By Michael E. Perrault, P.E.
How long has your house been on the market? That is a very common question, especially during this “economic slow down”. Are you using a Real Estate firm to help you market and sell your property? What are you doing about your old Septic System?
If you have a septic system and live in Massachusetts, you are obligated by law to have your septic system inspected when you are selling your property. Before 1995 this requirement did not exist and typically only a token observation was performed. Opening the cover of the Septic Tank and proclaiming, “looks good to me” does not constitute a thorough inspection.
With the changes in the Massachusetts Sanitary Code since 1995, a licensed septic system inspector must follow the Title 5 Code requirements and document the inspection using the standard State forms. A copy of this completed form must be submitted to the local Board of Health office, the seller and a copy must also be provided to the buyer.
When you lsited your property, did your Real Estate Agent tell you about the need for the septic inspection? Did you have it done right away or are you waiting for a buyer?
Over the last 18 months I have been travelling to various real estate offices in Southeastern Massachusetts and presenting a brief seminar on septic systems. This seminar was pre-arranged to be made during the monthy meeting of the brokers, agents and sales staff and would take about 1/2 hour.
The focus of the presentation was on the need for the inspection of the septic system early in the sales process and what to do when the inspection results in a failure.
An important part of my presentation is the question and answer session. One common question that is typically asked is, “My client’s septic system failed the Title 5 inspection, when do they need to replace the system?”
My advice is to have the work done sooner than latter.
What makes one property more attractive than a very similar property in the same neighborhood? If both houses needed to have their septic systems replaced and one had all the engineering design completed and plans available for the buyer to review, would that make one house more attractive to a potential buyer? Showing of the property would include telling the potential buyer exactly where the new septic system would be going and if it would involve building a large “hump: in the yard. What if the house had the system installed and the lawn restored. Would the completion of the work make that house even more attractive? The showing would simply indicate the location of the installed system and that there would be no delays due to the need to install a new septic system.
Some property owners simply do not have the money to pay for the design and installation of a new septic system. My advice is to suggest, as a minimum, getting the soil testing and desgin engineering completed as soom as possible. Once the design plans are completed, the owner can obtain actual construction cost estimates. The cost for replacing the septic system will play an important roll in establishing the acceptable price for the property.
As for the installation of the system, Banks and Mortgage Companies typically do not want to hold back funds at the “closing” to pay for the installation of the septic system. When they do agree to holding back the money to build the system, the amount is typically 1.5 times the bid estimate.
There are contractors that will work with sellers to install the replacement septic system when the sale documents are complete and the “closing” has been scheduled, pending the installation of the septic system. These contractors are typically listed on the “closing documents” and are paid from the funds generated by the sale of the property.
Not all real estate professionals know about these options, have the contacts to get the engineering completed in a timely manner, obtain legitimate construction quotes or arrange for the “pre-closing” construction.
I hope that my “septic system seminar” for real estate professionals provided a little more knowledge. One other “tool” that was provided to these professionals was a copy of the brochure “Valuable Information on Title 5 Septic System, Perc. Testing, Soil Evaluation and Design Engineering”. This brochure clearly outlines the steps that need to be followed in replacing a faied septic system. This brochure can be downloaded for free from the www.pmpassoc.com web site landing page.