Home Buying in Cupertino>Question Details

rustyeskew, Home Buyer in Cupertino, CA

If an inspector finds asbestos in a home you have contracted to buy, what are your options?

Asked by rustyeskew, Cupertino, CA Tue Mar 5, 2013

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Hi Rusty and thanks for your question.

As Elena Talis pointed out, there are really only three (3) options in terms of your contract and how you can treat this new knowledge. And as Lance King and Bill McCord pointed out, however, depending on your contract (for example, if in trying to purchase the home in Cupertino--a very hot market, you agreed to waive contingencies), your options may be greatly limited without jeopardizing a part or all of your earnest money deposit.

Since the others have already talked about your options from a contractual standpoint, I'm going to elaborate a little on what Terri Vellios mentioned previously about what it means to find asbestos in your home...

First, there are still many homes in Santa Clara County that have asbestos within the property. From ducting to flues and pipes to acoustic ceilings within the interior of the home and garage, there is and always will be asbestos. Asbestos, as a product, was removed from acceptable housing materials around the mid-1970s, so if the home is older than 1970, chances are high that somewhere within the home, there is asbestos. So long as asbestos is not nicked or damaged (a condition that is called making the asbestos "friable") or is encapsulated with another product (for example, paint over acoustic ceiling), my understanding in talking with experts is that is should not present health hazards to you or to your family. Removal of asbestos is a fairly common construction job today, and, while not cheap, it is certainly not hugely expensive either. In most cases, asbestos can be safely removed in about a day with minimal inconvenience to the homeowner.

So you have options regarding how to treat the asbestos. It all boils down to your own personal comfort level with having the asbestos in the home. By the way, older homes have a plethora of materials within them that might be considered hazardous today that was not previously so when the home was built. Dealing with these issues as they crop up during your ownership is part of maintaining an older home--believe me, I know, I, too, own an older home.

Now, more importantly, before you consider your next moves, it's time to sit down with the experts--your home inspector, an environmental hygenist, your contractor, your agent and, if necessary, your real estate attorney to determine what are your options. We can all tell you, generally, what you can do, but none of us is in your contract or knows any specifics about your contract--that's why you have a Realtor to help you. Work with your agent and your team of specialists to get a better idea of how to address the asbestos. Remember, it can be removed fairly easily so you have options if you really like the home.

Contact your agent today, and work out a plan for which you're comfortable in addressing your problems with the home.

Good luck!
Grace Morioka
Allison James Estates & Homes
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
I think that you could talk to an agent and see if the asbestos can be removed for you. You might have to end up removing it by yourself. I would suggest talking with someone to discuss the options. http://www.asbestop.com.au
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 3, 2014
You can choose to have the asbestos professionally removed -- either you or the seller can pay to have this done. If you will be paying to have it done, the seller should lower the price of the home for you.

If it does not bother you, you can leave the asbestos. It will not be dangerous unless you disturb to to remodel the home or something similar.

Claire Reynolds || http://www.asbestop.com.au
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 3, 2014
If asbestos is in the acoustic ceilings, it can be scraped and removed by a licensed contractor who works with hazardous materials. The same with floor material that has it.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 3, 2014
The owners may not have known that the home contained asbestos. I'm not sure what you can do with the contract, but luckily asbestos is something that can be removed, and you found out it was in the home before you moved. You could get a quote on how much it would cost to get the asbestos removed and try to make a deal with the sellers on getting it removed or changing the price of the home appropriately. Like Juliana said, you don't need to avoid the house now that you've found this out. Just get it removed before you move in. http://www.hutzel.net/asbestos.htm
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 3, 2014
Sellers are required to disclose material facts that they know or should know. This may be an issue depending upon where the asbestos was found. Finding asbestos in a house does not mean the house should be avoided at all costs. Look at what it would likely cost to remove the asbestos. If the cost is significant and it was not disclosed then you can think about if the seller should have known about it and disclosed it.

Even if the seller has acted appropriately he may still consider modifying the purchase agreement. Your agent is your key to negotiations.

Whether it is asbestos, lead paint or termites don't panic. People have been fixing similar problems for years.

Juliana Lee
650-857-1000
Top 2 agent nationwide at Keller Williams Realty

Over 30 years experience
Over 1,000 homes sold in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties
Web Reference: http://julianalee.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Hi Rustyeskew:

In addition to what all of the experienced broker and agents stated below, I just want to add that the chances of having asbestos is relatively high if you are buying similar age home as you are looking at. If you find it in this home, you may find it in another home in the similar age. Also, if you do feel like the amount of asbestos found is excessive relative to what the seller had disclosed to you before, you can go back and renegotiate. I know most sales nowadays are as-is sale, but when there are surprises in the home inspection report, you can always ask your realtor to go back and talk to the seller. If it truly is more severe than you expected or what the seller's inspection report had disclosed, same worries will probably arise even if the seller tries to sell the property to the other prospective buyers also. Worst comes to worst, the seller will tell you no credit will be given to you and you can then decide if you still want to purchase the property. The problem is, 1) you most likely will find another home in similar age that has asbestos still 2) the price continues to rise these days, the longer you wait, the higher the price may be in the coming months.

Hope this helps you make the right decision. Just hire a contractor who is certified to remove asbestos and see how much it'd cost to remove it. Depends on the condition of the asbestos, most of the time, the inspector would tell you nothing happens as long as you don't disturb it. That's why it recently became a law that if you do decide to remove asbestos, it has to be by a contractor who is certified to remove asbestos or lead based paint in a home. http://www.cslb.ca.gov/GeneralInformation/Library/LicensingC…

Good luck with your purchase!!!!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 11, 2013
While in a contract you always have 3 options:
1. Continue with the purchase as agreed upon in the contract.
2. Quit unilaterally - depending on the stage of the purchase process this option may have financial consequences.
3. Negotiate change of terms of the contract. Depending on the other side agreeing to the proposed changes you may have to revert to option 1 or 2.

In more practical terms - I assume that the presence of asbestos is not acceptable for you. I would get an estimate for the cost of the cleanup and depending on the cost I would decide what to do. Your realtor should be able to be able to help you navigate your options.
Web Reference: http://talisrealestate.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
First ask the inspector as to what their opinion is regarding the asbestos. Often times you can just leave it alone. If it is blown in insulation or sprayed on ceiling you do not want to disturb it. The particles when inhaled are what causes lung problems.

Asbestos can be removed and there are licensed contractors who can do this. If it is recommended to remove the asbestos, then you can get an estimate for removal.

The next option do you want the house and with the knowledge of the condition and cost does it still fit for you? If so buy it. If not, talk with you agent to review your purchase contract on what your options will be.

Have an amazing day!
Web Reference: http://www.terrivellios.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
Assuming you have an inspection contingency you could simply back out of the deal, or try to negotiate something with the seller to help mitigate it. You should be talking to your agent about this, and if you don't have one you should get one.

And regardless of how hot the market is it is rarely a good idea to make offers without inspection contingencies unless you are knowledgeable enough to assess the condition of the property without inspectors help. Even if it's new construction, things happen and you lose your leverage to have the seller/developer take care of things by having no contingencies. You can reduce the default time period to show you are serious.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
Your options depend totally on how your contract is written with regard to contingencies. In our current red hot sellers market it is common for ALL contingencies to be waived up front in order to get your offer accepted. If the normal contingencies were not waived then you probably have the options to either accept the property anyway, re-negotiate with the Seller, or cancell the contract. Your decision should consider the severity of problem and the cost of having it removed. This can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. For example, if it's just the presence of an asbestos flu pipe above the water heater in the garage the lower range might apply. If it's asbestos wrapping wrapped heating ducts then the higher number would apply.
In all cases it should be possible for a correctly licenced Abatement Contractor to completely resolve the problem and you are really just talking about who pays the cost.
Good luck
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
I would be asking your real estate agent this question. In Michigan our contract allows you to void the contract. Or you can ask the seller to remediate the asbestos. Call your realtor and ask them
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 5, 2013
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