Radon and Your Home Purchase

Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

home imageMost people have an awareness that radon is something to be concerned about.  But do you have all of the facts you need to know before buying a home? 

Radon is a naturally occurring gas produced by the decay of uranium in soil, rock and water.  It is much more prevalent in granite areas but all potential home buyers need to be concerned with the actual level of radon in the home. 

Numerous studies have been conducted worldwide on the effects of radon which have concluded that it is the second leading contributor to lung cancer.  The first is smoking.  The danger occurs when radon gas breaks down to form radioactive particles called "progeny." When you breathe these particles into your lungs they can cause cellular damage. 

The World Health Organization recently completed a new study which confirmed these original findings.  They also came out with a new recommendation for acceptable levels of radon in a home which is 2.7 picocuries per liter.  However, the action level suggested by the EPA is 4.0 picocuries per liter and they have stated that this will not be changing this recommendation. 

Myths dispelled about Radon: 

  • Homes without basements are at the same risk of radon contamination as homes with basements.
  • There are no average radon levels available for specific states or areas.
  • A neighbor's high or low test is not a guideline for whether or not you will have high radon.

Testing for Radon: 

Prior to your home purchase you should have the property tested for the presence of radon gas.  This can usually be done at the same time as your regular home inspection. There are two types of radon tests, passive and active. 

The passive test is typically a charcoal canister that is exposed to the air in the home for 48 hours, and then sent to a lab for analysis.  It is recommended to have two canisters testing the property simultaneously to account for any possible error in the device. 

An active test is performed by a radon testing machine.  The machine will continuously measure and record radon in the air and analyze the quality.  

Both methods when conducted properly are considered to be reliable. 

Solving a Radon Problem:  

When a radon test produces a reading of 4 picocuries or higher corrective measures should be put into effect. A contractor who specializes in radon reduction can best determine the appropriate method for the home you are buying.  Most of the systems that can be put into place range in cost from $900 to $1,500. 

Since you have caught this problem prior to signing your purchase and sale agreement, the seller can be forced to pay for the radon mitigation system.  This is another great reason for doing all of your tests and inspections as early as possible.


Copyright 2009 - Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner, TheBuyersCounsel  

Learn More about Massachusetts Home Buyer Representation - Greater Boston and MetroWest Massachusetts -  Serving Massachusetts Home Buyers Since 1992 

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Comments (6)

Dan Edwards 425-276-7008
Keller Williams Realty - Bellevue - Bellevue, WA

Radon is not something that should be ignored.  Luckly here in Seattle we have too much rain for any serious issues with radon, however on the eastern side of the state they do have to pay more attention to radon.

Nov 11, 2009 10:37 AM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


Does a high amount of rain really mitigate the effect of radon?  I was not aware of that.  Very interesting.


Nov 11, 2009 10:47 AM
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Claudette... Radon does not generally seem to be an issue we hear much about down here in Texas, but my cousins bought a home in New Hampshire a couple of years ago and thankfully they had a REALTOR (AR Member, Joan Mirantz) who advised them to have the property tested... and also thanks they were about get the help they needed to resolve the minor radon issue that was discovered.

Nov 11, 2009 03:14 PM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Hi, Steve:

That is interesting that you don't have much radon where you are.  It is very much an issue here. When I bought my house I actually had the highest reading I have seen to date.  It was 27. It was successfully corrected with a mitigation system and I like to to use the story to ease the worry of some people who are concerned that mitigation systems do not work - because, they do.

Nov 11, 2009 09:51 PM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

Nice recap of what a home buyer needs to know about Radon. There is always misinformation about this topic.

Nov 12, 2009 10:22 PM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


Thanks so much.


Nov 13, 2009 12:44 AM