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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