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Radon in real estate

Frequently Asked Questions for the Real Estate Professional

Real estate professionals are often barraged with questions by their clients and customers on a wide range of subjects. An agent or broker is frequently the most accessible resource regarding radon. Be prepared! However, remember it is best to remain a resource person. Do not put yourself in the position of offering advice about radon specifics!

Questions from sellers
The buyer has requested that a radon test be done. Is this required?
No. However, more and more people are having homes tested for radon in addition to other inspections, in order to reduce their family's exposure to radon and to improve future resale value of their property.
What if I refuse to have a radon test done?
That is your choice, but it may raise more doubts and cloud the sale.
Can't I just do the test myself?
Yes, but it is normal for the buyer of the property to have an independent third party testing firm perform the test. Tests conducted by any interested party may introduce liability.
How do I know that the person performing the test knows what they are doing?
It is best to use a certified radon professional who has attended a proficiency program for radon measurement. This program involves education, examinations, and continuing education requirements to ensure their capability of properly performing and interpreting radon tests.
What is a reasonable amount of radon?
The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General's office have established that people should not be exposed to more than 4.0 pCi/l of radon on a long-term basis.
If they find elevated levels of radon, am I obligated to fix it?
No. If radon tests reveal high levels of radon in the home, whether or not it is fixed (mitigated) is strictly a function of negotiations between you, your agent, and the buyer.
If elevated levels of radon are found, can the home be fixed?
Yes, durable and effective techniques have been developed that economically reduce radon in all new or existing homes and other buildings.
Is this very expensive?
The cost depends upon the size and complexity of your home, the type of foundation, and the distance to travel to the mitigation location. In Nevada, radon mitigation for basement or slab-on-grade foundation homes average $2,500, and systems for crawl space foundation homes average $3,800.
Does a contractor have to be certified to do this work, or can any building contractor do it? Can I do it myself?
We recommend that you contact a certified radon contractor because they have had specific training in the techniques and variables involved in mitigating radon from homes. If you are considering using a non-certified contractor or doing some or all of the work yourself, we suggest you obtain "Protecting Your Home From Radon"©. This book is a concise guide to radon-reduction for do-it-yourselfers and is available in many Nevada public libraries. Copies can also be obtained for $25 by calling the Nevada Radon Education Program at 1-888-RADON10.
Can I assume that any nationally listed contractor is regulated and will do a good job?
The NEHA or NRSB Proficiency Listing of individuals providing measurement and mitigation services indicates that they have received proper training, examinations, and continuing education to ensure their capability of properly testing for radon and fixing radon problems. When contracting with a radon professional, as with any other contractor, request references and a detailed description, in writing, of the work to be performed.
The tester wants to have me close up the house for 12 hours before and during the radon test. I don't live in my house that way - this is an unfair test.
The EPA has specific protocols for testing homes at the time of resale to determine the radon "potential" of the home. If using a certified radon tester, they will know the proper procedures. Radon testing protocols call for the house to be closed up 12 hours before and during the entire test, except for normal entry and exit.
Since the home has been unoccupied and closed up for several weeks, isn't it unfair to test the house now?
Radon concentrations stabilize after a home has been closed up for 12 hours. Even though readings may rise and fall, the average stays pretty consistent after 12 hours.
There must be a better way to test a house for radon without having to keep all the doors and windows shut!
A long-term test device can be placed in a home for no less than 90 days to get a "normally lived-in" reading. However, timing of the sale may not allow this unless funds are escrowed to take care of a problem should the test result be unacceptable. Discuss this with the radon tester or a radon mitigation contractor if you wish.
Questions from buyers
The seller's agent said the house was tested and found safe. Should I believe this?
What were the actual radon readings? The U.S. EPA recommends that homes at or above 4 pCi/l be mitigated, if the tests were done properly and verified. Obtain the test report to determine the risk. Using the word "safe" may be too simple of a statement, when there is still some risk associated with even low concentrations of radon.
Is radon a problem in the subdivision in which we are looking?
Radon is quite variable from house to house, even in the same subdivision. The only way to know is to have a radon test performed on the house.
What areas in Nevada are high in radon? When I buy a house, I want to choose an area that is safe.
Although there are maps indicating areas of higher potential, they are not precise enough to determine whether or not a home will have concentrations in excess 4.0 pCi/l. The only way to know for sure is to test.
Will a test be done automatically when I buy a home?
There is no state law requiring radon testing at the time of resale. However, along with other concerns for which you may have the home inspected, it is recommended that you request a radon test as part of the contract offer.
What if the seller refuses to allow me to perform a radon test?
Testing a home for radon may be done either prior to or after the time of purchase. To protect yourself, you should negotiate, as part of the real estate transaction, what the seller will do if elevated radon levels are found.
Are you sure that radon can be fixed?
Trained and certified radon mitigators can install radon mitigation systems. In talking to radon contractors, request a written proposal that includes guarantees of resulting concentrations less than 4.0 pCi/l.
During the inspection, a radon test was taken and elevated concentrations were found above 4 pCi/l. Is this a concern?
If you like the house, radon shouldn't be a reason to back out of the deal. Techniques have been developed for reducing radon level concentrations to below 4.0 pCi/l. You may request that the seller fix it before you move in. You may also go ahead with the purchase, confident that radon levels can be reduced at such time as you can handle it on your own and at your convenience.
What things should I write into the contract offer?
Be specific on what is an acceptable reading. Also, consider who will be doing the radon testing and at whose expense it will be. If radon readings are elevated, will mitigation be acceptable? Who will pay for the work? If radon mitigation is decided upon, who will do the work and who will determine the success of the mitigation?

For additional assistance contact Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Radiological Health Section at 775-687-7550.