Underground Tanks

By Edith Lank

March 2, 2014 5 min read

Dear Edith Lank: We had our home built in 1965. We put our fuel tank in the ground. Later we replaced it with a fiberglass one. We also put a gas tank in the ground, not used since 1972.

The question is about being able to sell our house. The law has changed. Are we still able to sell under the grandfather clause law? We've had no response from the county so far. — J. H.

Answer: State and federal regulations about the replacement or removal of underground tanks apply to existing installations ones as well as new ones. I don't know of any grandfathering for old tanks, sorry.

Rehabbing Venture

Dear Edith: I have a contractor friend who wants to go partners in buying an older home and fixing it up for resale. We would use my savings. Is this a practical idea? — T.

Answer: Your first job is to educate yourself about the neighborhood he's considering. How much are houses there selling for? What does he estimate for materials? How long would the work take? Add a few months to that, and you'll know how many months' property taxes, insurance, heat, light and water you can expect to pay. A broker can help estimate commission on your sale, closing costs and the help some buyers might request with their costs.

When you have all those figures, add in the profit you'd like to make, and you can estimate how much you could spend to buy the property.

Don't let all that scare you. Buying old homes and fixing them up can be challenging and rewarding. Just sit down and look at the figures before you decide whether there's enough potential profit to justify risking your


People who do this sort of thing use professional help. An accountant can help analyze the figures. A lawyer is a must, for drawing up a partnership agreement that spells out the responsibilities and equity for each of you. A real estate broker can estimate what the finished house should sell for and your costs of selling.

If I were you, I'd also want to exchange credit reports with my friend before taking on the project.

Short Sale Frustration

Dear Edith: My husband and I looked at a home and made a written offer. The seller's agent informed us it was a short sale. The seller accepted our offer. Then the agent submitted it to the mortgage company for approval and we were told we would hear within 10 days.

A few days later we were informed the mortgage company would be auctioning the home. The auction date was set and open houses were scheduled.

We were informed we needed to register for the auction if we wanted to bid. If not we could potentially lose the house. We chose not to participate. I did not feel comfortable giving them up to 20 percent deposit and another 5 percent for some sort of fee.

The seller's agent kept trying to find out about our offer but the mortgage company would not respond to emails or phone calls. The auction concluded and the home supposedly sold $15,000 above our offer price. We were never given the option to counter with a higher offer.

Is this process legal and do we have any recourse? I believe we were a pawn in this charade of selling this home. — D. O., via askedith.com

Answer: Short sales (sometimes allowed instead of foreclosures) are notoriously frustrating and complicated. Unless there was discrimination that violated fair housing laws, I don't think you have any valid complaint. Your purchase contract wasn't binding until it was approved by the lender, and there's no legal requirement that you be invited to make a counteroffer. Meanwhile, you were kept informed about what was going on. Your chance to bid more would have come at the auction.

Just keep looking. I'll bet there's an even better home out there somewhere waiting for you.

Half-Century Old

Dear Ms. Lank: My house was built in 1962 before building codes and permits were set up. An addition in 1985 did have a permit and inspections. Recently, I was told it would be difficult to sell this house because it is not up to today's standards. If that's true, most historic homes in this town could not be sold. Do you have any information on this situation? — K. W., via askedith.com

Answer: Your town must be pretty different from the rest of the country if it had no building codes or permits in 1962. What you heard doesn't sound right. Lots of older houses are sold all the time.

I don't know what your house is like, or what local codes might apply, but I don't think you need to worry until you have more specific information from a dependable local appraiser, home inspector, mortgage lender, Realtor or attorney.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any question sent to www.askedith.com or to 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620

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