Environmental Concerns & Home Purchase
Learn why it is so important to know what is in the environment—in and around the home that you are considering purchasing





It is important that you consider the environmental aspect of living—when you are in the home buying process. 


That means that it is your responsibility to determine if the home that you are considering for purchasecontains lead, mold, radon or other environmental contaminants in or near the home that you are considering for purchase.


It also means that you must do your due diligence and ensure that the immediate radius in which you live, work and playor the area that you plan on moving to is also free of environmental other concernsthat you may have.



Is the air quality appropriate?  Are the waterways and drinking water at an acceptable level?  Are there noise factors that I need to know?  Are there sex offender registrants in the area that I am considering?


In short, you need to ensure on the front end that the house and the area that you are considering is at an acceptable level—from an environmental and safety standpoint!


 

Do You Know The Difference between Green and Sustainable Building?  



Although often used interchangeably, the terms green and sustainable are not one and the same. Both terms do include the ideas of recycling and reusing, managing waste, and overall energy conservation.



Green Building



Generally, a green building is a structure designed and built to use less energy and promote healthier living, and it is usually constructed with materials that are recycled or made from renewable raw materials.


 

Sustainable Building



A sustainable building is a structure that actually produces the energy required to operate the building.


This is known as building to zero-energy standards.


Sustainable buildings and sustainable communities are designed to lessen the dependency on fossil fuels in homes and in transportation and workplaces.



Sustainable Building Concepts


 

Many consumers are unfamiliar with the differences among concepts of building green, sustainable building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.


It will increasingly become the responsibility of your real estate agent to understand these concepts and to aid you in making informed choices relating to the purchase of both residential and commercial buildings.


However, the ultimate responsibility resides with youso be sure to do your due diligence on the front end!


Sustainability is all about minimizing the environmental impact of building houses, buildings and communities.  Early planning on individual buildings and entire communities are needed to integrate all processes into sustainable building of homes, buildings and communities.



Sustainability is directed toward the five following concepts:



1)  Optimizing the use of the sun in energy choices


2)  Improving indoor air quality


3)  Responsible land use


4)  Building high-performance and moisture-resistant buildings


5)  Making wise use of natural resources



Earthcraft Design



EarthCraft House is a voluntary builder program dedicated to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly home design and construction. 




EarthCraft House-certified builders must meet the program's stringent requirements in heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems, ductwork, attic insulation, erosion control, exterior cladding, and window and door openings, among others.


Although builders have flexibility in selecting the EarthCraft approaches best suited to their homes, they must submit a worksheet stating which measures they plan to incorporate.


These include but are not limited to site planning, energy-efficient building envelope and systems, energy-efficient appliances and lighting, resource-efficient design and building materials, waste management, indoor air quality, and efficient indoor water use.


The worksheet is detailed and must be verified by an EarthCraft House inspector.


An Earthcraft certified home will normally lower your energy costs and do less damage to the environment—in some cases significantlytherefore if you are building your new home, be sure to consider the Earthcraft or Energy Efficient design from the outset.



Do You Know What The Energy Certifications Are?  



It is important that you realize that various certification programs are being developed to help you understand the effect of the choices to be made regarding energy that you use.


 

Among the certifications that you must be aware of are:


 

1)   Energy Star® and

 

2)   Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

 

 

Energy Efficiency


In proportion to its percentage of the world’s population, the United States uses more energy than any other economy. The United States represents about 5% of the world population but uses about 25% of the world’s energy.


This is becoming an issue among the underdeveloped nations who, as their population grows, will require more energy usage.


Oil, coal, and natural gas are being used up at ever-increasing rates. The challenge for builders of houses and commercial and industrial buildings, as well as for those involved in the design of planned communities, is increased energy conservation.



Energy conservation in building should start with reducing the demand for energy and choosing appliances that use less energy, especially energy with fossil fuel as its source, with the ultimate goal of using no energy from fossil fuels.



Renewable energy, which is generally considered energy produced by non-fossil fuel, comes to us in the form of solar, wind, and geothermal energy.



Today, most electricity is produced through fossil fuels, and a stated goal in the move toward energy efficiency is to entirely convert the production of electricity to renewable resources.


Reuseis a term applied to using a product more than once, either for the same purpose or for a new purpose.



Examples of reuse in today’s society are the following:




  • Refillable glass bottles

  • Washable diapers instead of disposable diapers

  • Refillable ink cartridges for printers

  • Re-furbishable electronic products

  • Reusable Plastic Products



Recycling is the concept of taking a product, breaking it down, and reassembling it into a different product.


Recycling is different from simply reusing the product.


Recycling reduces the need for landfills and for creating more new material, which reduces the need to use energy.


Glass, paper, aluminum, asphalt, iron, and even concrete can be recycled. Most residential communities have developed recycling strategies to conserve energy.



Always Realize That Environmental Concerns Could Have An Impact on Your Insurance



As we are all aware, homeowner’s insurance policy costs have been increasing, and some insurance companies have totally withdrawn from issuing homeowner’s insurance.



The potential of costly litigation related to mold is a contributing factor to the increase in premiums and in insurance companies’ decision to stop writing homeowner policies!



The insurance industry has created a database that tracks the claims filed on a home during the past seven years through the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), and it uses this claim history to justify increased rates or even to deny reissuing the homeowner’s insurance policyeven on houses that had water damage before you moved in. 



Therefore be sure to check the CLUE report
—on a home that you are considering purchasing!



Many homeowners who have filed claims relating to water damage have found the insurance companies unwilling to renew their policies at the next renewal date.



Always Realize That There Is The Real Potential For Health Issues Related To Environmental Concerns.



In the Following Paragraphs We Will Address Some of the More Common Issues That Affect ConsumersAnd Those That You Should Be Particularly Aware of!



Mold & Mildew



Mold and mildew in real estate can cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances.

 

Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

 

Allergic responses include hay fever–type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions to mold are common and can be immediate or delayed.



Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.



In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.



If your homeor one that you are considering purchasing has suffered from flood damage be sure to read the FEMA Guide about Mold & Mildew!


In addition be sure to read the Basic Facts About Mold & Mildew that is provided from the CDC (Center for Disease Control)!


 

Government Issues Concerning Mold and Mildew



Parts of buildings that are tightly sealed and do not have adequate ventilation are prime areas where mold and mildew may be found.

 

Current construction practices may promote the growth of mold and mildew in buildings that may be too tightly sealed during construction.


Moisture enters buildings through roof leaks, furnaces that are not properly vented, and landscaping or gutters that cause water to gather and be directed toward the building.



The number of toxic mold and mildew cases filed in the courts has been increasing during recent years.



The courts have awarded settlements in these cases that in some instances have reached into millions of dollars.  Consumers (you) as well as real estate agents should expect the number of claims to rise as the awareness of the presence of mold and mildew increases.

 

In some states, real estate licensees are required to conduct a reasonably diligent visual inspection, and in others, many licensees conduct such an examination of the property even though not expressly required by law to do so.


Conditions observed in the course of a visual inspection may include issues that could lead to mold problems.

 

A competent real estate agent should not speculate about whether these conditions may in fact indicate a mold problembecause an agent is generally not trained in such matters.



In every transaction, sellers should be encouraged to disclose any actual knowledge they have of mold problems on their properties.



Most sellers do not know whether their properties have mold problems.



If the seller(s) are aware of a mold problem, they should ask a competent expert to determine the extent of the mold present and to recommend any corrective actions  that are required to eliminate the mold issue.


In situations where your real estate agent notes red flags indicating the possibility of latent property defects, the buyer (you) should also be advised, in writing, that it may be prudent for you to contact a qualified expert to inspect the property and determine the nature of any problemsand what options for remediation exist.



Radon Gas



It is wise to have any home that you are considering for purchasetested for high levels (dangerous) of radon gas. 


There are remedies available to correct high levels of radon in a home so be sure to pursue them "prior to" closing on your home or you may want to avoid purchasing a home with high radon levels.


Some areas of the country have higher levels than others.  Radon is an odorless gas that comes from beneath the ground and can be at a dangerous level in some homes.


Be sure to read a Citizens Guide to Radon and The Radon Fact Sheetprior to purchasing your home!


Keep in mind that with Radon Gas you can't see, smell, hear, taste or touch it.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer (first leading cause among non-smokers) and it comes from decay of uranium in rock and soil.


Radon levels tend to be low outside, however inside your home radon can build to dangerously high levels. Babies, young children and pets are at a higher risk therefore be sure to take the right precautions on the front end.


The best approach is to have your home or potential home tested professionally.   With improvements in testing there are also now home testing kits that you can obtain.  There are relatively simple measures that you can implement to reduce the radon levels in you home or potential home if the radon level is determined to be high.



Lead-Based Paint



Homes built prior to 1978 have the potential to have lead-based paintand disclosure is mandatory in most statesfor those who are selling homes that were built prior to 1978.


Be sure to read the HUD (Housing & Urban Development) Pamphlet on Lead-Based Paint and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Guide.


In addition be sure to read the Lead Poisoning is Preventable Guide that is also available from the EPA.



Final Thoughts on Environmental Concerns



 

Highly competent real estate licensees are expected to provide buyers and sellers the information they need to make major financial decisions related to the purchase or sale of residential, commercial or industrial real estate.



Be sure that the Real Estate agent that you select to represent you are aware of the ever-changing rules in the environmental arena. 



The agent that you choose to represent you should diligently search out the training available so that they remain aware of the latest information on environmental concerns.  They must also be aware of their (and buyers and sellers) responsibilities in the area of energy conservation and environmental concerns.


The Real Estate agent that you choose to represent you should also provide you with additional resources about environmental concerns so that you can make a better informed decision—(whether you are a home buyer or home seller)


In the end—you the buyer (or seller) should be proactive in ensuring that all of your environmental concerns are appropriately addressed (whether inside or outside of the home) in the area that you are considering purchasing your home—or moving to.


About This Article:

 

The above article was written by Thomas (TJ) Underwood.   Thomas (TJ) Underwood is an active real estate broker in the state of Georgia and is the writer behind The Wealth Increaser, Home Buyer 411,  Home Seller 411, The 3 Step Structured Approach to Managing Your Finances, Managing & Improving Your Credit & Finances for this MILLENNIUM and CREDIT & FINANCE IMPROVEMENT MADE EASY—FREE GUIDE. 

He is the creator of TheWealthIncreaser.com where he regularly blogs about helping consumers improve their credit, finance and real estate pursuits in an intelligent, consistent and proactive manner.  He’s always looking for ways to make intelligent finance improvement happen for those who “sincerely desire” success in their future. 

You can contact him from a number of sources but the most direct way is to contact him through the contact us block that can be found at the bottom of this page. 

You can also get other highly relevant tips on "living your life more abundantly" and possibly earn revenue at the same time by linking to TheWealthIncreaser.com.



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