Everybody uses tools in their daily home and work life.
Gardeners use mowers, blowers, and hoes. Roofers use tar paper, hammers, and nails. Lenders use spreadsheets and calculators. Accountants use ledgers and tax codes. Homemakers and housekeepers use detergent, sponges, and vacuum cleaners.
Some home inspectors use moisture detectors, water pressure gauges, infrared thermometers, and mold detecting dogs.
That got your attention.
Mold detecting dogs are trained to “alert” for at least 18 kinds of mold deemed harmful to human beings. Their training is similar to bomb-sniffing dogs and drug-sniffing dogs.
Some home inspectors use mold-sniffing dogs to augment their tool kits. While the inspector cannot see behind a wall, dogs trained to sniff for mold will “alert” by sitting down in front of an area where they detect mold.
The home inspector can then do a more in-depth investigation in that area, pulling back the baseboard, cutting a small hole in the dry wall, or pulling out all of the contents of the bathroom or kitchen cabinet (I’ve seen them do both) based on where the dog alerts.
This additional investigation may also lead to spore sampling. This is a process where the inspector pulls a sample of the material, seals it in a vial, identifies it, and ships it off to an independent laboratory for analysis.
You see, the mold-sniffing dog can tell you where it is, but he can’t tell you what it is or how much of it there is.
As a homebuyer, if you use a home inspector with a mold-sniffing dog, be prepared to pay extra for that. Mold-sniffing dogs are fairly rare in Orange County. And their training and re-certification is not cheap.
Once the dogs have been trained and certified, they are required to be recertified every six months after that.
And if the dog alerts during your inspection, I strongly suggest you also pay for the sampling. Most sellers will deny they have a mold issue unless hard evidence is provided. So if you do find something, having the statistical evidence of a health and safety hazard will go a long way toward negotiating how the remediation and restoration is handled.
The mold is not harmful to the mold-sniffing dogs.
Dogs sniff stuff all the time and suffer no adverse effects, because of their unique ability to purge odors and other contaminants from their noses.
So when my favorite mold-sniffing dog, Trace the black lab, passed away last week at the ripe old age of (almost) 16, it was due completely to natural causes. He lived a very long and happy life helping homebuyers, including many of my clients, figure out whether or not they had a mold issue.
Rest in peace, Trace. You will be missed. You’ll be much harder to replace than an infrared thermometer.
I'm Leslie Eskildsen, Realtor, and Contributing Columnist to the Orange County Register Sunday Real Estate Section
Email me. Leslie@LeslieEskildsen.com
Helping you make the right move in Mission Viejo, Coto de Caza, Rancho Santa Margarita, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, Corona Del Mar, and other Orange County communities.
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