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5 Hazards to be Aware When Buying a House

By Joe Boylan | April 15, 2019

When real estate markets heat up, home buyers get desperate. This desperation often leads them to relax their standards especially when it comes to inspection issues. This is completely understandable especially when there's lots of competition for the best homes.

It's important to realize that no home is worth jeopardizing the health and safety of you and your family. So, if you're buying a home it's essential that you do a home inspection in order to discover the true condition of the property before you close. It’s certainly okay to ignore minor issues with a property but the major health and safety hazards are really important to discover and address prior the closing on any home. Even if you choose to deal with inspection issues on your own after the closing, you need to know they exist.

Here are 5 of the most common health and safety hazards we see on home inspections.


Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was commonly found in construction materials used in houses built prior to 1980. The most common materials found in homes containing asbestos include HVAC duct insulation, roofing shingles, and siding. When asbestos is damaged or gets torn into tiny pieces it is called friable, this makes it easier to inhale. Exposure to high levels of asbestos on a regular basis can cause health ailments such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Because it was used in so many different construction materials, it is difficult to detect and identify asbestos. You should consider how old your house is and whether it might contain asbestos-containing materials. If your home was built before 1980 it most likely contains some asbestos-containing materials. The question is, are they friable? If the answer is yes, you should have the material tested. If you are buying an older home, you should be on the lookout for potential friable asbestos. The time to deal with asbestos is during the inspection phase of your transaction.

If you are remodeling an older you should also test for asbestos prior to starting any demolition. This is because demolition disturbs asbestos which potentially puts anyone who inhales it at risk. Many states require a licensed asbestos inspection prior to remodeling.

If you want to know what type of inspector you need for asbestos inspection, it is the asbestos assessment professional. They advise you on what action to take after receiving positive test results, and they can recommend what companies to hire for the remediation.

If your home is tested positive for asbestos and you're selling it, you are required to disclose this fact to potential home buyers


Radon is a radioactive gas released by the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium found in rocks and soil. It diffuses into air from the ground. It is easier to inhale it because it is invisible, odorless and tasteless. You won’t even know that you’re exposed to it.

Radon can infiltrate your house through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations. It can also be released from building materials which may be used for the house. Like asbestos, the effect that radon has on your health depends on how much you inhale it. You are most likely to be at risk of developing lung cancer if you inhale high levels of radon. Radon is common in Colorado which is why it is highly recommendable to have your home tested for it.

There are four types of tests you can use to find out if your house contains radon and they fall under passive and active categories. The charcoal canisters and the charcoal liquid scintillation detectors belong to the passive test category. The testing process is short since it usually lasts from 2 to 7 days. The active tests are continuous radon monitors and Continuous Working-Level Monitors. They record radon and related products continuously and they require electrical power to operate. They tend to be more expensive than passive tests, but they offer more reliable conclusions.

Some methods are available to treat the radon problem, mainly through mitigation. The most popular mitigating method is active soil depressurization or ASD. It depressurizes the force that makes it easy for the radon to enter the house from the foundation. Thus, it prevents the gas from seeping into the house. If the house does contain radon, sellers are required to disclose this fact to potential homebuyers. Because of this mandatory disclosure, you should not have to worry if a seller is being honest about radon’s effect on the house.


Mold is one of the major air pollutants that can be harmful if exposed to a high concentration of it. Serious health effects include allergic reaction, asthma attacks for sensitive people, and respiratory issues for those with a weak immune system.

These microorganisms prefer damp, humid, and warm areas. However, its spores are extremely resistant and they can thrive in dry and cold conditions. They are transmitted through air or water and they will start producing colonies under the right conditions. Mold can basically grow on anything that is organic and can be found in carpet, ceiling, clothes, and wallpaper.

You can get rid of mold as well as prevent one from forming in your house by reducing or better yet eliminating any water leaks. This may involve either tightening the pipes or hiring a plumber to fix serious plumbing issues. Open the blinds or curtains to let the sunlight in and reduce the humidity indoors. Ventilation can help as well in the form of exhaust fans, air conditioners, and humidifiers.

You need commercial cleaning products or expensive detergents and a soft scrubbing brush to get rid of mold. Make sure you have on protective wear and ventilate your home so that you’re breathing clean air. You could also hire professional cleaners to eliminate mold.

Foundation or structural problems

A problematic foundation can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars to fix. Cracks in the foundation are usually good indicators that there may be foundational or structural problems. In addition to creating cosmetic issues, these cracks can allow moisture, radon, and pests to enter into your home.

An unfinished basement is the best place to check for signs of foundation issues since there are no decor and furniture that would hide the cracks. If there are minor cracks, it could be related to the problem with the foundation or it could be related to settling in the home. Large cracks, on the other hand, should be a cause for alarm that requires the inspection of the foundation or the structure of the house.

If the home you are looking at doesn’t have either a finished basement or a basement at all, another option is to examine the door frames. If you have difficulty closing the doors or if the door frames seem not to be square, it could be a telltale sign that there are problems with the home’s structure. Hiring a structural engineer to inspect the house is beneficial since you will learn if there is a structural issue and if so what’s the extent of the damage. Then you will decide on the next course of action based on the inspection report.

Electrical system issues

Obviously, you don’t want a house with a shoddy electrical system. The last thing you need when turning on a light is for either the electricity to not work at all or create electrical arching or sparks that can cause a fire. But that can happen to you unless you prepare yourself for the possible hazard.

When touring a house, make sure to examine light fixtures and outlets for red flags. Turn on the light switches. Check for flickering lights. Examine the outlets. These easy tasks help you to find out if the electricity is working.  Most home inspections do include inspecting electrical system and you won’t have to hire a separate inspector most of the time.

Poor Drainage

It is usually easy to spot signs of poor drainage. Basically, there is a pool of water in a certain part of the house or the yard that should not belong there in the first place. For example, you may have seen gutters overflowing with waters or mulch in the flower beds that won’t stay put. There are subtle signs of poor drainage that require good attention to details. Water stains on basement walls is a perfect example. Whether they are obvious or not, these red flags make you question if it’s worth buying a house with possible drainage issues.

Chances are, your recently purchased home will have at least one problem that requires immediate repair. It is important that you are aware of possible hazards that come with a home before making the final decision. Being caught off guard by a faulty electrical system, for instance, leads to two consequences: a) it will delay the home purchase when you request the seller to fix it or b) you will spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to fix the electrical system after you already purchase your home. If you take on the hazards correctly, not only will you save money but also, you will be safe.

About Joe: Joe Boylan has been a Real Estate Broker in the Pikes Peak Region for over 20 years. Joe writes about best practices and provides advice to both Home Buyers and Home Sellers. Visit his website at
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