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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC D-BOX INSTALL REPAIR
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN BASICS
SEPTIC SYSTEMS, HOME BUYERS GUIDE to
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS, SEPTIC
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Here we offer some advice for home owners who are selling a property with a septic system, including useful information that you can prepare and provide to a home buyer, septic system testing, and making septic system safety repairs before even listing a property for sale. No one wants to see a condition like the failing septic system shown just above, but isn't it just the rotten luck that sometimes problems like this show up right when you're trying to sell a home?.
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Question from a reader who is selling a home with a septic system: My brother and I are helping sell my parents house in Massachusetts, and we were told we had to have this inspection done. We don't know what kinds of questions to ask when interviewing potential inspectors - can you give us some insight into how to best research this? We want the best possible chance of having a positive, no issues inspection, so again we would appreciate your advice.
Tips for Sellers of Homes With Septic Systems
Avoid a Conflict of Interest about Reporting Septic System Condition
To avoid a conflict of interest all parties to a real estate sale should prefer to see a Title5-type septic inspection and any other condition of property inspection ordered by the buyer not by the seller. Otherwise, later if a problem is found by the new owner the seller could be charged with providing self serving, inaccurate information.
Use a Qualified Septic System Inspector
All Title 5 inspectors working in MA are licensed and must be trained. Septic system inspectors in other states and provinces may also be required to be licensed or registered, though many excellent septic system inspections are also offered by some home inspectors as well as some septic contractors. Do not hire an inspector for septic or other inspections if s/he has a conflict of interest such as one who also offers repair services for the property to be inspected, nor an inspector who has a relationship with the home buyer, seller, or real estate agent.
Ask about the septic system inspector's experience. Ask to see an example septic inspection report and compare its contents with the requirements specified by law in Title5 and with the septic inspection reports described at this website.
Prepare and Provide Basic Homeowner Information About the Septic System
Provide the most accurate information possible about the septic system age, location of components, type of components, service and repair history you can. You may not know all of these things but the more you know an provide the more accurate will be the septic report and the less pure speculation will be involved.
Speculation by a septic system inspector, in the absence of actual information, can lead to worst-case guesses or warnings to a buyer, issued not so much to protect the buyer as to protect the septic inspector - to reduce risk of a buyer's later complaint about the inspector's diligence. But such a septic system condition report, in which the inspector spends your money to reduce his/her risk, can result in premature, inappropriate, or excessive septic system repair repair costs.
What if the Septic System Needs Repairs Right When We're Selling Our Home?
If you already know of a septic system failure or unsafe condition or of a problem that is easily corrected, such as a flimsy septic tank cover or surface runoff invading the drainfield fix these right away - we don't want a prospective buyer falling into the septic tank, and drying out a wet leach field caused by invading ground water will improve its function.
If there is already evidence of a septic system problem, such as odors, wet areas, or sewage backups, obtain several repair estimates, including a reliable diagnosis of just what the problem is. Repair costs range from trivial (unclogging a pipe) to significant (replacing a septic system). Do not try to "hide" a problem by pumping the septic tank. Such a step is very short-term (hours or a day or so), and may constitute a fraudulent or illegal act. Of course if you have to pump a failed septic system tank so as to have emergency ability to flush toilets, go ahead, but inform the parties concerned of this condition.
If the septic inspection indicate a costly problem, get further, accurate diagnosis and repair cost estimates from one or more septic repair companies - more than one approach and cost may be feasible.
Repair work bids should be from a septic repair company having no relationship with the septic inspector.
Since high costs and even life-safety issues could be involved in some septic system problems, responsible accurate septic reports, not just a septic report whose results make us happy, are of paramount concern.
Since some lenders will not write a mortgage on a property unless the septic system is working, you may have to go ahead and perform the necessary repair work. Generally, unless immediate functional or safety repairs are needed, we prefer to obtain estimates and then to negotiate with the buyer on that amount, perhaps offering the repair cost as an allowance against the purchase price of the property. Why? Because the new owner - buyer will be more confident that the repairs were done properly if s/he is in control of that work, and the seller will be free of any future liability concerning the septic system.
What if the Septic System Inspection and Report are Faulty?
If the septic system inspection yields a result that seems unclear, inaccurate, or just plain wrong, or if its confusing, ask for clarification from the inspector, and also pass that information and question along to me by email- I may have a suggestion
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about selling a home with a septic tank
Question: Our first septic system test failed, the second one that was less thorough passed. The buyers want a whole new septic system. What should we do?
I am curious what you would say about my current situation. I'm in the middle of an inspection w/ buyers. The first septic inspection failed a flow test. We have had no issues [with our septic system] in the 13 years we've been in the house. The system is old [built probably in ] 1965. We've found no map of the field and no one has found the field.
We had a second opinion inspection without a flow test [septic loading test]. The septic system passed [this second procedure]. Tank was emptied and inspected. He said he found no high water marks. No damage found to tank.
Buyers wanted another opinion so our agents hired a company- this company failed the system. Used a camera in the out pipe which was holding water and followed it down to a place on the lawn just staring to green up and found the soil there saturated. They said the system was about to fail, but couldn't located any leaching system. No break out or odor. They also claim to have found a hairline crack in the septic tank. Now the buyers want us to replace the whole system, septic tank included and to use the company that last inspected! What do you think? I think it stinks, but my lawn doesn't.
Reply: Avoid a future dispute, find out what repairs are really needed, fix or escrow
A septic loading and dye test cannot find all possible septic problems but it can find enough to be worth doing, and if the septic loading and dye test was properly performed, it can protect both buyer and seller from a later dispute.
The legal question of what you should do in the case of a failed septic system is one to take to your lawyer.
That said, my OPINION is that these are some points to consider:
- DJF - editor.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
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