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Can You Sell a House with Lead Pipes?

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Even though the information on this web page is provided by a qualified industry expert, it should not be considered as legal, tax, financial or investment advice. Since every individual’s situation is unique, a qualified professional should be consulted before making financial decisions.

Trying to sell a house that has lead pipes is a challenging transaction that could create legal liability for the seller if not done correctly. But, as a real estate investor buying and selling properties with problems for more than 20 years, I can assure you that it’s doable.

And there are two ways of selling your house with lead pipes:

  1. selling it as is
  2. replacing the pipes and then selling the property

In this article, I will show you how to sell a house with lead pipes in each of these ways so that you can move forward safely and successfully.

The path to selling your house starts now.

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How Can I Sell a House with Lead Pipes?

2 Strategies for Selling a Home with Lead Pipes

When deciding how to sell a home that has lead pipes, you will find that there are two ways to do this.

One way is to sell your home as it is without making any repairs or renovations. That would be the easiest thing for you to do.

The second way is for you to remove the lead pipes from your house and then market it for sale. You could either do that with a real estate broker who lists the house for you, or you could go the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route.

Let’s go over the positives and negatives of each way of selling your house so you can compare.

 

What Can Make Selling a House with Lead Pipes Difficult?

Many homes for sale have issues that a buyer would consider a negative. Most negatives in a home can be offset by other positive factors.

Having lead pipes in your home, however, is a stigma that no amount of positive features can overcome. The health hazards posed by lead in the home are well known to the general public. No amount of marketing can mitigate that.

Most buyers are working with a real estate agent and a mortgage lender.

If agents know that your home has lead pipes, they will hesitate to show it to their clients. They want to find their buyer a home without major faults because:

  1. They want to be certain that the sale will close without problems, and
  2. They will have legitimate concerns about their future liability if health problems arise after the sale.

Lenders will also have concerns about their liability and the long term value of their collateral.

The perceptions created by lead pipes will be a problem for buyers, agents, and mortgage lenders.

 

How Dangerous Are Lead Pipes?

Lead is perhaps the most toxic substance that the average citizen will encounter in a residential setting.

The CDC and the EPA have determined that any amount of lead in a person’s body can be damaging.

Once in the body, lead goes to our brains, our liver, our kidneys, and our bones. It will stay in the body and build up over time. Once in the bones, it can be slowly released into the bloodstream causing continuing damage.

Lead is particularly damaging to children. Lead has a strong impact on the development of a child’s brain and their central nervous system. This can cause them to have learning disorders, lower IQ, and antisocial behavior.

In adults, symptoms can include anemia, renal problems, immunotoxicity, and hypertension.

 

Are Lead Pipes Illegal?

Since 1986, it has been illegal in the US to use lead pipes, fixtures, fittings, or solder in the installation of new plumbing or the repair of existing plumbing.

If these items were installed in your home before 1986, they are not illegal. However, in some places, you could still be required to fix part of the problem.

Since 2004, cities across the country have been working to identify and replace lead pipes in their supply lines. The urgency to make these changes have intensified since the Flint, Michigan water crisis in 2014.

The supply lines in question are the lines running from the municipal water main to individual homes. Since those lines are on your private property they are your responsibility.

Municipalities like the District of Columbia have discussed requiring homeowners to pay at least some portion of the cost of replacing those lines.

Depending on where you live, this could be a concern to potential buyers of your home.

 

Do I Have to Disclose that My Home Has Lead Pipes When Selling?

Your responsibility to disclose lead pipes in your home will depend on where the property is located.

The federal government requires you to disclose lead-based paint when selling the house, but not lead pipes. The states are allowed to go further with their requirements. Some states have added lead pipes to their disclosure forms.

Other states make you acknowledge whether or not you are aware of any materials that would cause environmental or safety hazards in the home. Lead pipes would qualify under this description.

Home inspections and appraisals will often note if homes in your area are known to have had lead pipes. If buyers discover lead pipes for themselves, and they believe the seller should have disclosed their presence, it can create distrust. This could cause problems between you and the buyer, possibly preventing the completion of the sale.

Note: the EPA has publicly stated that increased federal disclosure requirements for lead pipes have been discussed since the Flint crisis in 2014, and the discovery of lead in the water supply for the Cannon House Office Building in the Capitol in 2016.

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Strategy #1: Sell Your House with Lead Pipes As Is

We mentioned at the beginning of this article that one way to sell your home with lead pipes is to sell it as-is.

If you can find the right buyer, a sale like this will work. Done properly this would relieve you of the time and expense of removing lead pipes and the liability of selling the home without doing that work.

 

Who Will Purchase Your Home with Lead Pipes?

The stigma that we talked about will make it tough to sell your home as-is to just any buyer.

More and more homebuyers are looking for homes that are fixer-uppers. They hope to get a better price this way.

However, these buyers are looking for homes that need simple repairs or updating. They will be reluctant to take on a problem that involves the health of their family.

Over 95% of homeowners need a mortgage loan to buy a home. The lender involved will consider lead pipes to be a potential liability to them and a problem with their collateral.

Almost 25% of those mortgage loans are issued by FHA and VA. They have even stricter regulations that will require the removal of environmental hazards before closing.

The buyer that you are looking for is one who can pay cash for the home and who is not scared off by the issue of lead pipes. That’s probably not going to be someone who plans to live in the house with their family.

Real estate investors are looking for properties that they will either sell or rent. They buy properties for investments and aren’t afraid of fixable issues like lead pipes.

These buyers are professionals who work with property values and construction costs every day. They can look at your home and quickly know:

  • what it will take to fix the problem
  • what your home is worth once the work is done

Investors pay cash for homes like yours. They make their own decisions without having to worry about what a lender might think.

They either fix the problems themselves or manage the work. Anything that requires licensed tradesmen, such as plumbing, is done for them by crews that they regularly use. Investors can fix a house with lead pipes for much less than the average buyer.

For their investment model to work, they are looking for homeowners selling their house as is in poor condition.

 

Why You Might Want to Sell Your House to an Investor

If you are looking at a significant amount of work to remove lead pipes, selling as-is to an investor may be the best way to sell your home.

The positive points of selling to an investor include:

  • You can avoid the time and costs of removing the pipes and installing new ones. This may include the cost of housing your family somewhere while the work is being done.
  • When dealing with an investor, you sell your house for cash, so you don’t have the uncertainty of waiting to hear if a lender will approve the home. With traditional buyers, you often don’t know until late in the process that there is a problem with the house, or with them.
  • Investors don’t have to wait on inspectors, appraisers, loan processors, or underwriters. That means that investors can close quickly. Many times they have the flexibility to let you set the closing date to fit your schedule.
  • Your only marketing efforts will be finding and contacting qualified investors. You and your family won’t have to endure showings and open houses that are a significant inconvenience typical to marketing a property in a traditional sale.
  • Your closing costs will be significantly lower. Investors don’t need an agent and will deal directly with you. Your savings on commissions alone could be thousands of dollars.

To learn more about closing costs and realtor fees, you can read our articles discussing this topic in detail:

An investor will calculate their offer for your home based on its as-is value, the estimated cost to replace all plumbing items that have lead, and their desired profit margin.

Depending on your market and the condition of your home, the price that they can pay for your house could be less than its market value.

When you consider the time that you save, your reduced closing costs, and not having to come up with funds out of pocket, this option may be more appropriate than you thought.

We also have a guide about selling your house to an investor entirely dedicated to educating homeowners on this course of action.

 

How to Get the Best Deal

If you’ve only just become aware of the option of selling to an investor, you will be starting from scratch when it comes to finding the right investor to buy your home.

Most searches for information start with the internet. You’ll be surprised at how many investors you will find out there.

It’s going to take you a while to learn about each one:

  • What types of properties do they prefer?
  • In which markets and communities are they active?
  • Do they have experience working with homes that have lead pipes?
  • Do they have a record of closing as agreed?

HouseCashin.com has asked all of these questions and more and created a database of qualified investors. Our professional staff has researched these investors thoroughly before including them on our list.

By using HouseCashin, you will be connected to the right investor who wants to buy your home. Just use the simple cash offer request form on our website and your house will be put in front of the best investors in your area.

Then you will only need to compare up to five offers on your home from legitimate, reputable investors.

HouseCashin takes the guesswork and the worry out of selling a home that has lead pipes.

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Strategy #2: Replace Lead Pipes in Your Home and then Sell

Before starting your research to find top real estate investors near you, you may want to also consider another option to sell your house.

If you want to receive the highest price for your home, you will need to consider replacing any lead pipe items and then selling the property either by owner or using one of your local realtors. This is particularly true if the problem is minimal and can be easily fixed.

When you’re looking at this option, there are certain things that you need to know. Let’s go over them.

 

Have Your Home Inspected for Lead Pipes

There are websites for repair and renovation enthusiasts suggesting that you can do this for yourself. If you are basing important decisions on the result of a plumbing inspection, you should get the help of a professional.

Licensed plumbing inspectors know how to look at pipes and their connections. Your plumbing may be hidden within walls or a foundation slab. Professional inspectors have tools like cameras on flexible rods that can go inside your lines wherever they are.

They also know how to inspect the lines coming from your water supply to your home. Your local water utility may not even know how many of their supply lines are made of lead.

The American Water Works Association estimates that one-third of the water systems in the US have lead supply lines.

A plumbing inspection will cost you between $90 and $500. The difference can be due to the difficulty of accessing your plumbing and whether or not equipment like cameras are used.

 

Know if You May Avail of Lead Pipe Replacement Grants

You may hear about lead pipe removal grants from the US government. These programs are provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Agriculture.

The grant programs for replacing lead pipes within residences are mostly intended to help improve low-income housing.

These grants are only available to entities such as municipalities, non-profit organizations, and water systems.

There are grant programs to help with the renovation of historic homes. If your home qualifies, these funds might help pay for the replacement of lead pipes.

There are also government grants for water systems to replace their supply lines. You should contact your water supplier to see if they are participating in a lead service line replacement grant program.

 

Hire Professionals for Lead Pipe Replacement

Removing lead pipes from your house will take the help of a professional plumber who is experienced in plumbing replacement.

You should interview several plumbing contractors for pricing. Some plumbers primarily install plumbing in new construction. Make sure to ask them about their experience in replacing existing plumbing.

A lot of the cost of this work will be getting to the pipes that are inside your walls and landscaping, and the resulting repairs. An experienced plumber will be able to minimize the needed demolition as much as possible.

This will help keep down the costs of having carpenters, drywall installers, and landscapers put your property back in its original condition.

Resist the temptation to partially replace any lead plumbing. This will disturb the remaining lead plumbing which will increase the lead particles that get into your drinking water.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Lead Pipes?

Your cost will depend on the extent of the problem, the construction of your home, and whether or not the problem includes the exterior supply lines.

The preparation for the work will involve the location of all the lines. Next, they will have to be accessed for removal. This could mean cutting into walls and floors.

If your home is on a crawl space or has a basement, most of your plumbing could be easy to remove. There will still be some lines running inside of your walls.

Next, the new pipes will be installed and tied into your plumbing fixtures and water heater. Finally, the water is turned back on and the system is checked for leaks.

After that, the demolition repair work can be done.

The lead pipe replacement cost for your home can be as low as a few thousand dollars or as high as $10,000 or more. A large portion of the cost will be the demolition and repair of the areas of your home that were disturbed by the work.

If your problem is located in the lines connecting you to the water supply, you will be responsible for the cost of replacing those lines as well. Lead service line replacement cost can be several thousand dollars.

The water will have to be cut off while much of the work is done. You may have to move your family to temporary housing until the work is finished.

The actual time that it takes to perform inspections and line replacement may be a week to ten days. However, that doesn’t include finding and hiring these contractors and getting on their schedule.

If your work includes exterior supply lines, you will have to contact your water provider and include them in detaching and re-securing your water lines to their system. That can extend the time it will take to finish the job.

Once this is done, you can list your home for sale and begin the process of marketing your home. If you are in a strong housing market, you may only have another 4 to 6 weeks until you have sold your house.

If you are in an average market, you’re probably looking at 6 to 8 weeks or more after your lead pipes have been replaced.

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Should You Sell Your Home As Is or Replace the Lead Pipes Before Selling?

Now, apply the two ways of selling your home to your situation. Then you can decide which way of selling your home is right for you.

Do you have the time and money to put into the renovation of your home? If you do, then you can look at fixing your lead pipe problem and selling your house the traditional way. This will likely help you get the highest price for your home.

If you don’t have both time and money to make these repairs, you should seriously consider selling your home to an investor.

Take some time and calculate the amount of money that you would receive after costs from both options. This may help you with your decision.

The cash offers that you can get from HouseCashin, with no obligation, will help you complete your diligence. These will be real offers from qualified investors in your location that you can count on.

To request cash offers on your house with lead pipes, fill out our simple online form.

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Written by Brian Robbins

With over 20+ years of experience in real estate investment and renovation, Brian Robbins brings extensive knowledge and innovative solutions to the HouseCashin team. Over the years Brian has been involved in over 300 transactions of income producing properties across the US. Along with his passion for real estate, Brian brings with him a deep understanding of real estate risks and financing.

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