on the procedures needed to remove mold.
Help your clients find reputable mold remediation companies that won’t rip them off or give them a price for remediation that is so high it kills the deal.
Scenario 3: Mold is disclosed or identified but you are not sure whether you need to hire a professional to remove it.
In many cases minor mold problems, (less than about 10 square feet of mold) can easily be handled by the homeowner with a free weekend afternoon and a few basic supplies from the hardware store. For more info, see our article: “Do I need a Mold Professional?” If your client prefers to hire a professional instead, mold remediation – when done by a professional and ethical company – should not be expensive for minor problems. Advise your clients that minor mold problems should never be costly to fix.
Additionally, not all molds are toxic despite what you may hear or read. Mold comes in a variety of colors. The dreaded Black Mold you have heard about so often in the media is not a species or specific type of mold. Media reports of “Black Mold” often refer to molds that can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), such as groups of molds known as Stachybotrys. Note that mycotoxins will not always be produced when these types of mold are present. To put it another way, the presence of mold does not necessarily mean mycotoxins are present.
Much of what we know about mycotoxins is not well understood yet and ongoing research is needed. According to the EPA though, certain types of mycotoxins produced by the molds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus are shown to cause cancer. However, the EPA goes on further to say that “Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus are not commonly found on building materials or in indoor environments.”
The CDC states:
There are very few reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxigenic mold and these conditions has not been proven.
Scenario 4: Your client is on a tight deadline to close, and you are worried there is not enough time to remove the mold prior to the closing date.
We all know it’s best to discover mold before the home inspection. But sometimes that’s just not the case. No need to worry as most of the time, mold can be removed in a few days by a professional company and should not stretch out the time it takes to close the deal. Give everyone peace of mind that mold remediation can usually be within 1-3 days.
Scenario 5: Unexpected mold is found in an attic or crawlspace during an inspection.
In real estate transactions, the discovery of mold in an attic or crawlspace by an inspector usually can be stressful. But mold in attics and crawl spaces do not need to ruin a transaction.
Mold in these places needs to be remediated. In extreme cases, it can be a sign of bigger issues such as foundation problems or roof deficiencies. But a buyer who falls in love with a house should not necessarily be shocked if mold is found in an attic or crawl space by an inspector.
These two areas of the home are ripe for mold infestation – we have read some studies that indicate as much as 60% of all crawl spaces have mold. But often attic and crawl space mold goes undetected by the homeowner because these are not places most of us spend much time in.
Close more deals by educating your clients that unexpected attic and crawl space mold is common, but that the buyer can still live safely without worry if the remediation is done properly. If you represent the seller, attic and crawlspace mold can be removed and fixed like any other part of the house by a professional mold remediation company.
Scenario 6: Mold problems indicate water problems since mold can only grow where water is present.
This is less of a “scenario” but more of an important fact to keep in mind about mold whether you are representing the buyer or the seller.
Help your client understand that the presence of mold can be seen as a good thing – i.e. it alerts the buyer/seller of a bigger water issue and helps prevent the parties involved from being “caught off guard” after the closing. Remember that water problems can not only trigger mold growth but can also damage building materials and reduce the longevity of the home.
Close more deals by reminding clients that although mold is undesired, it can be useful in helping to identify a potentially bigger water issue.
Finding Mold is Common and Doesn’t have to Ruin your Commission
Finding mold in a home can be an overwhelming experience for both the client and the realtor. We hope that these suggestions will be able to help realtors keep their commissions, and to help ease the minds of both sellers and buyers. If you are interested in learning more about mold, our DIY Mold Removal eBook can be helpful.