Property inspection checklist

If you're planning to buy property, you should first do a detailed onsite inspection. By checking out conditions (indoors and outdoors) before you buy the property, you can prevent surprises later.

For more detailed information, please read Contaminated Property Considerations: Focus on Real Estate Transactions.

Home owners and small businesses

Be sure to check both indoors and outdoors.

Air quality

Do you detect unusual or noxious fumes or odors?

Drinking water quality

  • Do you detect unusual taste, color, or odor?
  • Has there been any change in the quality of the drinking water?

Surface water quality

  • Are there any settling ponds on the property?
  • Is there any unnaturally colored surface water present?
    (in puddles, ditches, ponds, lake, stream, river, etc.)

Groundwater quality

  • Is there now / was there ever a septic system on the property?
    If so, check past history of the property — chemicals may have been dumped into the septic system if certain types of business uses or illegal drug lab activity occurred.

Land (soil) quality

  • Lack of vegetation; presence of sick or dead vegetation.
  • Presence of oily or stained dirt.
  • Indication of current or past storage of fuel, chemicals, hazardous substances.
  • Presence of chemical, pesticide, or unknown containers (empty or full).
  • Containers or drums with unknown contents.
  • Presence of fill consisting of waste materials.

Adjacent properties and surrounding area

  • Proximity of property to known or suspected hazardous waste sites or sources.
  • Proximity of property to industrial or commercial areas.
  • Proximity of property to a major highway or railroad line.

Other steps for commercial properties

Small business owners should also consider conducting a 'Phase I Site Assessment’ (often done by a contractor). See Selecting an Environmental Consulting Firm.


We provide this guide as a service to the public. Please be aware that it is not exhaustive and you may also need to obtain information from other sources. Subject matter experts have completed a quality review of the information in this guide, but there is no assurance that it is free from errors. This guide cannot be relied upon to create rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any party in litigation with the state of Washington.