May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Sellers Should Beware of Oil Tanks

OK, so what’s your excuse now? The election is past us, the new president-elect is to be sworn in on January 20, the stock market didn’t crash after all, mortgage rates are slowly increasing as predicted and spring is around the corner. So, ask yourself, why the wait? Your plans are to downsize, purchase a larger home or to do nothing at all. The temptation to sell might hover…when will the right time strike?

After you think you have figured it all out, lo and behold you recognize that you have an underground oil tank and are in a tizzy over what to do. Of course, you don’t have to sell, so you can leave it the way it is, or you might want to address it head on and early on.

As a professional real estate agent, when I get a listing, the discussion is always whether an oil tank is in the ground. Usually the owners don’t know the answer and especially without a recent transfer of title of the property, older homes that might have been originally fired by oil might have an underground tank unbeknownst to the seller who has lived there for so many years. In all cases, I strongly recommend ordering a sweep to determine if there is one lurking in the ground. In the scheme of things, it is not a costly test and it will save you mega time and aggravation should you be contemplating putting your home up for sale one day.

The scenario is that when a home is in the process of selling, at inspection time, it is advisable for the buyer to do a sweep to test for a buried tank. If the tank is discovered underground, there could be a delay in the transitional time frame of selling, which is distasteful to both buyer and seller. Even after the tank is scheduled to be removed, the soil needs to be tested for contamination. If the soil does have contamination, it must be treated and preparations are then done to have paperwork sent to the state to report the contamination. Ultimately, an NFA (no further action) letter from the state is received to validate that the soil is free and clear, and both the buyer and seller are then relieved that the process can move further.

The problem is that the time period of resolve may interfere with the date of closing, which could have an earlier date. Unfortunately, a seller may even lose a buyer’s interest with the concern of having to deal with the process, which really is solvable with patience.

Be aware that strategies and attitudes for an underground tank have changed. Previously, when a tank was found underground, the direction was to abate it with sand as opposed to removing it. However, today, any tank that is underground should be removed from the property altogether. Although there is no state regulation at this time mandating the removal of the tank, the buyer’s attorney will ultimately insist that a buried decommissioned oil tank be removed.

I recently had a listing in which the seller insisted that her neighbor sold her house and did not remove her tank… I explained that it was unusual since nine out of 10 buyers will require removal if found and it was best to address it from the get-go. Against my better advice, she chose to wait for her buyer once she had an offer, which is her prerogative of choice. Sure enough, when we procured the right buyer, their attorney in fact insisted on the removal of the tank and the owner complied after all. In our case we were lucky since the soil was not found to be contaminated and the timing of the process was not affected.

However, I never go by luck, and advise caution and prudence to determine in advance whether the tank will rear its ugly head in the future.

Such is real estate. Of course, as the agent, I do recommend minimizing any interruptions that may appear along the way… Happy Selling!

Ruby Kaplan is licensed to sell in NJ and NY, specializing in Bergen and Rockland counties.

By Ruby Kaplan

 Ruby Kaplan/V&N RE/917-576-4177/[email protected].

 

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