Picture this — you’ve been home shopping for weeks (or months!). Nothing looks quite right or gives you that “I’m home” feeling. Then one day you find the perfect place. It checks all the boxes for you and your family. Exciting, right? Of course it is! And then you get the bad news … the inspection report shows a mold problem.
For a lot of families, that might be enough to back out and start looking at other properties. Is that always the best move though? Is household mold always a deal breaker?
We’re going to unpack everything you need to know about purchasing a home with mold, but before we do that, let’s get a better understanding of what mold is and why it can be a problem.
So when we say “mold,” we’re actually referring to any type of fungal growth that grows on decaying organic matter. We know. It’s gross.
FYI: There are about 100,000 identified species of mold, but some scientists think the actual number could be three times that much.1
But mold also serves a very important function. It’s actually one of the best employees in nature’s clean-up crew, and without it, the planet would be covered in dead stuff. We know. Even grosser.
So why does mold grow in homes so often? The simple answer is that mold likes the same things people do — the same temperatures, the same relative humidity, and the same surroundings. And unfortunately, that’s all mold needs to thrive.
Every home has some amount of mold in it.2 It’s impossible to get away from it, regardless of how clean you are or how many air purifiers you purchase. But what happens when that mold becomes problematic? And what happens if it’s a problem in the house you want to buy?
Should I Buy a House With Mold?
As with many questions in life, the answer is a bit complicated. Every situation is unique, and every home-buying family is different. Maybe your child has a severe mold allergy and can’t safely be in the environment, or maybe you’re super handy and think you can remediate the mold problem yourself. Maybe the solution is as simple as buying some household cleaners and applying some elbow grease, or you’re planning to spend thousands on professional remediators. There’s no universal answer.
One thing we will say, though, is that the presence of mold is indicative of a problem with water or humidity. If the entire home smells musty or “earthy,” you might have a problem that a squirt bottle full of bleach water and a sponge won’t fix. It could mean tearing out walls and refitting fixtures.
FYI: Mold problems can usually be solved by addressing the source of the moisture. Fix your leaks, fix your mold.3
Simply put, it’s a risk-reward calculation. If it’s a beautiful house that you and your family all love and there’s a bit of mold or mildew in the basement, you might move forward without giving it a second thought. If you’re lukewarm on a property and you discover that the shower has been leaking for years and black mold is present, you’ll probably want to pass.
With that in mind, below are some things to keep in mind if mold is discovered in your potential dream home.
Considerations for Buying a Home With Mold
So the inspector comes back and tells you there’s mold in the house. Don’t immediately shut down! Most mold problems can be fixed; it’s just a matter of how willing you are to deal with it, and how willing the seller is to help. Here are some questions to ask when you’re considering purchasing a home with mold:
- What is the extent of the contamination? As we mentioned, every home has mold in it. It’s just an inescapable fact. That said, you need to figure out how widespread it is before you sign on the dotted line and move the family in. For context, the EPA recommends calling in professional mold remediators if the contamination is larger than 10 square feet, so keep that in mind.4
- Where is the mold located? Mold can show up practically anywhere in a home, and obviously, some locations are easier to deal with than others. Attics and basements are relatively easy to deal with, whereas crawl spaces and HVAC systems are a little more complex.5 The more complicated the problem, the harder it will be to fix yourself, and the more expensive it will be for a professional to handle it.
- What type of mold are you dealing with? There are tons of common household molds — very few of which pose any health risks to healthy people and pets. However, there are certain types of molds that can be dangerous and will require professionals to remove. To know exactly what kind of mold you’re dealing with, you’ll need to perform a mold test. More on that in a bit.
- Are you able to fix the problem yourself? Let’s face it, some folks are handier than others. Maybe you’re comfortable removing and replacing a section of drywall, or maybe you’d be worried about electrocuting yourself if you picked up a screwdriver. Either way, don’t risk it. We recommend always having mold contamination professionally inspected to understand the full extent of the problem.
Pro Tip: Your mold contamination might not be limited to only what you can see. Mold can be lurking underneath floors, behind walls, and in insulation. What looks like a small job could easily get out of control quickly.
- If professional remediation is needed, will the seller cover the costs? Mold testing and remediation aren’t cheap, and if the seller is unwilling to cover the costs or knock a few thousand dollars off the price of the home, you might want to consider how this might impact your bottom line.
- Do you have the budget for mold removal? Mold can be an expensive problem to deal with. If a remediator quotes you $1,000 for a repair and in the midst of work it’s discovered that the contamination is far more extensive than expected, you might now be on the hook for ten times that amount. After you purchase a home, will you have the cash on hand to deal with that?
- Are your family members susceptible to mold allergies? Mold allergies are incredibly common, and can be a pain to manage. If you know your family members are particularly sensitive to mold, it’s doubly important to have the problem addressed before move-in day.
- Do you care for older family members, young children, or other vulnerable individuals? Most household molds don’t have any significant negative effects on relatively healthy adults, but its presence can negatively impact seniors and young children. Additionally, anyone in your family with a respiratory ailment, a cancer survivor, or otherwise has a compromised immune system might be harmed by mold in the home.6
While we previously stated that every situation is different, here’s a piece of advice that’s universal: If mold is present, you shouldn’t make an offer on a home until you’ve had it inspected to understand the full extent of the problem. For that, you’re going to want a professional mold inspection.
Mold Inspections, Tests, Removal, and Remediation
So your home inspector is a jack-of-all-trades. They know enough about home construction and systems to identify where potential problems might be, but they aren’t mold specialists. If the inspector finds a leak in the roof, you’re going to want to call a roof inspector to check things out. If the inspector finds mold, you guessed it — you’re going to need a mold inspection.
FYI: Be wary of inspection scams. If an inspector is also running a remediation business, they have a vested interest in “finding” mold in your home.
A mold inspector will check your house from top to bottom with two goals in mind. Their primary goal is to determine what’s causing the mold, and the second is to determine the extent of the contamination.7 Some inspectors will also test the mold to determine which species are present, but if that’s something you’re interested in, you might have to purchase that through a separate service.
A good mold inspector will do a top-to-bottom visual inspection of the house, and ask a lot of questions about the home’s construction, upgrades, systems, and your and your family’s health. They’ll measure moisture levels, look for signs of water damage, and try to pinpoint what’s causing your mold. They’ll then help you come up with a plan for remediation. All in all, a mold inspection will cost about $300 to $400 for a small to medium-sized home, and $700 to $900 for larger homes.8
Mold remediation is the actual process of removing the mold and making sure it won’t come back again. When mold problems are obvious, some families choose to skip the inspection step and go right to remediation. The process and costs for remediation differ significantly on a case-by-case basis, but a good rule of thumb is that it will cost between $13 and $28 per square foot of contaminated area to remove mold and remediate.9
As mentioned, mold isn’t always a bad thing. In certain lights, it can be seen as an opportunity. During the homebuying process, almost everything is negotiable. In this sense, the presence of mold could be a leveraging tool for the buyer to get a better price.10 Just make sure all your bases are covered because this can be a risky gambit.
Is It Dangerous to Buy a House With Mold?
Again, the answer to this question is complicated, and depends on a huge variety of factors, the most important of which are:
- The extent of the mold contamination
- The type of molds present
- How vulnerable your family members are
Only you know the answer to the latter, and the two former factors can – and should — be determined by professionals if you’re thinking about purchasing a home with mold.
FYI: Black mold, although toxic, isn’t as dangerous as people think it is. You certainly don’t want to be around it for extended periods of time, and you will need to get it professionally removed. However, there’s no evidence it can cause cancer, paralysis, or neurological issues.11
That said, living in a moldy environment can have negative health outcomes, particularly for your more vulnerable loved ones. If you’re purchasing a home with mold, you’ll want to get the problem taken care of before you move in, or at least have a solid plan for how you’ll immediately deal with the problem.
Beyond the health impacts, it can be financially perilous, too. Mold can be seriously detrimental to the resale value of your home. Let’s take a look at that now.
Selling a Home With Mold
It’s obvious that mold will negatively impact the amount you can get for your property, but just how much might be shocking. In a study of properties with widespread mold infestations, nearly a quarter — and up to half — of the homes’ values were wiped out.12
But that’s not the extent of the bad news. Even after remediation, these homes never fully recovered in value, even after they were bought and sold multiple times. The reason? In some states, sellers are obligated to disclose past mold problems, even if it’s been taken care of.13 A lot of buyers are concerned that mold will return, and are far less likely to pay full asking price for these properties.
So yes, we’d say that mold can be a pretty big problem, no matter what side of the negotiating table you’re sitting on. Whether you’re buying or selling, you might be wondering if you can take care of the problem yourself.
Can I Remove the Mold Myself?
Whether you’re buying or selling, taking care of minor mold problems yourself is certainly a possibility. You just want to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions, fully cleaning or removing contaminated materials, and preventing the problem from returning. Here are some tips for doing exactly that:14
- Wear a professional-grade face mask that fully covers your nose and mouth.
- Wear goggles or other eye protection.
- Wear gloves and clothing that cover exposed skin.
- Remove any materials that have mold on them.
- Spray mold with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to one gallon of water
- Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the area.
- Eliminate any sources of moisture like unsealed windows or leaky fixtures.
Remember though, if the mold is widespread — meaning over 10 square feet in size — you’ll need the help of the professional remediators mentioned above.
Making Your Decision: Is Household Mold a Deal Breaker?
Ultimately it’s up to you whether or not purchasing a home with mold is the right decision for your family, and as we discussed above, that decision is going to rely on a number of factors. These include: making sure you take into account the size and type of infestation; determining how susceptible your family might be to mold allergies; and if the mold problem is going to be fixed before you move in or if you can fix it yourself. Also be aware of your state’s disclosure laws and how the presence of mold might impact the eventual resale value of the property.
Mold can be a massive headache for families, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to call off your planned purchase of a property. You just need to understand all of the factors involved and weigh all of your options.
Purchasing a Home with Mold FAQs
It’s difficult to tell how widespread mold contamination is, as it could be growing in places you can’t see. If you think a home has mold in it, it’s best to consult professional inspectors or remediators.
It’s almost impossible to tell what type of mold is growing in a home with the naked eye. You’ll likely need a professional tester to sample it and culture it in a lab.
Small surface contamination is relatively inexpensive to remove and remediate, but larger infestations that involve the removal of flooring, drywall, or carpet can cost thousands of dollars.
There is no law that can prevent you from selling a home with mold contamination; however many states do require you to disclose the problem.
Almost everything is negotiable when purchasing a home. If a mold issue is discovered, it’s not unreasonable for the buyer to ask the seller to pay for its remediation or to lower the price of the home.