How to Buy an Environmentally Safe Home
The Real Estate Commissions in the states of Maine and New Hampshire
have added language to their standard Purchase and Sale contract to encourage
the home buyer to seek information, “from professionals regarding
any specific issue or concern.”How does one begin to choose the
tests that should be performed? The
Buyer’s Voice in Real Estate wants to help you make the
best choices for the particular home you want; however, we want you to
experts about the different environmental issues.
• NOTE: We recently represented a homebuyer in New Hampshire.
We recommended testing for radon in the drinking water supply; our
client agreed. The home was relatively new (about 6 years old) and
well maintained. The owners had not tested for radon in their water
supply. The test results came back at almost 25 times greater than
the EPA recommended
limit! The homeowners were horrified that they had been living with
this problem and had not known about it. They agreed to install a treatment
system at their expense. This saved our client approximately 5,000
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an
excellent web-based resource for investigating many potential problem
areas. Their home page is www.epa.gov and it contains an easy to follow
menu for investigating various issues.
The web sites of Maine, www.me.gov and New Hampshire www.nh.gov contain
links to their respective state agencies responsible for environmental
protection and issues.
We think that the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
website is a little more user-friendly, and it contains a useful search
engine. Try www.des.state.nh.us and click on the Popular Topics drop-down
menu in the lower right hand corner of the page.
Water Quality Including Radon in Water
Discussions of water quality issues can be found at www.epa.gov/safewater.
This is an important starting point since many of the homes in southern
Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire depend on private wells for their drinking
In certain parts of New Hampshire and Maine, some of the common problems
in drinking water may include the presence of radon gas, a naturally
occurring radioactive element, and inorganic contaminants such as arsenic.
The links are www.epa.gov/safewater/radon.html and www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic.html.
The EPA and New Hampshire web sites discuss the cost of testing and costs
of treatment. The New Hampshire website www.des.state.nh.us/factsheets/ws/inc/3-12.html also provides a list of vendors who supply these types of treatment systems.
Indoor Air Quality
Radon gas can also be present in the home as a result of passing up
through the foundation or cellar spaces. The EPA link is www.epa.gov/radon
On January 13, 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Richard H. Carmona,
identified this commonly-occurring, radioactive gas as the second leading
cause of lung cancer in the United States. His statement is available
At www.epa.gov/radon/pubs you can find several EPA booklets including:
A Citizen’s Guide to Radon, Home Buyer’s and Seller’s
Guide to Radon and Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.
They are also available in print from the National Service Center for
Environmental Publications at www.epa.gov/ncepihom.
The Maine Citizen’s Guide to Radon is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/eng/rad/Radon/Citizens_Guide_To_Radon.htm and New Hampshire has a useful booklet at http://www.des.state.nh.us/factsheets/ws/ws-3-12.htm.
Another common contaminant of concern is mold. Again, the EPA provides
an excellent resource at www.epa.gov/mold.
The New Hampshire website is www.des.state.nh.us,
go to the Popular Topics drop-down menu and select Mold. This contaminant
is a hot topic in the media and certain
molds such as stachybotrys chartarum can have serious consequences. The
presence of mold has increased importance if you or a member of your
family has an allergy to mold. This is definitely an area for your additional
Testing and Remediation
The requirements for testing and for remediation contractors are different
between New Hampshire and Maine. New Hampshire does not require licensing
or registration of Radon remediation contractors; Maine does require
registration. The Maine Radon website lists the names of registered mitigation
contractors at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/eng/rad/Radon/mitigators.htm.
Both Maine and New Hampshire require certification of laboratories that
perform testing for water or air quality issues. The Maine Health and
Environmental Test Laboratory and a list of accredited Maine testing
facilities can be found at www.informe.org/hetl and
the New Hampshire list is at www.des.state.nh.us/NHELAP. Both sites provide
and phone numbers of the personnel to contact if you have more questions.