Questions Olympia Buyers Ask About Buying A Home On A Septic System

Industry Observer

If you are buying a home in the Olympia WA area, you probably have noticed that many homes are on septic systems rather than city sewer.  When you make an offer on a home that has a septic system, you will want to include one additional addendum with your other paperwork.

The Thurston County Septic Addendum specifies that the seller will have a septic pumping company pump out the septic and inspect it for any needed repairs.  It also directs the seller to submit and pay for the application for the county "Time of Transfer". 

The pumper's report also goes to the county, and they are then able to confirm whether the system is functioning properly and whether all the documentation of type and location of system are on file.  These reports also show the capacity of the system and the number of bedrooms it is approved to serve.  (This can become an issue if the seller is selling it as a three bedroom house, but the septic capacity turns out to be just for two bedrooms). 

Sometimes the pumper finds that there is a crack in the septic tank, a broken baffle, or other issues needing repair.  Typically, the seller then will agree to have these repairs done, so that the buyer will have a system that is safe and functional.

A few more issues can arise when the house is bank owned, because many of the banks interpret selling the house as is to also include the septic system being as is.  If this is the case, and repairs are needed, then the buyer may have to agree to take on that cost (their lender may also have requirements about how this can be handled).

There are also homes within a geographic area called Henderson Inlet Protection District, and because a failing system within this area can impact Henderson Inlet waters, there are some additional rules for septic system owners.  Within this district, home owners are required to periodically have their systems inspected and pumped as needed, with a renewal then submitted to the county for their operating permit on the system.

On many of they homes that went through a foreclosure, this operating permit was not kept current, so often it is at the time of a sale that either the seller - or more often the buyer - will need to have the permit reinstated.  This includes one more step of county inspection after the system is pumped, and one more fee to be paid.  If this step is not handled, the county can refuse to issue any building permits until things are brought back to current.  So any kind of improvement the new buyer plans that requires a permit will be on hold until the septic status is dealt with.

Thurston County offers a whole host of classes and materials to teach people how to avoid damaging their septic system, and also how to check it themselves to determine if it is time to have it pumped.

Living in a home on septic does mean you have no sewer bill to pay.  But as you see, when you are buying a house on septic, there will be a few additional items to address in your offer to purchase.  Do check with your real estate broker for any other questions on buying a house on septic!



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Comments (2)

Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

Very good, detailed explanation on steps taken to inspect a septic tank in Thurston County. We have pockets of areas on septic tanks, namely Portola Valley, Woodside and Los Altos Hills - important to check the safety of them.

Nov 19, 2013 10:08 AM
Nancy Conner
Olympia, WA
Olympia/Thurston County WA
Thanks Lottie! We do have a lot of homes on septic systems and they can be a total mystery to a buyer who has never encountered them before.
Nov 19, 2013 12:02 PM

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