Potential Hazards: Obstacles to a Quick Close

by : Greg Ellingson

Not only do hazards in a home or on a property present health and safety risks, but they can also slow down a sale considerably. Nothing is worse than getting to a certain point in a real estate transaction, only to have the buyer discover a potential hazard. This is why full disclosure of every aspect of the property, right from the start, is the best course of action. If possible, problems should be brought to the Realtor's attention even before the home goes up for sale. But what about when even the current homeowner doesn't know about the hazards? That's why a smart agent will do a bit of preliminary research.

Oftentimes, things that are considered potential hazards today weren't even given a second thought twenty, or even a few, years ago. That's why many homeowners don't consider them important to mention. Let's take for example buried oil tanks. Under current law, buried tanks must be removed, along with any soil contaminated with leaked contents. If the tank hasn't been used in years, it is possible that the current homeowner doesn't even realize it is there. In the past, the appropriate measure to deal with these was to drain them and fill them with cement. So there may be filled tanks on a property, and depending on their location and condition, they may be able to be left and still considered safe.

If the tanks are not filled, they could be a contamination risk. Removing the tanks is expensive enough, but if they are leaking, the costs will rise exponentially. It is recommended that this be done before the home even goes up for sale, since it is guaranteed to come up during an inspection anyway. Cleaning it up beforehand avoids costly stalls in the sale.

There are quite a few other hazards that are better known about before going into a sale. Asbestos, for example, can be in insulation, tiles, and even some plaster in a home. While it can be perfectly safe when in a sealed location, if a new buyer is planning a renovation, it is of utmost importance that they know what might be lurking within the walls. Again, it is best to deal with these issues before, rather than in the middle of, a sale. If it is decided that asbestos removal is necessary, please contact a professional.

Radon is another hazard that is getting more attention lately. Linked to lung cancer, it is a gas emitted from the ground as natural deposits of uranium mineral decompose. It can build up in poorly ventilated basements, posing significant, yet invisible, health risks to a home's occupants. Yet it isn't hard to remedy, as sealing leaks in basement concrete and providing adequate ventilation can greatly reduce the amount of radon present, consequently reducing the health risk.

Lead paint is another common hazard, and again, it is easy to remedy by simply being sure that all paint is fresh and not peeling. If new owners are planning a renovation, they should take safety precautions to avoid inhaling lead dust. It is expected that any home older than the early 1980s contains some lead paint.

Finally, mold is another common hazard. Mold grows when humidity levels are too high, usually because of leaks either in the roof, foundation or broken pipes. Mold can also grow in humid climates if a home, or a room in a home, has not been kept warm enough to keep it dry. Mold can cause fairly serious health problems, so every effort should be made to prevent its growth. If mold damage is significant, parts of the home may need to be removed and replaced.

It isn't usually a homeowners fault if there are potential hazards on their property, but it is there responsibility. While removing or repairing hazards can be quite costly, the need to do so is inevitable. The chances of a profitable and fast home sale are far greater when the job has already been done. Otherwise, the value of the home is seriously compromised.