Selling a House with Asbestos
The time has come for you to sell your property. There are lots of things to take care of if you want to sell for market value: your house could probably use a fresh coat of paint, or a bit of landscaping to boost its curb appeal and attract buyers, or maybe you could replace the windows to update the façade… the possibilities are endless!
But before you do all that, a home inspection might be in order.
If your property is quite old, there might lurk a hidden danger you may not be aware of: asbestos. You may have heard of this construction material, attaining widespread use in the 20th century, and then its subsequent fall from grace after its toxicity was discovered.
But how did asbestos, with its gargantuan health risk, find its way into your property?
Asbestos in Residential Properties
Asbestos, which means “indestructible” or “inextinguishable” in Greek, is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral that is resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. Because of its excellent insulation properties, it was dubbed the “miracle mineral” in the early 1900s.
Ancient Greeks and Romans mined and used it in their construction materials and in their fabric. It was even theorized that Vestal Virgins used asbestos to keep the everlasting flame alight.
Despite their seeming infatuation with this awesome mineral, the Romans were aware of the health risks associated with it. They warned others not to purchase asbestos quarry slaves as they often died early. They also documented lung problems for craftsmen and weavers working with the toxic dust.
As Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” so did we, when we ignored the warnings of the ancients about asbestos.
Three types were widely-used in building materials: chrysotile (white asbestos) was used in fireproofing products, brake pads, cement, pipes, plastics, and fabrics; amosite (brown asbestos) was used in pipe insulation, roofing, ceiling tiles, and cement sheets; and crocidolite (blue asbestos) found its application in spray-on coatings, plastics, pipe insulation, and cement products.
Asbestos fibers were even used to strengthen concrete; and because it is heat resistant, firemen suits in the 1930s were made from the mineral.
Generally, for real estate that was built or renovated prior to the year 2000, chances are, there will be asbestos present in the property.
Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
The death of factory worker Nellie Kershaw, whose duties include spinning raw asbestos into yarn, led to the discovery of the toxicity of asbestos. The case study about her death was published in the British Medical Journal in 1924, but it wasn’t until the 1970s–nearly fifty years later–when the public became aware of the fact that asbestos is a hazardous material.
Asbestos is classified as a carcinogen. It is known to cause a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma, which affects the membranes surrounding the lungs, chest, and abdominal organs. Furthermore, asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
What is particularly unique and dangerous about asbestos exposure is that symptoms don’t manifest until around thirty years later which is why its hazards had gone unnoticed for so long.
It is actually terrifying how ubiquitous asbestos was in the past, that even up to the present, 90,000 people around the world die each year from asbestos-related illnesses.
Although the use of asbestos in most industries have steeply declined since the 1970s, most people are not aware that asbestos is not banned in the United States. While technically not illegal, the use of asbestos is tightly-regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and its use in construction have tapered off.
All that remains of its toxic legacy is its presence in aging real estate.
Can You Sell a House with Asbestos?
Like many homeowners, you may think that you’d have a hard time selling your property with asbestos, but yours is not an isolated case.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that around 107,000 buildings in the country contain asbestos, and as such, a buyer would be hard-pressed to find a property that couldn’t possibly contain asbestos. Because of this, there are several avenues open to you in dealing with asbestos.
So if you’re still wondering whether you can sell your property with asbestos, the answer is yes, and we are here to walk you through the selling process.
Steps in Selling a House with Asbestos
Know the Legal Requirements in Selling a House with Asbestos
If you suspect that your property may have asbestos in it, you can go ahead with the testing so you’d know for certain and you can help the buyer make an informed decision down the line.
While there are do-it-yourself test kits that go for $30-$60 a pop, it is generally not advised to collect samples by yourself.
Asbestos fibers are relatively harmless as long as they are not disturbed. Once they get airborne, that’s when you risk exposure by inhaling or ingesting the material.
The EPA recommends that a properly trained professional be the one to obtain samples and have it sent to the laboratory for testing.
Disclose the Presence of Asbestos
If the test results come out positive and you have to disclose it to potential buyers, do not panic. While some buyers, especially those with young children, may walk away from the sale due to this information, generally, the presence of asbestos in your home is hardly an impediment in selling your property.
If you’re worried about your property taking a hit on its asking price, don’t fret. There are things you can do so you’d still be able to get top dollar for your property.
Fix the Asbestos Problem
Before putting your property up for sale on the market, you have two options on how to make your property safer after confirming that asbestos is indeed present in your property: sealing or abating the asbestos.
Sealing the Asbestos in your Property
As mentioned above, asbestos is pretty inert as long as it is intact. In some cases, if the asbestos siding or attic insulation is in good condition, it is safer to just leave it where it is and simply cover (encapsulate) it up to prevent the fibers from becoming airborne where it can get into the lungs and do the most harm.
Encapsulation is containing the asbestos in a resin that hardens and provides a permanent, impermeable barrier which greatly eliminates the risk of asbestos dispersion. According to an article in the Washington Post, experts are in agreement that if the asbestos in your home is encapsulated, it is no longer dangerous.
Because asbestos doesn’t have to be removed, you save on setup and disposal, dramatically reducing the cost. Contaminating the air with toxic substances is also avoided.
Abating the Asbestos in your Property
If, for example, there is a planned renovation in the property that may risk disturbing the asbestos, say replacement of popcorn ceilings, then, the best course would be to go the asbestos abatement route.
With asbestos abatement, removal of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials are done by EPA-certified professionals. It is a very dangerous process, and requires careful planning and even more careful execution. Needless to say, you can expect the price of abatement to be higher than simply sealing the asbestos.
You and your family will be instructed to vacate the premises as the team conducts the asbestos removal in hazmat suits. It would take a while before you can go back to your place, once they are certain that it is safe to do so.
Offer Credit for Asbestos Encapsulation or Abatement
There is another option instead of dealing with the asbestos problem yourself:
You can negotiate with the interested buyer that you’ll offer credit for abatement or remediation costs after you close on the deal.
The best time to perform abatement is before the owner moves in, so you should contact professional asbestos removal companies to obtain a quotation. You can then list your house at market value and offer to take the cost of asbestos removal off the top.
If the buyer is looking to get an FHA loan, there are asbestos requirements that could prevent approval. This strategy works best with a cash buyer.
Sell the Property with Asbestos As-Is
If you don’t have the time, energy, and money to take care of the asbestos in your property, and wouldn’t mind selling for a price lower than market value, then you can consider selling the property as-is.
Tackling the asbestos problem head-on would enable you to get the better price for your house. But sometimes, the hassle of looking for a buyer yourself, or with the help of real estate agents, on top of handling the asbestos remediation, is not worth the headaches.
Additionally, you would need to pay the realtor’s commission, cost of repairs, cost of staging, and other associated costs such as closing costs in a traditional sale.
A real estate investor can give you a cash offer on your property right away, giving you an out on your asbestos-laden property. Many sellers with an asbestos problem choose to sell as-is because you don’t even have to pay to remove asbestos as investors are ready to rehabilitate and renovate the property after closing.
Frequently Asked Questions: Asbestos in Your Property
Where Can You Usually Find Asbestos?
Asbestos can usually be found in older homes. This includes roofing felt and shingles, siding, popcorn ceilings, textured paints, pipe insulation, wiring insulation, wall gaskets and linings, duct linings, vinyl floor tiles, fuse boxes, recessed lightings, and even outlets.
If you notice frayed insulation or crumbling materials from your walls or ceiling, do not touch it– contact an asbestos professional right away.
Do you Have to Disclose Asbestos when Selling a House?
You may be surprised to know that per Federal law, nondisclosure of the presence of asbestos in your property is not illegal. However, most states require the disclosure of asbestos, but they do not require the removal of asbestos in your home.
Even if a state does not require the disclosure of asbestos, it is better to be upfront about the state of your house. You don’t want to open yourself up to a potential lawsuit down the line.
How Can You Be Certain that No Asbestos Remains after Abatement?
You can be certain no asbestos remains after abatement by ensuring your abatement contractor used HEPA filter vacuums and wet cleanup equipment. It is the abatement contractor’s duty to ensure that no asbestos fibers are left in your house.
Upon completing the process, they will give you a report detailing the work that was performed, disposal records, inspection results, and laboratory analysis. You must keep these records so you can show interested buyers that the asbestos problem has been resolved.
How Much Does it Cost to Remove Asbestos?
Costs of asbestos abatement range between $1,123 and $2,872. It can vary depending on the size of the contaminated area, the amount of asbestos that needed to be removed, and the disposal fees.
Closing Thoughts: Can You Sell a House with Asbestos?
Now you know you can sell a house with asbestos. But, if you’re still worried that you may not be able to find eligible buyers for your distressed property, worry not! Here at Sell My House Fast, we can get you a quick, no-obligation, absolutely FREE cash offer for your house!
We buy properties of all types, and in any condition! You don’t have to deal with toxic materials like asbestos yourself! No repairs, rehabilitation, and renovation needed so you walk away with the cash without having to do much.
We strive to make your property sale as simple as possible, without the drawbacks of having to deal with real estate agents!
Fill out the form below so we can get started on the process and close in as little as 7 days. You get what is stated in the cash offer! We will cover all closing costs for you.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at (844) 207-0788.
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Author: Andy Kolodgie
Andy Kolodgie is an experienced real estate investor with a network that expands nationwide. As owner of Sell My House Fast, Andy’s goal is to provide home sellers with more options to their real estate problems than a traditional home sale. He’s been featured on multiple publications including Yahoo Finance, MSN, HomeLight, Credit.com, Apartment Therapy, Business.com, LegalZoom, Zolo, and Creditcards.com.