Mold - A Four Letter Word that Often Kills Deals

Real Estate Agent with | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 228209

Mold - A Four Letter Word that Often Kills Deals

Don't jump to conclusions without PROOFMuch debate has taken place in the real estate world over the past decade or so...Is the word 'mold' the proper term to use by home inspectors? In NC & SC, it is 'strongly advised' that inspectors avoid the use of the term 'mold' for various reasons but, the main one being that inspectors are not mold experts and cannot confirm or deny that the substance is actually mold.


Inspectors are advised to use the term fungal growth, a much broader, less-threatening term for all who receive/read their reports.


For the most part, our local inspectors don't even utter the word at the inspection when giving verbal reports and they certainly don't include the word 'mold' in their reports.


On occasion, we will receive a report that is incredibly 'scary' to buyers (and sellers) and many times, local agents. I recently received one worded as follows:

"Evidence of what appears to be mold was observed on several of the floor joists and sub flooring and ductwork. Mold is one of the indicators of current or past excess moisture. Some people may experience mild to severe health effects due to exposure to certain molds and/or mold spores. You may wish to have this matter investigated by a professional who is experienced in mold evaluation. Some additional information regarding this may be obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency at"


Imagine the horror when the buyers' agent receives the call after reading the report (they did NOT attend the inspection):


"Ductwork? Health effects from exposure to molds? Oh, NO! More inspections? More costs? What if they do find that it's black mold? Do I want to spend the money to have the issue remediated? What if the seller remediates the mold issue and they miss something in the ductwork? Should we go look at other homes? I think we should back out of this one and find another one that doesn't have MOLD!"

MOLD - a four letter word
Thankfully I have a great relationship with my peers who do a lot of business in the area and after a quick conversation with the agent on the other side, we had a plan to keep the deal together until we were able to do some discovery. Needless to say, the buyer had selected an inspector from an online ad and the agent, nor myself, had ever even heard of this inspector.


It was evident to both of us that he had not taken his update courses (or didn't pay attention during the classes). His ill-advised terminology nearly squashed the deal - and ultimately, cost the buyers even more money for an inspection by a specialist. Although the sellers agreed to split the cost with the buyers, they did the right thing and admitted to hiring the 'scary inspector' and felt terrible that they had put everyone through the experience. 


OH and the answer to the question that you're certainly wondering - was it mold? NO, it was not!



Now, that was an example that actually worked out! I've been on the receiving end when it DIDN'T work out and a lot of money was spent AFTER the buyers walked to have a mold specialist inspect the area(s) in question and to ascertain that this 'issue' didn't come up again. More often than not, the cost of the specialized inspection and remediation is less than $1,500 but, the sellers have lost their buyers because of 'scary language' used in their reports - and they often also lose the first-Offer/Contract price as well. 


So, if you're thinking of hiring an inspector, do yourself a favor and hire one of the inspectors that your agent knows is reputable and recommends. 


© Debe Maxwell | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | | Mold - A Four Letter Word that Often Kills Deals 


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Barbara Todaro 04/22/2019 02:09 AM
Real Estate General Information
North Carolina Real Estate
Charlotte North Carolina Area
Buyer Information - What Buyers Need to Know in Today's Market
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Chris Lima
Atlantic Shores Realty Expertise - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

Great post, Debe Maxwell, CRS.  I live in Florida and this four letter word gets thrown around quite often.  Thankfully, most of the inspectors that I have worked with are professional and educated in their field.  I have some mold on my patio at the moment.  We had some rain and being diligent about maintenance is a must in this environment.  Certainly, if remediation is necessary the buyers and sellers as well as their agents should know, but there are times that mountains are made from molehills.

Apr 22, 2019 04:06 PM #11
Brian L. Sirota, Esq.
Bristar Realty (Realtor/Attorney) - Orange, CA
For Solutions: (714) 501-7660

Thankfully you were able to mold the expectations of the parties toward a better inspection.   

Well done.

Apr 22, 2019 05:13 PM #12
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hi Debe - there's no shortage of four-letter words in the real estate business but none quite like the word "mold".  Yes, there is life, sales, and much more beyond/after the discovery, the proper disclosure and the remediation of the issue.  

Apr 22, 2019 05:46 PM #13
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Debe- years ago when the mold issue began showing up, Larry was building in South Florida. They ended up having to move a family out of their home until the issue was remediated. That said, it's a tough word to toss around unless you know for sure that it is.

Apr 22, 2019 06:23 PM #14
L. Scott Ferguson
Ask4Ferguson - Your House-SOLD Name in Real Estate - West Palm Beach, FL
Sunny Florida Real Estate Professional

Great content on our favorite 4 letter word!  Fungal Growth!  

Apr 22, 2019 07:23 PM #15
Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR
WestUSA Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Phoenix Scottsdale. Sellers, Buyers & Relocations

Great post Debe. Mold can can deals. But it can also kill people (in AZ). Better be safe than sorry. Regardless, lets proceed with care.

Apr 23, 2019 01:34 AM #16
Sarah Layton | Copywriter & Inman Star Contributor
Best Real Estate Writer, a Layton Media brand - Bradenton, FL
I provide real estate content marketing services

Great post! This is another fantastic example of why it is SO important for agents to create educational content for their clients! If you work with buyers, you should be creating blog posts around this type of subject matter and then teaming up with the inspectors, remediators, appraisers, etc. to generate videos and podcasts about it as well.

Apr 23, 2019 01:36 AM #17
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents

Listing and selling REO, tis the season to find those homes that had frozen pipes and now has mold blossomimg all over the place

Apr 23, 2019 06:29 AM #18
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

While I fully understand the scary aspect of the word, the buyers are not that dumb. They know the word mold means the same thing as fungal growth. My report says this.  

This inspection excludes all environmental conditions. However, discolored building materials are present and in my opinion may be mold but cannot be confirmed without testing. Mold can create an indoor air problem and is considered by some to be a health hazard. Appropriate mold mitigation is recommended by a qualified contractor. Additionally, if there is mold there is a water / moisture problem. Evaluation and corrective action of the water entry or moisture problem is needed by a qualified contractor.

Similar to the comment in your report. Changing the word mold to fungal growth would not change the clients concerns, they can see the pictures or the discolored materials. They may also not realize the seriousness of the issue and decide to move in without testing or remediation. That would be a mistake. While at the inspection I make sure and tell them what the remedy is. Fix the water entry problem, which we have usually identified already. Then repair or replace the damaged materials. Many times the buyers have already made it known to me they have health concerns about mold and want to know if there is anything that could pose a health risk for their family. As stated above, an agent being present at the inspection is a huge help for all parties. 

I'm totally not trying to scare anyone or kill a deal, the house is the one really talking, I'm just telling the story.

Apr 23, 2019 06:52 AM #19
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

This reminds me of yelling fire in a crownded theater. Mold, mildew, rot and infestation are serious subjects some of which require City inpsections and certified expensive correction. At the same time, I have seen new paint jobs address in all quite well assuming there was nothing else wrong of course

Apr 23, 2019 07:18 AM #20
Dave Rosenmarkle
Highland Realty - Arlington, VA
32 years of providing fully satisfying service!

Great post Debe,

Unfortunately, too many home "inspectors" operate on the premise that they have to justify their fee through unnecessarily alarming buyers about problems with the property. Mold is just one that is frequently overstated in terms of what the actual fungal condition might be.

Apr 23, 2019 10:12 AM #21
Michele Cadogan-Cell 917-861-9166
Fillmore Real Estate 2990 Av U, Bklyn , NY 11229 - Brooklyn, NY
Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker -

I'm in the camp with George Souto   above who stated  that even if the inspector does not use the word "mold" appraisers do and often post it in their reports - whereby   lenders   will want it  mediated.   Basically everyone has a role to play - if a seller who has been living in their homes for years know of water damage/ issues they should address it while living in the home . A home  inspector hired by the buyer if he/ she suspect the issue - should suggest that the buyer get have the home inspected by a mold inspector.  

An all cash buyer who is going to do a total gut rehab may not require that that seller mediate the mold issue.  But if the buyer is using a 203k it still has to be address.


Apr 23, 2019 10:51 AM #22
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

It is not always...or in most of our experience ...difficult to mitigate ...scary but often easily remedied.

Apr 24, 2019 02:53 AM #23
Andrea.B Ferreira 954-303-8289 CRS
Keyes Co. - Davie, FL
Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County in FL

There is always a way to fix when you have knowledge. Thank you for sharing... Great information,

Apr 24, 2019 08:46 AM #24
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

So many mistakes led to this issue arising!     Buyers' agent didn't attend, inspector wasn't qualified to identify "mold," but you diligently worked through the issue and sounds like everyone is now satisfied.    A true professional!

Apr 24, 2019 09:16 AM #25
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

The dreaded 'mold' can really scare buyers before they know anything about 'mold', the types, the fact that every house has 'mold' bacteria, etc.  Don't jump to conclusions!!  I try to address the 'mold' situation up front with buyers, along with other aspects of a typical inspection.

Apr 24, 2019 09:40 AM #26
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


This is such important information and perspective. I’ve heard agents toss around the word “mold” but I suspect they are not experts, either, and buyers immediately jump to conclusions and assume the worst.


Apr 24, 2019 04:56 PM #27
Harry Smith

Not a real estate agent I'd want to use with those recommendations.

Apr 24, 2019 06:12 PM #28
Robert Hicks
United Country River City Realty - Savannah, TN

Great info here and thanks for taking time to share..

Apr 25, 2019 07:45 AM #29
Dinah Stallworth-Lewis
Priority Real Estate LLC - 800.978.4847 - Natchitoches, LA


Great post.  And I agree, MOLD can kill deals, but should not always be a deal breaker.  Remediation costs are usually very reasonally priced. But ultimately it depends on how badly the buyer wants the property.  

Apr 28, 2019 05:20 PM #30
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