Buying or Selling a Home with Asbestos? What You Need to Know
January 23, 2012
If your home was built before 1980 it may contain some form of asbestos, which was used for purposes such as insulation for boilers and pipes or in siding or roofing material for many years.
Many homeowners worry that buyers won’t even look at a home that contains asbestos. And some buyers worry whether they should purchase a home with asbestos. Having asbestos in good condition in your home isn’t dangerous or illegal, but if it’s damaged or crumbling it can pose a health risk. Buyers should not turn away from a home just because it has asbestos.
If you’re interested in selling your home and it contains asbestos, the first thing you should do is to find out if the asbestos is in good condition. And if you’re not sure your home contains asbestos, a professional will have to take samples to find out if your home contains asbestos.
How Can I Tell If I Have Asbestos in the House?
You can’t tell whether a section of your home contains asbestos simply by looking at it. There may be an increased health risk if fibers are released so don’t try to handle it or get a sample of it yourself.
The inspector will be able to tell if you need to remove or encapsulate the damaged asbestos.
Where is Asbestos Found in the Home?
Asbestos can be found in different areas of the home’s structure or heating systems. If your home contains vermiculite insulation in walls or in your attic it may contain asbestos. Vermiculite is a mineral that when heated to a high temperature expands into particles, creating a lightweight fire resistant material. According the Environmental Protection Agency, 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990 came from a mine in Libby, Montana which was contaminated with asbestos¹.
Other areas in your home that may contain asbestos are:
Shingles and Siding
Vinyl Floor Tiles
Pipe insulation in older homes
Textured paint and wall patching materials made before 1977
If any area of your home contains asbestos, do not disturb it or try to remove it yourself.
Do You Have to Tell the Buyer About the Asbestos?
If you’re selling a home in Massachusetts by law you’re only required to disclose urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and lead paint. However, if you are absolutely certain the home has asbestos, you should indicate this in your disclosure agreement. Home inspections don’t usually include a test for asbestos. And it’s not something you can walk around the house and see or test.
If you do hire an asbestos inspector, you may want to include in the disclosure that the asbestos was inspected and determined to be in good condition.
Do You Have to Remove Asbestos?
If asbestos is in good condition (not damaged, deteriorated, or crumbling), no laws or regulations require that it be removed.
Repairing damaged asbestos is usually cheaper than removal, depending on the area of the home that contains asbestos. Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended since disturbing asbestos materials releases the fibers that are hazardous to your health.
State law does require, however, that if the asbestos material in your home is in poor condition and can’t be repaired, removal by a licensed contractor is mandatory.
Old floor tiles may contain asbestos, and disposal of those tiles in the local dump is prohibited in Massachusetts.
Repair involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Encapsulation of asbestos treats the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation can be repaired this way. Only a professional trained to handle asbestos safely should undertake these repairs.
Don’t Remove the Asbestos Yourself!
Asbestos removal must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.
Most buyers appreciate honesty concerning information about your home. If you’re selling a home and you’re certain it contains asbestos as long as it’s in good condition you don’t need to make any changes. Just mention that the home contains asbestos in the disclosure agreement. And remember a certificate of inspection by a professional can be reassuring for buyers as well.