Getting the Lead Out

1978 was a very good year, at least from an environmental standpoint. That was the year they quit using lead based paint in homes, fondly referred to as LBP by some of us in the business of selling houses. 2010 will be another important year, and April 22 may be one of those dates that ‘lives in infamy’, because new rules are going into effect on April 22 that will forever change the economics of doing major home renovations on homes built prior to 1978.
EPA (US Envronmental Protection Agency, occasionally joked about as the Economically Prohibitive Agency) has a web site that explains more about what is going on, but the basics are as follows.

  1. Contractors doing work on homes built prior to 1978 will have to become certified
  2. Procedures required for doing work on homes built prior to 1978 will slow down the construction process, and make it more expensive on older homes
  3. Homeowners doing work on their own homes they live in are exempt, but not landlords, ‘fix and flip’ renovators, or pretty much anyone else doing work on a home they do not live in
  4. Fines are HUGE for non-compliance

Before anyone goes and jumps off a bridge (or decides to inhale lead based paint dust 🙂 ) over this, it isn’t really ALL bad. Over time, some contractors will probably get more efficient with the processes, and some initial ‘scary’ quotes for work will likely diminish. While projects like window replacement will likely continue as they are needed (the older windows really aren’t very energy efficient), there will be at least some projects that people may elect not to do, such as removing walls. Projects that don’t disturb more than 6 square feet of wall space don’t require the new certification and procedures, so little stuff won’t be affected.
The other unintended side effect of these rules, is that homes built prior to 1978 that have NOT been updated much, are going to become a bit harder to sell. Fix and flip and landlord type investors are not going to be as likely to buy them, so the demand will be more from owner occupants. This group has had an insatiable appetite for newer homes all along, so demand for the older homes will likely fall, at least until people can get their heads around these regulations.

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