What To Do When Buying A House With A Septic System

It’s SepticSmart Week, so we’ll be discussing septic systems all… wait for it… week! Today’s post on septic systems is the second in a series about buying a house with a well and/or septic. Last week, when I mentioned that wells and septic systems are two of the most expensive appliances you’ll own, it’s particularly true for septic systems. These systems are designed to last 15-40 years, if maintained correctly. But for lots of owners, out of sight means out of mind, and these systems are often overlooked.

If you’re looking to buy a house, you will freak out at some point (if not several) about how much money you’re spending. But if that house comes with a septic system, you should definitely spend the extra money to get a licensed septic professional to inspect your system.

Why? Because if you don’t know that the septic tank is failing until after you’ve bought the house, you can expect to pay between $3000-5000 to replace a tank that you’ve only recently come to own. And if the system’s drainfield is failing, you can add in another $10,000 (or $25,000 if the system has a sand mound). So getting that septic professional’s review may save you thousands.

SepticSmart protect_it_and_inspect_it_2018

You won’t know if the owner of the house that you want to buy is SepticSmart. But you can be by hiring a licensed septic professional to make sure the system is in good condition, and then taking care of the system once it becomes yours. (Image by the EPA.)

When hiring a licensed septic professional to inspect a system, don’t settle for a dye test, where they flush a dye pack down the toilet and see if dye bubbles up in the yard. Dye tests do not provide a thorough review of the system. Instead, you want a state-approved inspection, which includes a homeowner interview, record search, site and system inspection, hydraulic load test, and final report.

You can also personally look (and smell!) for signs of trouble when first visiting a house. Look for puddles, spongy areas, bright green grass, or overgrown vegetation in the area near the tank or drainfield. Another obvious indicator of a malfunctioning septic system is a strong smell of sewage in the yard or house.

It’s easy for homeowners to assume their system is operating just fine when there aren’t obvious signs of problems. It’s not like you get a maintenance guide when you first buy a house! But the cost of replacing a failing septic system is not one that you want to take on as a new homeowner. Avoid the stress and expense by getting a licensed septic professional to thoroughly examine the system. And once that system is yours, make sure you take care of it.

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