Should I Buy a House with a Radon Mitigation System?

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|10 min read

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is harmless in small quantities but can cause lung cancer when exposed to it in concentrated levels. A radon mitigation system prevents that from happening. 

Once you make an offer on a home, you can move forward with scheduling an inspection. A quality home inspector can help you understand the state of the house and any systems that need to be maintained. They also might alert you to a radon mitigation system installed on the property. 

You can buy a house with a radon mitigation system. However, it’s important to know what this system does and how to maintain it properly.

Use this guide to make an informed buying decision to protect your family and property values from radon gas. 

What is radon gas?

In nature, radon gas disperses naturally whenever it is released from the ground. It forms when naturally occurring radioactive materials (which are commonly found in soil and rocks) break down. However, it can easily get trapped in buildings.

The radon gas seeps into a basement or lower floor through cracks in the foundation and builds up over time. Homes, schools, and office buildings are all considered high-risk structures for radon exposure. It isn’t something you can detect on your own because it is orderless and colorless.

The EPA reports that 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer. This is the second-most common source of lung cancer deaths behind smoking.

Radon is more common in homes with basements because there are more opportunities for the gas to seep into the home. Not only can radon come through cracks in the foundation on the floor, but there are also opportunities for radon gas to seep through the walls if they are built into the ground.

However, radon can build up in houses without basement structures. There needs to be a ventilation area for the radon to disperse, otherwise, it will enter and get trapped in the home. 

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. According to the CDC, the average radon level in most American homes is 1.3 pCi/L.

If your radon levels fall between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L, it is recommended that you take steps to reduce the presence of this gas. If the levels are higher than 4 pCi/L, then the radon levels are considered dangerous.

What is radon mitigation? 

Radon mitigation is the process of removing radon from your home. Many radon mitigation systems have a simple design and will filter the air in order to remove this gas from your living space. This is not unlike an air conditioning unit that removes hot, stuffy air while replacing it with cool fresh air instead.

Depending on the radon mitigation system you have, it also might work as a dehumidifier. It will remove water from the air that can also contain radon gas. This can make your basement feel less damp throughout the year. 

You can decide whether you want to invest in radon mitigation or radon prevention. A radon mitigation system is designed to remove gas that already exists in your home. Radon prevention addresses the root cause of the issue to prevent this gas from entering in the future. 

The Environmental Protection Agency created a guide for hiring contractors to reduce radon levels in your home. In some cases, the solution could be as simple as sealing cracks in your foundation. You can also reduce radon levels by improving ventilation.

If you decide to buy a house that has a radon mitigation system, you can take steps to permanently lower radon levels in your home once you move in. This gives many homeowners greater peace of mind than using removal systems. 

When do you need a radon test?

Regardless of the home that you decide to buy, invest in radon testing either as part of the inspection or immediately after you move in. The team at Protect Environmental explained why you want to conduct a radon test regardless of the state of the property:  

  • You don’t know if the radon mitigation system is fully functioning. Radon testing alerts you to problems with this unit.
  • You don’t know how old previous radon tests are. Even if the home has been tested, radon levels could have changed in the past few years. 
  • The age and structure type doesn’t affect radon levels. It doesn’t matter whether you have a new construction property or a historic home without a basement. You are still at risk for radon exposure. 

Even after you run your radon test, schedule follow-up inspections of your radon reduction system and professional radon testing at least every other year. This way you can catch this radioactive gas buildup before it becomes serious.  

Radon Mitigation is Particularly Important for Kids and Pets

Radon gas is dangerous for people from all walks of life, but it can significantly impact children and pets. First, kids are still developing, which means their lungs are smaller. The same goes for your pets.

This means the radon, when inhaled at a high concentration, is more dangerous to them. Kids and pets are also known for being closer to the floor – especially toddlers who are just learning how to navigate the world. This means they are closer to the ground where radon is more likely to be. 

Finally, radon works slowly. Many people who develop lung cancer from this gas were exposed to it in their childhood homes. They might not show symptoms until they are older, but the radon gas made its mark. 

It’s worth it to your family to invest in a radon mitigation system in order to remove this harmful gas and ensure the air your loved ones breathe is clean.

Radon Mitigation is Not Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance

There is good news and bad news if you conduct a radon test and discover high levels of this gas in the home you want to buy. The bad news is that radon mitigation is not covered by most homeowners insurance policies. This is because the presence of radon is not considered a sudden event or an emergency. It doesn’t suddenly occur in your home and it can be reduced simply by opening your windows and improving your ventilation. 

The good is that the results of your radon test likely won’t afford your ability to get coverage. Your insurance provider might ask you to invest in a radon mitigation system, but you shouldn’t be denied specifically because of the gas. You also likely won’t have higher insurance rates just because of the radon.

You can confidently move forward with the process of buying a house with radon while knowing that you can efficiently install radon systems or hire a radon contractor to completely address the issue as soon as you move in. 

How to Test a System’s Effectiveness Before You Buy a House

If you make an offer on a house with a radon system, make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure it works. Not only is this important to keep you and your family safe, but it will also contribute to the home’s value.

In the same way that you wouldn’t buy a house with a leaking roof or dated electrical system unless the seller was transparent about the issues, you don’t want to buy a broken radon mitigation system that you think is filtering the air but isn’t. Here are a few key steps to take. 

Get a Radon Test

On top of requesting a home inspection and appraisal, request radon testing from an objective third party – ideally one that offers professional radon test results. You don’t want to rely on the seller using basic radon test kits because they might not give you accurate levels if they are unsafe. As to see the radon test results directly from the company that completes the analysis. 

Even if the homeowner tested their property for radon before, the results could be dated. It’s not worth your family’s health to skip this step.

Obtain and Review System Documentation

As you move forward with the home purchase, request all documentation about the radon mitigation system. You will want to review everything from the owner’s manual to the maintenance history of the system. This is particularly important if you have never worked with radon mitigation systems in previous homes. You will want to learn how they work and how often they need to be serviced.

Reviewing these materials is a standard part of the home-buying process. You should also go over any smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the home to make sure they work as well.  

Your seller might pass on this documentation when they leave the house, but it’s better to make sure you have it before they move. Otherwise, they might accidentally throw the papers away or move with them to their next home. 

Learn the Source of the Radon

For most homeowners, maintaining a radon mitigation system is the easiest way to prevent serious health problems caused by this gas. It’s possible that your radon fans will work for several years and continue filtering the air after you sell your current home. However, some buyers want to eliminate radon entirely from their homes by getting to the root of the issue. 

Ask the seller (or the seller’s agent) if they know why the radon is entering their homes. They might be aware that the basement floors aren’t in good condition or that there is a crack in the concrete slab that emits radon and keeps it trapped indoors. Not only can this help you develop a more permanent solution than a radon mitigation system, but it could also alert you to other problems in the home. 

You can also talk to your home inspector about the issue and ask them to identify a potential source of these radioactive elements.

How much does a radon mitigation system cost?

It’s worth the effort the make sure the radon mitigation system in your future home works as it should. If you need to replace a broken or worn-out model, you could pay between $1,200 to $2,000. At a minimum, it will cost around $500 to repair old units.

However, it could cost thousands of collars to have a radon mitigation system installed based on the amount of soil gases in your home. While this investment is worth it to prevent radon and the health risks that come with it, most buyers prefer homes with working systems already. 

If you are in a position to negotiate with the seller, consider adjusting your bid to reflect a new radon mitigation system or an updated model. This can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer while giving you peace of mind when moving into your home.

Talk to a Realtor About Radon Mitigation Systems

A radon mitigation system on its own isn’t a reason to avoid buying a house. This feature proves that the homeowner is aware of the issue and took steps to fix it – as long as the radon mitigation system is fully functioning. Most people aren’t worried about buying a home with radon as long as there is a system in place to disperse it. By maintaining this system, you can protect your family and your resale value when it’s time to move. 

If you are concerned about levels of radon in your area, talk to a local real estate agent. They can tell you about their experiences with radon contractors and how to request radon testing during the home inspection. A quality Realtor will make sure you are safe and comfortable in your home. 

To find a real estate agent near you, use FastExpert. This is a great tool for reviewing potential Realtors and contacting the ones who fit your needs. Use our resources today to start your home search.

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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