Mold is a common home intruder that can quickly turn a desirable house into a risky purchase for potential buyers. So, what can sellers do about it?

What Is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungus made up of tiny microscopic organisms that can grow practically anywhere, such as on ceiling tiles, wallpaper, wood, paints, carpet, and insulation. It multiplies via spores and shows itself in a variety of colors, from greens to browns to pinks, grays, blacks, and yellows. The most common mold growth area in the house is the bathroom, since mold grows on moist materials.

If you spot mold in one of your listings, you'll first want to size up the problem, and then create a plan for safe and complete removal.

If the mold is found in a small area, less than 10 square feet, removal can be a do-it-yourself project. Here's how:

1. Wear a face mask, goggles, and rubber gloves. Don't touch mold with bare skin.

2. Seal off the area to prevent the tiny spores from spreading to other parts of the house during the removal process. Open the windows and cover heat registers and ventilation ducts.

3. Wash the affected hard surface areas with a mild detergent solution, such as laundry detergent and warm water. As an added step, wipe the area with a solution of a quarter-cup bleach and one quart of water. (Warning: Do not mix ammonia and bleach; the fumes can be toxic.)

4. Dry the surface completely. Use fans and dehumidifiers or natural ventilation.

5. Apply a borate-based detergent solution. Don't rinse. This will help prevent the mold from growing again. (Look for borate listed on the ingredient labels of laundry or dishwasher detergent.)

6. Don't take shortcuts. Never paint or caulk over moldy surfaces. The paint will peel and the mold will resurface.

7. Call a professional. Just when you think you finally won the battle against mold, you might see dormant spores reappear or even spread to clean areas of the house, particularly if proper removal procedures weren't taken. You may need to call a mold remediation company to resolve the problem.


Sources: The Truth About Mold (Dearborn, 2008) by Susan C. Cooper and Mike Buettner; EPA; Washington State Department of Health