What to Know About Septic System Inspections

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Executive Realty 91362

What Home Buyers Should Know About a Septic System Inspection

Are you thinking about buying a home that has a septic system? When you plan on buying a home with a septic system, it’s going to be a wise choice for you to get a septic inspection before you even think about moving in. There are far fewer things that can go wrong when a public sewer system services your property.

There's nothing different about a septic system than any other system. It's just that these types of things can have unforeseen problems or issues that could affect the rest of the home.  Having a septic inspection should be at the top of your priority list as a homebuyer to ensure you don't have a money pit in your yard.

The right time to find out if there are any issues is just before committing to close on a property. In some states having a septic system is a requirement in order to sell a home. For example, in my home state of Massachusetts, you cannot pass papers without a septic inspection. The septic inspection is referred to as a Title V.

Sellers need to provide buyers and their lenders an eighteen-page report discussing the septic system design, capacity, and any known issues. The Title V report is the documentation for buyers and lenders to know the system has passed.

One of the main issues with these systems is it could be a basic repair, or you might have to replace the whole system, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, one of the most significant downsides of owning a home with a septic system is the cost of replacement when the time comes.

Let's give you a basic understanding of how the septic system does its job.

How The Septic System works

A septic system at a private property replaces the need to be connected to the city sewer system. As per the EPA, decentralized frameworks or septic Systems are utilized in 25% of U.S. buildings and are lasting segments of our country's wastewater foundation.

The septic framework starts at the clean line from the house that transports wastewater to the septic tank. The septic tank is an enormous compartment typically made of solid, fiberglass, or steel. The tank is covered and is watertight, permitting the fluid in the tank to gradually separate solids and securely discard fluids.

This tank holds wastewater from the house permitting solids to settle to the lower part of the tank, making a "slime" layer. On the other hand, oil and grease buoy to the highest point of the tank, making a surface layer called "filth."

This filth layer makes a seal that assists in keeping air out, permitting microscopic organisms in the tank to thrive. This microscopic organism consequently separates the strong waste in the tank.

As you can see from above, a lot is happening with the septic system, which means many areas can go wrong.

Though with that being said, if the system has been well designed, installed, and maintained properly, it can last for many, many years to come.

Many homeowners aren't even aware that they need to provide ongoing maintenance and care for their systems, which means it is probably not uncommon to find issues after an inspection.

The Septic Inspection Explained

If it is not a requirement for the seller to do the septic inspection, you should schedule yourself. You coordinate this with the general property inspection you’ll be getting and try to have them scheduled for the same day.

Additionally, making sure you batch these inspections together will mean you can hit the deadlines that may be required in your real estate contingencies in the contract.

The actual inspection of the septic system starts with information gathering, which feels a bit more like a pre-inspection since the homeowner will be asked to present their documents and answer any questions associated with the system.

This part of the process helps the inspector know what to expect and what to look for when carrying out the official inspection in the next step.

Following are some questions that will need to be answered before the inspections are carried out.

Although you won’t need to worry too much about them if you’re the one purchasing the home, you may sell the property in the future, so it's a good idea to keep these in mind:

  • Has the septic tank been pumped recently? - This one is significant because it's the only genuine upkeep thing the home seller would have needed to be performed.
  • Where are the septic tank and leach field located? - This is also important since supposing that the home seller doesn't have the foggiest idea where the septic tank can be found, it's improbable they have had any actual maintenance performed.
  • Is there a septic location map or "as-built"? - Whatever party is accountable for managing septic frameworks in your local area ought to have a guide of the septic tank location given by the initial home developer. This is a significant record for the septic review since the inspector will be able to find where the tank is situated as well as everything else connected.
  • Are there any records on upkeep?: Some of the common questions asked will be the following:

1. How often has the septic tank been pumped?

2. What septic contractor was used?

3. Have there been any septic system issues in the past?

4. Have there been any repairs made to the system?

5. Where is the cover of the septic system?

The actual tank ought to have sewer vent covers over the chambers of the septic tank. This is what the professional will use to get to the tank to test to make sure things are in working order.

On-Site Septic Inspection

Once the “pre-inspection” has been done, and the necessary questions have been answered, it's time for the actual inspection to take place.

There are quite a few tests that the professionals do, such as checking the flow of the income water and making sure the tank itself has the right amount of sludge and solid levels so that the septic system can function properly.

From what we’ve discussed here, there is a wide range of things that need checking to ensure that the system can work on for many years, so as we mentioned in the beginning, it would be wise to have it inspected at the time of purchase.

Replacing a septic system means hiring land surveyors to design a whole new system and then paying tens of thousands of dollars to have it installed. By staying on top of maintenance, you can increase the odds this won't be happening for years to come.

The Aftermath of Your Septic Inspection

After the inspection has been compelled, you will get a document of proof of what the inspector may have found, from damages to potential future problems, as well as a list of recommendations of things that should be considered if you were going to go through with buying the property.

Of course, it should be the seller's duty to take care of any potential issues. Still, if you’re desperately in love with the home, you might need to take over responsibility and get the issues fixed yourself when you move into the property in question.

Posted by

Bill Gassett is a thirty-two year veteran to the real estate industry. He enjoys providing helpful information to buyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, RESAAS, Credit Sesame and others.

Comments (2)

Ben DeHaven
Haven Realty & Investments - Winter Haven, FL
Proudly serving Winter Haven & Lakeland, Florida

Great information for buyers Bill! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on septic systems. We just had ours completely replaced to the tune of $7,000.

Apr 20, 2021 11:39 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Very informative post Bill. I just moved into a home that has a septic tank & wondered how it all worked. One question, how do you know when it's time to get it pumped out? Thanks!

Apr 21, 2021 12:33 PM

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