Mold: The latest problem for foreclosed homesby Tim Manni
The longer foreclosed homes remain on the market, the worse off we all are (simple as that). While homeowners struggle to stay afloat thanks to distressed real estate bringing down local home prices, potential buyers of these properties face different issues, seen and unseen.
As these foreclosures sit vacant, their landscaping becomes overgrown and they’re open to squatters and vandalism. However, another new problem is growing inside these homes: mold.
In some states, it’s estimated that more than half of foreclosed homes have mold and mildew issues. Realtors across the country say they’re seeing the problem in everything from bungalows to mansions.
Most of us have never considered how the simple transfer of air–the opening and closing of doors and windows, running the air conditioner and the heater–fights to prevent mold growth inside of occupied homes:
In most homes, as residents go in and out and the seasons change, natural ventilation sucks moisture up to the attic and out through the roof. It’s called the “stack effect.” And in many parts of the country, it’s driven by air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.
Furthermore, the lack of electricity means sump pumps aren’t running, and basements are backing up with water, spreading mold out across floors, up walls and over ceilings.
Repair costs can be extraordinary
According to the experts, even minor mold remediation can cost $5,000, and that’s just the beginning:
- If the mold is confined to a surface area of no more than 10 square feet (about 3-feet-by-3-feet), the EPA suggests you can remove it yourself by scrubbing hard surfaces with detergent and water, then drying.
- Removing mold from an average house crawlspace ranges from $500 -$4,000, according to Charter Oak Environmental of Connecticut. Overall, a typical mold remediation project to remove mold from the ducts, crawl spaces, walls and attic of a house runs around $2,000 -$6,000. And if the mold has caused widespread structural damage, repair costs can increase the total to as much as $10,000 -$30,000 or more.
In addition to the cost of removal, potential homebuyers face a number of known health risks.
Ask about mold
With all the distressed properties out on the market today, buyers need to be aware that rampant mold problems exist. While some realtors say they have drafted up disclosure forms for buyers to sign, it’s important that you still ask your realtor about the home’s mold issues, and that just doesn’t go for forecloses, but for all homes.