RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE INSPECTIONS: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
In addition to including mortgage financing and general structural and pest inspection contingencies in your offer to purchase a Massachusetts residential property, you should also consider including contingencies for satisfactory result of inspection of the items discussed below. You will be making one of the largest investments of your lifetime; spending a few extra dollars now on inspections will result in greater savings in remedial costs and inconvenience later.
Asbestos – Chlordane – Lead Paint – Mold – Radon – Septic – UST – UFFI – Well
ASBESTOS Owing to its heat resistant quality, asbestos had been widely used for years as insulation on plumbing pipes and heat ducts and as a general insulation material. Sometimes, it was also used for roof shingles, floor and roof tiles. If left undisturbed, asbestos is minimally occurring and relatively harmless. However, when the asbestos starts to disintegrate with age or is broken up during removal, the resulting dust is extremely hazardous to health. It should only be removed by professionals with knowledge and experience to ensure minimal release of dust or particles into the air. Know before you buy.
CHLORDANE Highly effective in eliminating those pesky ants. Unfortunately, also effective in hurting other animals and humans. Know before you buy.
LEAD PAINT In most cases, too much lead could cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells, especially with children under 6 years old. High levels of lead could cause retardation, confusion, coma and death. Massachusetts law requires that if you will have a child under six years of age living in a dwelling, you must remove or cover lead paint as set forth in the statute. This obligation is placed on the owner of the property. As a Buyer, you have the right, within ten days of receiving the Lead Paint Property Transfer Disclosure, to have the property inspected for the presence of lead paint. If lead paint is present, the costs of removal are usually negotiable. Even if you have no immediate plans to bring a child under six years of age to live in the house, you will probably be selling the house in the future and you may be forced to deal with the lead paint issue at that time. If you know about the presence of lead paint before you buy, you may not need to bear the full cost of its removal. Know before you buy.
MOLD Medical experts consider toxic mold as a new and dangerous health risk. They have identified a number of mold and fungi species that can be extremely dangerous to humans. Mold can be responsible for allergies, infections, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mucous membrane irritation, mycotixicoses, and many other illnesses and conditions. If you see, or even suspect, evidence of mold, especially if you have allergic sensitivities, you should have the property tested for mold. Know before you buy.
RADON Radon is a radioactive gas which causes health concerns to homeowners. Radon gas is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water. As a naturally existing material, low levels of uranium occur widely in Earth’s crust. Radon is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and chemically inert. Once produced, radon moves through the ground to the air above. Unless you test for it, there is no way of telling the amount which may be present. Remedial action can be as simple as installing a fan in the basement or as costly as an elaborate ventilation system. Know before you buy.
SEPTIC Title 5 of the State Environmental Code requires an inspection and certification of a septic system within two (2) years prior to the sale of the property served by the septic system. It is the seller's responsibility to obtain the inspection, which must be performed by a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approved inspector. The seller must furnish a copy of the inspection report to the buyer. Within thirty days after the inspection, the inspector must submit a copy of the inspection report to the local board of health. Although it is the seller's responsibility to obtain the inspection, the parties may negotiate allocation of the cost, not only of the inspection and certification, but also the repair or replacement of the system, if necessary. If repair or replacement is necessary, the repair or replacement must be completed within two (2) years of discovery of the system’s failure under the Title 5 criteria. Know before you buy.
UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS OR RELATED APPARATUS Leaking underground storage tanks or related apparatus (including piping) for fuel or other related petroleum products allow toxic materials to pollute the soil and contaminate wells and groundwater. Buyers should inquire of the seller, and possibly check the municipal records, to determine if any such underground storage tanks or related apparatus exist. If they do not exist, a representation to that effect by the seller should be included in the Purchase and Sale Agreement, which should survive closing. If they do exist, there should be further negotiations with the seller to determine who will remove the tanks and apparatus. Know before you buy.
UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION, affectionately known as UFFIThis toxic substance was an easy, inexpensive alternative to fiberglass insulation. Years after its initial use, it was discovered to release toxic fumes. Massachusetts banned UFFI in 1979. It cannot be covered or treated in any manner to reduce its toxicity, but the toxicity dissipates as time passes. If air testing shows a formaldehyde level over 0.10 PPM (the Massachusetts standard) the only solution is removal, which is costly and time consuming. In some cases, the costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Massachusetts law was changed and as of April 1, 2003 it does not require Sellers of real estate to disclose the presence of UFFI. Many Buyers simply rely on the representations of their Sellers, without having personal knowledge of the facts. You may rely on your Seller’s representation, but if the Seller has misrepresented the presence of UFFI, you will incur the up-front expenses and inconvenience of removing the UFFI and the expense of litigation before you will recover any money from the Seller. Know before you buy.
WELL If the property in which you are interested is served by a well, you should have the well and the water tested for quality and quantity. The quality portion of the test determines whether the water is fit for residential uses. The water must be safe to drink and acceptable for all other household uses. In addition to illness, a variety of less serious problems such as taste, color. odor and staining of clothes or fixtures are symptoms of water quality problems. The quality portion of the inspection may test for coliform bacteria, lead, iron, nitrate, hardness, pH, sulfate, TDS (total dissolved solids), corrosion index, among others. The quantity portion of the test measures whether there is sufficient supply of underground water to meet the needs of the average household. Know before you buy.
Note: The information included in this article is not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns, and conditions always require the advice of a lawyer.