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radon mitigation disagreement

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Feb 20, 2013, 12:07 AM
radon mitigation disagreement
My husband and I are under contract to purchase a home that was very close to being foreclosed on. The inspection last week found the home to be in tiptop shape except for a high radon reading, 8.2 to be exact. 4 is considered to be the maximum safe level. Our realtor and the listing realtor quickly arranged to have the company considered the best in our area give an assessment and recommended course of treatment, which the seller has agreed to pay for. Naturally, as soon as we got the high radon report we began researching it - it's causes as well as various remedies. The radon mitigation company, "Bob", is recommending the exact system that we had concerns about. Not only is it on the unsightly side (big white pvc pipe running along outside of dark brick exterior) but more importantly, it will involve a fan system that must run right up the wall of the master bedroom. We read on no less than 3 radon websites that these fans can conk out after a few years in a cold part of the country like where we live, and that they are noisy, most especially when run along a bedroom wall.

Our realtor told us to call Bob with any questions at all, so we did. Well, we emailed, telling him our concerns about the fan, and the system that he is recommending, versus running piping up into the attic and out the roof, which is much more expensive probably, but will be quiet. Quiet and sleep is of the highest importance to us. Tonight we got back an email from Bob, essentially saying that we might want to look for a different radon mitigator because our concerns are legitimate and the fan can be noisy but less so on a brick house but he can't do the job the way that we want with the "time constraints" that he was told exists. Well, we have no time constraints at all. We haven't yet discovered who is telling Bob that this thing must be taken care of immediately, but also, it sounded like since the seller is paying for his services, that she wants to go the cheaper route, against his better recommendation. We understand this, but we can't live in a house with fan racket in the bedroom. If the house had already been equipped with this system and we heard it we never would have put in an offer to begin with. We can certainly pull out of the deal (and lose quite a bit of money already spent on inspection, attorneys and bank fees) but my question is: Is it reasonable for us to expect the seller to pay for a system that we deem acceptable and for us to reject a system that we deem noisy and unacceptable? We are not talking something like a desire for architectural roof shingles versus flat shingles. This is a health and noise issue. We are strapped to the max already in purchasing this house and we frankly cannot afford to pay for a radon system.
Feb 20, 2013, 01:05 AM
Idaho Resident
cheekaboom, Kudos to you for doing your research ~ everyone should do the same regardless of the issue involved. It does sound like you have a valid point so you need to talk with your agent ASAP to express it. Specifically, that you will not accept the improvised remedy of exterior piping due to noise and durability of repair.

Explain to your agent that you are willing to extend contractural times if necessary (re the "time limitations mentioned by "Bob") and that you willing to negotiate on the issue. Would it be possible for you to offer perhaps 25% of the cost with the seller paying the remaining 75%?

Of course, only do this if you are willing to lose the house over the issue but, for myself, I would not go forward buying a property that I knew, in advance, would be a problem. Decide what is most important to you and then stand your ground. Good Luck! Cool
Feb 20, 2013, 06:42 AM
Unless either I missed or you omitted other key pieces of info about the property (e.g. absolutely exceptional location, incredible value, etc.), I would pass. Sounds like the seller desperately hopes to avoid f/c and plans to pinch pennies and speed up closing, at your expense. It always makes me wonder if another shoe's about to drop WRT the property -

IME, f/c and pre-f/c properties have not been properly maintained. Inspectors are usually not required to inspect inaccessible areas. The radon can be mitigated but might be the tip of the iceberg. If you're already stretched, I'd pass, inspite of the costs you've already incurred. No reason to throw good money after bad, IMHO.

Wouldn't surprise me if you quickly find a property you prefer after letting this go. If not and this home proceeds to either a short sale or f/c, perhaps you'll score a bargain. Either way, you're better off, IMHO.

Hope it works out for you.
Feb 20, 2013, 08:26 AM
Of course the seller wants to pay the least amount necessary to correct the problem. Wouldn't you?

If you want the more expensive option you should consider paying the difference.

I would assume the time constraint has to do with the closing date. You could have the monies necessary to do the work placed in escrow for a length of time. There are several ways around this problem.
Feb 20, 2013, 08:39 AM
Totally agree with Metwo. Pay the difference between systems and have all monies placed in escrow. This would not be an insurmountable problem.
Feb 20, 2013, 09:26 AM
Any other reason the seller contacted the radon contractor and placed time constraints on him, metwo? That's right - the buyers apparently don't know.

Yes, it could be as simple as the closing date and moving needs but who knows? Sounds like the buyers were unaware that maintaining a specific closing date was important for the sellers.

Did the sellers properly maintain the home, metwo, when they were having financial difficulties? Well, guess the buyers will find out after closing when they'll have no **$ to resolve any other problems. No worries, right?

As mentioned above, it's not the radon mitigation that's the issue, IMHO. It's the other unknowns.

Best to you, cheekaboom.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: BearCat49,
Feb 20, 2013, 09:55 AM
I also agree with Metwo. The sellers are obligated to install a radon mitigating system. It's a known problem now so they wouldn't be able to sell the house to any other buyer without taking care of the issue first. However, this doesn't mean they have to install the exact system YOU want, just "A" system that brings the reading levels down to below 4.

So, since you have particular wants regarding the system, I also suggest you pay the cost difference between the system the seller is willing to purchase and the system you prefer.

Bear also makes a good point. If you're already feeling the financial pinch trying to make this deal work, you're in no position to buy a home where the seller is having financial difficulties. If there are issues from delayed or ignored maintenance because of the owner's money problems, this house could break you (too).

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jewel,
Feb 20, 2013, 03:23 PM
Definitely agree - as I mentioned in my initial post, "the radon can be mitigated". That s/b a simple negotiation for the buyers' agent to handle. If the buyer prefers a more costly system than a system meeting the minimum standard, the buyer should agree to pay the difference, including any increase in labor or other charges.

Because the buyers' agent could easily take care of the radon situation, I naturally believe the buyers have lingering doubts about the property and their situation in general, or they wouldn't have posted on the mb. Those are the far more important and difficult issues to resolve, IMHO.
Feb 20, 2013, 08:16 PM
Lots of good advice from so many - thank you! Let me address just a few of things that some of you have brought up. More in a later post, when we see how things are going.

First, we love the house but I did not mention it. Second, the house has been vacant for a few months. It is in near pristine condition and well maintained. Some of it pretty outdated cosmetically, but well maintained. I'm not sure there is any part of the house that the inspector did not inspect! It's all pretty accessible. A terrible sudden tragedy occurred in the home a few months ago; perhaps the seller did not want to live there anymore and/or they can no longer afford it, or maybe there were some financial issues prior. I can't say (because I don't know) but the place is very nice and I do believe that prior to the "event" it was well maintained. The radon levels could be elevated partly because the home was closed up and even winterized. In any case, a radon system that causes noise in the bedroom and exposes the fan to freezing temperatures thereby causing the fan to need replacing about every 3 years really isn't a very good solution and any other buyer who does their homework will, I think, have the same concerns. Especially when the radon mitigation company acknowledges that all of those concerns are valid points. I did state that I understood the seller's desire to spend as little as possible (of course!) We are strapped for extra cash because we still have a house to sell, crazy kids that we are. Once it sells -it will go on the market in about 2 weeks and things in my town don't stay on the market for too long - we will be able to pay off the new house completely (we own our current home outright). Scary for sure but not for too long, I hope!

So yes, I have now babbled on and some of what I've said doesn't really have a lot to do with my original question, does it? :-). But I will update things in a future post and please, if you have any other feedback, I am happy to read it. I appreciate your support in all it's various forms.
Mar 04, 2013, 06:02 PM
Update: DH and I took suggestions here to heart and had decided to fork over the extra money for a system that we preferred but.... the more costly system can't be done in this house! Not logistically possible. But the expert feels certain that due to certain features of the home he will successfully address our concerns. So there you have it. Oh, and we had our first Open House yesterday on our house! What a ton of work that was!
Mar 05, 2013, 01:18 AM
Happy to hear (from your previous post) that you truly love the house and it's been properly maintained. I naturally believed, given the foreclosure situation and your post, that you had major concerns about the home or overall deal - because normally the radon situation would be easily negotiated by your realtor.

Congratulations on your new home and good luck with the sale of your old one!
Mar 06, 2013, 09:40 AM
Congratulations on everything starting to work out for you. I am fortunate to be in an area that does not have the concern about radon, but I've learned enough to know that a closed up house is liable to have higher readings than an occupied home.

Fun and Info
Mar 06, 2013, 01:20 PM
real estate lady
You really need to talk this through with your buyers' agent, and she/he needs to review your sales contract with you in detail...and the question is" how" is your sales contract structured.

It sounds as though you have an inspection contingency~~ which is good. However is this "an is" contract or does the contract contain an "set amount" allowance for repairs paid for by the seller.

What does the "radon" addendum say. Is there one?

There are/can be different addendum forms in different states for different issues concerning that state and that states' laws, including real estate law.

It does sound like you may need an extension on the contract, but talk to your agent about also extending
the inspection period. A well detailed addendum to the sales contract may be in order.

Bob, the radon man, may have felt under pressure as he knows contracts come with deadlines. I think another opinion from another radon company may be in order, or how about your county municiple building dept.

If you SO LOVE this house....that's my take on "forward" ...however if you are getting frustrated and having doubts about solutions with your agent about maybe going shopping again.
Mar 06, 2013, 01:47 PM
Here is my two cents, getting emotional about a house is not a good idea. If this house cannot have the Radon system that you want, Is that OK with you in the future? Suppose it breaks down, Is that OK with you when it happens?
Are you not going to feel sorry about having bought a house that had that problem to begin with?
Those questions perhaps will provide you with your answer. and don't let any emotion cloud your judgement.
Mar 06, 2013, 09:19 PM
just josie
Just my two cents worth here.....

When we bought one of our houses, we had a high radon reading but really wanted the house. The buyers agreed to pay X amount of money to have it installed that would bring the level down to such and such number.

When the mitigation company came out to install, they asked WHERE we wanted it to be placed in the house....and before we did they explained that a person would have to have ears as sensitive as a mouse to even hear that fan run.....they were correct. We had it run outside,on the wall where our dining room was. If we turned every sound down in the house and placed your ear on that could hear a very faint hummmmmm....

It brought our radon reading down to 2.8.

The fan, if it bothers you to be by the bedroom wall.....ask if it could be installed somewhere else in the house besidees by the bedroom wall..

BUT....having said that, it sounds to me like there's something else going on. I would be a little concerned about the "terrible sudden tragedy" Did the real estate agent explain what exactly that was? I think that have to divulge that....if not I would maybe start knocking on neighbors doors....that would concern me quite a bit more than the muted buzz of a radon fan. Just sayin'

Mar 07, 2013, 06:40 AM

BUT....having said that, it sounds to me like there's something else going on. I would be a little concerned about the "terrible sudden tragedy" Did the real estate agent explain what exactly that was? I think that have to divulge that....if not I would maybe start knocking on neighbors doors....that would concern me quite a bit more than the muted buzz of a radon fan. Just sayin'


The OP didn't say they didn't know what happened, just they didn't know about finances prior to the event.

The sudden tragedy could have been the home owner died sussdenly in the house, or could have been suicide or even murder. In many areas these things do not have to be divulged.

Fun and Info
Mar 08, 2013, 05:18 PM
Just a reminder that the word "tragedy" has different meanings to different people. To some people a broken fingernail is a tragedy. Tragedy does not always involve death.
Nov 01, 2013, 02:45 PM
just josie, months later, thank you. I had read your experience and we went ahead with the less expensive radon option, since the other was not possible for this house, turns out. It has been fine and exactly as you described! There was NO other option than running the thing up the bedroom wall, but still, it is fine. Both agents ended up footing the bill, since the seller simply had no means to pay for it. To address the other issue, the seller's income sadly disappeared when "the tragedy" occurred, of which I will not speak, out of respect for the seller. The husband and I sold our other home and have settled nicely into this beautifully maintained, (radon-free) one. I so appreciate all of the great advice and concerns brought up by many here.
Nov 02, 2013, 12:03 AM
real estate lady
Glad all turned out well for you..and those Realtors were very nice to help the parties.