Affordable housing demand coupled with a growing desire for larger lots, mature landscaping and tall trees are factors that are driving an increase in requests for homes in older Cary and Raleigh neighborhoods.
One thing that conveys with mature trees and landscaping is a property with a past. That past may be innocous, but may include items like lead-based paint and asbestos. These are generally recognized issues.
A very serious issue, and one of which few people are aware, is the possible existence of Underground Storage Tanks, “UST’s.” Prior to the introduction of natural gas and heat pumps in Wake County, many homes were heated with fuel oil furnaces. Fuel oil is delivered by tank trucks, and loaded into storage tanks. At some unfortunate point, someone determined that property would look better if the tanks were buried. Et Voila! The UST was born!
Filler pipe and breather tube for a UST, Underground Storage Tank. The existence of these pipes may be the first clue that there may be an issue with the property.
Later we learned that rust can perforate the UST, allowing fuel oil (or diesel fuel, or gasoline) to leak into the soil. This can have massive environmental repercussions, and homeowners can incur great costs in remediation.
Is the existence of a UST on the property a deal-breaker? Often it should be, as the mess can convey to the new owner. Clean-up costs can be huge. I have heard numbers from $10,000 to $45,000 to remediate the oil spill. And the legacy of the spill can have a very long tail. There is a North Carolina fund to help homeowners, but picking through the process can be daunting, and it is not entirely a free service.
I had clients fall in love with a sweet, older lakefront property last fall. The property was in the middle stages of an underground oil spill remediation. The oil plume underground was larger than the footprint of the house and garage. Monitoring wells are in place in 6 locations around the house to check the level of petroleum compounds in the groundwater. Huge vacuum pump trucks were brought in to pump the groundwater out of the area, and over 100 tons of soil was removed to specialized landfills. The cost had to be massive. The inconvenience had to be larger yet. Those wells will be monitored for years to come, and the neighbors potable water wells will also require monitoring.
My clients were sad to decide there was too much baggage attached for them to proceed.
Must a North Carolina Seller disclose the existence of the UST? At this time disclosure is not mandatory. The Seller can mark “No Representation” on the NC Property Disclosure form. That is legitimate disclosure, as long as no false representation is made.
However, the Agents involved, both Listing Agent and Buyers’ Agent are held to a higher standard. The competent, ethical Agent or Realtor MUST make some disclosure of the existence, and should be expected to see readily visible pipes like these.
The Listing Agent in the example failed transaction above handled the disclosure very well, was up front in the listing and in conversation, and delivered all information as rapidly as she could. And it was a learning process for both of us.
My clients and I sure loved the lake view, but in that case the UST was a deal-breaker.