If you’re buying a home, it stands to reason that you’re going to want to know everything that you can about its history and current state of repair—preferably before you’ve enlisted the help of the three people closest to you in trying to force a queen-size mattress through the front door.
Buying a Home: The Due Diligence Period
Due diligence is simple to understand conceptually, but many people miss certain key important steps. In a nutshell, during due diligence, you will walk the property. You review documentation on the home, and ensure that it measures up with what you’re seeing. It’s measuring twice, so you only have to cut once: making absolutely certain that everything is the way it has been presented as being.
It’s doing your homework, and it happens before you finalize your purchase. If the process of due diligence reveals too many issues with the property, whatever those might be, you can cancel your agreement—and look for something that’s better suited to your needs. The length of time you have for due diligence will vary, but—particularly when a purchase involves financing—it’s recommended to give buyers 10 to 30 days.
Many people are very attentive to the paperwork and cursory inspection process involved in due diligence, but they don’t fully avail themselves of their right to thoroughly inspect the property. One of the things that many people neglect, particularly nowadays, is to have an inspection done for mold and asbestos. All too often, it is assumed that the signs of a mold infestation will be obvious, and that asbestos is a thing of the past.
Mold Inspection during Due Diligence
Mold spores are everywhere. Mold is a microscopic form of life which exists wherever humans live, and in a few places where we’re not particularly comfortable. It comes in a wide range of species, some outdoor and some indoor. Indoor molds evolved from early microscopic life forms that were found in cool, dark, and damp caves. They have varying levels of light sensitivity, but generally prefer a dark and damp place to settle down on and reproduce.
They’ve been with us since we started building houses, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Today, molds prefer to colonize water-damaged materials, such as wood and drywall, and are frequently found within walls themselves. Once a colony has been established, it begins to behave more like a single organism, and will give off spores that travel through the air vents of a house or other building. Because of this, once a single colony has been established, other “satellite colonies” elsewhere in the home will have an easier task in gaining their own footholds.
In addition to within the walls of a home, mold spores may also find sustainable habitats in the backs of cabinets and cupboards that are rarely emptied out, behind appliances, under carpets, in attics, and in basements. That stereotypical “musty basement odor” is the smell of some of the most common household mold, these mold spores can cause problems for people with allergies, or with other existing respiratory conditions.
Some forms of mold are less benign. In addition to their spores aggravating common respiratory conditions such as allergies, colds, and the flu, some mold produces waste products also called myco-toxins that contain compounds which are directly harmful to the human body. The infamous “black mold” (known as stachybotrys) is actually a family of mold species, not all of which are black; their colonies present a slick, greasy appearance once they’ve begun expanding. Black molds are known for producing byproducts that affect the human circulatory system, the nervous system, and the digestive system.
Black mold spores can cause, rather than simply “worsening,” unique respiratory conditions. These conditions are similar to those which are experienced by coal miners. Their byproducts can also lead to digestive issues, nerve damage, and mood swings. Long-term regular exposure has been known to result in hallucinations and profound, lasting changes in personality. Complications like these, coupled with mold’s ability to stealthily infiltrate and spread throughout a house, make a due diligence mold inspection a crucial step in the home-buying process.
Asbestos Inspection during Due Diligence
Asbestos is an abundant, fibrous mineral, which naturally occurs in deposits all over the world. Mined since the times of the ancient Romans, it is affordable, moderately durable, and has long been prized for its protective properties. It resists chemical corrosion, is flame-retardant, and it insulates against both heat and electrical transfer. Its industrial applications are obvious, as were the reasons for its being used in places like schools and hospitals.
Unfortunately, exposure to loose asbestos fibers causes a variety of health problems in otherwise healthy people. The fibers can become lodged in the respiratory system, causing irritation, and leading to a unique respiratory condition with long-term complications, including increased vulnerability to other, conventional illnesses. Asbestos is also a proven carcinogen, contributing primarily to a particular type of lung cancer, of which it is the primary cause. This type of cancer is known as mesothelioma it is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen.
The United States in 1978 banned the use of asbestos in building materials. The substance was used in the manufacturing of a wide range of products, such as floor tiles, mastic, pipe insulation, and siding.
Products with asbestos can be worn down, or broken. Asbestos fiber insulation can be worn through by the drip of a slow water leak over decades, or be ripped through by the action of pipes expanding and contracting with seasonal changes in prevailing weather conditions. Over the long term, a variety of gradual or incidental events can result in asbestos exposure. With as many as one in four houses in the United States having asbestos-based products somewhere inside the home, a due diligence inspection for asbestos should be taken into consideration by anybody buying an older home in the US.