Image from indyenviroworks.com
Image from indyenviroworks.com

Matthew and Marianne Schottenfeld are just one of the many troubled couples who can’t sell their homes because of the underground heating oil tank buried underneath their property. Because of this, they were advised by their real estate agent to undergo an Oil Tank Removal to make their Waldwick home marketable early in 2009.

“We thought it would not be costly and would be very easy”, Matthew said. However, to the couple’s dismay, it was discovered the tank is not only corroded but it had a leak as well. And the leak has already spread downhill. It took them 2 ½ years to clean the mess and this cost them $60,000 to clear everything.

As per New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association, there are approximately 120,000 oil tanks buried underneath residential grounds. But the number has already lowered as homeowners are slowly pulling them out. Many switched to natural gas heat and others preferred for aboveground tanks.

But majority of buyers would rather opt for properties with no oil tanks underneath them. Aside from the fact that this can be a source of pollution, they don’t want to go through the headache of removing the tank later once they have acquired the property.

“Throughout these years, I haven’t met a buyer who opt for a home with oil tank underground”, real estate agent Sheldon Neal said.

“Buyers would tell me they want gas and not oil since they feel that tanks will be a problem”, agent Deborah Graske stated.

Home owners insurance and mortgage dealers do not want properties with buried oil tanks as well. Hence, real estate agents would advise sellers to remove the tank before putting their properties on sale.

However, sometimes oil tanks maybe hidden underground and owners do not have any knowledge about it. The previous owner of the property may have abandoned it and had switched to gas even before the next owner came. One example is what happened to the Schottenfelds whose oil tank has started leaking 30 years ago. That is why it is important that home inspectors search the property for signs of abandoned gas tank first. This can be oil feed lines or old pipes. They may even use metal detector or search for oil leaks to do test borings.

Tank removal will usually cost $1,500 – $2,000 as long as there are no leaks. However, for leaking tanks, the cleanup cost could reach up to tens and thousands of dollars.

If you are lucky enough, the cleanup cost may be covered by your insurance. For Schottenfelds, getting their claims paid was hard since they have switched insurance companies for years. But they ended up paying $10,000 to $15,000 out of their pocket.