ASHI - American Society of Home Inspectors

06/17/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2017 13:23

What to expect at a well and septic inspection

Originally posted at the Lansing State Journal

by Amanda Oboza

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one in five U.S. households relies on some sort of septic system. Finding out a home has a well and septic system can make a prospective buyer nervous because they are expensive to repair or replace. However, you can protect yourself by ensuring you have a professional inspection; but what does that involve?

A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment system that is commonly used in areas without centralized sewer systems. Most rural homes with septic systems will also have a well that provides water for daily use. The EPA says more than 15 million homes rely on private wells for drinking water.

Nathan Foote of Health Services Expeditors says that just like a home inspection, a well and septic inspection is critical to protect both buyers and sellers. In fact, an inspection is actually required in certain counties.

'Eaton, Ingham, Shiawassee, and Barry counties have mandated point-of-sale programs, which means that all wells and septic systems in the counties are subject to health department inspections before a sale can close,' he said. 'Other counties, like Clinton and Jackson, do not have these mandates in place.'

In counties where an inspection is not mandatory, a lender will typically require one, and if not, a buyer or seller will need to request one.

'In a real estate transaction, it's beneficial for all parties to get this taken care of as soon as possible,' he said. 'In mandated counties you will need to have it done anyway, but getting it taken care of early means you can find out all of your information ahead of time to avoid any surprises or unexpected equity loss.'

Why is an inspection so important? Septic systems and wells are major, big-ticket items. Foote says a reasonably priced replacement well is $6,000-$6,500, while a new drain field for a septic system can run anywhere from $7,500-$25,000.

During an inspection, the inspector will test the water system and check it for volume and pressure. They will look at the well to make sure it is properly constructed and compliant and they will run water tests for things like bacteria, nitrate, and arsenic, depending on county requirements.

The inspector will also look at the pumping equipment and conduct a thorough plumbing survey to see how the water is getting in and where it is ending up. They will also draw a detailed diagram showing where the well is located, and the location of the septic tank, the lid of the tank, and the drainfield.

'We will also be checking the condition of the drainfield,' said Foote. 'Is it functioning? How old is it? The septic tank will also need to be pumped, especially if it has not been done in the past 3 years.'

Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will turn the report in to whoever made the request - the county, the lender, or the buyer/seller. When turned in to the county, the health department reviews the report and determines if the system is approved or disapproved. If disapproved, the parties will need to work with the county to take corrective actions.

Foote says the cost for a well and septic inspection typically runs between $600-$700 for the inspection process and lab fees. The cost to pump a septic tank is typically $350. Repairs, if needed, can vary drastically, and while the responsibility for repairs typically falls to the seller, it all depends on negotiations.

In counties where there is a point-of-sale mandate, the health department will provide a list of certified and approved well and septic inspectors, but it's important to use an experienced, trusted professional, so do you research and ask around for referrals.

If you are thinking of purchasing a rural property, make sure you enlist the help of a professional local REALTOR® who has experience with these homes and can help walk you through the process. For a listing of area agents and inspectors, visit the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® website at www.lansing-realestate.com.

Date : 6/17/2017