Septic Systems 101 for Home Buyers

If you’re a city dweller who is looking for a home in the suburbs, it’s likely that you’re looking at homes with septic for the first time and you may feel that you need a run down of septic systems 101 for home buyers.  Septic tanks tends to make buyers nervous unnecessarily so. Let’s take an overview of what a simple septic system is, how it’s maintained, and what you can do if you’re buying a home that uses one.  A septic system is a self-contained system for disposing of sewerage.  They’re frequently found in rural and suburban areas that do not have public sewerage systems.  The system one sees most often is a holding tank in which enzyme and bacterial action decomposes the waste material and buried lines in a drainage field use soil to strain out what remains. Septic permits are usually issued specifying the number of bedrooms a house may have that is to be built on the lot for which the permit is being issued.  How well the soil percolates (how well water drains through the soil) on the lot is taken into account when issuing the permit.  It typically costs between $1200 and $8400 to install a conventional system in the Raleigh and surrounding area.  Systems are usually adequate for the size of the house because of the permit system. When a system and the demands of a household are in balance, it can be literally years between times any maintenance is needed.  Some jurisdictions require that they be pumped periodically.  There are companies which make a specialty of this.  The average cost for the Raleigh area ranges from $300-$600 to have a septic tank pumped.

Home Buyer Precautions

There are a number of things a homebuyer can do when buying a home with a septic system to minimize the possibility of having a problem.  You can make your contract offer subject to a septic inspection and pumping.  You can ask the seller to sign an affidavit stating that to the best of his knowledge the permit was issued for the number of bedrooms the home has, or, alternatively, you can check at the courthouse yourself.  Just call and ask what department handles the permits, then call that department and ask about archived information. Water should not stand for hours after a heavy rain on property with a septic system.  There should never be any unpleasant odor associated with a septic system.

Alternative Systems

What we’ve been talking about is a simple conventional septic tank and drain field.  It used to be virtually impossible to install a septic system where the soil does not drain well, or where the water table is high.  Clay soils don’t drain well.  High water tables are often encountered near the ocean, near marshy areas, and in areas near large bodies of water. In certain cases, an alternative septic system may be the best option.  An alternative septic system is any type of building wastewater (also called “effluent”) drainage system that deviates from the standard septic tank. There are various ways other than a conventional septic system to divert and clean water waste from your home and safely reintroduce it back into the environment! Hopefully Septic Systems 101 for the home buyer has shed some light on the topic of all things septic. Please feel free to reach out to me and I would be happy to discuss your home buying needs.  I would love for you to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.