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For Sale by Owner Articles • - Home Selling Tips

Lead Disclosure

By Robert Irwin
The federal government has determined that lead paint and lead-based paints are a health hazard. To help protect the public, it has mandated that some home sellers must provide specific lead disclosures to buyers. If you're selling "by owner," it's up to you to provide these to your buyer.
Almost everyone has seen lead. It's a soft, gray metal probably most well-known for its use in batteries and its ability to shield radiation. It is also a d poison, albeit one that may take a long time to have an observable effect. Small children five and under are most susceptible to it.
Lead poisoning can occur when the metal either is consumed through ingestion or breathed in. It can have all sorts of symptoms including vomiting and irritability. Hypertension, anemia and diseases of the gallbladder and digestion are common outcomes of lead poisoning.
Lead is seldom found in modern homes. However, in older homes, particularly those built prior to 1978, it was quite common. It occurred in the solder used to bond copper pipes and most commonly in paint. Lead based paints were not outlawed until 1978.
As a result, the federal government has mandated that homeowners selling homes built before 1978 must do the following before ratifying a contract for sale:
Provide buyers with copies of any reports on the property dealing with lead including lead testing.
Disclose the existence of any known lead based paint or lead based paint hazards. A specially worded disclosure must be used which can be found at or
Provide buyers with a federally approved lead based paint hazard booklet, "Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home." (These booklets can be obtained a the above websites or by calling 1-800-424-LEAD.)
Provide buyers with a 10-day period during with they may do a risk assessment and testing of the home for lead based paint hazards. Since technically this must be done prior to ratifying a contract, the buyers may be able to back out of the deal during this period. Buyers and sellers may mutually agree to lengthen or shorten this period or to waive it. Some buyers may also insist on a contingency clause being inserted into a sales agreement allowing them to back out of the deal if lead is found.
Be sure that you get a signed receipt for the booklet and of the prescribed disclosure form as well as a signed approval that the buyers have had the agreed upon time to inspect the property and approve it.
It's important to understand that the seller is under no obligation to test for lead or to abate (remove) the lead if found. The purpose here is to provide information to buyers regarding lead hazards in homes.
Should you decide to have the home tested for lead, contact HUD for a professional inspector in your area. Generally speaking, while chemical analysis and paint scrapings can be used for testing, X-ray fluorescence is usually considered the most definitive test. Testing can be moderately expensive.
It is not usually a good idea to attempt to remove the lead yourself. Sanding or burning off lead-based paint may vaporize the lead and release it into the air. Often the preferred method is to simply replace old doors, windows, molding and trim that contain lead paint with new materials. Removed lead may be considered a hazardous waste and should be disposed of appropriately.
Robert Irwin is the most prolific real estate writer in America having produced over 100 published books in the field. His TIPS & TRAPS McGraw-Hill series has sold well over a million copies and his FOR SALE BY OWNER KIT and FIND IT, BUY IT, FIX IT and other books have been strong sellers for Dearborn.
In addition Irwin writes a regular real estate column for The Wall Street Journal online and is introducing a new weekly column
Irwin has sold his own property "by owner" and during over 30 years in the business has been a broker and consultant to lenders, agents, buyers and sellers.
He can be reached through his website

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