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Septic Systems

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You are purchasing a home with a septic system.  Does your agent understand the basic workings of a septic system?  Are they able to give you proper advice and guidance in obtaining a septic inspection?  Does your agent understand the information being communicated by your septic inspector? These are important considerations if you are purchasing a rural property. The cost to replace a septic system is dependent on many things, but one thing is for sure – they are very costly and many buyers would be in a tight spot if after taking possession of their dream home they discovered that the property required a new septic system.

We started to see septic inspections in the early 1990s.  This generally entailed checking the septic tank contents, condition and fluid levels and walking the field area to look for any break outs or other indicators of problems.  The use of cameras to do inspections started in approximately 2002.  The use of a camera allows the inspector to get a good look at the condition and function of the septic field itself.  Many times over the years I have had a seller tell me that their septic is working great.  A camera inspection however, may reveal problems that a seller was simply unable to detect with everyday usage.

In 2001 I sold a home in Cobble Hill. As was the custom, the septic was inspected as per walking the field area. The inspection passed. By 2002 I was hiring septic inspectors to do full camera inspections for my buyers.  When I went to sell the Cobble Hill in 2002 the buyers’ agent hired an inspector who did a camera inspection that showed the septic lines had standing water in them. The inspection failed.  A new engineered septic system was required at a cost of over $22,500.  This one home sale showed me the value of a proper septic inspection using a camera. The owner of that home was a single lady so her usage was not great. She had never had a backup of any kind.  While the home had been full of guests on occasion there was never any indication of a problem.  It was only the septic inspection, done with a camera that revealed the truth.

In 2009 I was marketing a one year old home on a septic.  You might think – why bother even doing a septic inspection.  The prudent buyers’ agent did insert a septic inspection clause into the contract and moved forward with their inspection which revealed that the sewage was going into the ground because the installer had failed to fully hook up all components of the septic system. This major oversight would not have been found but for the septic inspection.

As an agent I try to be present for all septic inspections – whether I represent the buyer or the seller. As the sellers’ agent, I gain firsthand knowledge of any issues and do not have to wait or rely on the buyers’ agent to communicate any problems or concerns to me.  As the buyers’ agent I have a very good idea of the scope of the problem as I am able to have a detailed discussion with the inspector on site.  This means I can quickly communicate initial information to my buyer pending the final report from the inspector.

If you are looking at rural properties find an agent familiar with rural properties who can give you the guidance and expertise you deserve.