Home inspections in Parkrose and East Portland are tricky!
As a real estate agent who mostly sells homes in the Parkrose and David Douglas areas east of I-205 in East Portland, I’ve learned that homes here have quirks that don’t exist in other areas of Portland or even Gresham. I’m including Argay Terrace, Russell, Maywood Park, Sumner, Parkrose Heights, and Woodland Park as the Parkrose area. I’ve noticed many agents who don’t work here as often or who are less thorough don’t know what to look for. Their buyers might never know what problems they’re buying until it’s too late, and their sellers might have an unwelcome surprise once the inspector comes. I’ve selected this list based on what’s most common, what people often don’t know about, and what a home inspector won’t find because it’s outside the scope of their work. Here are the top 5 home inspection issues to be aware of in Parkrose.
This one may be a shocker! If the electricity is working, what’s the issue? Well, perhaps the most common electric panel installed in the 20th century, the Federal Pacific Stablok, “are now considered one of the most dangerous electrical panels to date,” explains Brett Lee with Cozy Home Inspection. “This panel has been linked to fires, injuries, and frequent breakdowns. Among the many malfunctions, older FPE electrical breakers reportedly fail to trip 80% of the time.” Other problematic panels listed on his site are Zinsco/Sylvania Electric’s, Pushmatic Panels, and fuse boxes that carry more than they were designed to handle due to homeowners’ patches. Many sellers are surprised when they’re told their electric panel is actually a hazard.
Abandoned Oil Tanks
Abandoned oil tanks contaminate soil and are expensive to decommission. Parkrose area houses built up through the 1960s often used oil heat. When people switched to other heating methods, they often abandoned the oil tanks. The oil tanks were often buried underground, making it impossible to know when they’re leaking until the soil is tested. If you aren’t certain if a property might have an abandoned tank or where it is, a sweep can be done to locate one (or more). Once the location is known, the next step is for an environmental company to test the soil. If the test shows oil contamination, DEQ will receive notice, and Oregon laws dictate the oil tank must be decommissioned. If there is no contamination, the tanks are more affordable to decommission, which is still a good idea. Decommissioning a leaking underground storage tank (or LUST as DEQ likes to say) can involve several rounds of soil testing and typically costs over $2,000.
Brett Lee with Cozy Home Inspection explains that “over time cesspools have a tendency to cave in and have swallowed cars, animals, and people. They can also undermine the foundation of a house causing costly repairs.” Unlike oil tanks and septic tanks, cesspools in East Portland are hard to detect because they have no metal. Because most of this area didn’t become part of the City of Portland until the 1980s, the homes originally had cesspools and no public sewer. As the City of Portland required people to connect to the sewer, the city allowed homeowners to abandon their cesspools. To find out if a property may have a cesspool, enter the address on PortlandMaps.com, click Historic Plumbing, and notice when the sewer was installed. If you see words like “release letter signed” or “decommissioning released,” then the city allowed the owner to leave the cesspool as-is. Sometimes these diagrams show where the cesspool is. You can also use ground-penetrating radar to locate the cesspool. Decommissioning a cesspool is pretty straightforward and involves filling it with sandy gravel.
According to contractor Jeff Thorman, “basements used to be there to facilitate your waste line getting below the frost line, that’s it. It was a structure, a room for mechanical not designed to be finished. And to be honest with you, they’re not really designed to be finished until almost 1990.” Now people typically want to maximize their square footage. Sometimes owners don’t follow code or apply for permits when they finish a basement, like adding a bathroom. Poor installation and not having a permit can both cause problems. Additionally, a basement bedroom needs an egress (exit) window for safety, but it’s not always easy or affordable to install one. Don’t let the inconvenience lead to someone else’s harm! Finally, water and mold love basements, and just because a basement seems dry at the home inspection doesn’t mean it won’t flood during the next storm. One of my sellers once told me, “I don’t see the big deal. It only floods every five years.” That is a huge deal for someone about to invest in a renovation and who will have their family living in the basement. Water intrusion can lead to mold growth, and some homes need additional waterproofing to prevent moisture issues.
“Breathing asbestos fibers can cause cancer. By the 1980s, asbestos had been banned in most home applications by the federal government” – Brett Lee with Cozy Home Inspection. Asbestos can be in floor tile, popcorn ceiling texture, duct tape on vents, siding, and so many more places. It typically isn’t a concern left as-is, but it is a hazard when demolishing. If you want to know if something contains asbestos, you can take a sample of it to JSE Labs. Hire an asbestos abatement contractor to handle asbestos in your home.
Be Safe in Your Home
That’s my top 5! Some other issues that came to mind as being common in our area are galvanized steel plumbing that’s now at an age it’s rusting and starting to clog, rodents that leave toxic droppings, and improperly installed roofing.
If you want to buy or sell real estate or if you’d like a referral for a home inspector or contractor, call or email me. I’ll be happy to help you!