For some time now, there have been one (maybe two) companies that are offering a free Radon test on real estate transactions. Keep in mind, these companies also install Radon systems.
Realtors have loved this because it's free. Buyers have liked it, because it's free. We know from listening to agents, home sellers and home inspectors that a lot of these tests were done improperly.
I have resisted doing free Radon testing for Real Estate. I know we have missed out on a lot of business over the past few years. In a lot of cases, based on what I have been told by a lot of agents the "free tests" have been worth exactly that, nothing.
What we will do differently is to have safeguards in place to ensure everyone involved knows the test was accurate and fair to everyone involved. That we did not do the test in a way to make it come up high so we can install a system.
The best thing is to be educated on where and when Radon tests should be conducted and how to make sure as a seller that it is being done fairly. Our equipment is calibrated. We spent over $10,000 last year on that alone. We know another company has never even calibrated all of their equipment, spare one so they can send in the report to get re-certified. It is impossible to have a lot of monitors and not charge for testing when you have to have them calibrated.
In Wisconsin, home inspectors are not allowed to inspect a home and then turn around and offer to fix something they find is broken or defective. It is a huge conflict of interest. If it were allowed, every home inspector would own a roofing and HVAC company.
Why are Radon mitigation companies allowed to perform the initial test for Realty? In my opinion and if I had my way they would not be.
In the past two years I have had many calls from home inspectors telling me that they have seen Radon testers/monitors placed improperly during their inspections. In each case a certified Radon testing & mitigation company placed the testers. For instance one called to say the tester was on the slab, next to an open sump pit. Another one called to say the tester was by an open shower box on the slab.
Placing testers in locations like this is almost a guaranteed high Radon test, which means you'll be paying hundreds of dollars for a system.
To make sure the test comes in high so they can turn around and install a Radon system. Completely unethical and wrong!
Radon tests need to be placed a minimum of 20 inches above the floor and only in areas that will be occupied. I don't think anyone is spending time in his or her utility/sump area. You can see the protocols for testing on my how to do a home test page. If your home is going to be tested for Radon, make sure the test is being placed and conducted properly.
Someone may say to me, "But your company does initial testing on real estate transactions and for non-realty." My response is, "Yes, for some realty deals we do." When there is no home inspection or the inspector hired does not perform Radon tests, but we always recommend having the home inspector do the initial test.
Whether it's for a realtor or a home owner, I require a witness at the home - typically the home owner or an agent. We show them where the tester is being placed and why. We also show them that the monitor has been zeroed out so they know a fresh test was started.
Once the test is completed we show them what the monitor is reading so they know the results before it is unplugged. If you are not shown the results before it is unplugged we could send you any test results we like. I would never do this of course but someone could if they are desperate for business or unethical.
If we're testing for a homeowner we may not even test the basement. If no one is spending time in it, then no one's being exposed to the levels that are in it, so we test the first floor instead. If we were dishonest, I would not give anyone the choice.
When it comes to installing a Radon system, cheap is not the way to go. I have been involved in transactions when the buyer has walked away from the deal because of how the Radon system was installed. The seller went with the cheapest company they could find. That company did not care how the system was installed or how it looked. There have been more than a few times where we literally removed the whole system and start from scratch. The seller paying twice now for a system.
I understand that as a seller you want to spend the least amount of money on a Radon system, because you will not get any benefit from it yourself. I could offer a less expensive system, but I could not do it right for less.
One way other companies are offering lower prices is putting in a cheap sump pump if one needs to be replaced. It could save $75. I put in a good quality pump with an alarm connected to the float, and only charge my cost to put in the pump. So the retail value is much higher than what I charge. Would you want the cheapest plastic sump pump off the shelf or a good one in your pit in the home you will live in?
Another way to cut costs is to not install fire collars on a garage install, which is a violation of the fire code. That could save $50.
One more way is to not install any clamps, J-hooks or proper bracing, which makes the system very flimsy and a potential hazard.
Another way is to install a very thin plastic lid on the sump pit if it needs to be sealed. We use Lexan, which is very strong, but flexible. You should jump up and down on our lid, but it does have good strength.
Just changing one thing could save $50. All three could save up to $150 to $200. How would you like to find out you were buying a home from someone who put the cheapest possible system into it? How would you feel? I'd have a hard time trusting the deal.
From the buyers' point of view, they will want the best system to protect their family and have it installed with all the proper components, meeting or exceeding Radon venting standards. They also want a company that will stand behind its work, honoring their warranty and guarantees.
If you just want the cheapest system possible, we're probably not able to install the system. But, don't you think the buyers should be able to pay the difference and get the best system?
Give the buyers the opportunity to be informed and let them offer to pay the difference between what another company was willing to charge. It may only be $50 to $150. Plus, if the system is done right, you won't need to worry about anyone coming back to you for reparations.
I hate to say it, but we live in a sue-happy society. There have been cases where the buyer went after the seller and installing company to fix what was initially installed.
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