Mold gets a bad rap, in my opinion. Yes, it can be harmful if left to fester, especially for those with breathing problems. But it doesn’t mean that you should run screaming from a potential investment property if mold is found. Mold is a natural part of the environment, and many homes will have perfect nooks for mold to thrive. But is it a good practice to be thorough every time you find a potential new investment property, whether you see mold or not? Should I get a mold inspection when buying an investment property, or is it overkill?
Mold inspections should be considered for homebuyers who live in damp or humid climates and have mold noticed during the general inspection. In desert climates, this may be overkill as mold needs moisture to thrive. Before ordering a mold inspection from a specialist or Environmental Engineer, see if you can determine the cause and extent of the mold as you may be able to clear it yourself.
So let’s talk more about what types of mold you might run into, when mold can be concerning, and what you can do about it should you find mold in your home. Plus, I’ll go into my own “triage” steps when I see mold that might save you a few bucks.
What Types of Mold are There?
Most homes have some form of mold in them. Mold reproduces from tiny spores that drift through the air and eventually land on a surface. If the area is particularly damp, full of tasty food (like starches), and doesn’t receive a lot of light, it’s prone to mold growth. Mold particularly likes areas like basements, stone foundations, and poorly-sealed drywall crevices.
There are over 100k types of mold discovered, so I won’t bore you with breaking down each of them. Mold is ranked based on its level of danger:
- Allergenic means it’s overall harmless but may be irritating to those with allergies.
- Pathogenic is slightly more dangerous as it can affect people who are immunocompromised.
- Toxigenic molds are the deadliest and can be fatal to both humans and animals.
Black mold is the most notorious for homeowners and is often found in crevices around humid rooms like bathrooms. It will usually look like a cluster of black dots on your wall.
There are a few other types of mold that are common in homes. You may see a yellowish spongy sort of mold around gardens or other places that catch decaying materials. Green mold is also common and is usually found on damp stones and foundations.
I live in a desert climate, so mold isn’t a big issue for homes around here. If you live in humid areas, tropical climates, or areas that get a lot of rain, you’re more likely to see mold growing in your house.
Why Should I Worry About Mold?
Should I get a mold inspection when buying an investment property? According to the EPA, most mold is safe to be around and is a natural part of the environment. That said, if you notice mold growing in your home, you should take steps to remove it, as it can overtake walls and cracks quickly, which can cause rot or destabilization in addition to health problems.
If you or your family have breathing problems like asthma, mold can be especially worrisome as the spores (which are airborne) can irritate the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. Some types of mold will also be hazardous to people with compromised immune systems. So while mold in itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, you should take action to quickly remove it from your home so that it can’t continue to grow.
As long as it’s treated properly, mold shouldn’t affect your overall health. If you catch it in time, you should be able to get rid of it yourself without a specialist. It’s important to wear proper safety equipment like face masks and protective clothing so that the spores don’t latch onto you. You’ll also want to make sure you remove the mold and not just cover it up with paint or caulk. The EPA article I linked above has great tips for how to remove mold on your own.
What’s Usually Included in an Inspection?
When hiring an inspection company to do a walkthrough of your home, they’ll usually check things that affect the home’s safety. The Inspector will usually test things like whether the furnace is working, noticeable leaks in plumbing, how the roof looks, etc. If mold is noticed during the inspection, they’ll make a note of it for your report but usually won’t investigate the extent of your mold contamination.
If mold is noticed, you may want to bring in a company that specializes in mold removal to get a more thorough understanding of what you’re up against. Make sure you do this during your due diligence phase, as you might not be able to back out of your contract due to mold if you’re past the deadline.
Mold specialists will do a deeper dive than a general inspection company. They’ll typically generate a report for you that gives you the exact species of your mold, the extent of the contamination, and what will need to be done to remove it.
Mold inspections can be time-consuming and expensive, so bear that in mind when mold shows up on your inspection report. Though it’s rare for my area, here’s what I do if I ever come across mold.
- What’s the cause? Is there a leak somewhere inside the walls that needs to be fixed? Is there a way to moisture-proof the basement? What’s its food source? Find out what the circumstances are that allow the mold to thrive. It might be something small like sealing up cracks around your bathtub.
- What’s the extent? Is it just a little corner that’s started to show spots that I can clean up myself, or is this a full-blown invasion of mold spores that will require an expensive specialist?
For my own situation, if there’s ever mold, then I won’t hire a mold specialist. Instead, I prefer to work with Environmental Engineers. They’ll usually come in, take samples from around the home, and analyze them in the lab. One of the times I’ve had this done, the Engineer came back to tell me that there was more mold on the front steps of the home than there was inside the house! Gotta appreciate the thoroughness there.
If you’re just starting and aren’t sure whether mold will be a regular occurrence that will be dealt with in your portfolio, I’d recommend talking to other investors or real estate agents in your area. They’ll give you a better understanding of what you’ll be up against and may have recommendations for which specialists are best.
Remember above all that mold is very common and isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for any property. Check the extent, find the cause, and decide should I get a mold inspection when buying an investment property whether the cost is worth moving forward on the deal or not.
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