When I bought my house, environmental inspections were not advised.
As a first-time home buyer, we bought a single-family home. During that period, inflation was high, interest rates high and home prices were high. There were not many homes on the market so there were bidding wars, pay by cash (not paying by cash), and at that time, environmental inspections didn’t matter. What mattered was purchasing your first dream home fast, before it was gone, and being near friends and family, and that home was hard to come by.
Environmental inspections during real estate transactions were not advised at the beginning of the 2000s. Our inspections included a home inspection, carbon monoxide, well water and that’s it. We negotiated a few items and boom, after a little trouble with hurricanes and insurance at closing, we were homeowners. Luckily for us, we had friends on both the mortgage and title side who helped the transaction pull through. But our friends weren’t environmental experts, and we barely had any environmental inspections performed.
Regarding environmental inspections, I wish I knew what I know now. Working at Curren Environmental is an eye-opener regarding performing environmental inspections. Some of the environmental inspections that every buyer should do are the following:
- Underground oil tank sweep using ground-penetrating radar.
- Radon Inspection.
- Lead Inspection.
- Air quality test.
- Mold inspection.
- Roof inspection.
- Septic – if I had a septic tank.
- Termite Inspection.
- Sewer line scope
- Well water testing.
While you may think that all those environmental inspections are a little over the top when buying your home, it's not. All of those environmental inspections addressed above may cost you more money, but that money that you are putting out for inspections will save you in the long run.
Underground oil tanks can cost thousands and thousands of money, time, and anguish. If the property you are buying was built before the 1980s, get a tank scan. While the owners may not know there is a tank, they may have bought a home when tank scans were not being performed and may honestly not know if there is an underground oil tank on the property.
Radon inspections are of the utmost importance. You should be able to search your state for a map of where radon is located, if you are in a high radon zone you should have a radon test run and a mitigation system installed. Radon is unseen and deadly.
Lead inspections are for houses built before 1978. If you have small children, lead inspections should be performed. Lead paint tastes sweet to children and lead is a metal, it never leaves your body.
Mold inspections, mold testing, and air quality tests are considered environmental inspections. Mold inspections look for signs of visual mold growth and water entry. Testing for mold can be done through surface sampling when you think that spot may be mold. Air testing for mold and air quality testing should be done when there was a leak or moisture intrusion and you can not see any visual mold growth and a smell that seems musty, for example, intrusion from an exterior water source such as through the walls. Leaks can occur from above as well, through roofing or through leaking pipes and condensation. A must for air testing is in finished basements, no one has x-ray vision and you don’t know what lurks behind that sheetrock wall.
Roof inspections will determine how old the roof is if there are problems with the roof, and when the roof should be replaced. If you have a septic system, have it inspected. Find out if it is the original septic system with the property or if it is the 2nd system. Scoping your sewer line is a must for an environmental inspection. Coming from someone who just had their lines replaced, it is no fun, and no offense to the contractors who do the job, your yard is going to be a mess after.
Well water tests for certain chemicals and contaminants in your drinking water. Also, look for whole-house water filters and tankless water heaters. Water heaters don’t last forever, and a tankless water heater saves on bills, it only heats the water when needed.
Asbestos is found in older homes because asbestos, in the past, was the wonder fiber of the future. Not all asbestos needs to be removed, if it is contained, it shouldn’t be a problem. When asbestos is airborne, it is a problem. Testing the home will help in making decisions later if you decide to renovate the home.
Environmental inspections are key to any real estate transaction. You may not be advised or may not be aware. Do your due diligence and get the environmental inspections done prior to purchase. Once you buy your home, you buy every problem in and around it. We have come across a few environmental problems in our home, and if we had done the environmental inspections, we would have been aware and had those issues fixed prior to purchase.