Greetings Homeowners

Home inspection red flags through the years

The sale of any home will almost always include a home inspection. The very nature of a home inspection is to identify any flaws with the current condition of the home. As a veteran in this field, I’ve gotten quite skilled at reading these inspections and catching items on the report that are cause for reconsideration or action, and that time and time again I’ve seen turn out to really matter. The red flags I’ll be referring to are the ones the public, realtors, and the media get a hold of, usually from a situation that has made headlines from health concerns or from discovering the dangers of a product used in construction or renovation of the home or situation the home might be in because of where it is located.

As I reflect on some on them here, you will likely find some of them familiar to your experience. In chronological order, I will cover some of the red flags I have encountered. These might be useful to you in your future real estate ventures. Perhaps you’ll find some that you might even be able to nod in agreement about because you have been there. Buying a home involves such risk and trust, that I hope my reflections here might give you a little more nerve and knowledge. So, here you go—in the order of my experience.

Power Lines (1991 – present)

Have you seen the big Bonneville Power towers scattered around Thurston County?

One of my first sales representing a seller back in 1991 was a horse farm on ten acres I sold down near Tenino. The towers and power lines both ran right through the field where the horses grazed, along with the barn and a few outbuildings. While outside anywhere on the property you could hear the buzz of the electricity rushing through these lines. Along with the buzz is an electromagnetic field (emf) that some experts say is not good for your health.

Throughout my career I have been involved with a handful of sales that were near power lines. On a few occasions, I spoke to representatives at Bonneville Power and gathered literature and information for clients inquiring about properties near power lines.

Bonneville Power and their literature always took a very neutral position when confronted with the health effects from their power lines. I’ll let you digest that and make your own decisions.

Buried Oil Tanks (1991 – Present)

I have sold a few older homes with buried heating oil tanks.

It’s not uncommon to be in a home with a more modern gas or electric heat source, but years earlier the heat source may have been oil heat and their tank is buried somewhere on the property.

When initially viewing an older home with a buyer or seller, I’ve learned to walk the perimeter of the home looking for the fill tube for the buried oil tank. Sellers are obligated to disclose a buried heating oil tank, but there were a few cases where the seller wasn’t even aware they even had a buried oil tank on the property.

The concern with the abandoned oil tank from an environmental point of view is whether the tank itself has begun to corrode or deteriorate to the point that the oil is now seeping into the soils. Removal of the contaminated soil if that was the case, can get very expensive.

During a sale I was involved with in an older home up near the San Francisco Bakery, we discovered a buried oil tank that had deteriorated and the existing oil in the tank had seeped into the soils. The expense to the seller was close to $6,000 just for the removal of the contaminated soil.

The local fire department governs existing and abandoned oil tanks, so they are a resource if you need it.

LP Siding (Louisiana Pacific) (1997 – Present)

This red flag was probably as big a nightmare as I could have ever imagined.

LP siding is a composite product of wood chips and glue. The siding was affordable during a time, so builders were wrapping new homes with LP siding during the years 1992 – 1994. Just not a good sustainable product up here in the Pacific Northwest.

By 1997, homeowners were noticing swelling, discoloration and warping to their newer homes siding.
This became such a problem and was so wide spread, a class action suit against Louisiana Pacific in the late 90s to help homeowners who had LP siding.

The fine print to the class action suit in my opinion was a joke.
If an 1,800 sq. ft home had failed siding, a contractor’s bid to replace the siding would come in at approximately $12,000 – $18,000.

Louisiana Pacific’s class action settlement was paying a small percentage to the homeowner for the material only, not the labor. If you filed a claim you might see $1,500 – $4,500 toward a $15,000 siding replacement job. We would have to transfer class action claims, make monetary concessions within a sale, and schedule paint jobs and partial siding replacement. It tough for a seller and expensive. These homes were tough to sell in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Mold (2002 – Present)

Mold is older than both you and me.

In trying to remember exactly when mold became such a hot button for me was sometime back in the early 2000’s. I had listed a small 2 bed 1 bath home up by the state government buildings on Chestnut Street in 2002 or 2003.

My seller lived in Tacoma and had this investment rental home that he owned. The home had not been occupied for a few years and had an abandoned look to it. There was one wall I remember that was almost entirely black from black mold. It was by far, the worst, most visible black mold I had ever seen. I met a potential buyer over at the house and I remember him walking out of the house after only a few minutes with a complete rash on his arms, just from being in the building where the mold spores that were present.

These are just a few of the hot buttons I have had to negotiate within a real estate sale and there are probably a few more that I have not touched on and you probably have a few hot buttons yourself. I have a great client who oversaw the cleanup and hazard materials on Ft Lewis. Some of the stories he told me were horrific.

Here’s one last concern I’m seeing in the last 18 months as the next red flag.

Sewer Lines


I’m referring to the sewer line from your home out to the city sewer line. Along with the modern-day home inspection, a buyer can now hire a professional to send a camera/scope down the sewer line of the home and film the entire condition of the sewer line traveling out to the main city sewer line. I’ve been involved with several of these videos and reports and these cameras are showing us some real problems from the homes that are 30 years and older. Tree roots, poor quality materials that were used for the lines and soils settling or shifting is now becoming another very real, real estate hot button.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenges that pop up during a sale. Some are bigger than others and it’s always adventurous getting to a solution for any of the hot buttons thrown my way.

As always, if you or your friends and family need any real estate services, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As you can see, I have experience in this community and I am not afraid to pursue whatever might come up on an inspection that either buyer or seller need to address or know more about.

It’s a Great Life!

photo credit(s) Getty Images

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