Selling a house with asbestos

While asbestos was once seen as a miracle material with a versatile array of uses, it is now guaranteed to cause concern among homebuyers. The association between asbestos and harmful health effects presents a challenge to sellers who are listing a property where this material is present.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used as an effective and inexpensive fireproof material. Dylan Chalk, writing for the real estate company Redfin, says asbestos was most popular between the 1940s and 1970s. It was used in everything from brake pads to dental casting rings.

Many older homes also used asbestos in their construction. The Connecticut Department of Public Health says these uses included joint compounds, floor and ceiling tiles, siding, roof shingles, and insulation for pipes and ducts.

When tiny asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lung tissue. In this way, the material causes ailments such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

If you know that asbestos is present in the home, you need to let any prospective buyers know. This revelation should be made on the seller's property disclosure report.

Even if you are unsure whether there are asbestos in your home, the issue could come up during a home inspection. Inspectors are not required to test for asbestos while reviewing the property, but some will inform buyers if a material is likely to have the material. The buyer may then request a special inspection to confirm the presence of asbestos.

Chalk says the seller's permission is required for this process, since it involves destructive practices such as scraping and drilling. A thorough inspection will collect samples from several materials that might contain asbestos and have them analyzed in a lab.

Even if there are materials in your home with asbestos, there might not be too much risk of exposure. When the material is in good condition, the asbestos fibers are confined and there is no risk of inhaling them. The Connecticut Department of Public Health says it is best to simply leave the material alone in this case, since you are more likely to create a hazard if you disturb it.

If the material shows no sign of degradation, you can provide more assurances to the buyer. Lamacchia Realty, a real estate company in Waltham, Massachusetts, says you should still inform buyers that asbestos is present. You can also present them with an inspector's certificate to show the condition of the asbestos.

For your own health as well as the peace of mind of potential buyers, you should repair or remove any asbestos material that has been damaged. Fibers can be released if the material is deteriorating, torn, water-damaged, or otherwise not in good condition. Asbestos is also more likely to be disturbed during a home remodel than during your everyday routine.

When an asbestos material is repaired, it is either enclosed or encapsulated. Enclosing it creates an airtight barrier around the material, so fibers will be confined and kept out of the air if they are released. Encapsulation applies a sealant to either stick fibers together or coat the surface of the material to prevent the release of fibers.

Removing the asbestos is a more expensive process, and is also more likely than repair to release fibers into the air. However, it is also a necessary step to take if the condition of the material is too poor for repair.

Don't try to remove asbestos on your own. Simply ripping out the material will pose a serious risk to your health, even if you try to take precautions to avoid hazards.

The Connecticut Department of Health says you should hire a professional to do the work, whether you are repairing or removing the asbestos. These contractors are certified by the state and can assist with plans for managing or abating asbestos.

Making the effort to repair or remove asbestos before listing a home will move a potential obstacle to the home's sale. Alternatively, you can simply disclose the issue and seek to assure buyers about the condition of the asbestos.

However, you might have to prepare yourself for added expense or a lower selling price if you take the latter route. The buyer could very well ask you to repair or remove the asbestos as a condition of the sale, or request a reduction in price to cover the cost of this work.

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