Home buyers typically focus on those aspects of a home that are important to them. Location is paramount, such as convenience to work, favorite church, recreation sites nearby or public transportation. The next focus is the physical aspects of the home, such as exterior appearance, size of the yard, floor plan, number of bedrooms and baths, layout of kitchen and baths, to name a few. Often overlooked during the initial search for that new home are the environmental conditions you will be exposed to while living and sleeping in the new home.

Hidden Environmental Factors

Environmental issues in homes you sell or list are a pain in the “you know where.” As home inspectors, we are concerned with the health and welfare of our clients, as should you be as a Realtor®. It’s not appropriate for us to preach to Realtors®. Nonetheless, you must decide for your own practice of real estate how pro-active you will be with respect to environmental issues of radon, mold, lead-based paint, septic systems and water quality for homes served by water wells. In some cases, regulations, local practice or mortgage company requirements dictate the need to be pro-active. Lead-based paint issues are regulated by Federal and State disclosure rules. Radon and mold issues not so much.

Keep in mind those two dirty words: MATERIAL FACTS. What did you know or what should have known and what should you have disclosed to your client? This is an important question in every transaction and the subject of much litigation. This article is not a legal treatise. You must come to your own conclusion regarding whether or not to discuss these issues with your real estate clients and how much disclosure or delivery of information is necessary and/or required.

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Radon, a radioactive gas, is contained within the soil. It can seep into homes and commercial buildings through leeks in basements and is especially prevalent in buildings that are not ventilated properly. If not dealt with, radon can spread throughout a home and harm its inhabitants. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is responsible for 2,900 deaths of non-smokers every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A recent Alban client undergoing chemotherapy was concerned with well water quality. Another client had a home under contract and learned the wife of the sellers was suffering from lung cancer and raised the issue of radon with our inspector. With all of the news the last ten years about childhood poison by lead-based paint, an occasional client buying a house built before 1978 asked about lead-based paint inspections. These are the exceptions. Here is a brief summary of the five most significant environmental issues home buyers should be aware of.


Exposure to mold can also cause homeowners significant difficulties. A 2004 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study found mold could cause home dwellers significant breathing problems. Mold can also exacerbate asthma symptoms and lead to ongoing respiratory illnesses in children.  As part of a home inspection, an experienced professional can conduct mold testing to identify mold occurrences and potential problem spots where water may infiltrate a building. They can also inform homeowners about cheap and efficient solutions, such as cleaning using a bleach compound. Homeowners can prevent future mold occurrences by keeping the humidity in their homes low and by ventilating their homes as much as possible.


Many houses before 1978 contain lead paint. In Maryland, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment ninety-five percent of houses built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. The most common locations for the use of leaded paint were exterior doors and trim, interior doors and trim, kitchens and bathrooms, any areas impacted by weather, exposure to water or hard use. Lead cannot be seen or smelt. Despite this, it can create a range of serious health issues if left untreated in the home including lethargy, frequent headaches, delayed mental and physical developments, and abdominal pain. Lead paint is most hazardous when it is deteriorating, such as chipping, flaking or chalking. It can also be dangerous when maintenance or remodeling causes lead dust or debris to surface.

environmental testing


Because septic systems are contained underground, most homeowners are unaware of problems with their systems until they fail. The cost of replacing a septic system can be as much as $15,000, and the failure of a septic system can disrupt the daily operations of a household.

A home inspector can also complete a non-invasive analysis of a struggling septic system to identify potential problem areas. They can also provide suggestions to the homeowner to maintain the quality of their system, such as regularly pumping the septic tank.


Home buyers whose properties are served by well water need to test that the water purity is satisfactory and healthy. In addition, home buyers are typically required to have water quality testing as a condition to mortgage approval. Alban inspectors are accredited to collect water in all local States. All laboratories utilized by Alban are nationally accredited.

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You can have peace of mind regarding these issues when you are working with an Alban inspector. We are qualified to perform testing for all of these environmental issues. We will never raise them with your clients; that’s your job. But our job, if requested, is to do appropriate visual inspecting and physical testing to determine the scope of any of these environmental issues.