Buying a House with a Potential Mold Problem

Posted by Steve Vincent on Oct 31, 2016 12:05:30 PM

In Buyers

Mold below windowWhile we certainly don’t suggest jumping into the purchase of a home with a full-scale mold problem, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what types of mold are frequently found in residences and how serious they are.

Common Types of Mold in Homes

Types of Aspergillus and cladosporium molds are common in homes – the former may appear in home a/c systems, carpets, walls, and basements; while the latter is the black or green spotty mold that may be on the back of toilets, in shower stalls, on window frames, etc. If present in a home, stachybotrys chartarum (“black mold”) is often found behind or in wallpaper, drywall, or basements where water damage has occurred and not been remediated. Penicillium (sound familiar?) is not just found on foods, but sometimes in home walls and insulation. There are many, many types of molds – what is common in one part of the world may be less common elsewhere.

Is All Mold Bad?

In a word: no! There are more than 10,000 kinds of mold (at least!) in the world, and many kinds are beneficial. Unless you can live in a hermetically sealed environment, you are likely breathing small amounts of mold spores every day.  Most people are not sensitive to this routine exposure to common molds.  However, some people are allergic to specific types of mold, there are a few types of mold that are toxic to everyone, and some people are sensitive to mold exposure if it's long-term or particularly concentrated. So the questions to ask are:  first, what kind of mold is present; and second, how much mold is present. The best way to determine the answers to these questions is to engage a professional environmental quality inspector - not a mold remediation specialist.

The Difference Between Mold and Mildew

Both mildew and mold refer to fungus growths on surfaces. Generally, which word is used depends on the quantity and location the fungus is found.  Mildew is a surface fungus that is commonly found and easily cleaned - imagine the grey and white stuff that grows in your shower or on paper and old fabric.  Mold tends to refer to more colorful stuff: darker black, red, green-ish fungus that's a little thicker and furrier. Typically, in real estate, we call fungus that's on or in walls or other permanent structures mold.  We don't typically worry about mildew when it's found in normal places; but when we find mold on structures, we get concerned.

Negotiating for Remediation

If you've found your dream house, but an inspection uncovers mold - or you have reason to worry about possible mold because of historical flooding in the area - don't panic, but do be aware. In some cases, home sellers can be sued for mold remediation if it can be proved they knew mold issues existed when they listed and sold their home but didn't disclose them. However, that's a hard thing to prove, and it's far better to resolve any mold concerns before closing. Your real estate professional can help you determine the best course of action. In general, we advise performing an environmental quality assessment of the home, including air quality and mold testing, prior to closing. If the results reveal any serious concerns, you would be wise to ask the seller to have the issue remediated professionally before closing. If there's some reason why this isn't feasible, we strongly suggest getting estimates for remediation yourself and asking the seller for a price reduction based on those estimates.

Having mold in a home you wish to purchase doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, any more than having termites. It's just essential to find out how serious the problem is, what kind of damage has already been caused, and how significant a remediation will be required to make the home safe and healthy to live in.

Please remember that we are here to advise you – whether you are buying or selling a home – and we will always do our best to help you make wise decisions about this important investment. If you need advice about mold or other home-buying concerns, give us a call or send us an email.

At GreatNest, we are proud to save our clients money by charging a low set fee instead of a percentage commission. We are a full-service real estate company serving buyers and sellers in Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, Summerfield, Oak Ridge, Jamestown, and other Piedmont Triad areas. Please get in touch with our experienced real estate professionals by calling (336) 790-5210 or by emailing Steve Vincent.  Visit our website at