Protecting Yourself When Mold Becomes a Part of Your American Dream Home

Imagine a new house. A brand, spanking new house. This is the “American Dream”. It is so new that the mud is still clumping to your feet when you walk up to it. The carpet and paint still smell new.  BUT …so does the mold. That is how this story started just shy of a year ago.

Many buyers don’t have a home inspection on newly built homes. The buyers in our sad but true story did have one. They also had a mold test. …..and the mold was there. This is not an inexperienced builder. This new home is smack in the middle of a whole plan of this builder's new homes. 

Don’t be surprised about the mold. This happens very often now that we have Energy Star ratings. When the goal is reducing air flow in a home, the result is increasingly unhealthy homes and, of course, mold.

Faced with the high mold test results discovered right before closing, the builder agreed to have the mold cleaned. The company that treated the mold “cleaned it up”. However, they did not address the cause of the mold.  

The home came with a 12 month builder’s warranty. More importantly, before these buyers closed, they added an agreement that if the mold returned within the warranty period, the builder would correct the mold and any damage that cleanup would cause.  

Eleven months later it’s time for the retest before the 1 year warranty expires. The mold test results come back even higher than the first failing tests. The builder is called. After the finished basement walls which had been proudly adorned  with the two wide screen televisions and a state of the art, football worthy  surround sound system are removed, the basement block wall is WET. Not damp, but wet. That was the previously ignored cause of the mold.

The custom rear patio was just completed and the grass is finally growing on the outside of the leaking wall. These all need removed so that the foundation can be sealed. All of the finishes need replaced after the drywall dust and outside mud are suffered through. That cost is thousands of dollars and the inconvenience is heart wrenching if not downright irritating.  

The good news was the first buyer’s pre-closing inspection and mold testing. The even better news was the addition of the agreement that damage consequential to any future cleanup will be paid by the builder. The bad news? The exact same model was built for other buyers in the same block, and they are having visible mold issues.  Let’s call that house #2.  They did not have the same protections.    

With that background, the story continues.  This is a different model, same builder, same plan. Let’s call this house # 3. The same week that the recurring mold was discovered at house #1, the builder delayed the pre-closing home inspection for a week on house #3. It turns out that a professional mold remediator is called into home number #3. They brought mold remediation equipment. They also cleaned up the visible mold that buyer of house #3 had photographed. 

When the inspector asked the builder’s production manager “why were the remediator and his equipment were brought into house” (#3), his answer was “it’s our air purification program.” RIGHT!

The inspection and testing of house # 3 began with review of the buyer’s pictures of the now missing mold and remediation equipment.

Then it was discovered that the air conditioner was set at 63.0f. The “previously visible mold covered basement” temperature was 61.0F. This condition will reduce the level of mold in the basement for testing purposes. The principle is the same as placing food in a refrigerator to reduce mold growth. In summary, house # 3 had professional mold remediation and was made cold. These actions would reduce the chance of finding mold. Each of those conditions confirmed with photographs.  

Here are some very important lessons for home buyers

  • Have the home inspected and tested for mold
  • Know and photograph what is happening with your new home during construction.
  • Write into your sales contact that the builder is responsible for environmental problems
  • Make sure that the sales contract includes restoring any damage finishes if repairs are needed
  • Have an 11 month recheck of the home

You may wonder if the story above is unusual or the result of a bad builder. The author could have selected another builder with the same issue in multiple copies of one of their models. There are also many homes up to the range of a sales price of $ 750,000 that he has tested and found serious mold issues prior to closing.  




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