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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Grace Hanamo…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Tue Mar 5, 2013
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
Thanks for the explanation. I was going to say the same thing-- asbestos removal is common. Since you're already locked in a contract, it's a better idea to start looking at asbestos removal options. That way you'll be able to sell easier when you move. http://www.property-drs.com
Flag Wed Apr 15, 2015
I would look to have them removed. The last thing you want in a new home is asbestos. I would try calling a removal company to come have that taken care of. They should help you with everything you need! http://www.rockridgeinc.com/abatement.html
Flag Tue Jan 20, 2015
Arpad Racz, Agent, San Jose, CA
Sat Nov 12, 2016
Was it an as-is offer?

Kind regards,
0 votes
Causseauxfl, Home Buyer, Cupertino, CA
Thu Nov 10, 2016
0 votes
Wilmingjoyce, Home Buyer, Dubuque, IA
Tue Aug 2, 2016
What are my legal rights after opening the home for 7 years. We were putting in a new floor, not carpeting so what are my rights and what can I do legally?
0 votes
Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Sun Jul 19, 2015
What are their opinions? In SC County about 1/3 homes have original popcorn ceiling.... Most paint it over....
It is a costly removal....
0 votes
Albiecardew, Home Buyer, New York, NY
Mon Jun 22, 2015
Asbestos can be incredibly dangerous, and can even become cancer-causing with prolonged exposure. If you have yet to close on the house, then you may be able to negotiate with the sellers. Whatever you have to do, be sure the asbestos is completely removed before you move in. http://hazmatsolutions.ca/asbestos-removal/
0 votes
You have no idea what you are talking about. Do some research on when Asbestos is actually dangerous, then scare people!
Flag Sun Jul 16, 2017
djennifer009, , Salt Lake City, UT
Wed May 6, 2015
Asbestos is pretty common in older houses, so removal is well-established. Talk to a few different companies about what you need and start gathering estimates. Then you'll be able to take those estimates to the seller and discuss a compromise on the price to make up for the asbestos removal. Both parties should be able to come to a conclusion based on that. http://www.suncoastskips.com.au/faq.php
0 votes
Nora Moore, Home Buyer, American Fork, UT
Wed Apr 22, 2015
If you're already signed to buy the house, I would start researching places that can remove the asbestos for you. That material was commonly used a few decades ago, so it still shows up in older homes. The nice things is that you can get the problem resolved when you hire someone to remove it for you. Technically, if it isn't damaged, you can still live in the house, but I'd prefer to have it removed if it was me. http://www.aplusbs.com.au/commercial
0 votes
Myersjulie31, Home Buyer, Blakeslee, PA
Thu Dec 18, 2014
If you have found yourself in this situation, it is almost definitely too late to back out of your contract. I would first see how bad it is. Then, I would see what you can do to get the asbestos disposed of. Then you can hopefully be worry free and not have too many concerns about any health conditions from the asbestos. As long as you find a good service to get it removed, it should be safe to live in! http://www.ahdemolition.com.au/asbestos-removal
0 votes
Dorene Slavi…, Agent, Torrance, CA
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
I agree Dorene, you can always find someone that can come in and scrape your ceilings for asbestos. The best way to make sure it is necessary is to find an asbestos inspection service. They will be able to determine if your ceilings in fact have asbestos in them and need to be removed. I wouldn't put this off, as asbestos can be very unhealthy for people.
Flag Thu Nov 20, 2014
Juliana Lee…, Agent, Palo Alto, CA
Mon Apr 1, 2013
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
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
I would have them removed as soon as you can. Calling a removal company is probably your best option. This can help you get rid of them and prevent them from returning. Good luck and I hope everything works out for you! http://www.macbestos.com
Flag Wed Jan 14, 2015
Helen Chong, Agent, San Jose, CA
Mon Mar 11, 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
Elena Talis, Broker, Palo Alto, CA
Tue Mar 5, 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
Terri Vellios, Agent, Campbell, CA
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
Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
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
Bill Mccord, Agent, San Jose, CA
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
I'm not sure what I would do in your shoes. It seems like you would be able to get the owner to get rid of the asbestos. Maybe you could help the buyer find a service to get rid of it. Nobody wants to be in a place where they know their lungs are at risk. http://www.americanabatement.com/asbestos/
Flag Fri Feb 20, 2015
Russ Ravary, Agent, Commerce Township, MI
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
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