Portland Area Real Estate Appraisal Discussion

Radon Mitigation and Home Value in Portland Appraisals
October 22nd, 2015 11:57 PM

Radon Mitigation Seen on Portland Home by Appraiser

Have you ever seen big white PVC pipes with fans running up from the basement of Portland homes?  Those pipes are radon mitigation systems designed to reduce the amount of radon gas in homes to acceptable levels by ventilating the soil under the structure.  Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas that seeps naturally out of the ground.  It can migrate through concrete slabs, and can cause health problems if it enters a home.  Radon is the most common cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second most common cause of lung cancer in the United States. 

Most of Portland, Oregon is considered at moderate risk levels for radon.  The highest risk occurs in North and East Portland, roughly from the Columbia River south to Interstate 84 and from Interstate 5 to Parkrose.  An area of high risk also extends into Southeast Portland along Interstate 205, Rocky Butte, east of Mt. Tabor, and ending at the north edge of Mt. Scott.  (Follow this link to the Oregon Health Authority Radon Risk Maps.)

Radon travels through soil in random ways.  Your neighbor’s house could exhibit high amounts of radon while yours remains low.  The only way to know if you are exposed to radon in your home is to have it professionally measured or to buy a DIY test kit at the hardware store.  If your home tests at unhealthy levels, a mitigation system can be installed for around $1,500, but the price may vary depending on the home.  Money spent on radon mitigation is regarded as fixing (appraisers say “curing”) an environmental problem and consequently, is not considered to be an upgrade or added value to your home.

This begs the question of stigma.  If a home has a radon mitigation system installed, will buyers pay less for that home than a home that tests free of radon and does not need mitigation?  After all, radon mitigation systems can fail.  They draw small amounts of electricity, the fans require replacement every three to five years, and homes with radon systems should be retested for radon every one to two years to make sure that the system continues to work properly.  Personally, I would be somewhat turned off by a home with a radon mitigation system due to having another maintenance item that, if neglected, could silently harm my family’s health.

I spoke to several Portland real estate agents prior to writing this article and their consensus was that most buyers do not stigmatize homes with radon mitigation systems.  Radon education has been around Portland long enough that buyers, particularly in the high risk areas, are accustomed to radon mitigation and are not concerned with buying homes with the systems installed. 

The only way to positively conclude if radon systems reduce value is through analysis of sales data of homes with and without mitigation systems to see if there is a difference in sales prices.  However, this kind of analysis is difficult because homes with radon systems are not searchable in Portland’s Realtor Multiple Listing Service or in county records data.  Therefore, my only observations come from small samples when the subject or a comparable sale is occasionally found to have a radon mitigation system.  It is my experience here in Portland that any stigma toward radon mitigation systems is small or nonexistent because it is not evident in the small samples that I have analyzed.  Additional study is needed to know with greater certainty.

Did I leave anything out or do you want to join in the conversation?  Let me know in the comments below (Blog comments on this site have not been working for several weeks and the developers are working to get them repaired soon.  Feel free to contact us instead.  I’m always interested to learn from the experiences of my readers).

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Thanks for reading,

Gary F. Kristensen


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