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DRC Home > Radon Program > Real Estate Transactions

Radon Program: Real Estate Transactions in Utah


Why Do Real Estate Professionals Need to Know About Radon?

soldRadon causes lung cancer after prolonged exposure and can build to dangerous levels in certain homes. Many people wait until they are about to sell their home or buy a new one before they decide to learn more about radon. By learning about radon, real estate professionals can properly answer questions during real estate transactions, and avoid potential liability problems. Radon can be resolved and should not stand in the way of any real estate transaction being seen through to completion. By being knowledgeable and providing information, real estate agents can minimize the potential for delaying or derailing closings because of radon: List of Radon Educated Realtors.

The prevailing source of radon affecting most of Utah is naturally occurring uranium found in the geology of the Rocky Mountains. Surveys have indicated that approximately 30% of homes in Utah have the potential of being above the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) recommended "action level" of 4 picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L) The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Surgeon

General recommend that people not be exposed to more than 4 pCi/L of radiation from radon on a long-term basis.

There are practical, field-tested techniques to address radon. It is clearly an issue on which real estate professionals, especially in the state of Utah, need to become educated and confident.

What Is Radon and Why Are We Concerned?

familyRadon is an odorless, tasteless gas created in the ground where uranium and radium exist. The more uranium found beneath the home, the higher the potential for elevated radon levels within a building constructed upon that soil.

In short, uranium breaks down into radium, which then decays into radon gas. Radon moves up through the soil into the atmosphere, where it dilutes and presents little concern. However, when it enters a building constructed on top of the soil, it can accumulate and present a health concern for occupants.

Note that buildings other than homes can also have radon concerns (such as commercial buildings, schools, apartments, etc.).

Radon breaks down into several radioactive elements called "radon decay products," which are solid particles that become suspended in air. They are extremely small and easily inhaled, where they can attach to lung tissue. Because of their very short "half-lives" radon decay products further decay and expose the lungs to radiation. Next to smoking, scientists believe that radon is associated with more lung cancer deaths than any other compound. Radon is classified as a "Group A" carcinogen, defined as a substance known to cause cancer in humans.

The U.S. EPA, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the National Academy of Sciences - in addition to many other health organizations - all agree that radon is a health concern that must be addressed. In May of 1993, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) joined the EPA in urging all Americans to test their homes for radon. NAR encouraged state associations to develop and support legislation or regulation requiring mandatory property condition disclosure, including radon, by the seller.

Learn some terminology and consider some statistics!

The Incidence of Radon in the U.S. and Specifically, in Utah

There are many areas of the U.S. - and the rest of the world - with potentially high levels of radon. A buyer may be moving to Utah from an area of high radon without even realizing it! Buyers are increasingly concerned about exposing their families to health dangers and assuming additional financial burdens.

The map of Utah shown below was based on zip codes. It has become a tool for focusing public awareness.

radon map

See also:

The specified classifications are based upon the likelihood of finding certain ranges of radon concentrations. Significant variations can and do occur within any county. Surveys conducted by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality/Division of Radiation Control indicate that 30% of the homes tested in Utah are at concentrations above the U.S. Surgeon General's guidance of 4.0 pCi/L, when tested under methods typically employed during the sale of real property. A zip-code matrix of the reported short-term and long-term radon test results is available.

Regardless of what sellers say about their neighbors' homes, an agent should always suggest that radon is a concern in any area. A discussion with a qualified home inspector is highly recommended.


Representing a Seller

Seller's Property Disclosure, State of Utah

Utah requires that sellers disclose "Hazardous Conditions: Are there any hazardous conditions on the Property such as Radon gas in house or well?" Sellers must state that the information in the Disclosure is "correct to the best of Seller's CURRENT ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE" and that "Any important changes will be disclosed by Seller to Buyer prior to closing." The Seller must designate one of three situations: "Yes," "No," or "Do Not Know."

Early disclosure to both buyers and sellers allows everyone ample time to learn about radon and act accordingly. Early disclosure builds an atmosphere of trust and encourages an honest exchange among all parties. Problems are much more likely to arise if a radon problem is suspected when the parties are already well into a real estate transaction.

When the Seller Has Already Tested the Home for Radon

When a seller has tested the home for radon, test results should be provided to the buyer. A potential buyer may ask for a new test, depending on the following:

When the Home Has Not Been Tested For Radon

If the seller has no knowledge of the home being tested for radon, suggest a test be done immediately by a Nationally listed Measurement Provider. This could save precious time during a real estate transaction. The test device should be placed in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. If the lower level of the home is unfinished, but could be completed in the future and occupied, the test should occur in this portion of the home. Potential buyers may want to know everything the seller knows about any radon tests.

The EPA recommends that a homeowner take action if the indoor radon levels are 4 pCi/L or higher. It is best to correct a radon problem before putting a home on the market, since this allows more time to address the situation. Sellers who have tested their homes and, if necessary, installed radon mitigation systems can demonstrate that they have already recognized and mitigated radon levels for any potential buyer.

A typical home inspection can easily include a radon test upon request. A seller may wish to wait until an inspection is performed during the potential sale of the home, however, if test results are elevated the seller should be prepared to discuss corrective measures before the sale closes.

Keep in mind:


Representing a Buyer

When the Seller Has Already Tested the Home

If a Seller discloses the presence of radon in the home, the Buyer should request the following information:

If the Seller discloses acceptable radon levels in the home (i.e. less than 4 pCi/L), the U.S. EPA would recommend that there is no need for further action. (However, realize there is still some risk associated with levels less than 4 pCi/L.)

When the Home Has Not Been Tested For Radon

The real estate professional should suggest a radon test be done as soon as possible. It may be done during the normal course of the home inspection, preferably by a third party tester who is listed with the National Environmental Health Association's Radon Measurement Proficiency Program.

Tests must be properly conducted and interpreted to prevent unnecessary mitigation, but more importantly, to ensure that mitigation is seriously considered when testing indicates unacceptable levels of radon. Professional testers insure that testing was properly performed without inadvertent or deliberate tampering of the test.


Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon

guide EPA's Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon (opens in a new window) The informed and educated real estate professional will use the disclosure statement to introduce buyers and sellers to radon. Avoid statements that can be misleading, such as, "The house tested safe," or, "I am not aware of a problem in this area," or, "Radon isn't as bad as some people think."

When asked for more information, you can use the EPA's Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon to answer questions and fulfill disclosure requirements, without having to express an opinion. In Utah, individuals may contact The Utah Department of Environmental Quality at 1-800-458-0145 to obtain copies of this booklet, or a complete copy can be obtained by clicking on the picture of the brochure.

The information contained in this booklet will give the home buyer a broad overview of issues surrounding radon, and allow individuals to make informed decisions regarding radon during a real estate transaction.

Radon Measurement Methods and Check List

Overview of Testing Procedures

A professional radon tester knows the proper conditions, test devices, and guidelines to obtain reliable radon tests. He or she will evaluate the home and recommend the best approach for reliable results.

In addition, a professional tester will explain proper testing conditions, and the necessity of cooperation of occupants during testing. The tester will analyze and report results. By using an independent, third party tester, results will be provided by someone not involved in the real estate transaction.

For purposes of real estate transactions, radon professionals often utilize what is called a "short-term test" to determine the radon potential of a home. These test devices are placed in a building for a minimum of 48 hours.

Both passive and active test mechanisms are available. Passive tests do not require electricity but do require sending the test to an approved laboratory for analysis. They usually consist of either an activated charcoal device or an alpha track detector. Active radon tests require power to operate, and usually refer to "continuous monitors" that will give results over a set period of time and indicate changes in radon concentrations.

Proper short-term testing is dependent on correct placement and conditions within the home during the test. "Closed-house conditions" are very important! The windows and doors must be kept closed (except for normal entry and exit) a minimum of 12 hours before and during testing.

In the case of real estate transactions, the test device must be placed in the lowest area of a home that is "suitable for occupancy." Brokers and agents must discuss this point with their clients and customers so a decision can be agreed upon, based upon the future use of the dwelling by the buyer. [For example, if the house in question has a finished basement that has not been used by the seller but will be used by the buyer, this would be the best location for the test.] Crawl spaces are not appropriate test locations. Areas in the home with high humidity levels and increased ventilation are also not good locations (such as bathrooms and kitchens). A test device must be placed at least 20 inches above the floor, in a location where it will not be disturbed.

If radon concentrations are unacceptable to a buyer - and certainly if they are above 4 pCi/L - the home should be mitigated.

Check Lists

If high levels of radon are found during a real estate transaction, the parties involved will have to discuss the timing and costs of mitigating the home. This is no different than discussing leaky roofs, broken stairs, or cracked windows!

The EPA has provided a checklist that should be carefully followed in order to obtain the most accurate radon measurement results. A radon tester should be able to verify that the following steps have been taken. If this is not possible, a new radon test should be performed.


How To Mitigate—Or Fix—A Home

Fixing a home

If the initial short-term test indicates a level in excess of 4 pCi/L, there are several options as to what to do next - especially relative to a real estate transaction that may be in process. Keep in mind several important facts:

crawlThe most effective and cost efficient method for radon reduction is "Active Soil Depressurization." This method collects radon from beneath a building before it enters the structure, and vents the radon safely to the outside. The particular steps required to do this depend upon building's foundation.

For homes built on crawl spaces, a high density polyethylene sheet is laid on the soil. The seams and edges are sealed, and a perforated pipe or drain mat is placed beneath the plastic. This pipe is connected to solid PVC piping and a fan, which creates a vacuum beneath the plastic. Radon is thus effectively collected and exhausted to a safe, outside location.

slabFor a home built on a slab-on-grade or basement, one or more holes are cut through the slab. A pit is hollowed out beneath the slab and a PVC pipe is inserted into the hole(s). This pipe is routed to a fan that creates a vacuum beneath the slab. This system relies on the permeability of the soil beneath the slab to allow for good lateral air movement. If the soil is very "tight," or there are obstructions under the slab, more than one suction point may be needed.

Radon fans must be located in an unoccupied attic, a garage, or outside. The fan discharge is then routed up through the roof, or up along an outside wall, to a high point on the house. Although they must operate continually, operating costs of the fans are negligible due to their low power consumption (60 watts - less than most light bulbs - per fan). Be aware that caulking cracks and floor and wall joint openings improves radon reduction capabilities of a system but is not a stand-alone technique.

Homes with water control systems such as sump pumps, French drains, or an exterior loop of buried water-collection pipe can be effectively mitigated by connecting the active soil depressurization system to the existing water control system.

A system indicator must be installed to warn the homeowner of any malfunctions. Homes should be re-tested, but no sooner than 24 hours after a mitigation system has been operational.

Radon problems are generally simple and cost-effective to repair. Mitigation systems average $1,200, depending primarily on the type of foundation and the size of the home. Required permits must be obtained, especially at the time of wiring fans. Consult the National List of Proficiency Contractors or equivalent for individuals in Utah who have been specifically trained. Buyers and sellers will have to decide whether it is acceptable for the company that tested for radon to be the same company to mitigate the home.

Selecting a Radon Mitigation Contractor

It is best to use a contractor who is listed with the National Radon Contractor Proficiency Program (RCP). Or equivalent National Proficiency Program. These individuals must follow guidelines and minimum quality standards, and should always carry ID cards. RCP contractors will recommend that the house be tested again by a third party, Nationally listed radon measurement service provider once the work has been completed, in order to confirm that radon levels have been reduced.

Nationally Listed RCP contractors will review testing guidelines and measurement results to determine the necessity for mitigation. He or she will evaluate the radon situation; provide a written and detailed proposal for mitigation; design the radon mitigation system; install the system according to EPA Standards; and verify that the completed system is effective.

State listings of RCP contractors may be obtained by contacting The Division of Radiation Control at 801-536-4250.

Is Escrow an Option?

Many aspects of radon mitigation may be negotiated, just as with other aspects of a real estate transaction. For a buyer, it is sometimes advantageous to have the ability to make choices regarding the installation of a mitigation system. Funds may be escrowed for this purpose, but a buyer can always be confident that radon can be mitigated to less than 4 pCi/L, regardless of a seller's willingness or ability to financially contribute to this issue.

Contingencies regarding radon may be included in a transaction, however, they should be specific to acceptable levels of radon, not upon testing itself.

In a contingency clause, it is important to be specific. Some helpful points to remember as an agent or broker:

Many radon mitigation contractors will provide bids with guarantees to reduce radon levels to less than 4.0 pCi/L. This may allow for adequate funds to be escrowed for the home to be fixed after the buyer moves in. Another option is to make funds available for reducing radon if a long-term (91 day) test device is placed in the home. A long-term test can provide a more accurate average of radon risks to which an occupant is exposed under normal living conditions (i.e. closed building conditions are not required if a test is more than 90 days.

The EPA wants all citizens to test their homes immediately, with a radon device that has been shown to be proficient. If high radon levels are found, a home should be remedied by a competent and proficient mitigation contractor. The EPA recommends that homes be tested with long-term tests, but in real estate transactions, taking a long-term test is often not possible or practical.


New Home Construction

Codes and Regulations

Currently, there are no statewide regulations in Utah that require radon resistant construction. However, the State of Utah encourages builders to voluntary use radon resistant construction in Zone 1 and Zone 2 areas within the State.

Radon Mitigation Systems in New Home Construction

There are effective and cost-efficient steps to take during the initial construction of a home that significantly reduce the potential for high levels of radon. If incorporated at the time of construction, mitigation systems can be hidden and not visible in the finished home. If a buyer is considering the purchase of a lot on which to build, he or she may want to consider having the builder incorporate a passive radon system. A new home constructed with a passive system must still be tested after completion.

For information on radon resistant construction, please see the Builder Booklet.


A Word for the Real Estate Professional

It is possible that Congress could enact federal legislation requiring all sellers and lessors to give out radon information. Real estate professionals who develop and maintain their knowledge of radon will be in demand, as citizens' expectations and questions increase in coming years.

Two Basic Rules

  1. The best role for agents and brokers to take is that of a resource. Provide booklets and materials to customers and clients to help them make informed decisions. Avoid advising clients and customers about the specifics of radon testing, interpreting, or remediating.
  2. Early disclosure to both buyers and sellers will give everyone ample time to learn about radon and act accordingly. Early disclosure builds an atmosphere of trust and encourages an honest exchange among all parties. Problems are much more likely to arise if radon becomes an issue late in a real estate transaction.

Free Continuing Education for the Real Estate Professional

Radon's classification as a cancer causing agent has led many home buyers, as well as financial institutions, to desire that radon be less than the U.S. EPA's action level of 4.0 pCi/L. The Division of Radiation Control holds free continuing education for real estate professionals throughout the state of Utah. The free course discusses how to best work with clients and customers without jeopardizing a sale. It is approved in Utah for two continuing education credits for real estate professionals.

Course Content

This free two hour course covers how one can easily test for radon during a normal home inspection. Radon can be reliably fixed in a time frame that still allows a transaction to occur. The course will answer:

Course Format

The course consists of a lecture with ample opportunity to ask questions of the instructor. Bring any real life experiences or concerns to this program so they can be addressed. The course is supported by a manual that includes copies of all visuals and supporting text, in order to reduce the amount of note-taking. The instructional materials include easy-to-read government documents that can be utilized to explain the issue to both buyers and sellers. Case studies are used as a means of demonstrating methods of dealing with this issue at the time of sale.

Upcoming Scheduled Courses

Courses For Real Estate Professionals

Courses for Real Estate Professionals are periodically scheduled around the state. These are two hour courses that are approved for 2 credit hours by the Utah Real Estate Commission for real estate professionals. Please call 1-801-536-0091 for information regarding upcoming classes.

Courses For Radon Professionals

The Western Regional Radon Training Center, housed at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, is contracted by the EPA to provide radon related training. Home inspectors, builders, or others may wish to augment their services by becoming listed within the NEHA's Radon Proficiency Programs. Courses include those for measurement, mitigation, new home construction. Please call 1-800-513-8332 for further information or to schedule a course in your area.


Frequently Asked Questions for the Real Estate Professional

Real estate professionals are often barraged with questions by their clients and customers on a wide range of subjects. An agent or broker is frequently the most accessible resource regarding radon. Be prepared! However, remember it is best to remain a resource person. Do not put yourself in the position of offering advice about radon specifics!

Questions From Sellers

The buyer has requested that a radon test be done. Is this required?

No. However, more and more people are having homes tested for radon in addition to other inspections, in order to reduce their family's exposure to radon and to improve future resale value of their property.

What if I refuse to have a radon test done?

That is your choice, but it may raise more doubts and cloud the sale.

Can't I just do the test myself?

Yes, but it is normal for the buyer of the property to have an independent third party testing firm perform the test.

How do I know that the person performing the test knows what they are doing?

The U.S. EPA has developed a proficiency program for people in the radon measurement field. This program involves education, examinations, and continuing education requirements to ensure their capability of properly performing and interpreting radon tests.

What is a reasonable amount of radon?

The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General's office have established that people should not be exposed to more than 4.0 pCi/L of radon on a long term basis.

If they find elevated levels of radon, am I obligated to fix it?

No. If radon tests reveal high levels of radon in the home, whether or not it is fixed (mitigated) is strictly a function of negotiations between you, your agent, and the buyer.

If elevated levels of radon are found, can the home be fixed?

Yes, durable and effective techniques have been developed that economically reduce radon in all new or existing homes and other buildings.

Is this very expensive?

The cost depends upon the size and complexity of your home, but the national average is about $1,200, when installed by a U.S. Nationally listed contractor.

Does a contractor have to be certified to do this work, or can any building contractor do it? Can I do it myself?

We recommend that you contact an Nationally listed contractor. If you are considering using a contractor or doing some or all of the work yourself, we suggest you obtain "Protecting Your Home From Radon" © by Doug Kladder. This book is a concise guide to radon reduction for do-it-yourselfers and is available in many public libraries.

Can I assume that any Nationally listed contractor is regulated and will do a good job?

The NEHA's Proficiency Listing of individuals or equivalent providing measurement and mitigation services indicates that they have received proper training. When contracting with a radon professional, as with any other contractor, request references and a detailed description, in writing, of the work to be performed.

The tester wants to have me close up the house for 12 hours before and during the radon test. I don't live in my house that way is this an unfair test?

The EPA has specific protocols for testing homes at the time of resale to determine the radon "potential" of the home. Although the radon tester will know the proper procedures, it is customary that the house is indeed closed up during a real estate test.

Since the home has been unoccupied and closed up for several weeks, isn't it unfair to test the house now?


Although the Nationally listed tester or equivalent knows proper procedures, radon concentrations stabilize after a home has been closed up for 12 hours. Even though readings may rise and fall, the average stays pretty consistent after 12 hours.

There must be a better way to test a house for radon without having to keep all the doors and windows shut!

A test device can be placed in a home for no less than 90 days to get a "normally lived-in" reading. However, timing of the sale may not allow this unless funds are escrowed to take care of a problem should the test result be unacceptable. Discuss this with the radon tester or a radon mitigation contractor if you wish.

Questions From Buyers

The seller's agent said the house was tested and found safe. Should I believe this?

What were the actual radon readings? The U.S. EPA recommends that homes at or above 4 pCi/L be mitigated, if the tests were done properly and verified. Obtain the test report to determine the risk. Using the word "safe" may be too simple of a statement, when there is still some risk associated with even low concentrations of radon.

Is radon a problem in the subdivision in which we are looking?

Radon is quite variable from house to house, even in the same subdivision. The only way to know is to have a radon test performed on the house.

What areas in Utah are high in radon? When I buy a house, I want to choose an area that is safe.

Although there are maps indicating areas of higher potential, they are not precise enough to determine whether or not a home will have concentrations in excess 4.0 pCi/L. The only way to know for sure is to test.

Will a test be done automatically when I buy a home?

There is no state law requiring radon testing at the time of resale. However, along with other concerns for which you may have the home inspected, it is recommended that you request a radon test.

What if the seller refuses to allow me to perform a radon test?

Testing a home for radon may done either prior to or after the time of purchase.

Are you sure that radon can be fixed?

Trained contractors can install radon mitigation systems. In talking to contractors, request a written proposal that includes guarantees of resulting concentrations less than 4.0 pCi/L.

During the inspection, a radon test was taken and elevated concentrations were found above 4 pCi/L. Is this a concern?

If you like the house, radon shouldn't be a reason to back out of the deal. Techniques have been developed for reducing radon level concentrations to below 4.0 pCi/L. You may request that the seller fix it before you move in. You may also go ahead with the purchase, confident that radon levels can be reduced at such time as you can handle it on your own and at your convenience.

What things should I write into the contract offer?

Be specific on what is an acceptable reading. Also, consider who will be doing the radon testing and at whose expense it will be. If radon readings are elevated, will mitigation be acceptable? Who will pay for the work? If radon mitigation is decided upon, who will do the work and who will determine the success of the mitigation?


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