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How One Homeowner Learned a Hard Lesson About Visual Septic Inspections

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Learning the hard way that full septic inspections are better

I’ve written before about the difference between visual and full septic inspections and how one is better than the other. Recently one of our customers experienced this difference first hand, and ended up paying the price.

Visual inspections are very limited

A buyer’s mortgage company required a septic inspection as part of the purchase process; although I highly advised a full inspection with a pumping, the buyer opted for a simple visual inspection.

I ran water inside the house and located the tank with a probe, but did not expose the tank lids, check or pump the tank. There was no evidence of surfacing effluent, no backup in the cleanouts, and no backup in the house — which is really all that can be checked with a visual inspection.

The septic system passed the visual inspection based on what I could see above the surface of the ground, but that left a lot of unknowns.

Full inspections catch major problems

When a buyer orders a visual inspection, we always let him or her know that there is a chance that the mortgage company may not accept it due to the amount of unknowns with the visual inspection.

Well, that’s what happened. At the last minute the mortgage company wanted a full inspection so the tank could be checked.

We went back for the full inspection the day of closing and found major issues.

The tank contained so much corrosion that our probe could penetrate the wall, and a small hole was occurring on top of the tank. The tank also appeared to be leaking.

Septic inspection corrosion Septic inspection hole in tank

Due to regulation changes since the system was installed, the county required that the entire system be replaced.

The negotiation period was over, so the sale did not close and the buyer lost out on purchasing the home they wanted.

Lesson learned

This was an unfortunate situation, but it was really a blessing in disguise for the buyer. If the original visual inspection had been accepted by the mortgage company, the new homeowner would not have discovered the issue in time to back out of the purchase.

They would have bought a home that, unbeknownst to them and me, needed a completely new septic system.

If a full inspection had been ordered at the start, the failing system would have been discovered immediately; it would have saved all parties the headache and emotional stress of a deal falling through on closing day.

The buyers found another property and ordered the full inspection from the start. Overall, everything was okay with the second system and they moved forward with the purchase.

A word of advice

If you are a buyer or realtor, ordering a visual inspection puts yourself and your clients at risk. With the average cost of a new septic system (aerobic system) in our area coming in at approximately $15,000, why risk settling for a visual inspection?

Contact Van Delden today to schedule a full inspection for your septic system.


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