Where to check for environmental concerns when buying a house


Planning to start a garden in the yard of your new home? That’s what one of our clients wanted to do and she did such careful research on soil as well as other environmental issues in the neighborhood that I asked if she would share the resources she found. She graciously said yes, and since today is Earth Day it seems like the perfect time to share!

Soil testing at the University of Minnesota

This is helpful for checking for contamination from lead and soluble salts (from road salt or too much fertilizer). Also provides basic information about soil structure and nutrients if planning to garden. http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

They have a tool for looking up potentially contaminated sites and environmental permits within one’s neighborhood: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/data/whats-my-neighborhood

Environmental Protection Agency

They have a lot of information about many topics. Some are related to the broader community (air quality/pollution, chemicals and toxic substances, water quality, sold waste/hazardous waste/contaminated sites, pesticides, health impacts of common pollutants). Some are related to the environment within the home (lead, bed bugs, mold, radon). https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics

Cooperative Extension System

This resource is run through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and is operated at the county level. Nearly every county has an extension office that can provide information on local issues. The CES also has a service called “One Search” that provides access to resources from many of the extension office across the nation: https://impact.extension.org/search/

In addition to these resources, I find the following to be helpful in gathering information:

  • Walk through on windy days to see what smells are coming in from neighboring areas. And on still days to check for smells from within the neighborhood that may be dissipated and not noticeable on windy days.
  • Online maps with satellite view can provide a sense of tree coverage and of the ratio of hardscape to vegetation. These factors can impact summer temperatures, air quality, and run-off/water quality. This is also helpful for checking proximity to major roads, train tracks, industrial areas, etc. that may not be easily visible in dense neighborhoods.
  • Neighborhood organizations may have publications, websites, or public pages on social media that provide insight to local concerns. Some organizations even post transcripts or videos of meetings.

Many thanks to Jenny Krch for sharing this information!

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I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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