In a housing market where homes sell within hours of being listed, often for tens of thousands above asking price, many homebuyers are trying to beat out other bidders by foregoing home inspections, including point-of-sale septic inspections. Unfortunately, opting out of the septic inspection can literally leave you underwater. Understanding the importance of doing a septic inspection, including the process and what you will learn about the health of a septic system, will help you avoid the pitfalls of foregoing this important homebuying step.
The Process of a Point-of-Sale Septic Inspection
A point-of-sale septic inspection typically includes an investigation into the history of the septic system as well as a series of on-site tests to locate any potential issues and gauge the overall health of a septic system.
History and Layout of the Septic System
During this phase, we contact the local health department to get a full history of the system’s installation, upgrades, and maintenance schedule. While many homeowners keep a good record of their system’s maintenance, the records kept by the local health department provide a more thorough glimpse into the system’s history. Part of this phase also includes mapping the various components of the septic system and making sure the system is big enough to accommodate the size of the home it serves. In many cases when homeowners complete upgrades on their homes to add more living space, they do not realize they also need to upgrade their septic system to keep it compliant with current building code standards.
A point-of-sale inspection includes a series of on-site tests that measure the health of the system’s various components and makes sure the system is functioning properly. A “flow test” measures how effectively the system pushes effluent into the drainfield. This is done by turning on all the water in the house to “charge” the system with half of the water it is meant to process in a day (typically a few hundred gallons). A thorough inspection of the septic tank follows, ensuring all of its parts are working and that there is a healthy balance between the amounts of solids, effluent, and scum. Finally, the drainfield is inspected for any signs of flooding or foul odors, which may be a sign of clogged drainpipes, and a probe test is done to identify any hydraulic stress.
What a Septic Inspection Tells You About the Health of Your System
Despite the growing trend in opting out of other inspections, many local health departments and lending institutions still require a point-of-sale septic inspection before the sale of a home (or transfer of title) can be completed. In fact, even when it’s not required, we always recommend homebuyers get point-of-sale inspections. When required by the health department or lending institution, issues discovered during this inspection must be resolved before the sale can be completed. Elective inspections give homebuyers more freedom in deciding how to handle problems identified during the inspection. Either way, a point-of-sale inspection gives homebuyers a clear understanding of the septic system they are buying, ensuring they know all the problems it may have or ways it may need to be repaired in order to properly treat their household wastewater.
A septic inspection gives the homebuyer a sense for a system’s maintenance needs, allowing them to make informed decisions before purchasing a home that may require expensive repairs or upgrades to its septic system. A thorough septic inspection also gives homebuyers a clear layout of the system, which helps prevent damage to the system from driving over it with heavy machinery or planting deep-rooted, invasive plants around its various components.
The Pitfalls of Foregoing a Septic Inspection When Buying a Home
Of all the systems a household relies on, the wastewater treatment system (whether septic or public sewer) is probably one of the most underrated. When asked which is most important, most people often think of the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems without ever giving much thought to the household wastewater. But the truth is, your wastewater treatment system plays a part in nearly every day-to-day activity, from the moment you wake up until you go to bed.
Without a septic inspection, you are taking a gamble on whether the home you’re buying will be safe for your family. A failing septic system creates many issues for the household and the environment, potentially contaminating drinking water, soil, and any nearby bodies of water. Inheriting a failing, damaged, or inadequate septic system from a previous owner may mean you have to foot the bill for costly repairs or upgrades. You may be okay with making those repairs, but at least a septic inspection will allow you to make an informed decision about the home you’re buying, ensuring your dream home isn’t actually a money pit.
Supeck Septic Inspection & Maintenance Services
Thinking of buying a home with a septic system? Supeck Septic Services is a licensed Operation & Maintenance provider for most systems currently used in Ohio. We perform periodic as well as point-of-sale inspections and offer routine and emergency septic services. We’ve been Northeast Ohio’s trusted septic provider for the past 53 years and are committed to providing exceptional customer service. Contact us today to learn more about our inspection services or to schedule a service visit for your home’s septic system.