3 Asbestos-Related Questions To Ask When Shopping For Your First Home

Asbestos is always a fear lurking in the back of the minds of first-time home buyers. It's difficult to detect, and nobody wants to land a great deal on a house only to find that living there could pose long-term health consequences. Since asbestos is often not discovered in a home until it goes on the market and is put through vigorous inspections, you need to be prepared for the surprise news that an affected house will arise at some point during the buying process. Here are 3 up-front questions to ask any home seller in order to protect yourself from unknowingly buying an asbestos-affected house without the means to pay for abatement.

What Year Was The House Built?

There is no umbrella law banning the sale of or construction with any asbestos-containing material. Rather, there are a series of laws that began being enacted in 1973 in order to gradually phase out the use of asbestos in home construction. In short, while it may have been illegal to use asbestos-containing fireproof insulation in 1973, asbestos-containing pipe insulation was still permitted until 1975, and asbestos-containing surfacing material wasn't outlawed until 1978.

If the house you're considering buying was built before the 70s, there is a very good chance that there is asbestos incorporated into some of the construction materials used to build it. If it was built in the 70s, it may or may not have asbestos within. By the 1980s, most types of asbestos-containing construction material had been phased out, so if the home you're looking at was built during this decade or later you probably don't need to worry about it having asbestos problems.

Can You Make An Offer With A Contingency Clause?

It's not necessarily a deal breaker if you suspect that the house is old enough to contain asbestos. There are asbestos removal abatement companies that specialize in the control and removal of asbestos containing materials. However, depending on how severe the problem is, it could be quite expensive to remove or contain the asbestos, so you'll want to know the price of removal before getting locked into any contracts.

Ask the seller of the house you're considering if you can make an offer with a contingency clause. A contingency clause will allow you to cancel your offer without any consequences should you find out that the cost of asbestos removal is out of your budget. 

Is The Sale Price Negotiable?

This final question allows you to use asbestos as a bargaining tool, should an inspection uncover it in the home you're considering. If you absolutely love the house, but determine that it was constructed with asbestos-containing material that you can't afford to have removed, you can ask to renegotiate the price of the home to account for the money you'll need to spend on abatement. 

Don't be shy when negotiating. Ask to have the price of the home reduced by the cost of necessary abatement and then some. Although abatement is an effective solution to limiting the health risks associated with asbestos, the mere thought of dealing with such a problem makes most people uneasy. If the home you're considering has asbestos, there's a good chance that the buyer will have a difficult time selling it and will be willing to come down drastically on the price for the first willing buyer.

The fear of unknowingly purchasing an asbestos-containing house is real. While there are effective cleanup measures you can take, they are only effective if you can afford them. Protect yourself from getting trapped into owning a property you can't safely live in and can't afford to fix by asking the above 3 questions when purchasing your first home.