Environmental Concerns in Real Estate

Environmental Concerns in Real Estate

When purchasing or selling real estate, you must be aware of some common environmental issues that may have an impact on the transaction. Certain environmental factors or conditions can decrease the value of real estate substantially. Furthermore, state and federal laws generally protect individuals who are purchasing, improving, leasing, and developing land by ensuring that if negligence has occurred, those impacted can take legal action in order to recover the cost of cleanup and damages. A violation of environmental law may also result in additional fines, probation, imprisonment or a combination of punitive actions.

Basic Violations

If a home seller is aware of environmental issues, they may be liable for the cleanup costs even if they are not responsible for the contamination. A home inspection prior to purchase should look for the following issues:

  • Asbestos—This material was used as insulation in the past and may still be present in older buildings. It is associated with lung diseases and can be expensive to remove.

  • Radon—Radon is a tasteless and colorless gas that naturally occurs when uranium decays. It is found in the air and soil everywhere in the world. High levels can be dangerous and, if present in a home, often require a mitigation system in order to vent the gas directly to the atmosphere rather than in the home.

  • Lead-Based Paint—Lead used to be a common pigmentation source for paints and was also used for solder and water pipes prior to 1978. It is highly toxic and accumulation in the body can contribute to anemia, paralysis, weakness, and even mental impairment in children.

  • Mold—Fungus can grow on any organic structure and, depending upon the type, can contribute to a spectrum of health issues, including asthma attacks and dangerous allergic reactions.

  • Pollution—In residential real estate, the most common pollution concerns are groundwater contamination or the presence of radioactive materials. However, even high levels of air pollution can impact health and have been known to contribute to changes in property values. If in a high zone, an air filtration system may be necessary.

It is important that all parties, including realtors, buyers, and sellers are aware of any possible environmental hazards that may be involved during a transaction. Upfront disclosures are the best way to protect all parties and ensure that the legal system is avoided.

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