With the real estate market starting to heat up, sellers may want to consider preparing their house for sale by addressing some of the issues which may arise from a buyer’s inspection prior to listing their property.  Some of these issues are:
If asbestos is wrapped around pipes for insulation, a seller may want to have it removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.  If reported on a buyer’s home inspection, a buyer will most likely insist that the asbestos be removed, or, alternatively that the buyer be given a credit at closing for the cost of removal.  If the asbestos is in floor tiles or shingles, a seller may want to obtain an estimate in advance and if necessary, provide a credit at closing.  Of course, if the seller is aware of asbestos in the home, its existence is subject to disclosure.  Municipalities which require the seller to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy for the transfer of title, may also require the removal or other abatement of asbestos.
If a seller’s property contains an underground storage tank (UST) a buyer will most likely want it removed if it has not already been decommissioned.  If it was decommissioned but still exists underground, a buyer may still want it removed or want proof that the UST was decommissioned with all necessary governmental approvals.  If there was no discharge of any hazardous substance at the time the tank was decommissioned, this usually means approvals from the local municipality.  If current testing discloses there was a discharge causing contamination of surrounding soils or water supply, then NJDEP involvement may be necessary.
Many municipalities require municipal inspections and a Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) upon the resale of residential property.  To obtain one, the homeowner orders a municipal inspection and the corrects any violations found as a result of the municipal inspection.  Some of the local municipalities which require a C.O. upon resale include:  Lawrence Township, Hamilton Township, Ewing Township, City of Trenton, Washington Township, Plainsboro Township and East Windsor Township.
The State of New Jersey requires a certification evidencing the proper installation of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a kitchen fire extinguisher upon the resale of residential properties.
The State of New Jersey also requires that well water testing be performed on certain residential well water prior to a transfer of title.  Generally, if the test does not meet state standards, buyers will require remediation of the well water.  Hopewell Township has specific requirements for well water approval necessary to transfer title.
Hopewell Township also has specific requirements for approving a septic system for the transfer of title.  Buyers in Hopewell will usually require that sellers be responsible for complying with  Hopewell’s standards.
While a radon test producing results less than 4.0 picocuries is a standard inspection test, a seller may want to give some thought about whether to perform this test prior to entering into a contract of sale.  Radon levels vary throughout the year and are not necessarily constant.  Because remediation of a high test result is nearly always required by a buyer, a seller may want to wait for the buyer to perform the test to determine if any remediation is actually necessary.
With the above certificates and approvals there are time limitations on their validity.  So it may be necessary for reapply for approvals should the time period for the validity of the approval expire.
Barbara Strapp Nelson is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Real Estate Group in the firm’s Lawrenceville, NJ office.  For questions or more information, please contact Ms. Nelson.