Septic tank - deal killer?

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HomerJ
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Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by HomerJ » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm

My daughter is looking at houses, and she found one she really likes, but it's already at the top of her price range ($200,000)

I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. I know we will get it inspected, but I'm worried this could be a huge risk, since it's not covered by insurance.

If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost? Anyone ever have one fail?

My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)

Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future.

But of course, she loves it, so I have to be the voice of cold reason here. Am I overthinking this?

jebmke
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by jebmke » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:38 pm

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost?
It is really function of size and usage. Ours is two 1,500 gallon tanks. We are only two adults and we don't send anything down the drain that hasn't been eaten except TP. We have ours pumped out every three years. I think it costs us around $600 but keep in mind that costs can depend on local requirements and fees for the pumpout company to dispose of the contents.
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Horsefly
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Horsefly » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:42 pm

We've lived in our current home - with septic - for over 20 years. We've had it pumped out every 4-5 years. The companies that do the pumping all seem to recommend once every 3 years, but I know some people who never pumped theirs for over 15 years. Not recommended, but a data point. Our subdivision doesn't have any city / community sewer lines, so everyone has septic.

Septic systems are pretty well understood and nothing to be afraid of. I think requiring the seller to pay to have it pumped out and inspected by a qualified septic company or the county is a good idea.

dcabler
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by dcabler » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:47 pm

When we bought our house, it was on septic. The state of the art at the time was aerobic with an evaporative leach field. Time goes by, we have it pumped once a year as a precaution, somebody buys all of the empty lots in our neighborhood and puts a sewer system in. Problem was, there was a $20K tap fee before I ever called the guy with the backhoe. So, we stuck with septic. Slowly and steadily it degraded over time to the point where I then had the decision to put in a new system (state of the art was then anaerobic with sprinklers) vs. tapping into the sewer. Took about 20 years or so. By then, the tap fee had dropped below $2K, so I bit the bullet. Then the option was to have an underground holding tank with sump or a traditional gravity feed system. Since gravity never fails, I went with the more expensive gravity line. As luck would have it, my sewer line exits the house on the north side, but the sewer tap was near the street on the north side. Because we're on an acre and because there are lots of underground boulders, it still cost me around $20K total for that experience which was tap fee, plumbing to connect to the tap point, and work to abandon the old tank and field. But worth it.

Would I buy another house with septic? Sure - assuming it passed inspection and was the same type of system still being allowed for new construction.

YMMV

Uniballer
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Uniballer » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:49 pm

I have a 4 bedroom house built around 20 years ago with a 1750 gallon septic tank. The county health department says I should pump the tank out every two years, but the guys who pump it say that every 5 years is fine with only two people living in the house. I think I paid around $250 to have the tank pumped out in 2015. This may vary a lot by region.

The condition of the septic system is crucial to its value. My system has a Zabel filter that ensures that the solids stay in the septic tank where they belong, and only allows liquids to enter the later parts of the septic system. I have required no maintenance other than periodically pumping the solids out of the septic tank, and cleaning and inspecting the Zabel filter at those times..

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Coyote
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Coyote » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:50 pm

I have one; it cost me $775 to have it pumped last month. Seven years ago I had to pay about $3500 to have part of the system rerouted due to tree roots infiltrating the distribution box; it took about a day and involved digging a new trench from the tank to the leach lines.

Before that I had it pumped about every 6-7 years, costs were around $500. This varies depending on where you are of course. I live in a generally high cost area.

If I was on the nearby city wastewater system I would pay around $40/mon, or ca $500/year. So, over the last 10 year period I paid somewhat less, but it's all at once, which would be a problem unless you had an emergency fund or put money aside to cover that. The city has had to make upgrades to their treatment plant due to changes in federal and state law so their costs will likely go up in the next few years.

When buying a house with a septic tank, you usually require the seller to have it pumped, and inspected. The services here that do that are really good at letting you know about future problems that they can see; they are also familiar with the soil structure and and can advise on the possibility of the leach system failure which is the major cost.

I wouldn't let it affect my choice of a house, but I can see that it's a problem for people unfamiliar or not having owned a septic system. As mentioned above you don't put anything down the system other than TP -- we had a 4'x2'x2' mass of diaper wipes in the bottom this time that took about 15 min to break up. The parents who visit with our grandchildren have gotten a stern warning about what goes down the system :?
Last edited by Coyote on Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

smitcat
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by smitcat » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:52 pm

Not enough information for a reasonable reply but here are some things to look for and some thoughts....

- Is it a septic tank with a leach field or a single cesspool
- Size and location on property
- Block or cast construction
- how deep is the inspection/access hole and how easy to get to it by digging
- what type of line lead to the cesspool (iron, clay , etc)
- does the house have a separate grey water pool for washer and kitchen sink areas

Pools that are easy to get to , have cast construction, properly sized, and have been maintained over the years are not very expensive to keep up.
A home cesspool in our area of a couple 1,000 gal capacity is about $500 to pump and another $150-200 to treat with acid. That might be needed every 4-6 years with a family of 4-5 in a typical situation.
Our commercial pools (3) each with 5,000 capacity each are pumped every 3-4 years at a cost of 2,500 - 3,000 servicing about 100 full time day persons.
If the pool is old block, was not maintained, has bituminous feed lines and is poorly situated on the property for access and disposal the costs can get pretty high. More research and quotes ahead of time for local services are warranted in this case.

Ruger
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Ruger » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:58 pm

I also have a septic. I forget the size, but it gets pumped out every five years. Cost is about $400.
Since we don't pay sewer fees, the cost to pump it is more than offset by what sewer fees would cost.
We had to have the drain field replaced about 20 years ago. Once that was done, it was good as new.
The system has been in the ground since 1950 and has performed just fine, except for the drain field incidence.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy a house with a septic, but there is always the chance that a problem could arise and connecting
to the city sewer is expensive. It might be harder to sell the house later if others are afraid of a septic system.

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dm200
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by dm200 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:04 pm

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
My daughter is looking at houses, and she found one she really likes, but it's already at the top of her price range ($200,000)
I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. I know we will get it inspected, but I'm worried this could be a huge risk, since it's not covered by insurance.
If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.
Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost? Anyone ever have one fail?
My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)
Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future.
But of course, she loves it, so I have to be the voice of cold reason here. Am I overthinking this?
I grew up in the country and there was no choice but Septic tanks - and the drain field. [I suppose an Outhouse might 'work', but almost nobody wants that "choice"]. You might get an idea from the inspection, as well as neighbors. The drain field could be a future problem as might neighbors if there is leakage, etc. I wonder if the price and offer was all with knowledge of Septic tank? Might there be any give on the price? Also, check out (if not already done) whether and how much the house is assesed/billed for the availability of the sewer hookup. Even with a Septic taank being grandfathered, she might be paying a hefty fee for something not being used. Take that into account. Long term, increasingly as the years go by, the price and ease (or difficulty) will be more challenging not being hooked into the sewer line.

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djpeteski
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by djpeteski » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:06 pm

With a septic tank, one does not pay for sewer, so there is a monthly savings. In some places it can be very significant.

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fishandgolf
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by fishandgolf » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:08 pm

I know you didn't ask this but if the house has a septic, what is the source of water? If it's a single or shared well, I would check and verify the age and condition of the pump, well lines, etc. The water will be tested and pass state requirements before mortgage company will approve the loan. If the source is city water....not a problem.

I live in a rural area with septic and well. We've had some minor issues with septic, but our major expense was the well...... had to drill an new well due to contamination....cost was just north of $20,000.00. Septic is pumped in every 3 years at cost of $250.00.

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sunny_socal
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by sunny_socal » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:16 pm

We have septic, costs $500 to pump it every 3-4 years. No other maintenance or worry.

We received an "offer" to connect with city sewers:
- $50k initial fee (yes, you read that correctly)
- Monthly fee after that

:shock:


I'll be staying on septic :mrgreen:

freebeer
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by freebeer » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:18 pm

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
...

I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. ...

Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future....
I own two properties on septic systems

First of all the things to be concerned about isn't the tank it's the drain field (unless it's a cesspool not a septic system aka on-site sewage disposal system).

Secondly as far as sales, it depends on comparables. If 95% of comps are sewer connected then yes it could be an ding. If 95% of conps are on septic too, then a non issue. If 50/50 then it comes down to one item in the total bundle of value, along with the many other factors like 1-car vs. 2-car garage, etc.

And then there's the question of whether it's been priced in to the $200k. If so then fine, she could buy a $240k home without this particular issue but maybe the $200k home with the issue is a better deal. We on this board can't possibly help you assess this.

Well, help your daughter assess this. Not sure why whether you are "on board" or not matters unless she is requesting that role for you.

rgs92
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by rgs92 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:20 pm

It's common in the NY suburbs. I had one for years before sewers were installed and it worked fine and transparently.

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dm200
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by dm200 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:21 pm

djpeteski wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:06 pm
With a septic tank, one does not pay for sewer, so there is a monthly savings. In some places it can be very significant.
"Municipal" fees and taxes can be "creative". In the country where I grew up, we had wells and septic tanks. Now, there is municipal water available (but no sewers). Many relatives stil live there. Such folks were charged (by footage along road) for the availability of municipal water whether they connected or not. I suspect, then, that some local taxing entities do charge for availability of sewer - whether connected or not.

WaffleCone
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by WaffleCone » Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:23 pm

Our tie-in was $12,000 but it easily could have cost triple (and we had quotes for triple+ ). The permit charge was $300 and has since gone up to $1500.

Our sewer main tap and lateral to the curb were already installed, which meant no street digging. If we needed to open the street it would have been $5000 plus a flagging crew and some kind of bond.

Our installer had experience in the area and knew we had the "fall" for a gravity sewer. If the sewer exits the back of the house and needs to wrap around front, the depth of the public sewer may become an issue. If it's not deep enough you need a pump. You may also run into rock when you dig, depending on depth. Jack hammering adds cost and you usually don't know ahead of time.

Then there's the total mess that your property becomes, especially if they dig down your driveway. There is a LOT of soil that comes up when laying a gravity line 8-10' deep, not to mention piles of stone if you need that in the base.

Comps will determine if the house is priced properly. If the septic tank is 20 years old, it may last a long while still, but I'd figure replacement as a cost down the road. Not a deal breaker. But see what it takes (how long of a dig, amount of landscape affected, permit cost, number of people going to live in the house, how long you plan to own, etc).

The good news is, when it "fails", pumping and some band-aids can usually get it to last a little longer. So you'll usually have time to get bids and do some planning and not have to get it fixed RIGHT NOW.

p14175
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by p14175 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:43 pm

In a house sale, the seller usually pays for septic inspection, pumping, and any necessary repairs unless otherwise specified.

The house we just sold has a septic tank. We lived in the house for 33 years and never got around to pumping. There was only the two of us living in the house so we weren't exactly filling it up.

Anyway, when we were selling the house, the real estate sales agreement said we had to have the septic tank inspected, pumped, and registered with the state. That cost about $600. It failed inspection. The concrete baffles at the ends of the tank had disintegrated and the leach field had issues. The pumper told us that concrete baffles don't last very long and it was a common repair. The cost of repairs was about $1400. The total cost of the inspection and repair was about $2000. The new owners now have a septic tank that's in great shape, they know exactly where the tank and clean out for the leach field are located, plus a messed up back yard. Most of our neighbors have never had their septic tanks pumped so I guess they might be in for a surprise when they sell.

A septic tank shouldn't be a deal killer since the buyer will be starting with one that's in good shape. Just remember, that septic tanks can't handle large food particles and grease. That means cleaning your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

iamlucky13
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by iamlucky13 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:29 pm

Don't decide until the system is inspected. If the inspection raises red flags, it is still an option for her to revise her offer to either require the seller to fix all the identified problems (might actually be necessary to get financing if the lender is aware of issues), or to lower the offer in order factor in the expense of fixing those issues yourself. If the lender does not like the latter option, a refurbishment loan might be a way around it (203k or Homepath/Homestyle compliant "purchase and renovate" loan). There may also be county-backed loan programs available specifically to ensure homeowners are able to finance repairs to septic systems.

If it is a reasonably modern system installed in the last 30 years or so and the tank and drainfield are in good condition, odds are it has many decades of useful life left with little ongoing costs.

Normal maintenance is:
- Pumping as needed. 5-10 years is typical. Actual requirement is based on checking solids and scum levels, but most people are squeamish about the thought even though the process is pretty simple, and just pump every 5 years automatically.

- Keeping an eye out to make sure the drainfield area is not getting usually soggy or developing a septic smell, indicating failure. If that happens, in many jurisdictions it is an option to install a second drainfield on the property to replace a failed drainfield.

- Replacing effluent pump if it is not a gravity system. 10+ year lifespan is typical, and cost will probably be $500-1000. If there is a pump without an alarm, having an alarm installed is advisable. When the pump ultimately does fail, the first indication otherwise is likely to be soggy, smelly ground around the riser lids. It's not as bad as it sounds, but it's better to pre-empt it.

- Not flushing materials that are not easily broken down. This includes paper towels.

For my part, I was glad that the house we settled on buying had a septic tank. We're far enough away from an existing sewer line that we would not be required to hook up to municipal sewer if it failed, and even if the entire system failed and required replacement, it would be a good deal compared to the sewer rates in my area.

Don't worry about resale value. As others noted, it should be a net zero concern.

Also, be aware that city sewer connections are not without their own risks. A poster on the boards here recently was looking for advice on insurance to get to protect him from the really nasty damage he witnessed a neighbor face due to a city sewer backup. A friend of mine had a similar experience that fortunately I think she did have insurance for, but she spent months with only half her home habitable. In the local paper, it seems like once every year or two, a different neighborhood has a backup, and they always end up fighting the city for damages. Looking up one of those past stories just now, the damages averaged $20,000 per affected property. They finally in the last couple of years agreed to partially reimburse improvements to prevent backups from actually entering homes, but at the same time made it the homeowner's responsibility if anything went wrong, regardless of the cause.

Carl53
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Carl53 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:14 pm

We live in a 40 year old house with an aerated septic tank and leach bed. Over the last 28 years the tank has been pumped 4 times and the aerator changed at least 3 times. Every couple of months i pull the aerator to clean the shaft of hair. Most months i dump a dose of ride in the commode and perhaps twice a year i dump some root killer or leach bed maintenance product into the leach bed supply line. We had about 4 inches of rain late last week and the aerator electrical box needed reset.

heyyou
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by heyyou » Fri Nov 10, 2017 7:33 pm

Just remember, that septic tanks can't handle large food particles and grease. That means cleaning your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
My state changed its grey water regulations while we were building in 2005. The building inspector said "We don't care what you do with your grey water," so only our sewage goes into the septic system.

All of the grey water is piped to the surface below a retaining wall on our sloped lot. No worries about hair from bathing, the grease and food waste from the kitchen sink and dishwasher, or the high volume of water from the laundry, going into the septic.

It might not be difficult to re-route the kitchen and laundry waste water into a cesspool, if that is acceptable to your state's newer grey water regulations. Older houses often have a exterior wall behind the kitchen sink with easier access to the plumbing.

I would buy the house but spending my last dime of savings on the down payment is scary. Isn't there usually something that needs repair?

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Sandtrap
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:58 pm

2500 gallon septic tank. Dual tank system. 4 leach fields. RiDex down the toilet every couple months. No food scraps down the drain or other "indigestibles". Biodegradable soaps and detergents. Haven't pumped it out in 4 years. Last inspection was fine.

iamlucky13
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by iamlucky13 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:12 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:58 pm
2500 gallon septic tank. Dual tank system. 4 leach fields. RiDex down the toilet every couple months. No food scraps down the drain or other "indigestibles". Biodegradable soaps and detergents. Haven't pumped it out in 4 years. Last inspection was fine.
FYI, experts seem to pretty consistently agree that additives like Rid-X are not needed in properly functioning septic tanks. More reading here:
https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmed ... v-13-w.pdf

Where they're most likely to actually accomplish something is unusual cases like unknowingly draining a heavily chlorinated hot tub into your septic tank, in which case they might help re-establish all the bacteria that can potentially kill off.
heyyou wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 7:33 pm
My state changed its grey water regulations while we were building in 2005. The building inspector said "We don't care what you do with your grey water," so only our sewage goes into the septic system.
Lucky you. I looked into using greywater for irrigation in Washington state and realized a few dozen pages into the regulations it wasn't worth the hassle. Your grey water system basically becomes another miniature septic system with plenty of health department requirements of its own that still has to be able to divert into the regular septic system.

WhyNotUs
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by WhyNotUs » Sat Nov 11, 2017 12:41 am

Cost to pump vary quite a bit by region, $600 here for 1500 gallon tank. I was doing every three years but my guy said that our system looks like it should be five years. Ask the seller to pump before sale and you can get it inspected. That may buy her 5 years. The leach field cannot really be inspected but depending on use, soils and when it was constructed, 30 years is time to start looking at when to put in a new field. The newer systems with infiltrators, sand filters, and dosing chambers will last a lot longer than the old systems of gravel and perforated pipe. When the leach field breaks down, it is not always obvious right away. That is why governments don't like them, there are man, many systems out there not working properly unbeknownst to the owner.

Systems do fail, they are not designed to last forever. How long has the current one been in place?

If there is at least 10 years left in it and your daughter saves the $50 a month that she is avoiding in sewer bill, then she would have $6,000 saved toward its replacement.
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toast0
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by toast0 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:38 am

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.
Depending on the site, if you need to connect to the sewer, there's a chance you may need to replumb significant portions of the house -- if the current plumbing exits the house on the wrong side and there isn't enough height to make a proper slope with a pipe meandering around the house to go in the right direction, you would need to rerun the internal plumbing out the proper side with a different slope. You might want to call the municipal sewer office and ask what typical costs to connect are; they should give you a reasonable estimate of cost to get to the edge of the property, and they may be willing to give a ballpark estimate from the edge to the house.

denovo
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by denovo » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:52 am

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm

If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.



My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)

. Am I overthinking this?
If you are right about the law, I vote to pass on the house.
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hudson
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by hudson » Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:07 am

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
My daughter is looking at houses, and she found one she really likes, but it's already at the top of her price range ($200,000)

I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. I know we will get it inspected, but I'm worried this could be a huge risk, since it's not covered by insurance.

If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost? Anyone ever have one fail?

My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)

Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future.

But of course, she loves it, so I have to be the voice of cold reason here. Am I overthinking this?
A friend of mine owns a house with a 1940s sewage system that predates septic tanks. It's constantly a problem. If the local government got involved, it would cost maybe 30K to fix. My friend is a very conservative spender and a scrounger; he's not worried a bit. He's studied the local regulations; he knows what he can get buy with. He keeps applying band-aid solutions. I'll bet he'll continue to find work-arounds. That wouldn't work for me...and maybe not for your daughter.

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samsoes
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by samsoes » Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:41 am

I recommend the following book. Very informative and quite useful.

The Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, et al., ISBN 0936070404, https://www.amazon.com/Septic-System-Ow ... 0936070404.
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by carolinaman » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:58 am

We have lived in our home for 44 years with a septic tank and never had it pumped out. I put the bacteria stuff in the tank once a month and are careful what we put in it: no solid foods, grease, etc. It is probably on life support but so far no problems.

I know I need to have it cleaned and they will probably tell me it needs to be replaced. At that point, I will need to decide to hook up to city sewer line or buy new tank. Big bucks either way.

FWIW, our neighbors have had their tanks pumped maybe once or twice during that time. 44 years is way too long but every 4-5 years seems too frequent.
Last edited by carolinaman on Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

likegarden
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by likegarden » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:20 am

It all depends non the ground the septic tank and leach field is placed on.
We had a split level house which was built on sand. We had the septic tank pumped twice in 10 years, never had a problem.

Then we had a long ranch with long nearly horizontal lines from bath rooms to septic tank which was on shale. We lived there for 2 years, had it pumped 3 times. Town required to have an engineer review it at a cost of $15,000 in 1987, but my employer moved me to a different state. On that house the washer emptied out on a dry well which got plugged up frequently, and I had to pour 5 gal of an acid into that every time.

After the last experience we have a colonial type house connected to a town sewer for the last 30 years, sewer was a must. We also have town water, another must have.
Last edited by likegarden on Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

Yooper
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Yooper » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:06 am

My understanding is that the pumping process removes material at the bottom that cannot/will not degrade. If it's not done there's a risk of solids getting into the drain field and causing serious problems. Problems you do NOT want to have. The frequency of pumping is based on the size of your tank, number of people using the system, and of course - what goes down the drain. Our's is a smaller tank, we have a relatively large household, however we don't use a lot of water and we do our best to maintain a healthy system (screens in the kitchen sink to reduce food items from being washed down, septic safe toilet paper, etc.) We've got a water softener (the discharge does not go in the tank - the jury is out on whether water softener backwash is bad so I erred on the side of caution) but by looking at the meter I know that our water usage is quite low (about 100 gallons a day). We get our's pumped about every 3 years, it's only $200 but does give me peace of mind. The septic guy swears we could go 5-7, but I just feel better about doing it more frequently.

Of course what you don't want to hear is that you have no idea how the system your daughter's interested in has been maintained. Perhaps in the course of conversation she could ask, "So what's all involved in a septic system?" and see what the response is. If it's "Piece of cake, we never do anything with it", then that might be a red flag. If they go into some detail about the do's and don'ts then she could be more comfortable since it would appear the owner's are somewhat knowledgeable about septic systems.

As far as I know, a garbage disposal is a big no-no with septic systems, she might want to look under the kitchen sink.

I initially started using RidEx but then based on some research (and my septic guy's input) decided to stop. It's sort of like the "pay off or keep my mortgage" situation, there are very good arguments for and against the product and I'm not sure there's a correct answer.

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mrc
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by mrc » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:44 am

Yooper wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:06 am
My understanding is that the pumping process removes material at the bottom that cannot/will not degrade. If it's not done there's a risk of solids getting into the drain field and causing serious problems. Problems you do NOT want to have. ...
That is my understanding as well. If you let solids accumulate and fowl the drain field, it's game over. Going 44 years without a clean out seems as foolish as not going to a doctor because only then you'll find out you have cancer.
If it’s not long term it’s small talk

MrNewEngland
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by MrNewEngland » Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:29 am

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
My daughter is looking at houses, and she found one she really likes, but it's already at the top of her price range ($200,000)

I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. I know we will get it inspected, but I'm worried this could be a huge risk, since it's not covered by insurance.

If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost? Anyone ever have one fail?

My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)

Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future.

But of course, she loves it, so I have to be the voice of cold reason here. Am I overthinking this?
Is city sewer available? That would be my biggest question with that concern.

Tap fees, capacity fees, and plumbing to get to the street IS expensive, but it’s nothing compared to having to extend an actual municipal line.

With that said septic isn’t as unreliable as people think. Even here in my region where it’s mostly clay (clay is not the best soil to percolate) I’ve owned a house with septic and had no issues.

Nate79
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Nate79 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 2:23 pm

Millions of homes have septic. You act like it is some rare situation to be avoided. It's not really that big of deal with even minor due dilligence it will be just fine.

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jharkin
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by jharkin » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:08 pm

Read:
https://inspectapedia.com/septic/Septic ... hedule.php


I grew up with septic, and live in a house with one now. Town doesn’t have sewers. Like anything, if you maintain it properly it’s nothing to worry about.

We have a 1500 gal and family of 4. I pump every 3 years to be very conservative, costs about $350.

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Toons
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Toons » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:13 pm

You are overthinking it.
Why fret about a "what if" situation.
99.9% of the time they never happen.
We retired to Tn to the country .
We have a septic tank.
Had It pumped out one time.
We don't abuse it with oil,grease,,etc.
So far no problems.
Don't let it be a deal breaker if she likes the home. :happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

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MikeWillRetire
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by MikeWillRetire » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:23 pm

It's a gamble because it depends on how well the previous owners maintained it.

AntsOnTheMarch
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by AntsOnTheMarch » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:42 pm

MikeWillRetire wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:23 pm
It's a gamble because it depends on how well the previous owners maintained it.
+1

The inspection will be your daughter’s best friend. The way inspections are done nowadays, if there is any problem, they will find it. Heck, they may even find a problem that’s not there. :D If there is a problem, your daughter will have negotiating leverage and I suggest she uses it.

As for pumping 1-5 years depending on usage. In our town, there was actually a law in place. The pumper had to register and maintain records with the town and every homeowner had to pump and inspect every 5 years. I wouldn’t trust a septic that hasn’t been pumped or inspected for much longer than that.

When we sold out home, the septic was cleaned and inspected and there was a problem which cost several thousand to fix. We had maintained the septic but it was old and it was coming up on its 5 year inspection period.

If I were buying in an area where houses where hooked up to sewer and the home I was looking at had a septic, I’d discount it. Same if it had well water but there was city water available. Same if it there was a natural gas connection but it had an oil furnace. These are all things new homeowners would pay more for in my area.

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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by travellight » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:24 pm

I have two homes with septic. My vacation home has never been pumped in 25 years and I have seen no problems. However, it has low usage. My primary home has been pumped three or four times in the 25+ years that I have been there. I have not been careful with avoiding grease or food products or anything. I have just lived a normal life with no precautions taken. I suppose I could get it pumped out more frequently if I was concerned. Pumping costs about $300 if I recall correctly.

likegarden
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by likegarden » Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:49 am

When you have inspection, ask the owner on which ground the septic tank sits on. As I wrote, a house sitting on sand has no septic problems, but sitting on shale will have those problems.

quantAndHold
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by quantAndHold » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:46 am

MikeWillRetire wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:23 pm
It's a gamble because it depends on how well the previous owners maintained it.
Couldn’t you say that about the entire house?

hudson
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by hudson » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:26 am

HomerJ wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:34 pm
My daughter is looking at houses, and she found one she really likes, but it's already at the top of her price range ($200,000)

I was on-board with the purchase, until I learned this house still has a septic tank. I know we will get it inspected, but I'm worried this could be a huge risk, since it's not covered by insurance.

If it fails, I believe the law is that we have to pay to hook up to the city sewer line at that point (Existing septic tanks were grandfathered in). I have only a vague idea of how much this would cost to lay a trench and connect to the sewer line. Our real estate agent (who we have known for years, and trust) says it could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Anyone else own septic tanks who can give us an idea of how much it costs to maintain them? How often do they need to be emptied and what does that cost? Anyone ever have one fail?

My daughter really couldn't handle a $20,000 emergency anytime soon (Almost all her money will be going for a down-payment)

Even if it never failed I think it would make it harder to sell the house in the future.

But of course, she loves it, so I have to be the voice of cold reason here. Am I overthinking this?
If my imaginary daughter were on her own and getting ready to buy a house, I would tell her that I had some opinions and advice if she asked me.
If she asked, I would say...maybe too much house; but if you like it, you may want to have a pro pull the top off the septic tank and inspect/test or whatever. I would also recommend a full home inspection. If a septic tank pro came, I'd want pictures and if possible, a map of the drainage field; I'd want to know how strong it was. I've had mine driven over several times...luckily no problems.

mrgeeze
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by mrgeeze » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:04 pm

Horsefly wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:42 pm
We've lived in our current home - with septic - for over 20 years. We've had it pumped out every 4-5 years. The companies that do the pumping all seem to recommend once every 3 years, but I know some people who never pumped theirs for over 15 years. Not recommended, but a data point. Our subdivision doesn't have any city / community sewer lines, so everyone has septic.

Septic systems are pretty well understood and nothing to be afraid of. I think requiring the seller to pay to have it pumped out and inspected by a qualified septic company or the county is a good idea.

I believe people are overly worried about septic tanks. If it works today It will probably work tomorrow and next year.
Its pretty simple technology. It's just gotta run downhill.
I wouldn't spend a dollar to pump one out till I have a problem.
You don't snake your toilet every month do you?

I have owned 2 homes, hundreds of miles apart, both had septic system. First house lived in for 20 years. When I moved in the house was 11 years old. Never pumped it out. 30 years without a pump out. Sold it to my neighbor. Bet $10 he hasn't pumped it out either

Second house I currently live in was built in 1975 and still has original septic. Big bushes growing in the leach field. Very high water table.
Never pumped it out. Never had a problem.

Something you may wish to keep in the back of your mind
I did a flip on another property with a mostly destroyed septic system.
It was time for a new septic system.
I then learned there is a very fine line between "replacing" and "repairing" a septic tank.
I got a local licensed septic guy to "repair" (basically built me a new one) for about $3500.
Dug the old tank out with a backhoe, extended the fields, gravel, etc.


YMMV

RustyShackleford
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by RustyShackleford » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:52 pm

I believe people are overly worried about septic tanks. If it works today It will probably work tomorrow and next year.
I tend to agree. Though, as you say, YMMV may vary depending on where you live.

My experience is that I've lived in my house for 30 years, since it was built, singly some time, as a couple most of the time. I get the tank pumped every 10 years at a cost of $150-250 (increasing over those decades). Each time, the pumping guy says "it looks great".

Perhaps the bigger issue is the "leach field", the line(s) that drain liquids off from the tank. You don't want the tiny holes in this pipe to get clogged. In my most serious incident, liquids started backing up (bad smell in yard, stinky water around tank lid). A guy came out, took one look at it, and realized a tree's roots had grown into the line, about 30ft from the tank. A couple hours and $800 later, he had dug up that section of the line and replaced it. What this means is that I had been living off 30ft of the 200ft of total line for some years. So I expect it to be a LONG time before I have trouble again.

Personally, I would not think twice about buying a house with a septic system.

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bilperk
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by bilperk » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:33 pm

1) Go to the health department and find out if there are any records on the system (age, type, etc)
2) Go to the city and find out if you will be required to hook up or not.
3) If you would be required, try to get a good estimate of both hook-up fees and monthly service
4) Find out if there are any payment programs if you must hook up. Many cities have this.
5) See if you can get the seller to consider paying for half the hook up, particularly if the septic system fails inspection.
6) offer enough less for the house that you can connect yourself.

I have lived on septic and on sewer. Sewer is better.
Bill

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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by retired recently » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:01 pm

I think the only real issue is if the buyer of the house has never had a septic tank and is used to putting things down the drain that should not be down any drain...old habits can be hard to break.

I have always lived with a septic tank and never had any problems. Our current house was 5 years old when we bought it and the tank had never been pumped. We did not require it to be pumped and only pumped it two years ago, so it went 10 years and was fine.

nickjoy
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by nickjoy » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:05 am

I grew up in a house with a Septic tank.

Started with 5 people, eventually whittled down to 2, and now just one person living there.

Never had it pumped. Built in '94. My father always put Rid-X in the toilets one a month. Never had a problem. As the number of people went down, he got less and less religious about it. Rid-X is basically bacteria that eats it all down so you don't have to get it pumped.

Make sure you don't put bleach or too much cleaning stuff down the toilet. You'll have to wait a few days and then put more rid-x down there since all the bacteria will be dead (from the bleach) and you'll have to restart the colonies.

kazper
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by kazper » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:09 pm

I completely understand that concern. We went from living in apartments to owning a home with both a septic system and a well- double score!

It took some adjustment, but really there is not a huge difference. As long as everything is running smoothly, all you need is a periodic cleaning and inspection. Some companies charge one fee to do both- I think ours was between 400 and 500 when I had it done a few years ago. Fairly quick process and I appreciate knowing that everything works correctly.

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Pajamas
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Re: Septic tank - deal killer?

Post by Pajamas » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:03 pm

I have a friend who bought a house with a septic field. The septic field had to be completely redone very soon thereafter. The well was also contaminated, possibly by the septic field, so a new filtration and ultraviolet water treatment system had to be installed. An old buried fuel tank was discovered at some point during all of that and had to be removed by a company certified in removing them. A small stream on the property was a complicating factor. It was all very expensive but also a lot of trouble and inconvenience.

So I would recommend looking at all related issues including soil tests and also consider planning on connecting to the city sewage system proactively and including that expense in deciding whether or not to buy the house.

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