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Old 11-18-2013, 11:24 PM
 
3 posts, read 4,503 times
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Hello everyone!

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of an apartment search in Boston. While we don't have kids yet, we are thinking of this next place (the first apartment we will own) as the place we will live when we have very small children. Our budget is up to about $590-$600k, and we are most interested in the downtown Boston neighborhoods of the South End, Leather District, Fort Point, Beacon Hill, North End, and Back Bay (although Back Bay is unlikely in our range for what we are looking for). We are just beginning to figure out whether these areas would work in terms of prices, and we might also end up looking closer at Charlestown and the rest of Southie (not just Fort Point).

Sorry for the long intro! Anyways, my main question concerns lead paint. As we are first time homebuyers with no children, the whole issue is new to us, and we are kind of struggling to figure out our level of comfort with the possibility of lead. It seems that very few places in Boston are deleaded, and that there are lots of problems with having a unit tested when living in a multi-unit building, as you can delead your own unit but there may still be lead in the common areas. We were kind of warned by a real estate agent that we spoke to that most people abide by a kind of don't ask, don't tell policy.

Of course we would make sure there weren't paint chips around, etc, but we are a bit worried about the lead dust that is released from the movement of windows and doors. We are not opposed to newer construction, but it is so incredibly rare in the downtown neighborhoods, particularly in our price range. I would love to hear from anyone who has been in a similar position, had done deleading or lead testing, or has any advice to offer.

Thanks so much for your help!
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Old 11-19-2013, 04:04 AM
 
170 posts, read 157,642 times
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We had the same concerns when we bought our home about a year ago, since we were about to have our first kid.
It is an important issue, since lead poisoning is a major health problem in the USA for kids. So, I totally agree that one should consider the lead status of the house/condo. This was our plan:
-First, we read the relevant laws for MA, and as you did, we looked up online for info and opinions on the matter.
-Realistically, if the apartment complex/house was built in the mid-70s and later (and definitely after 1978) you can almost be certain (or the probability is very high) that no lead paint was used.
-When we went to check on houses/condos, we would always ask for info on the lead status. Nobody was surprised that we were asking.
-For the condos we liked, we asked whether any other owner in the building had tested any of the other apartments for lead. One issue with the condos is the common areas as well, (although this is not a major concern actually). Some apartment complexes have tested the common areas.
-Finally, you have the right to test the house/condo for lead and the cost is not very high. We did this for the place we bought.
-Before buying, we were renting a condo in a big apartment complex, and we asked the management to provide any info on lead tests etc. and to actually check our apartment. They agreed immediately and they did it without any problem.
-Years ago, we were renting in a three-family house and one of the families were about to have kids. So, they asked the landlord to check for lead. The test came back positive and he was forced to choose to either break the lease without a penalty or delead the house. This process is really-really expensive (depending on the size of the house, it can cost tenths of thousands).
-So my opinion is that "de-leading" a house or a condo is not practical, unless you are in love with a place you found and that you totally want it. However, this could be a negotiation point for the price etc., but again, I personally would go spend more money to another place than trying to de-lead a place.

So, I think it is great that you are concerned and rigorous about this issue. If anyone argues against, I would say to go look at the statistics of the official websites like CDC or to talk to a pediatrician about it..
The good news is that the laws protect you and strongly encourage preventive measures such as testing etc. We followed the law and all the official recommendations and we are happy to know that our place is lead-free.
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Old 11-19-2013, 05:55 PM
 
Location: Central Mass
1,665 posts, read 2,239,340 times
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Should you be concerned? Most definitely! Babies are in the most danger for lead poisoning.

I'm pretty sure buildings for rent have to have a lead test on file. If a condo/house is for sale and has been sold in the last 30 years should also have record of a lead test. I'm also pretty sure that a lead test has to be done before closing, but that could be by town.
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:25 PM
 
Location: Behind You!
1,949 posts, read 3,339,082 times
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Most places have been deleaded. A rental property with lead will make you sign a disclosure. I had to sign one with my last apt with lead saying if my wife got pregnant our lease was void and we had to move. But if you can afford a downtown neighborhood you can afford to delead. But 600k seems low for a family in the neighborhoods you mentioned.
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Old 11-21-2013, 03:25 PM
 
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Thanks everyone for your responses! It is so helpful to hear people's experience with this.

In Boston itself lead tests don't have to be done when places are sold, and the realtor we are working with says that many older places have not been deleaded. Apparently many people don't even test because the common areas would have lead as well if it present in the unit, and so even if you deleaded your own apartment it would still be on record that the property does contain lead. This could make it harder to resell, and so it has created a strange disincentive to test. I do think for us however that we would want to know.

@snatale1 - our budget is on the lower side of some of those neighborhoods, but there are smaller two-bedrooms in that range.

Thanks again for the responses!
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Old 11-21-2013, 04:08 PM
 
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Also - NS-GR, thanks for all the details! I think this is what we will have to do too - figure out a plan for approaching this issue when we are ready to buy.
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Old 11-22-2013, 06:51 AM
 
Location: Needham, MA
6,328 posts, read 9,071,891 times
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Lead paint is a very serious hazard to small children. As someone mentioned, even if the paint is in good shape and not chipping the friction caused by operating door or window with lead paint on it will release particles of it into the air which can then be inhaled.

At the bottom of this page is a link to a booklet that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about lead and the laws surrounding lead paint:

Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification

FYI, it's MANDATORY that your agent provide you a copy of this booklet should you make an offer on a house built prior to 1978. If they don't do that, your agent is sloppy . . . find another agent if that happens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NS-GR View Post
-Finally, you have the right to test the house/condo for lead and the cost is not very high. We did this for the place we bought.
You do have the right to test a house for lead. However, the seller also does not have to accept your offer if they read in your offer that you want to do a lead test. In my experience, sellers can be hesitant to accept offers that include lead tests because if you find lead and later back out of the deal then the seller has to disclose to future buyers that the house has lead paint and that can make it harder to sell. Personally, I tell my clients that if a property was built prior to 1978 and it doesn't say that it's de-leaded that it's extremely likely there is lead paint somewhere on the property. They can spend their money on a test or not if they choose, but that rule of thumb tends to hold true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NS-GR View Post
-So my opinion is that "de-leading" a house or a condo is not practical, unless you are in love with a place you found and that you totally want it. However, this could be a negotiation point for the price etc., but again, I personally would go spend more money to another place than trying to de-lead a place.
De-leading can be quite expensive because there is so much equipment/prep/materials/fees involved in it's removal and disposal. I believe there is a pretty hefty tax credit or government incentive/rebate available to help defer the cost but I'm not 100% sure of that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snatale1 View Post
Most places have been deleaded. A rental property with lead will make you sign a disclosure. I had to sign one with my last apt with lead saying if my wife got pregnant our lease was void and we had to move. But if you can afford a downtown neighborhood you can afford to delead. But 600k seems low for a family in the neighborhoods you mentioned.
I'm pretty sure that document your landlord made you sign was not only illegal but definitely would not hold up in a court of law. There's no way around it. If you rent to a family you have to de-lead. It matters not if the people you rented to had kids when the moved in. You can't throw people out on the street because they decided to have kids. Not only should he have offered to de-lead should your wife have gotten pregnant but he should have offered to put you up in a hotel while it was being done.
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