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Buying a Home in Reno? Consider These Environmental Hazards

When relocating from other regions of the country, people tend to bring their past homeownership experiences with them. For example, Californians often express concerns over earthquake faults. Folks moving from the South East ask about flood plains and recently, those coming from the North East want to know about our water supply. The question used to be, “How much water is available?” People are just as likely to ask about water quality and infrastructure today.

I thought I’d take a few moments to briefly describe some of the environmental issues, concerns and conditions we routinely deal with in the Reno area. I’ll also provide a few resources that you can explore for yourself if you’d like to learn more.

Mold: Yep, we’ve got that. The truth is that you’ll find mold in every environment where moisture and wood get trapped together in dark places. Ironically, much of the mold I’ve seen locally is inactive and originally sprouted while the lumber was bundled outdoors, prior to construction of the home. That said, in our low humidity climate it’s rare to find moisture conditions that cannot be corrected. You’ll want to work with professionals of course but again, we live in the high desert! Don’t let this discovery automatically kill the deal.

Asbestos: Back in the 50’s and 60’s much of the residential exterior siding was manufactured with asbestos. In homes built before 1977 it’s common to find asbestos in textured (popcorn) ceilings, patching compounds and insulation. This stuff is ubiquitous in older homes but keep in mind that asbestos only poses a health threat when it becomes air-born. For more on this topic visit

Lead-Based Paint: Many if not most homes in the US were painted with a lead-based product prior to 1978. Particularly on the exterior trim and around window frames. Lead-based paint is hazardous if inhaled, typically when sanding. Another consideration with lead-based paint is that it’s very harmful if ingested and reportedly tastes sweet. For that reason, chipped or peeling paint can be a hazard for small children. There’s a lot of good info on this topic including: .

In the end, lead-based paint and asbestos are very likely to be found in most homes built prior to 1978. If these conditions are big concerns for you, buy a newer home.

Earthquakes: Okay, we get those sometimes too but with far less frequency than our neighbors to the west. The most recent, meaningful quakes occurred back in 2008, centered primarily in Somersett. If you really want to take a deep-dive into earthquake history and fault lines in Nevada visit:

Flood Plains: Several neighborhoods in Reno and Sparks are prone to flooding. That is to say that I’ve seen it occur a time or two in my lifetime. With the help of FEMA, Washoe County has recently released this very informative flood mapping application: .

Radon: This is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that has been known to cause lung cancer. In our area it seems to be most prevalent in the neighborhoods that border the western foothills. Once again, I’ve got a map for that:

Water Quality: You might be surprised to hear that in the US, lead-free solder was not mandated until 1986. Food for thought at the very least. Assuming you’re connected to the municipal system, it’s likely that you’re going to get great tasting water all over Reno and Sparks. If you want detailed analysis of the quality look here:

Wildfires: This is a fact of life for homeowners living adjacent to wildlands and undeveloped acreage including those living near canyons and ravines: .

Underground Storage Tanks: We still have a fair number of homes in the area that rely on oil heat, the storage tanks are typically buried underground. Verifying whether a home went through a conversion from oil to natural gas in the past can be a little tricky. Of course, the concern is that the tank was properly and safely abandoned. Washoe County Health Dept is a great place to start:

Domestic Wells and Septic Systems: They’re a conversation unto themselves but I have written on this topic, click here for more info.

There are inherent risks to owning a home but doing the homework up front greatly reduces the peril. Also, I’ve found that well informed home buyers have more confidence in their decisions which almost always leads to a smooth transaction. I hope this helps on both counts.

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