As an experienced real estate investor, you know that motivations for selling run the gamut between financial and personal. Handling the unique quirks of each property may bring some of the challenges but, despite your previous experience, you may have shied away from investing in a Cook County home with unique issues like radon—a serious chemical problem that creates significant health risks when left unaddressed. Like many, you may not know exactly what’s involved when buying a home with high radon levels. It may seem easier to just steer clear of buying a property with a radon issue present. However, a home with a high radon level can actually be mitigated fairly easily, providing the opportunity for good returns when reselling. Understanding how to efficiently deal with this type of chemical problem can raise property value, making for a profitable investment that others may overlook.

Investing in a Cook County Home with High Radon Levels

Why You Should Be Investing in Cook County Homes With Radon

Radon can be a somewhat mysterious gas, and this odorless and colorless menace is enough to frighten any homeowner. Radon is a hazardous chemical that arises from uranium in the earth beneath a house’s foundation. When the home registers a certain level of radon in the air —4 pCi/L for the scientifically minded—it is considered dangerous by the EPA. Exposure to higher levels of this gas is a known cause of lung cancer. The typical homebuyer shies away from these houses because they have heard about the health threat but are intimidated by the process of remediation. This puts homeowners who are trying to sell a radon-plagued house in the position of wanting to sell below market value. Reviewing the listings of these and neighboring areas of Cook County, you’ll find properties that have been put on the market for this very reason. Testing and level disclosure are required for homes with radon issues, making the information readily available to any investor who is seeking this type of opportunity.

While radon is common throughout Cook County, Schaumburg faces a more serious threat. Nearly one-third of homes in the village exhibit unsafe levels of radon. Likewise, in Lemont over one-third of properties are affected. This makes more than 5,000 residents in this town alone vulnerable to the radon threat. With concentrations of such properties on the west side of Cook County, Illinois, in areas such as Schaumberg and Lamont, you can find a great opportunity for growing your real estate investment portfolio. Knowing where and how to find such opportunities opens you up to a new marketplace sector with lots of potential.

Once you’ve acquired a Cook County home with high radon levels, you’ll need to understand the cause of this chemical conundrum. Radon seeps up from the porous ground where rocks fracture and is sucked into the home by a pressure differential. Certain housing structures are more vulnerable to the entrance of radon—for instance, a house whose foundation features openings or a home whose basement is permeable. Because there are a number of different methods by which radon can enter a home, there are also several ways to mitigate the potential danger:

  • Sheet on soil.  Homes with crawl spaces underneath present a radon risk. Laying a high-density polyethylene sheet over the soil creates a barrier that blocks rising radon gas from entering the home above. You’ll also need to install piping to reroute the gas to an external fan. This solution is a relatively inexpensive first step toward reducing a home’s radon risk.
  • Sub-slab suction.  Even homes resting on concrete can exhibit high radon levels. Drilling holes through the base of a foundation into the underlying earth can provide exit points through which radon can be suctioned. Piping that routes to a fan effectively pulls the radon out of the ground and expels it outside the home. The less permeable the underlying soil, the more pipes you’ll need to take care of the problem. Though significantly more involved than the first suggestion, this method only costs between $800 and $2,500 to install.
  • Adapting drainage systems.  Homes with pre-existing drainage structures can use this type of system to drain both water and radon. If the home has a sump, an airtight lid can create a vacuum that moves the radon up and out through external fans. Remember that a leaking basement will compromise the vacuum, so be sure to have your contractor investigate thoroughly. This method runs in the same range as sub-slab suction, though it is known to have slightly greater efficacy.

The point is to seal the home’s foundation in an airtight manner and to provide a way for the radon to safely escape elsewhere. Keep in mind that as the home foundation settles, new fissures in the earth can occur. Selecting a knowledgeable contractor will give you the best shot at installing a system that safeguards the home both now and into the future.

Seeing the Potential of Buying a Radon Home

While mitigating a radon risk adds an extra step to your renovation process, the hassle may be offset by the ease with which you secured the property in the first place—and its cash price. These homes are usually devalued already and are ripe for investment by an investor that understands the specific needs of the area. With a little hard work up front, you’re set to hopefully turn someone else’s “throw away” home into a valuable investment property. And because so many houses in Cook County are affected by the risk of radon, this is an entire market you can break into once you have a little experience under your belt. In this case, as in many investment situations, it’s best to have a forward-thinking approach rather than focusing on the immediate risks of your purchase.

If you decide to move forward into this potentially-lucrative market segment, you’ll want to operate with caution as far as contracting is concerned. When the cost of radon mitigation can total $2,000 or more, you want to ensure the work you receive is top-quality and won’t need to be redone. Partnering with a network of professional real estate investors and their tried-and-true contractors can help you make the right choice. The HomeVestors® team has a network of contractors that have proven their work with other investors. Reach out to us today to learn more about how joining our team can help make your investment process more stress-free—even when dealing with radon.


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