Radon mitigation isn’t usually top of mind when builders plan to build a house or when home sellers put out their “For Sale” sign. It’s not visible or noticeable to the average person, but it’s real and it’s ubiquitous.
Iowa is prone to high levels of radon, an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that naturally occurs in our state’s soil and eventually seeps into the basements of homes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes approximately 21,000 deaths each year.
Seven out of ten homes tested in Iowa have radon levels that exceed federal guidelines—the EPA recommends homes with a test result above 4 pCi/L install mitigation measures. The average home in Iowa tests at 8.5 pCi/L.
Iowa law already requires home sellers to disclose all kinds of information about their home, such as the existence of lead paint, the existence of septic systems, and any home defects or problems the seller is aware of.
More and more, home buyers and renters are asking about radon levels before they buy or rent a home. Iowa’s law does not require that homes be tested for radon before they are sold. Iowa’s radon-disclosure law does require homeowners who have tested for radon to disclose the results of their tests when they sell their homes and describe any mitigation efforts to reduce the levels.
Catch-22 for sellers
The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market, and if needed, lower your radon levels. It is not a law for the seller to mitigate, but if you test, save the test results, and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.
On the other hand, there is no guarantee that the property will not be stigmatized by the radon test. The radon-disclosure law could reduce radon testing because people do not want to have to disclose that they tested. Failure to comply could expose the seller to liability if a buyer suffers damages.
Know your level
It’s easy to test. It doesn’t take a professional to test for radon. Home testing kits are available ranging in cost from $10 to $30; it can take from two to more than 90 days to complete testing. But, for those who are concerned about accuracy of a home test, state-licensed radon professionals can perform checks for about $100 to $150. Certified professionals can be found for each county at the Iowa Department of Health website.
Since the radon mitigation systems aren’t mandated, home builders might not include the extra feature in an effort to keep new-home costs down. However, for new construction, radon-resistant building practices and mitigation systems are expected to be required in the future.
If you decide to sell your home on your own, seek the assistance of an experienced real estate attorney to review the purchase agreement and help put together the information to be provided to prospective buyers.