Asbestos is hiding in thousands of New Zealand properties. It can be incredibly difficult to spot and even your building inspector may miss its presence behind walls, below the floor or inside the ceiling. Unfortunately, this means you could purchase a home containing asbestos without even realising it.

First-home buyers have 101 things to worry about, so details often get missed. Below, we’ve run through everything you need to know about asbestos to ensure you don’t run into any surprises after you’ve signed your sale and purchase.

 

Why should I worry about asbestos when buying?

The term asbestos describes a group of naturally occuring minerals made up of long, thin fibres. When combined with other materials, asbestos is durable, fireproof, insulative and extremely cost effective, making it perfect for building and insulation. It was widely used in home construction from the early 1940s to the late ‘80s and only recently banned entirely.

If you’re buying a property built within that period, asbestos should be of concern. When the material is disturbed, it releases tiny fibres into the air which can lodge deep in your lungs and cause life threatening illnesses, such as: asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

It’s been dubbed the silent killer, and is the leading cause of workplace deaths in New Zealand, mainly amongst tradespeople who accidentally disturb the fibre in homes and commercial buildings.

 

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What if I end up with a home containing asbestos?

If a property contains asbestos it’s usually best avoided. Apart from the obvious health risks, these are the reasons why you should steer clear:

  • Can hurt a home’s resale value: A property containing asbestos may be more difficult to sell and you may have to reduce the price.

  • Can make renovating difficult: If you purchase a home then find it contains asbestos, renovating may be difficult. Before you do so, you may have to conduct a survey on your property and the asbestos removed or encapsulated by a licensed professional.

  • Removing asbestos yourself is risky: Most problems can be solved with a DIY attitude and a little know-how. Managing asbestos is a little more complicated. You’re legally allowed to remove under 10 sqm of asbestos without a license provided it’s in good condition, however, due to the risk the material can pose it’s always best to call in the professionals.

Asbestos can almost always be managed and removed - it just takes money and time. If, like most first-home buyers, you’re short on both, it’s always best to conduct asbestos testing as part of your due diligence.

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How can I check if a property contains asbestos?

It may be difficult to spot asbestos yourself, but a qualified professional will have no trouble finding the fibre - by surveying the property then taking samples and having them analysed by a lab certified in asbestos testing.

After testing has been done, you’ll receive a report detailing the location and condition of all asbestos in the home, as well as a plan to manage or remove it.

  • Best case scenario: you find there is no asbestos in the home and can continue with your purchase with peace of mind.

  • Worst case scenario: the report discovers asbestos throughout the home and you either dodge an expensive bullet or factor the cost of removing asbestos into your purchase.

You may even be able to use the presence of asbestos to your advantage and negotiate a lower purchase price.

Solving the problem with asbestos testing and removal

Asbestos won’t be a huge problem when buying your first home as long as you’re fully aware of the extent and condition of the fibre. With that knowledge you can easily discover how much it’ll cost to remove or manage, and either build the expense into your budget or avoid the property entirely. 

If you’re house hunting right now don’t risk buying an asbestos-riddled money hole. Get in touch with the expert team here at Chemcare Auckland for help and advice on all things asbestos, before during and after your purchase.

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