Homebuyers – Caution on Radon, Builders’ Reps and No Representation

Bolding mine. Comments following the story. What follows is a not-quite-horror-story about why homebuyers need to have representation when buying new construction. This is a story sent in by a reader who found me, possibly via my post on radon in Charlottesville from last year. They agreed to let me run this story with the following stipulations:

1 – I would not disclose the neighborhood (all communication to me is confidential). They love the neighborhood.

2 – They understood that I would be critical of some of their decisions.

3 – My goal is to educate other buyers – in Charlottesville, Albemarle and elsewhere – about the risks of buying a home without representation and of buying a home without the proper inspections.

What I want readers to take away from this (and more detail follows after their story):

1) Buyers should do their due diligence.

2) Have buyer representation.

3) Don’t trust a new construction sales representative who is not a Realtor*. They are not there to represent buyers.

4) ALWAYS have a home inspection. On new construction and on resale homes.

Well our story is this…..Being new homebuyers we did not use a Realtor (not well thought out but hindsight is 20/20). We used the sales representative from (The builder) (Sales Person’s Name) to purchase our new home, as we wanted her to receive the profits from the sale. During the purchase of the home, radon was never verbally discussed/disclosed (however, it was a known issue in (The Neighborhood) as other homes were tested and remediated prior to sale).

(The builder) stipulated in our contract there is a 30 day, 11 month and 12 month (final) walk through of homes he builds in (The Neighborhood). First point is that (The builder) never disclosed there was a radon issue in (The Neighborhood) or our home, prior to purchase (I guess this is buyer beware). Second issue, (The builder) missed his 11-month walk through of our home and it was encroaching upon our 12- month (final inspection of the home), so my husband and I agreed to have an official home inspector come into our home (as we know nothing about home construction). During the inspection that (the Home Inspector) conducted, a test for radon was also conducted. Upon hearing the findings and what they meant we conducted research for remediation and also contacted (The builder) and set up an appointment to go over the findings of the inspection (the inspector also disclosed he had conducted the radon tests in (The Neighborhood) and stated that (The builder) knew he had a radon issue because one of his home sales almost did not go through until (The builder) remediated the issue). Upon disclose of our test results the inspector relayed that the presence of radon was high and well above what is stipulated by the EPA.

While waiting for our appointment day to come, we conducted research on radon and found that if not remediated, radon could potentially lead/cause lung cancer. We immediately contacted a mediator to address the issue (when the location of the home was made known to the remediator (Radon Company), the owner stated he remediated the other homes in (The Neighborhood) and this could have been prevented/mediated during the building process or prior to sale of the home if already constructed).

The day came and we sat down with (The builder) and one of his employees in our home to discuss the home inspection, its findings and the radon issue. (The builder) immediately became defensive and told us that the radon problem was ours and not his, as was originally stipulated in the disclosure portion of contract which we had signed upon purchase of the home. And, that he was not aware of any radon issues in any of the homes in (The Neighborhood). I told him this was not true, disclosed information we had received to the contrary and that his solution was unacceptable. And, that if he did not assist with remediation, we would seek civil action/sell the house and move out of the neighborhood (later he redacted this statement and said just because one house has it, doesn’t mean another does).

After this disclosure, (The builder) then tried to minimize the radon issue as stipulated by the home inspector. (The builder) then changed his approach about negotiating and settling the matter “fairly”. This ended the appointment and (The builder) left with his employee.

Later, my husband and I agreed that a 50/50 cooperative effort on both parties was fair, so we stipulated this in an email to (The builder). (The builder) returned an email that stipulated he would accept no responsibility for the radon issue but agreed to put 250 dollars towards the remediation, “because we were good people and had contributed to the neighborhood”.   The total cost of inspection and remediation is 1175 dollars.

My husband and I both agree that had the radon issue been disclosed upfront, we still would have purchased the home but after remediation was conducted. We are letting potential buyers know about the radon issue and test for it BEFORE they buy.

We also felt (The builder) was dishonest about the sale and disclosure of our home and felt he tried to get one over on us.

Regardless, of whether radon is in every house or not, if the level is unacceptable and requires remediation, it should be before it is lived in.  And, whatever happened to representing the best interests of the buyer/seller?

1 – Buyer representation is smart. The money you “save” by not having representation likely won’t be saved by you, the buyer. From 2008 – Why take a buyer’s agent to new construction?

2 – Many builders’ representatives represent nobody, as they are salespeople and are neither Realtors nor real estate agents. They are employees of the builder. Whose interest do you think they looking out for?

3 – ALWAYS get a home inspection. Builders aren’t perfect, and neither are their subs. Even if the builder is meticulous and has the best reputation he or she is not supervising the sub contractors every minute of every day. I could give a dozen examples of things home inspectors have found on new construction, but suffice it to say that a home inspection, plus a radon inspection could be the best $500 you ever spend.

4 – There is radon in Charlottesville. In Albemarle. In Nelson. Whether it exceeds the actionable levels as directed by the EPA is another story. Do the test. It’s usually $125-$150 for the test, and remediation is frequently $800-$1500. Keep in mind also that the United States’ action level of 4 PiCl is much lower than that of other countries’.

5 – The builder matters, both from a quality of the build to reputation to fixing problems. I know the good ones and the bad ones, and this is information I share with my clients (but not customers).

The worst part about this story? The buyers trusted the sales agent and the builder to do the right thing.

The best part? They love where they live.

Related posts:

Buying New Construction (in Charlottesville) Without a Realtor? READ THIS FIRST.

Note: these opinions are my own, nobody else’s (but I’m pretty sure they’re shared by a lot of my readers and Charlottesville Realtors) and these opinions do not reflect the opinions of anyone with whom I am associated.

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  1. Kate White November 25, 2010 at 22:09

    Woo-hooo! Awesome story!

    1. Jim November 26, 2010 at 08:42

      Thanks, Kate.

      1. Jai March 14, 2016 at 21:13

        I went through this story! I tested my basement recently after I had new neighbors move in that we’re scientists and had this system put on their home. First test was 30.7 pCi/l. I called a professional and he had a testing device that read all day and relayed a 26.9pCi/l average with a 35.0pCi/l hourly read. My husband and I are not smokers but our risk for lung cancer is now 500x higher than the average from the exposure….I’ve been living in this unknowing of this toxic killer in my basement now 3YEARS!!! The anger I have is unreal.

        1. Christy Anderson July 13, 2018 at 23:51

          Same boat here,had no clue before ,durring or after sale a year later and i found a report online from a different Realtor company it had high radon. I came here to see what we can do legally,as there are loads of busted pipes they never told us about either.

  2. Pingback: Buy a House in Charlottesville Now – or Else! | RealCentralVA.com

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