yellow house with for sale sign in yard

Selling A Home With Asbestos: What To Know

5-Minute ReadJanuary 29, 2021

Selling a home with asbestos may feel impossible, but as long as you take the right steps, it won’t stop you from selling (legally and ethically).

That said, asbestos could make it more challenging to close on the sale of your home, so it’s important to prepare yourself for the process.

What Is Asbestos?

If your home was built before 1980, the chances are that it contains asbestos materials. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was commonly used because of its flame resistance, durability and low cost. There are six different types of asbestos, including:

  • Chrysotile (which makes up as much as 95% of asbestos use in the U.S.)
  • Amosite
  • Tremolite
  • Crocidolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite

Asbestos was commonly used in several areas of homes, including but not limited to:

  • Floor tiles (specifically vinyl sheet tiling)
  • Textured paints (specifically “popcorn” ceilings)
  • Roofing, shingles and siding
  • Insulation
  • Hot water and steam pipes
  • Textured walls

In addition to home use, the material was used in more than 3,000 consumer products at one point.

The Dangers Of Asbestos

Asbestos doesn’t cause problems unless it’s been damaged or disturbed, which often happens during renovations but also at other times in everyday life. When someone inhales or ingests the microscopic fibers of the material, they can develop both short- and long-term health problems.

In the short term, affected people can experience chest and abdominal pain, as well as shortness of breath. Over time, repeated exposure can lead to much more serious problems, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, issues with the linings of your lungs and other forms of cancer.

Asbestos was addressed in the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976 and is now regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In most cases, people are exposed to asbestos through their job because the material is found in so many commercial and industrial products. Even though most U.S. manufacturers stopped making asbestos-containing products in the 1980s, it still exists in older buildings and homes.

However, it’s also possible to be exposed to asbestos through a home that contains the toxic mineral dust. Remember, though, as long as asbestos in a home or anywhere else isn't damaged, it’s not dangerous.

How To Identify Asbestos In Your Home

For starters, if your home was built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance that it contains asbestos. The most common scenario for disturbing the material is through a home renovation project, but unfortunately, it’s difficult to spot it with the naked eye.

If you suspect your home contains asbestos, you can purchase a handheld device designed specifically to spot it through spectroscopy. It’s also possible to detect it using lasers and magnets through specialized technology.

Of course, both of these options can be expensive, and as someone who may not have much experience with the material, it may not be the best approach.

Testing For Asbestos

Instead of trying to find if your home has asbestos on your own, consider hiring a certified asbestos abatement professional to do a home inspection. They’re trained to know where to look and how to determine the magnitude of the problem. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a test is $493 but can range anywhere from $90 – $1,992.

If you think an area of your home contains asbestos, be sure to avoid the area. It’s especially important to avoid touching or handling materials suspected of having it.

Can You Sell A Home With Asbestos?

Selling a home with asbestos is legal, but most states have asbestos disclosure requirements for the buyer’s sake. Here are a few ways you can approach it in the real estate industry.

Fix The Asbestos Before Selling

Disclosing existing asbestos could make it difficult to find a buyer, especially at the normal asking price. But if you fix the problem before you begin the selling process, it could help you speed up the process.

In some cases, fixing asbestos can involve sealing it, which binds the fibers together so they can’t break off or coating the material entirely so it can’t be released. A professional could also cover it in an enclosure to prevent the fibers from being released.

The other alternative is removing the asbestos entirely, but that can be a costly endeavor, especially if the home is riddled with it. The cheaper options cost an average of $1,985, says HomeAdvisor, while a full-home removal can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re thinking about going this route, the cost of your repair or removal will depend on where the asbestos is located and the condition of the area. Weigh the cost of repairs against the potential return on investment in terms of the sales price.

Disclose Asbestos And Negotiate

While you’re required to disclose the presence of asbestos in most states, you’re not legally obligated to fix it. That said, expect buyers to ask for a price drop when they find out about the presence of the material, and you may need to spend some time negotiating. Some buyers may drop out of talks altogether.

If you’re considering this option, request an estimate for containment or sealing. You’ll be able to use this information in your negotiations, so you don’t drop the price by too much.

Sell The Home As-Is

If the home requires extensive asbestos removal, you may consider trying to sell it as-is for cash. In this situation, you’re essentially telling prospective buyers that the home needs a lot of work, and it’s typically priced lower because of that fact.

This option likely isn’t a good way to go, though, if the home is generally in good condition, because you’ll likely make more money on an asbestos sale.

Should I Buy A Home That Has Asbestos?

Remember, it’s legal to buy and sell a home that contains asbestos. However, as a buyer, you should plan to order your own home inspection to determine the potential airborne presence of asbestos, whether it needs to be fixed and how much that would cost.

It’s especially crucial to do this if you have plans to make home renovations, which would damage or disrupt the material.

If you want to move forward with the purchase, be 100% sure of that decision. After all, you can’t hold a last homeowner accountable for damages due to asbestos if they met the asbestos disclosure requirements.

The Bottom Line

Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous material that can cause short-term health issues and significant long-term illnesses. If you’re planning on selling a home with asbestos, hire a professional to do a home inspection to get an idea of how much there is and what it would cost to fix it. Then you can decide how to proceed from there.

At the same time, research other common household health hazards that could affect the sale. Finally, both homebuyers and sellers should be aware of the list of potential dangers that a home inspection can identify.

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