Is Your Northern Virginia Home Radon Free? What Every Home Buyer and Seller Needs to Know About Radon Testing & Remediation

Radon Testing & Remediation Information for Home Buyers and Sellers

When buyers fall in love with a home and are ready to sign a sales contract, one of the questions that comes up during contract review is whether or not the buyers would like to include Radon Testing Contingency. From my experience, the majority of home buyers and owners are unfamiliar with what Radon is, and they don’t know that it might be present in a home. After all, this invisible, odorless gas doesn’t really give itself away.

Testing for Radon and installing remediation system may sound like just an expensive unnecessary task that adds to your laundry list of home improvement projects and expenses. But it’s worth your while to have the home tested because levels of this gas can vary a significant amount, even from one home to the next. Understanding what Radon is and how it enters the home is an important part of the resolution process.

What is Radon?

First, let’s talk about what all the buzz is about. According to the EPA, Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the soil, and it’s produced by the natural breakdown of the uranium found in most rocks and soils. Radon breaks down into solid radioactive elements called radon progeny, which attach to dust and other particles that can enter the house through the cracks or openings in the  foundation. Exposure to high levels of Radon for extensive periods of time, might cause lung cancer.

How Does it Sneak In, Anyway?

Radon, like water vapor, is actually capable of seeping through the pores of solid concrete. That’s right, the radon creeps in through the very foundation of the home. While some new homes are constructed with gas permeable layers and other radon-resistant building materials, radon can sneak in anyway.

Radon Levels in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia is a particular problem area, with 56% of the tested homes containing Radon levels higher than recommended by EPA standards. Map below breaks down levels of Radon by area.

Northern Virginia Radon Levels Map
Northern Virginia Radon Levels



Is Radon Gas Present in New Construction Homes?

It doesn’t matter if old or new, radon can find its way into any home.  In fact, realizing the potential problem, majority of new home builders in Northern Virginia rough in PVC Radon ventilation pipes during construction. So later, if you discover high levels of Radon in your new home, you can easily add a fan to convert the Radon vent from passive to active.

Radon Testing

Radon gas is tasteless, odorless and colorless, so the only way to determine if the air in a home has elevated levels of this invisible gas is through Radon testing.

Since Radon sneaks into the house through the foundation, the testing is done in the basement. Many home inspectors are certified to test for Radon, so Radon testing machine can be installed on the day of a home inspection.

The test requires all vents, exhaust fans, windows, and doors remained closed, for 48 hours. That’s all. The EPA recommends if the test result are 4pCi/L or higher, you take the steps to lower levels to minimize the risks of exposure. Some choose to opt for longer tests for 30, 60, or 90 days which you may find yield more precise results.

If you are Northern Virginia homeowner thinking about selling your home, you should consider conducting Radon testing and correcting a problem if discovered before putting your home on the market, so that a timely and cost-effective solution can be found.

Is Radon Testing Expensive?

A test is easy and inexpensive but requires the technical skills and knowledge of a trained professional. As an example, a home in Vienna, Virginia was recently tested for only $140.

Lowering Radon Levels

Radon is in the air, both inside and out, so it’s impossible to avoid it completely. But there are things you can do to lower your exposure.

A simple approach to radon reduction is sealing cracks in the floor and walls. This limits the flow of radon into your home, as well as stops the clean, conditioned air from escaping.

For homes that need a drastic reduction, a Radon gas remediation system may also need to be put into place in addition to the sealing of the home. If it turns out there are dangerous levels of radon gas in your Northern Virginia home, you will need a remediation system installed.

The average cost of remediation system in Northern Virginia totals $800-$1,500 and requires special skills and technical knowledge so it is highly recommended to consult an expert.

When searching for homes, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to point out and explain the type of remediation system installed in the home.

Radon Testing Contract Contingency

Because, for most people, the largest potential source of radon exposure is in their own home, with particularly high levels found here in Northern Virginia, it would be wise to include Radon Testing in the sales contract as a contingency. A Radon testing contingency is usually 7-10 days.

If you are a home seller, it is essential to know that Radon testing could be added to a sales contract as a contingency. This means that if high levels of Radon are detected, a buyer can ask the seller to remediate the problem, choose to pay for the remediation themselves, or simply walk away from the contract.

Bottom Line:

While radon is a real issue, it should not be a real estate deal breaker.


Buying a Home in Virginia? Don’t Skip This Crucial Step: Home Inspections Explained

Don’t risk buying a lemon. Make Sure to Conduct a Home Inspection

So, you’ve made an offer with a Home Inspection contingency; it was accepted, and now your next task is to have the home inspected.

Is the home inspection necessary? I always recommend to my buyers to have one. The Home Inspection will not only allow you to make sure that the house you are buying has fewer defects as possible but will also give you an opportunity to renegotiate the price offered for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away from the deal.

If you are relocating to Virginia from another state, it is important to note that the state of Virginia generally still goes by the old English common-law concept of “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”). That basically means that while sellers can’t lie outright or actively conceal a problem and must honestly answer prospective buyers’ questions when asked, they aren’t obligated to point out the home’s flaws or defects to the buyers. It’s up to the buyers to do their due diligence and hire a certified Home Inspector to conduct a comprehensive Home Inspection. I have a short list of inspectors that I have worked with in the past and will give you my recommendations, but it is always helpful to do your own homework.

How to Choose a Home Inspector suggests that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

  1. Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection & if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.
  2. Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report, the better in most cases.
  3. References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients that you can call to ask about their experience.
  4. Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Membership in one of these organizations often means that there is continued training and education provided.
  5. Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

Important information for home buyers in Virginia: Check license status of your Home Inspector – Effective July 1st, 2017, all home inspectors in Virginia must be licensed.

It is always best to be present during a home inspection and tag along, that way the inspector can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed.

Be prepared to spend up to three (3) hours in the house. Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof, crawling around in the attic, and on the floors. Remember, you hire a home inspector and pay him a fee, and he works for you.

The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, the fireplace & chimney, the foundation and so much more!

Important to note that in Northern Virginia around 56% of the tested homes contained Radon levels higher than recommended by EPA standards. Read a full article about Radon gas, Radon testing and Radon sales contract contingency here: “Is Your Northern Virginia Home Radon Free?”

The Most Expensive Problems Discovered by Home Inspection Involve:



Heating/Cooling Systems



Electrical Wiring


The home inspection report will list detailed descriptions of the defects and have photos and will usually be delivered to you by email on the same day. Go through report carefully and decide what items on the report you would like the sellers to repair or replace, or if you would like to have a credit in elu of all or some repairs (all credits have to be issued with the lender’s approval).

Please remember, almost everything can be fixed. I’ll help you negotiate any issues to the get the best contract.

The home inspection report will be be sent to the sellers with the Home Inspection Removal Addendum that lists all needed repairs or a request for a credit.

Bottom Line

They say ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when investing your hard-earned money in a home of your own. Work with a professional you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home, so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase.