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What is Radon?



Of the numerous factors to consider when buying or selling a home, radon is typically not one of them. In fact, most people haven’t had to think of radon since high school science class. Radon is inert, odorless, and colorless. The truth is that radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that is harmless in trace amounts in the atmosphere; however, when it becomes trapped indoors after entering buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation, it can become deadly. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking.

Since exposure to radon has dire consequences, Montgomery County law requires that single-family homes must be tested for radon before completing a sale of the home, prior to the settlement date but no more than a year in advance. Testing for radon is the seller’s responsibility, unless the buyer chooses to have a radon contingency (whereby the buyer pays for the test and, if elevated levels of radon are found, the seller must remediate or provide a credit for remediation) or unless otherwise negotiated.

Exemptions to this rule include units that are part of a condominium or cooperative; sales that are exempt from the transfer tax; foreclosure sales; sheriff’s sales, tax sales, or sales by a court appointed trustee; a transfer by a fiduciary from a decedent’s estate, guardianship, conservatorship, or trust; or a transfer of a home to be converted by the buyer into use other than residential or demolition. Contrary to popular belief, townhomes count as single-family homes and are not exempt.

In case you aren’t buying or selling but are curious as to what the radon levels are in your own home, testing is simple and relatively quick. Professional inspection companies offer radon tests, or at-home test kits can be purchased in home improvement stores or online. Testing involves placing the kit in closed-house conditions (doors and windows shut, fans off, fireplaces unused) for a few days while the monitor reads the radon levels. Results come shortly after the test is picked up or sent off to a lab.

While radon can be serious business, it can be easily remediated by a licensed radon professional. In fact, many homes that are new construction have radon remediation systems in place to prevent a higher concentration of radon at all. While radon is certainly a serious issue, it can easily be tested for and treated.

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