Recommending a Radon Test (or Not)

No man Realtor can serve two masters.”

–New Testament (slightly changed).

[Note to Readers: The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway, or any other entity referenced. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.]

Regular readers will recall a recurring theme on this blog.

No, not my penchant for alliteration.  🙂

My stance on single agent dual agency, which is when the same agent represents the Buyer as well as the Seller in a transaction.

Namely, I regard it as a classic conflict of interest — and therefore contractually promise my clients not to do it.

Exhibit A: Radon Test

Realtors who do play the role of dual agent essentially advocate for neither client, instead opting to neutrally provide information.

Which is fine, at least until the Buyer’s and Seller’s interests diverge.

Like when it comes to determining the home’s selling price.

Or handling inspection issues.

Diverging Interests

In my experience, it is almost always* in the Buyer’s interest to test for radon, an invisible gas that poses a health risk at elevated levels.

I base that on a simple cost-benefit criterion: the radon test costs $150; the “benefit” (avoiding the expense to remediate) is around $1,500, depending on the size of the home and type of venting.

Given that the odds of finding radon seem to be about 30% to 50%, depending on location within the Twin Cities, that translates into $600 (40% x $1,500).

No Affirmative Duty

What is the Seller’s interest?

Not to go looking for radon (there’s no affirmative duty to determine if it’s in the home) — and certainly not to suggest to the Buyer that they do.

How do dual agents handle the issue?

I honestly don’t know . . .

*The one exception I can think of: a condo, especially one on an upper floor.

Given that radon is a byproduct of decomposing soil, there’s not much risk of finding that in a 6th floor condo.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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