Practical Environmental Solutions, P.C.Practical Environmental Solutions, P.C.
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Home Inspectors and Appraisers:

Home Appraisers:

Corrosion holes in the bottom of an underground oil tank.

As banks and other investors become more concerned with their investments being devalued by leaking oil tanks and contamination, the appraiser's role becomes more important.  Not only are you considering the tank impact and putting a dollar value on a property, you may also be source that alerts your client and interested parties to the oil tank concern including the contamination potential and possible devaluing of the property. 

An appraisal that considers the impact of the tank on the property value may be the way that your client is made aware of this potentially costly issue.  Your client requested a property appraisal because they want to know the value of the property in the real market.  The property is not worth as much if a $20,000 contamination cleanup is required at the property. An unresolved oil tank and contamination assessment can slow the sale of a property and / or lower the market price of that property. 

Home Inspectors:

Heating oil tank issues are becoming more and more common as potential home buyers are learning more about the problems, liabilities, and costs associated with buying a property that has or had an underground heating oil tank. 

The presence of a mushroom capped vent pipe confirms the presence of an oil tank.

Often a home inspection that considers the impact of the underground oil tank and petroleum contamination on the property value may be the way that your client is made aware of this potentially costly issue.  Your client requested an inspection because they want to know the condition of and the repair needs of the property to protect them from potential and/or expensive problems.  We believe that a $20,000 potential oil tank contamination cleanup should be routinely considered in your inspection report. 

Inspectors and Appraisers:
Because 88% of all underground heating oil tanks have leaked, most properties with a house built before 1975 will require an appropriate cleanup.  While tank removal may cost approximately $1900, the contamination clean up is much more expensive (~ $15,000 to $20,000).  Currently, North Carolina has a Trust Fund that can help pay for the contamination cleanup portion of this cost.  Please see our Trust Fund Page. 

The market value of a property should be affected by the status of the underground oil tank and the level of contamination.   Please see our Property Values, Tanks and Contamination Page. 

There is no State or Federal requirement to remove an underground oil tank unless it is known to be leaking.  Therefore, underground oil tanks are an issue that have to be negotiated between the buyer and the seller.  However, there are many benefits for the buyer and the seller to remove the tank and conduct a conclusive assessment.  Please see our Tank Removal Page. 

Unless the buyer, their realtor, their home inspector, their mortgage lender, and their insurance agent are all inexperienced and naive regarding oil tank concerns, the tank will become an issue during a property transaction. 

Why is an underground tank a concern? 

Most homes built before 1975 used an underground tank to store heating oil. 
We estimate that there are more than 15,000 properties in New Hanover County that have or had an underground old tank. 

88% of all heating oil tanks have leaked causing contamination levels such that State and Federal laws require cleanup.  Cleanups can cost $15,000 to $20,000. Please see our Costs page.

12% of all heating oil tanks have leaked significantly that fuel oil is measured floating on top of the water table.  Up to 4 feet of fuel has been measured floating on the water table at a residential property in the Wilmington area.  See Common Questions Page, question #1. 

The "closure status" of the tank and associated contamination should affect the market value of the house and how easily the property will sell.  Please see our Property Values, Tanks and Contamination Page. 

270 gallon heating oil tank showing the two copper fuel supply lines and the fill and vent connection holes in the top of the tank.

Ending the liability for the seller and limiting the liability for the buyer are also major concerns. 

Because tank ownership and cleanup responsibility is defined by the North Carolina Statues and by Federal law, tank ownership and responsibility is not necessarily "common sense."  

For example:  If I sold you a house with termite damage, once you bought the house … it is now your problem and I'm "off the hook."  It is the buyer's responsibility to protect themselves by having the home inspected to know exactly what is the condition of the house that they are buying.  With inspection information, buyers can negotiate repairs or offer a discounted price for the property.  

However, oil tanks are more similar to hazardous waste.  Every person that touches a hazardous waste (the generator, the transporter, and the waste disposal facility) is responsible for the waste until proper disposal is documented. 

Selling the property does not necessarily release the seller from the tank and cleanup responsibility. 

Property buyers may become responsible for the tank and contamination (even if they never used the tank and even if they did not know a tank was present on the property). 

Please see our Responsibility and Liability Page. 

Eventually some one is going to have to comply with State and Federal regulation and address the tank and any contamination that may be present.

A collar type fill pipe with a vent pipe hidden in the stair bricks.

Contamination clean up for leaking tanks is required by State and Federal laws. Because 88% of all underground heating oil tanks have leaked, most properties with a house built before 1975 will require an appropriate cleanup.  While tank removal may cost approximately $1900, the contamination clean up is much more expensive (~ $15,000 to $20,000).  Currently, North Carolina has a Trust Fund that can help pay for the contamination cleanup portion of this cost.  Please see our Trust Fund Page. 

Please note that closing a tank in place (i.e. filling with sand) does not gain any benefit for the buyer or for the seller.  Please see our Tank Closure: filling with sand Page.  

Having an unresolved tank and/or contamination issue may slow the property sale or even kill the deal.  

Solution:

Resolve the oil tank concern, by eliminating the tank issue from the property transaction.  Have PES conduct a proper tank removal and a conclusive assessment.  Please see our About PES Page. 

Let our web site educate your buyer so that they can make wise decisions.  Proper tank removal, conclusive contamination assessment will help to limit the buyer's liability.  Please see our Responsibility and Liability Page. 

Just like your buyer needs to know if there is termite damage, they need to know if the underground oil tank has leaked and requires contamination cleanup. (Contamination cleanup can cost between $15,000 and $20,000.) 

Raising awareness of the oil tank concern will help to build your good reputation as an informed home inspector or appraiser.  PES is here to inform and support you.   PES is experienced, licensed, fully insured, and offers free no obligation estimates. 

Please also see our Property Sales and Tanks Page. 

This photo confirms a progression from an underground oil tank (vent pipe next to house foundation) to an above ground oil tank (4 support blocks).

The following is a summary of clues that suggest that an oil tank is present or was present at a property:

A fill pipe
A vent pipe
An old oil furnace or parts of an oil furnace in or under the house
Two copper tubing lines (¼ inch) in the crawl space or basement
A furnace chimney
The house is in an oil tank neighborhood
The house was built prior to 1975

For more detailed information regarding what to look for at a property to know if a property has or had an oil tank, please see our How do I know if I have a tank? Page. 

You may also wish to read our Tank Information Page. 

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