Should You Have a Sewer Line Inspection on That House You Are Buying?

By
Real Estate Agent with Solutions Real Estate CA DRE #01490977

Is it Important to have a Sewer Line Inspection

when Buying a Home?

 

When buying a home, new or a resale, having a general home inspection is pretty darn important.

 

The minimum inspection you should have, in my professional opinion, is a general home inspection. I believe you are taking a huge risk by not spending the money on this.

 

And there are plenty of other inspections and evaluations to consider during your due diligence period depending on the house, the overall condition, the age, and any concerns the inspector has or you personally have. Money for inspections is well spent and I have seen numerous times where buyers were very pleased they spent the money on inspections.

 

So what other inspections might you consider? These evaluations could include the roof, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, radon (perhaps more important in some areas than others), septic, well (if not community water), pool and spa, easements/property lines, the foundation, and fire sprinklers (if present).

 

One inspection to consider in some homes is the main sewer or drain line from the house to the street (you can read more about a home’s drain system here). This could be particularly important if the house is old and where the sewer line might be cast iron or clay, or could be damaged.

 

Scoping a sewer line in San Diego

 

Another situation that might warrant a drain line evaluation is where the sewer line is running near trees in the yard; encroaching roots can damage the pipe itself, but can also clog the pipe, eventually leading to a backup into the house. This is NOT something you want to deal with and it could get expensive, especially if a main drain line has to be replaced.

 

The money spent on a camera inspection of the main sewer line from the house out to the street is several hundred dollars well spent (prices might vary by area and company). And it’s rather interesting to watch the live action on the camera screen. Plus you can get a video of the scoping on a thumb drive.

 

But not all plumbers and companies have the equipment necessary to scope a sewer line.

 

scoping inspection camera screenI’m certainly no expert but have seen several sewer line inspections. The plumber will send the camera connected to a long cable, with a light, down through the main sewer clean-out which may be located inside or outside the house.

 

The cable is connected to a screen that allows you to watch the entire process as the camera moves through the pipe out to the street.

 

One sewer line inspection led the plumber to exclaim that there was a “forest” in the main line, easily viewed on the camera screen; the pipe ran right next to a neighbor’s tree and was filling up with roots. Indeed, the plumber could not even get the camera all the way out to the street and was also concerned the pipe might be partially collapsed.

 

Doing your due diligence when buying a home is essential. A home inspection, and perhaps other inspections including scoping the main drain line, are a key part of your due diligence.

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Buyer Information - What Buyers Need to Know in Today's Market
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Ambassador
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Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Congratulations Jeff. Agree with you completely. And Radon testing...it's big deal here. Most of our ViewHome sales are on a septic - which always gets a thorough inspection.  But sewer lines are also important to check, prior to closing. D

Mar 02, 2019 09:38 AM #13
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Endre Barath, Jr. 

Glad she took your advice! LOL. Now you know where things stand!

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:44 AM #14
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Sally K. & David L. Hanson 

We have no issues here - from what I havd read and heard the amounts of radon gas are well below the limits set by the EPA. But it was a big deal back in Boston!

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:46 AM #15
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Debe Maxwell, CRS 

Yes replacing a sewer line can get pretty expensive, depending on where it is and how long from what I have heard.

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:47 AM #16
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Grant Schneider 

For some houses I think it's essential. I know of a number of people who have had issues with the tree roots, which of course can also cause issues with foundations, driveways, and sidewalks.

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:49 AM #17
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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I suspect that's true Nina Hollander . We don't have many homes in my area with setpic - they tend to be further inland, but have been through a couple of sales where a septic inspection and certification was important. They were required through Title 5 back in MA!

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:52 AM #18
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
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Ann Nguyen  - I think that makes lots of sense!

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:53 AM #19
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Thanks for your comments Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD . Radon is not a big issue here but I also recommend a septic inspection. I had buyers a couple of years ago where we requested the seller do an inspection and provide certification...which they agreed to do. Good thing, because the septic failed and buyers got a home with a new septic tank and leach field to the tune of about $13,000!

Jeff

Mar 02, 2019 09:57 AM #20
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Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

I think the sewerline and foundation inspections are two of the more important ones to have her in So. Cal. I don't think I have had one sewerline inspection that didn't come up with a problem. Great advice, Jeff.

Mar 02, 2019 11:06 AM #21
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Sham Reddy
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH
CRS

You are right on the money!

One inspection to consider in some homes is the main sewer or drain line from the house to the street. This could be particularly important if the house is old and where the sewer line might be cast iron or clay, or could be damaged.

Mar 02, 2019 01:04 PM #22
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George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
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Jeff I don't think I have ever heard of a sewer line inspection, but it makes sense to do one.

Mar 02, 2019 03:46 PM #23
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Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Worthy mention this topic is. On septic, it is mandatory to all parties. On properties on grade or with lots of trees ...why not? I cleaned out some gutters on a rental and years of mold, mildew and gunk came out of the entire system. This hadn't been done for years. Imagine what someones sewer line looks like?

Mar 02, 2019 03:47 PM #24
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Jane Peters 

I agree. I know of some buyers who should have done these and did not, and ater regretted it. It really IS money well spent up front.

Jeff

Mar 03, 2019 08:21 PM #25
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Thanks Sham Reddy !

George Souto  - I have certainly been through many transactions where a sewer line was not checked. But more recently have had several. I suspect many do not bother or even think about it.

Jeff

Mar 03, 2019 08:23 PM #26
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Richie Alan Naggar 

Yep the septic is key. I had buyers who got a new one with the sale because the system failed when we requested a certication. I don't come across septic systems often in my neck of the woods!

Jeff

Mar 03, 2019 08:24 PM #27
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Kathy Schowe
California Lifestyle Realty - La Quinta, CA
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We have many septic tanks in our area - so those inspections are mandatory!

Mar 05, 2019 07:08 PM #28
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
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Hi Kathy Schowe 

They were more common back in MA, too, and yes they WERE mandatory.

It's money well spent, or request the seller do it.

Jeff

Mar 05, 2019 08:39 PM #29
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Fred Sweezer Sr.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

I agree and thanks for the post! 

Mar 06, 2019 01:26 AM #30
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Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Sewer line inspections are very common here, esp with the older homes as you say. So often there are problems...that are expensive to fix!  

Mar 06, 2019 11:04 AM #31
Rainer
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Robin Wells
RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections - Penetanguishene, ON
Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time

Great post and thanks!  And yes, general home inspection is a great idea but honestly it is a visual, non-invasive opinion for the most part.  There are some areas where more invasive and expert inspections can more than pay their way.  An honest home inspector can point out some of them but often the timelines are short.  Sewers are one of them!  But there may be others depending on home.  One often overlooked is the chimney which really does need a Level 2 inspection (and the NFPA-211 even states that).  A Level 2 requires a camera from top to bottom on the inside - same as sewer inspection.  Why?  Well once you understand the cost of a masonry chimney repair it makes total sense!  And if you factor in the risk involved - which can be far more serious to life than that of a sewer then do not overlooke either!

Mar 09, 2019 11:54 AM #32
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