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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Updated: Home "inspection" by Pillar to Post

EDIT August 9th: Well, I guess one thing about speaking your mind is that sometimes you end up eating your words. Turns out there was indeed a leaky old oil tank on the property and we are indeed in need of an environmental assessment. My apologies to Pillar to Post on that - had they not alerted us to the mystery fuel line, we would likely have ended up in major financial trouble down the road.

I still maintain, though, that they should have checked the area under the patio in the first place and also that they should have been more professional when asked for followup information.

So, Sean and I are buying a house and selling the condo that we have been living in for the past four years. It's funny how many little projects need to be done and it's also funny how we haven't gotten around to doing them until two weeks before we need to get the place on the market. The great thing about it is, I get to spend a lot more time at a couple of my favourite home improvement stores and also get to interact with many individuals from an industry that I love - the real estate industry. We are fortunate to have a fantastic agent, Chris O'Neill of Royal LePage here in St. John's, and so far, things such as arranging for banking, contractors and legal has gone very well. We thought that our home inspection was going to fit into this category also, but I'm sad to say that we were mistaken.

We had Pillar to Post come out to our new house for your standard inspection. We had no issues with scheduling the appointment and Ed and Edward spent about three hours there. When we met them at noon to pay their (very reasonable) fee, Ed gave us a walk-through of the whole house, giving a verbal summary of the items that we should expect to see in our official inspection report. He assured us that we would receive the soft copy by about 6 o'clock pm and advised us of a couple items that we might wish to have a specialist look at (a chimney sweep to check the flue, the oil company to comment on the furnace, etc.). No problems here; we certainly didn't want a false assurance of anything that the inspector didn't feel qualified to assess.

One thing that Ed was a little concerned about was a covered oil line in the basement which appeared to lead underground. Knowing the environmental impact of such a treasure being buried beneath the garden, we thought that we'd best call in some additional resources to determine whether there had ever been an underground oil storage tank. It seemed like a real cause for concern, especially since we know that the neighbours had a tank removed from their property several years ago and their house is of similar age and design as our prospective new home. EDIT: We thought we knew that the neighbours had a tank removed from their property having been told by the home inspector that he spoke with them and told him that they found one. Today, Sean talked to the neighbour and found out that they did indeed have a phase 2 assessment done on their property but no tank or contamination was found. That's another miscommunication by Pillar to Post.

I spent all afternoon on the phone with surprisingly helpful and forthcoming employees of the City of St. John's, the Department of Environment, Harvey's Oil and the like, and came to the conclusion that nobody knows for sure whether an underground tank was ever used on this property. Apparently, before the new regulations came in, one was not obligated to report when a tank was removed unless soil contamination was present. Back to square one. Or so we thought.

Chris, our agent extraordinaire, called us at 5 o'clock yesterday evening to tell us that he was determined to get to the bottom of this, so he did what any good agent would do (NOT!) - he went to the property, got under the (easily accessible) patio and found the spot where the oil line should come out. Lo and behold, sticking up out of the ground right where he expected it, was the end of an oil line that had obviously once connected to an above-ground fuel storage tank. Apparently Ed left out a major detail - no inspection of the foundation underneath the patio, an area in which he should have had a concern given the fact that a fuel line might have been present.

So we managed to resolve this question on our own, but after paying Pillar to Post $500 for a thorough inspection, we really shouldn't have had to do so. A phone call to Ed was met with absolute nonchalance and no apology or offer to come out and double check this area of the house that he so obviously missed. And to top it all off, our email report that we expected by 6 pm did not arrive until after 11 last night.

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