Should You Buy a House with Mold?

Should I buy a house with mold?

After searching forever for that perfect Colorado house, you finally find the one of your dreams. But just before signing on the dotted line, you discover that it has mold problems. Should you buy it anyway?

Mold is a type of fungus, and there are thousands of species of mold in houses, from the kind that grows on bread and fruit to the mold that inhabits humid spaces. Some types of mold are more toxic than others, and constant exposure to large quantities of mold may cause health problems such as breathing difficulties, coughing and worsening asthma. Brief exposure to mold is unlikely to cause serious problems, but you'll need to get the mold removed from the home as soon as possible to be safe.

Before you buy any home, make sure you have it inspected for mold and other problems. Insist that the inspection contains a contingency clause (which defines a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding). Never take a seller's or real estate agent's word about the presence of mold. Even if you're getting a steep discount, get an inspection. The cost of removing the mold could be greater than your savings. If mold is exposed during the inspection, you have a bargaining chip. You can then do one of three things:

  • ask the seller to reduce the asking price
  • ask the seller to fix the problem
  • walk away from the deal

Sellers are required under state real estate disclosure rules to disclose if there’s an ongoing mold problem in the house or if it’s been previously flooded, but they don't always do so. If they do not, the owner may be liable to you for failure to disclose. (See the Nolo article, "Home Defects: Sue the Seller," which provides useful advice on determining who’s legally responsible for home defects and how to file suit.)

If you should decide to tackle the mold clean up yourself, here are a couple of sites the include advice on mold removal:

But unless you have much experience in cleaning mold, you would be better off contacting Cyclone Kleen Up. We specialize in mold removal. The San Francisco Department of Public Health points out that even dead mold can cause allergies, so simply killing the mold with bleach or other substances isn't enough. The mold must be completely removed, and for that specialized equipment is needed.

There's no right answer for whether it's OK to buy a home with mold. Your primary concerns should be your budget, your health and how soon you need to move in. For example, if you suffer from allergies and there's a lot of mold in a home, it's ill-advised to buy it if you need to move in right away. On the other hand, if you’ve got the time and money to get rid of the mold, purchasing a home with mold in it could save you money, especially if your home is appraised lower because of the mold.