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Ask Adam: Radon Testing

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We’re preparing to buy a house and are doing some preliminary research. One thing I came across is the idea of radon testing. This is something I have not heard of before and am wondering if you can help me understand how it relates to buying a home? 

A. According to the EPA, “exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. For most Americans, their greatest exposure to radon is in their homes; especially in rooms that are below grade (e.g., basements), rooms that are in contact with the ground and those rooms immediately above them.”

According to the EPA map, Arlington falls within an orange zone, which is defined as having a predicted average indoor radon screening level between 2 and 4 pCi/L. The EPA recommends remediation for any home that has a concentration of 4 pCi/L or higher.

Keep in mind that these levels will vary from one home to the next within Arlington depending on the location and composition of the home. For example, as homes are being built tighter to make them more energy efficient, they can also trap greater concentrations of radon inside the home.

If you would like to include radon testing as part of your real estate transaction, you will use the same addendum as the home inspection contingency. In fact, the structure of the two contingencies are very similar. You will designate a certain number of days for the contingency, which will allow the testing and lab work to take place. You will also designate how many days each party will have to respond to a negotiation in a case where the buyer would like the seller to remediate unsafe levels of radon. You also reserve the right to void the contract based on the results.

In my experience, sellers are less apprehensive about radon testing than they are about a standard home inspection. If radon is something that concerns you, then I highly recommend testing for it. The cost of a professional radon test, usually ranges from $150 to $200. You can also buy your own test kit on Amazon.com for $11.99, but this will not meet the standards required for a radon contingency in a real estate transaction. The radon contingency requires a radon professional certified by the National Radon Safety Board, or the National Radon Proficiency Program using EPA approved testing methods.

When I bought my house I decided not to include radon testing as part of the transaction. I purchased a kit at Home Depot shortly after closing to test it on my own. I knew that radon remediation is not terribly expensive in most cases so I was willing to take on that risk.  We were well within the safe range and I was able to save the money I would have spent on a professional test. I also had one less item getting in the way of me negotiating the price I wanted. That said, I’m a little less averse to risk than I encourage my clients to be.

I didn’t even scratch the surface of information available about radon that is available on the EPA website. If you have additional questions about what it is and the risks it poses, I highly recommend spending some time on their website.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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