January 19, 2012

Flipping Houses and Asbestos

In the most recent real estate boom market, it became very popular for individuals to buy run-down houses in growing neighborhoods and fix them up making them look a thousand times better. This profit-heavy "industry" allowed many people to make serious amounts of money quickly.  
The entire enterprise of flipping houses revolved around making minor and major improvements to houses on a very tight time schedule. The houses were then re-vamped with modern fixtures, plumbing, and countertops and re-sold at a much higher price than the one at which the "flipper" bought them. 
While this was a great alternative to buying a home and tearing it down completely, it might have exposed a number of individuals who were heavily invested in the industry to asbestos. This is because many of the homes that were flipped nationwide were older homes that were actually built during the heydays of asbestos. The homes could have included asbestos in everything from the insulation that was torn apart when walls were torn down to the glue holding linoleum tiles in place in the kitchen. Wherever it was, there is a good chance that a flipper was exposed to asbestos at some point, particularly if he or she was flipping homes built prior to 1980.
The homes built in this country prior to 1980 were exceedingly likely to contain asbestos in at least some part of the home. This could be in the insulation, the flooring, the ceiling, or anything else. These are all products that are frequently shredded and torn down during the flipping process. What this means is that the asbestos was disturbed when the mallet went through the wall to make the master closet bigger. 
When the fibers are disturbed, they become dangerous. Asbestos is not nearly as dangerous if people know it exists and take steps to contain it or remove it properly. However, in flipping, people rarely take much time to stop and consider the potential for asbestos as its presence in homes is frequently unknown.
By just tearing through walls and gutting homes without inspecting everything for asbestos first, flippers across the country may have exposed not just themselves to the dangers of asbestos but also any contractor that performed work on the home as well. In addition to contractors, the home's new owners could also have been exposed to the deadly fiber. The fibers themselves are microscopic and could have been inadvertently left floating around the home.