Selling a home may seem like a challenge for the homeowner who has discovered termite damage, vermiculite, or asbestos components. A home that contains harmful building materials or that has been treated for termites can be sold, however, if certain steps are taken. If you know your home has been treated for termites or contains vermiculite insulation, asbestos siding, or asbestos cement tiles, or if the buyer’s inspection reveals one of these issues, knowing the facts can help make your sale go more smoothly.
As a seller, you’re generally required by law to disclose what you know about your home’s termite damage, asbestos tiles, vermiculite insulation, or asbestos siding. The regulations governing disclosures of material facts vary from state to state, but most sales do require a signed statement of known issues. In California, for example, sellers will be required to indicate whether they have been aware of “substances, materials or products which may be an environmental hazard such as, but not limited to, asbestos.”
Selling a Home with Cement Asbestos Tiles
The first key to selling a home with cement asbestos tiles is to know the facts. Asbestos contamination is an issue that’s received a lot of attention in the last few decades, but asbestos is only dangerous under certain circumstances. Asbestos is a mineral silicate, once admired for its fire-resistant and insulate properties. While it is no longer used in the United States due to the dangers of inhaling the glass-like dust particles, it exists in an undisturbed state in many American homes. Asbestos tiles, if left alone, are not dangerous. It is generally inadvisable to tear up cement asbestos tiles, and selling a home with cement asbestos tiles that are undisturbed and intact may in fact be easier than selling a home with airborne construction debris.
You do have a legal obligation to disclose known asbestos in your home, but buyers should know that asbestos tiles are common in older homes. The Minnesota Department of Health reports that “flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is generally considered nonfriable and not hazardous.” Friable flooring is flooring that can be crushed or turned to dust by hand. Cement asbestos floor tiles are only dangerous when particles can be inhaled, so your potential buyer may agree that leaving the floor undisturbed is the best option when dealing with asbestos.
Selling a Home Treated for Termites
Selling a home that’s been treated for termites should not be particularly hard if you can demonstrate how the problem has been controlled, how the damage was repaired, and how you’ve continued to protect the home from ongoing termite damage. Potential buyers may ask to see paperwork, which could include descriptions of the termite damage, bills from termite treatment professionals, or inspection reports showing the extent of termite damage. If the buyer’s certified termite inspection reveals untreated termite infestations or previously undetected termite damage, steps will generally need to be taken to control the problem before the sale can go through. Termite abatement should be handled by a skilled professional for reasons of safety and effectiveness as well as for the sake of adequate documentation. If a termite inspection reveals evidence of termite damage but no live insects, the home will still be considered infested unless there is proof of prior treatment. It is to your advantage, as a seller, to have a termite infestation professionally treated before selling your termite-damaged home.
In some states, there will be specific questions on seller disclosure forms which relate to termites. Texas, for instance, asks sellers to check a box if they are “aware of active termites” while New York asks both “is there any termite, insect, rodent or pest infestation or damage?” and ” has the property been tested for termite, insect, rodent or pest infestation or damage?” No matter where you live, your obligation as a seller is to be honest in answering all questions about termite infestations and treatment.
Selling a Home with Asbestos Siding
As in the case of cement asbestos tiles, asbestos siding is dangerous when it’s damaged, crushed, or turned to dust. As long as the asbestos siding on your home is intact and in good repair, buyers may wish to cover rather than replace the siding. Whether or not you cover asbestos tiles before selling your home, you are required by law to disclose their presence to any potential buyers. Buyers may want to know what condition the tiles are in, and many inspectors will recommend simply covering asbestos tiles with vinyl or HardiPlank siding rather than undertaking an expensive removal process. The most common management procedure for undamaged asbestos siding is to encase or cover the asbestos tiles with new siding. Since many homes were covered in asbestos tile siding in the 1970s, most home inspectors will be familiar with the most affordable and safe management methods.
Selling a Home with Vermiculite
Vermiculite is a mineral substance that is often found in attics, especially as insulation in the spaces between joists. The product, which looks like course sand or gravel, is made by heating tiny mineral flakes to create puffy particles with fire-resistant and insulating properties. While vermiculite insulation can be excellent at retaining heat, it can also be dangerous: Before 1990, most of the U.S. vermiculite supply came from an asbestos-contaminated mine. The mine, near Libby, Montana, produced vermiculite under the brand name Zonolite. Since so much vermiculite was produced at the Libby, Montana mine and is contaminated with asbestos fibers, it is generally advisable for homeowners to treat all vermiculite insulation as a potential source of asbestos dust.
As in the case of asbestos siding or asbestos tiles, vermiculite insulation is best left undisturbed. If it can be left alone, it should be – this means not walking on it, not spending time in the attic or using the attic for storage, and not attempting to remove vermiculite insulation without consulting a professional. As a home seller, your responsibility is to disclose the presence of vermiculite insulation to potential buyers. You may want to research the cost of vermiculite removal, especially if it is in a high-traffic area or if the home is going to be remodeled. Working around vermiculite insulation can be dangerous, and renovations should be undertaken with care.
If you’ve discovered termite damage, asbestos tiles, asbestos siding, or vermiculite in your home, then as a seller, you have the legal responsibility to disclose these issues to a potential buyer. With appropriate management, however, asbestos, vermiculite, and treated termite damage can become minor issues that won’t stand in the way of a successful home sale.