Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do you know where your septic tank is tonight?

A diagram of a septic tank. Septic tank?? Well, yes. I have been looking at houses for sale since the early 90's and I almost always get "stuck" on the septic issues. LOL. I won't go into the 90's issues. I won't go into why I feel I need to rant about stuff right now (no doubt I am angry and frustrated at myself for not moving forward with my life.)

I will only say I looked at a house, very nice house, up here at a reasonable price in a walkable village. For sale by owner. I asked: "So where is the septic system." Owner: "I don't know. I bought it without asking." Me: jaw drop. Owner: "Well, I think it might be out here, as that's what a neighbor told me." She points to a teeny area between the house and a dirt road. The bathrooms are on the other side of the house. Just to add, she has lived there for 7 years.

Of course I didnt say it, but no way a septic tank and leaching fields can be located in that tiny area. There is a huge back yard. Would this tank not be in the back yard? And why has the owner never gotten the tank pumped out every 3-5 years as one is supposed to? And why did she buy the house without asking.

When I was a kid,I saw a septic system being installed in a house back in the 50's when my folks built a home. So septic tanks and their issues are burned onto my visual brain. The tank was like a large, concrete box. Older septic tanks may be of metal and possibly corroded at this point. Even older houses as on Cape Cod often have simple stone lined well sort of things but there is now a law (in Massachusetts) that they must be upgraded to today's standards when a property is sold. And generally this is the seller's responsibility. When a new tank is installed a huge area is dug up to install this tank along with leaching field areas too.

There is no such law up here as far as I can tell.

The number of homeowners who "dont know" the status or even location of their septic systems is staggering. A house is useless if its septic system has failed or is about to fail.

In regard to my recently viewed house, I can do a lot of investigating to try to find out where the tank is located. I already called the town hall but they do not have a record of it. Now I can call the state government and find out if they can find the record of it. And possibly on and on from there. In NH and Vt it is up to the buyer to do these things and to pay for a septic inspection

To me, it seems borderline crazy to ask a buyer to try to figure out where the septic is in a home where it is not obvious or known. No seller is going to want me to come in and start digging up their yard hoping to find the tank. Nor am I going to want to. Are they just hoping someone will buy the house without asking about the septic???

So frustrating.

I feel so tired in this home search. There is so much investigative work I, as homebuyer, need to do. Calling town halls, following up leads, not just about septic systems but other issues as well. Things owners and realtors do not tell you. Like is a shopping mall about to be built next door. That kind of thing. Each home offer takes hours of research on my part before I can even make an offer.

I knew all this as when I searched in the 90's I did the same things. Investigating, going to town halls, not relying on homeowners say so or realtors say so, asking neighbors and look what happened. I never took the leap.

24 comments:

willow said...

I had to laugh when I read the title of this post! We have a septic system at WM. I certainly can't imagine not knowing where it is! It's been a lemon of a thing and we've had nothing but trouble with it on and off for the last 22 years. The county comes around and inspects ours twice a year.

kj said...

suki, i think when it's 'right', you will be at peace with it, secret septic tank or not.

ms. emily rabbit has a surprise for you on her post today. she says to hop on over.

love
kj

Robin said...

Suki.....being a "City Girl" for most of my life, I have had little "Septic Tank" experience... but I have many friends who have....it seems to be an eternal, on-going headache - but, 'ya needs it'....so what else can one do? I find it incredible that the owner of this home doesn't know (nor ever has known) where the tank is... one can only shake one's head.... people never cease to amaze.

You 'rascally" girl.... off looking at houses again! (It's a good thing.....)

Sending you warm hugs as you continue your "quest". I BELIEVE in you - you will get your dream home....

Wow....word verification is: blesseme! May YOU be blessed!

Love, always,

♥ Robin ♥

San said...

It's true. The grass IS greener over the septic tank. (Erma Bombeck) That's how you tell.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I'm sure you are tired of the process but if that is the way you find and buy a house in your area then take your time and take breaks but decide to move forward and buy it when all seems okay...get what you truly want and you have all of us for support!

Annie said...

I know where my tank is and I don't even own this place :-).
Suki, I keep wondering if it might be best to go to the cap and rnet a place for a little while and taking the time to look and not have so much pressure, or perhaps just rent and forget buying. Not everyone is meant to own a home, it just maybe too much stress for you. I have always rented and while it has it's downs it also has it's ups. Like when things break down I don't have to pay for them :-). Just something to think about. xoxo

sukipoet said...

annie, renting would be okay if it was less than 1000 per month (very hard to find) and if I knew somehow I could stay for a good length of years. i just cant bear moving every year or even every two years. Once I buy a house, I am hoping my outlay per month for "rent" will be less when I own than when I rent.

Lynn said...

We don't have a septic tank.
Maybe cuz we live in the city?
I know nothing about them but I wanted to say this is the shits. There I said it. Could not hold it in! It's out!

OY!

Good luck Suki Girl! May the right house with a brand new septic tank find you NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

suki, i made the correction all by myself which was not easy with my little paws. please don't forget to blame kj even though she blames word or blogger or some other mystery force. you were definitely on the list!!!

sincerely yours,
emily rabbit

Julie said...

Oh goodness! This is unbelieveable! I just wouldn't go any further on this place. Are you wanting to be out in an area where you would definately have to depend on a septic tank, or could there be other options (like city sewage)? I have never had a septic tank before.

sukipoet said...

julie I didnt put it in my original post, but there is a town sewer right outside the door of this house and all the other homes on the street are hooked up. Some previous owner must have thought they were saving money by not buying into the town sewers when they were laid. And they probably did save some money. I could buy this house and when the unknown sewer fails then I could just hook up to the town. Or do it after I move in regardless of how the septic functions. But still, I guess I get angry at owners who are sloppy about the septic just because it is unseen.

patti said...

In Aust we have conveyancers/solicitors who do these kind of searches(at a cost), after you have made a holding deposit. Real estate Agents are never forthcoming about pest/building inspections etc. They prefer 'not to know' and let the 'buyer beware'.

If you ask me, septic tanks should have some sort of tag near where they sit, so everyone knows where it is, when it was installed and when last pumped out.

You are right though, it is an important thing to know about. Don't let it stop you from your mission Suki!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Where I used to live I knew where the septic tank was becasue I had trouble with it ever so often. Someone finally fixed the problem then I promptly forgot where it was. If it is working properly you don't have to pump them out so often. Or at least I didn't have to. Maybe I should have. Hmmmmmm

Kimmie said...

wow - I always wondered about that .... we live "in town" so we're on the sewer system - but I know it's a big honking big deal when you live "outside town" .... as far as what you have or don't have .... maybe we'll be "in town" lifers

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

We have a septic tank. We know where it is and how its working. Our Friends who just bought a house by us moved in and a few months into ownership found out the septic tank drain field failed and now her pretty back yard is pure mud having to put in a new set up. Her Husband works for a septic tank company and they have small set ups for small yards that work well. But you say you can hook up to the sewer then thats ok.

kikipotamus said...

Wow, are you ever careful and knowledgeable when it comes to buying! No wonder you are tired. I was blissfully ignorant of all that when I bought a house. I just saw it once and said, "I'll take it." Of course my offer was contingent on a good inspection result, but other than that, I just blindly leaped. I had no idea there was research I should have been doing!

Mim said...

When we bought our first house we didn't really know where the septic was so we called the local pumping out company and they knew exactly where it was. You could do that with this house, they probably pumped it before crazy lady bought it.

We havn't had ours pumped out yet in this house, but it's enormous and we are only two people. I just hate it when they dig up the yard, wish I were able to link into a system.

sukipoet said...

kelly I would own a home now if I would just jump in. it is my left brained fears that prevent me from buying a house "warts and all."

This house is not being sold by a realtor, if it were the homeowner would have filled out a form they have in NH making statements about the home condition and workings and repairs done etc.

Patti, if I had a buyers agent, they might possibly do that research I dont know.

Kim said...

Suki, it is amazing how particular issues get under our skin. Plumbing of all kinds seems to be a major concern for many and for good reason, like electricity, without it working well the house could fall down around you. We have had all kinds of systems in our various homes, if I were you get on the public system and leave the issues to them!

Good Luck with your decision making.

human being said...

yes when they don't tell all the facts about the house, it is really frustrating...

think a bit of that blind leap Kelly is talking about can go a long way... most of the time we lose lots of good choices if we want to check all the facts...


best wihes to you, dearest Suki

Mary said...

i don't think we ever knew where our septic tank was growing up until it overflowed--then we knew! and even tho people are supposed to pump often most only pump every 10-20 years around here. i'm on the sewer so it is a non issue for me--expensive! 7 years isn't long--especially if she is in the house by herself or one other person. anyway, that's my 2 cents on that one ;-)

here everyone is probably going to be going on a sewer system within the next 10 years....

marianne said...

I don't like septic tanks either......
I our last house we removed it and I was the one who stand knee deep in.......whatever it was scooping it into the suer...... I have a vivid memory of that.
I was very happy when it was over and we were connected to pipes.
ah and I understand all your doubts about this house quest, but believe me once you have found your dreamhouse you will know it. And when it has a septic tank you can maybe have it removed? If not then the tank is not the issue. When the septic tank is is is propably more......

Don't dispair. It will all work out!

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Mark Santora said...

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