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Can I Sell My House with a Failed Septic System?
The time has come to sell your house...
Perhaps you'd like to move somewhere bigger for your growing family, or you'd be relocating because of a job. In any case, the first thing that you must do after you have decided to sell your house is to conduct a home inspection.
You can either do it yourself or hire professional inspectors to ensure that everything is in working order. The inspector would issue a written report, and if they haven't found any problem, then good for you. Your house has a clean bill of health which is attractive to prospective buyers.
But most of the time, that is not the case.
A home inspection can reveal several issues lurking underneath, and among these, a failed septic system can both be a pain and a huge expense to deal with.
So, what do you do if your septic system failed inspection?
A failed septic system is not merely a cosmetic issue that some potential buyers can look past. Hence, it affects you in three ways: it can substantially decrease your buyer pool; it can dramatically lower sale price; and, it can significantly lengthen the time it takes to find a buyer.
Furthermore, depending on local laws, it is even considered a code violation and you will be prohibited from selling without doing the necessary repairs to ensure that the house is up to code.
Unfortunately, major repairs on a failing septic system can cost a decent chunk of change. Not to mention the time and energy needed to make it happen, and not everyone has those.
In this article, we will explore the ways on how you could go about selling a house with a failed septic system.
What is a Septic System?
A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment structure consisting of a septic tank and a leach field. It is common in rural areas where the local municipality is yet to have a public sewer system.
In a functioning septic system, the wastewater flows from your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry into the septic tank. The septic tank is a watertight structure made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene, which is buried underground.
Its purpose is to allow the separation of solids and floatable matter before slowly discharging the treated liquid (effluent) into the leach field. The leach field, or drain field, is a shallow covered excavation which further treats the effluent, naturally removing harmful bacteria, before finally discharging into the groundwater.
Telltale Signs of a Septic System Failure
A house with a failed septic system not only poses a health and sanitation risk to the homeowners, it is also a serious environmental pollution risk to the community. A failed septic tank, for instance, can leak untreated liquid wastewater into the groundwater, contaminating it and spreading disease-causing bacteria.
Of course you'd want to prevent that from happening, so keep your eyes (and nose and ears) peeled for these red flags before your septic system fails altogether:
Slow Flushing Toilets and Slow-Draining Bathtubs and Showers
This is usually the first sign that your septic system may be compromised. It may take several flushes or lots of water before you are able to drain the standing water.
Bad Odors Near the Septic Tank
Horrible smells wafting from the area around your septic tank may mean that its structure is compromised. You may want to have it looked at before the problem gets progressively worse.
Lush Green Growth in the Area Over the Septic Tank
Not all greens are good. It is possible that the beautiful and lush greenery growing where they didn't before is using your failed septic system as a water and fertilizer source.
Stagnant Water in the Yard
Standing water in the yard even when it's sunny outside can mean that the effluent is leaking from the failed septic system.
Other signs include gurgling noises in your home's plumbing, a flooded basement, or sewage backing up into the home.
Causes of Septic System Issues
Knowing the cause would help you be proactive in dealing with possible septic system problems. Usually, these problems are caused by:
The leading cause of a failed septic system is inability or unwillingness to perform routine maintenance.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), septic tanks must be pumped every three to five years to keep the sludge in the tank from clogging up the entire system. It doesn't cost much too, just a few hundred dollars, but saves you a great deal of hassle in the long run.
It is possible that your house is located in an area with a prevalence of expansive soils. This type of soil shrinks during the dry season and swells during the wet season, thus, this expansion and contraction of the surrounding soil can cause cracks to appear in your septic tank.
Floods and hurricanes can worsen the problem by flooding your aging or cracked septic tank with groundwater, causing it to overflow or sewage to back up into your home.
Parking on top of the septic system can cause major damage to tanks and its drain field. Most septic tanks are not designed to take on the weight of a vehicle or heavy machinery.
Utility and Landscaping Works
Properly locating and marking electric lines, water lines, and septic systems prior to doing any yard work or renovation can prevent workmen from accidentally damaging pipes.
Non-biodegradable Materials Getting into the Septic Systems
Non-biodegradable materials and solids, such as tampons, sanitary pads, and wipes, contribute to sludge buildup in the septic tank and a clogged septic system.
Never mind that it says "flushable" on the packaging, it's better to just throw it in the trash than risk spending thousands of dollars in case your septic system fails.
Tree Roots Infiltrating the Septic System
It may not be apparent but the trees in your yard can have a devastating impact on your septic tank. Their roots could penetrate the concrete, causing leaks and necessitating septic repairs. To avoid this, plan your landscaping with the septic systems in mind.
Improper Septic System Installation
Sometimes, the septic system just isn't installed correctly, preventing proper discharge or worse, causing sewage to back up into the house.
Hiring a reputable plumbing company with lots of experience would prevent these headaches down the line.
Can You Sell a House with a Bad Septic System?
YES, you'd be able to sell a house with a failed septic system just fine.
The question is how do you proceed?
There are three routes you could take: Repair and/or replace the failed septic system prior to the sale; sell as is the traditional way; or, sell as is off the market to a real estate investor.
Options in Selling a House with Failed Septic Systems
Option #1: Septic system repair or replacement before selling a house
If you'd like to stop asking yourself: "Can I sell my house with a failed septic system?", or get the best possible price for your home, then you should consider doing the septic system repairs or having a new septic system installed.
The first order of business if you're going this route is to have a septic inspection. Even if you're not putting your home on the market yet, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) recommends having your septic system inspected yearly.
Having your septic system looked at by a professional would tell you where you stand and what you need to do to have a working septic system. Once you have that information, you can shop around for reputable plumbing contractors and find out the repair costs for your failed septic system.
To give you an idea, here's an estimated cost to rehabilitate your failed system:
- Sewer line repair - $4,000-$25,000
- Sewer line replacement - $50-$250 per foot
- Septic tank replacement - $3,109-$9,677
- Septic drain field replacement - $7,000
- Labor cost for a new system installation - $1,000-$4,000
How much you'd need to spend to fix a house with a failed septic system depends on a variety of factors such as: home size, type of soil, property address (costs vary by state), extent of the damage, pipe material, and local codes.
Depending on local law, your existing plumbing lines, or even the entire septic system may need to be retrofitted so as to keep it up to code.
It is easier to sell a house with a functioning septic system, and you'd get a lot more money for it than having the issues sit around unresolved. You'd be able to attract more buyers, especially since the buyer's lender won't be wary of approving their mortgage since the failed septic system has been addressed.
Option #2: Sell the house as-is by listing on the market
If you'd like to save both time and money, you can sell your home as-is the traditional way: by listing with a real estate agent.
There are potential buyers that would see this opportunity for a wonderful deal, but most buyers, first time homeowners in particular, would like to get a turnkey property where they could immediately move in.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most mortgage companies won't approve your buyer's loan for a house with a failed septic system, so most likely your real estate agent will try to find someone who would pay cash.
This buyer won't be paying your home's market value since they would factor in the cost to repair or replace the entire septic system in their offer. In addition to this, you would need to pay the realtor's fees and closing costs, lessening your net proceeds from the sale.
Fortunately, there is another option available to you, which is to...
Option #3: Sell the house as is to a real estate investor
There are two types of real estate investors: house flippers who would fix all the issues, including a failed septic system, then sell it later for a profit; and investors who would rehabilitate the property but lease it out to tenants later on.
This type of prospective buyer isn't scared of problematic properties--as a matter of fact, they even seek them out--as they have a team of professionals ready to jump in and undertake all the necessary work to restore the house to its former glory.
If you want to sell the house fast, you can opt to sell as-is to a cash buyer. This way, you avoid the upfront costs of doing the septic repairs and the hassle of finding a reliable septic contractor and supervising their work.
However, the convenience of offloading a problem property quickly comes at a price: you must compensate the potential buyer for the work that needs to be done to your property.
But then, the troublesome property is no longer yours to deal with, so you save the time waiting on the sale to recoup your expenses. And we all know that time is a valuable resource, so it's a win-win for everyone.
Tips and Things to Consider when Selling a House with Sewer Problems
Honesty and Transparency is of Paramount Importance.
Honesty is the best policy when doing business. Not only because it is the ethical and morally correct thing to do, but because you need to have trust when doing business with anyone.
Furthermore, failure to disclose sewer problems to your potential buyers opens yourself up to a possible lawsuit. Once it's out in the open, you can negotiate with the buyer how you are going to resolve the issue of a failed septic system.
Give the buyer options.
Although you're selling your home as-is, you don't have to leave it at that. You can pass on the inspection report so the buyer can address the septic system issues if they wish.
You can also get quotations from plumbing contractors, which you can then present to the buyer if you're not going to do the repairs yourself.
Expect to give a discount.
For a house that is not move-in ready, you have to psychologically prepare to give a discount on the sales price. Price in the failed system to make it palatable for interested buyers.
Final Thoughts: Selling House with Septic Tank Problems
A failed septic system may be a significant drawback in selling a house, but we have shown you that it is not impossible. There are more options than just retail buyers.
Interested in pursuing cash offers on your house with a septic system failure?
You could sell your house here at Sell My House Fast! You don't have to worry about getting a septic system inspection, or installing new plumbing lines. You don't even have to bother with outdoor landscaping!
We buy houses in absolutely any condition and we cover all closing costs!
We'll give you a free, fair cash offer, no obligation whatsoever! We connect you with a local cash buyer who can offer more because they know your area better than national real estate investors.
Fill out the form below with your email and property address, so we can get started! If you have any questions, you can reach us at (844) 207-0788, and we'd love to talk to you.