Prior and current mold infestation is required to be disclosed by the seller of a house, however, that is not the case with foreclosures. More often than not, lenders do not perform regular maintenance or keep the air conditioning running in order to reduce costs and utility bills. If pipes freeze during cold weather or homes become too humid without the air conditioning running, they become giant petri dishes for mold growth. That is just a risk many lenders take when holding on to a foreclosed home—save a penny here; spend $50,000 on preventable repairs there. When banks finally want to fix up a home for sale, the house is often given an inadequate cleaning and white-washed to cover up any obvious mold.
Some banks have even found ways around leaving paper trails, so there is never any proof that mold was or is in the home. The contractors are not hired to “remediate mold” but to “treat discoloration.” Mold remediators are dictated how they will perform their work and what terminology they are allowed to put on work orders. The lenders do not allow the mold remediators to bring in 3rd party mold testing because it would be on the record that the house is moldy.
This is the very reason why independent, third-party indoor air quality testing is important, not just for foreclosed homes, but during any home purchase. Foreclosed homes usually have uncertain history and there is precedent of deceit, making them very risky purchases. If you are considering buying a foreclosed home, you need a minimum of radon and mold testing prior to closing. Purchasing a home in a normal real estate transaction can carry some of the same risks, but homeowners do not go to the same lengths to avoid liability as banks. Repairs, radon mitigation, and mold remediation can often be worked into the final deal in standard home purchases.
As a homebuyer with concerns about indoor air quality in any realty transaction, your testing concerns should fall in this order:
1. Radon—It’s cheap to test and quick and inexpensive to fix
2. Mold—Can get extremely expensive to fix depending on severity
3. VOCs and Formaldehyde—No one wants to live in a house that makes you sick