Chipped lead paint on the side of a house.

If your home was constructed prior to 1978, it is a simple reality that you’ll encounter some lead-based paint. Real estate regulations require sellers to disclose a host of details about their properties, but selling a house with lead paint is the only one that is federally enforced. The Environmental Protection Agency takes a very serious stance on this, and withholding that information can result in heavy fines.

The EPA’s approach is understandable, as these days, the health risks of lead paint are well known and, frankly, pretty scary. Lead is highly toxic, and ingesting it can negatively impact nearly every organ system in the human body. You, of course, would never want to be responsible for someone getting sick after purchasing your home.

Small children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead, and lead poisoning can cause both physical and mental delays, not to mention—in extreme cases—brain damage. Kids are prone to chew on things and are the most likely to be affected, but adults also run the risk of getting very sick if lead paint begins to flake or peel, disseminating dangerous particles into the air.

How to Find Out If You Have Lead Paint

How can you confirm whether or not you have lead paint before you attempt to sell your home? If it was built quite a while ago (think 1950s or earlier), and it hasn’t been remodeled since then, lead paint is almost certainly present. If your home was built in the 1970s, chances are likely there is still some lead in the paint, but the amount used in paint was dwindling by then, as we first began to understand lead’s side effects.

Either way, you’ll probably want to confirm its presence and concentration before selling your home. You can purchase a DIY kit, but be aware that they often show false negatives, so you’ll want to repeat the test multiple times. Also remember that if you say you’re sure there is no lead in the home and it’s found later, you’ll face a hefty fine.

Hiring a professional to assess your home is the only guaranteed way of knowing how much lead is there and where it’s located. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but that’s better than the thousands you’ll pay for not properly disclosing it.

Note that you are not technically required to test for the presence of lead yourself if you’re not already aware of it, but you do have to give any potential buyer a 10-day window in which to have testing done themselves. The presence of lead paint can seriously affect your asking price, so it’s probably something you want to know up front.

Cost of Remediation

You might be thinking that if you have lead paint, painting over it with a newer paint will fix the problem. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Lead can leach from the old paint into the modern non-lead-based stuff, making it just as unsafe.

DIY lead remediation isn’t feasible. Lead is an incredibly dangerous substance, and its removal is best handled by a professional. You can find a certified professional lead inspector via your local EPA office.

Depending on how much paint you’re dealing with, you may have the option of a “wait-and-see” approach, monitoring for any paint peeling or flaking and making sure any future repairs are done by lead-safe certified companies. Abatement (completely removing the lead from your home) is the best possible option, but it also costs thousands of dollars.

How to Sell a Home With Lead Paint

Having lead paint in your home can make it difficult to sell. Potential buyers with children will be especially wary. You may also only get lowball offers if people assume they’ll have to take on thousands of dollars in remediation in order to make the home safe and liveable for their family.

But selling a house with lead paint isn’t impossible. Not everyone wants to have kids, and some buyers who love older homes may be willing to accept the cost of replacing the paint if it means they get a house with true character.

Going the traditional route is an option. Be aware, however, that some real estate agents may be hesitant to take on your home, and it could sit on the market for significantly longer than a home without lead issues.

Before you spend thousands of dollars on lead paint removal, consider selling your house as-is to the Meridian Trust team. You can sell your house for cash without shouldering the expenses of dealing with toxic lead paint yourself.

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