Woman looking at moldy ceiling.

Should You Buy A House That Has Mold?

Carey Chesney4-Minute Read
August 31, 2022

Mold is bad, right? So, buying a house with mold in it is bad, right? Well, not so fast.

There are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about buying a house that has mold, and running in the other direction isn't always the best choice. In fact, more often than not, mold problems can be solved. Not only that, the presence of mold can put you in a good negotiating position as a buyer, often resulting in getting a better deal on the house.

What Is House Mold?

The most basic definition of mold is that it’s a type of fungus. There are many different types – thousands, actually – but we won't get into the intricacies of all of them here in the interest of brevity. The important thing to understand is that not all mold is created equal when it comes to affecting your health. Some types are more toxic than others, and your existing health conditions combined with the length of exposure to the mold are also critical factors.

For example, seeing mold in an inspection and mitigating it immediately before you move into a house has little to no long-term adverse health effects, but living in a house with extensive mold for decades can. In addition, if you suffer from asthma or autoimmune diseases, the symptoms of mold are much more likely to be present.

So, what are the symptoms of exposure to mold? Coughing, breathing problems and increased severity of asthma are a few of the big ones and should not be taken lightly. In short, if you see mold, get it out as quickly as possible. Identifying where it might live in the home is actually pretty easy. Mold grows in damp areas, so the usual suspects in terms of locations are basements, attics and any other area where water is involved, like under a washing machine or sink. When mold is present in an unusual place where there shouldn't be water, it may indicate a larger current or past issue like flooding from outside the house, or the failure of an appliance that uses water. When considering buying a house with signs of mold, figuring out what caused it is the critical first step.

Buying A House That Has Mold

You’ve decided to go through the process of buying a home, have been searching for months and you finally found the house for you – Oh joy! Your real estate agent prepares you for inspection, setting the expectation that everything likely won't be picture perfect. Still, when you see that mold forming in the basement, your heart drops.

Fear not, you don't have to give up on your dream home just yet, and that mold you just found might end up saving you money and heartache down the line. 

First off, you’re now in a position to negotiate with the seller to have them pay for the mitigation of the mold. If you had found it after buying the house, this financial headache would be yours and yours alone. In addition, you now have a chance to figure out what caused the mold – your home inspector should have some thoughts on that – and ask the seller to fix that as well. Ventilation issues, landscaping that slopes toward the house, faulty construction, a roof that needs replacing or any number of other causes can be expensive problems that you can request the seller fix and pay for before you decide to buy.

Whatever you decide, make an informed decision. Get advice from mold experts – not just the general inspector – and decide whether you can live with the recommended mold mitigation plans.

Can You Sell A House That Has Mold?

Mold disclosure laws vary by state, so make sure your real estate agent is well-informed regarding the details.That said, if you know it’s there, the best course of action is to remove the mold before you put the house up for sale. There are a few critical intervals – namely the inspection and the appraisal - where the presence of mold can blow up a deal for the purchase of your home.

  • Home InspectionThis is when the potential buyers of your home go through the house from top to bottom with an expert inspector to find any and all things of concern. Most home inspection problems can be fixed, including mold, but it tends to be a hot-button issue for buyers, with the potential to scare them away from the deal completely. Better to make sure all mold is taken care of before they go through your home with a fine-toothed comb.
  • Home AppraisalThis is when the bank lending money to your potential buyers sends a professional appraiser to estimate what the home is worth. They aren’t as thorough as an inspector, but if they happen to see mold, it can decrease the appraised value and sometimes scare away the lender completely. If the house doesn’t appraise for the amount your potential buyer is offering, negotiations on price get going again, which you obviously don't want.

Should You Buy A House That Has Mold?

As you may have guessed by now, there is no easy answer. It all depends on the amount of mold, the recommended steps for mitigating it, who’s going to pay for it and most of all, how badly you really want the home.

If it’s the house of your dreams – one you can see yourself in forever – don’t run away from the deal before you investigate your options. It may be an easy fix – or a tougher one you can get the seller to pay for – and you’ll kick yourself if you passed on the perfect house when you could have lived in it mold-free. That said, don’t take mold lightly. If you’re already lukewarm on the house you’re thinking of buying, the presence of mold might just be the final straw that makes you walk away.

Whatever you do, make sure you enlist the experts and weigh your options carefully before finalizing the deal.

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of residential and commercial real estate experience to readers as a Realtor® and as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey is based in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in English, and Eastern Michigan University, where he recieved his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.