Holy Crap!

Reviving an old septic article after inquiry from client – it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!

Here’s the scenario, you are buying a Miami Beach home with a septic system and logic tells you to have it inspected – pretty straight forward up to now. 

So you ask your Realtor to recommend home inspectors and you do a bit of research on your own. 

You finally hire a home inspector and find out that they have to subcontract the septic inspection and you figure everything is fine….this is when it starts getting hairy.

How do you know that the subcontracted company is legit?  Better yet, how can you guarantee that they will perform an objective inspection and will not damage anything in the process?  How do you make sure that the septic company you hire will do the necessary research to locate the system and will not break a lid or destroy landscaping or God forbid be respectful of someone else’s property?

It happens to us too often and no matter how we try to foresee problems, something really wrong always happens.

  • From the company telling you that the system is damaged just so that they can get the gig <<<conflict of interest!
  • To inspector showing up unannounced, digging up half the yard, damaging lids and then claiming system is not working properly
  • To them knowing ahead of time system is older than “customary-life of septic systems” and making you pay for an unnecessary inspection that they know they will fail regardless of condition.

The list goes on an on, sadly, everyone looses, whether you are the buyer or seller of the property.  I still have not come up with a solution to this problem, and I’m sure there are reputable septic inspectors out there (just have not met them yet). 

The closest suggestion I have is to first make sure that you sign an agreement with the inspector assuring them that no matter the findings, they will not be performing the job (that should cut out the conflict of interest). 

Second, make them sign a release in case they damage the tank in the process (this may not be an easy task).

The easiest solution is to educate yourself about septics.  How much will it cost to replace tank and drain field?  What are the signs of a non-functioning or failing septic without even having to open lids to visually inspect?  When do you have to become concerned about a septic system? 

If a septic system has a “said” life expectancy of 15 years, how come we see 50 year old septics in perfect condition?  If a septic system is supposed to be pumped out every few years, how come we see septics in perfect working condition that have NEVER been pumped out?

In my opinion, the whole septic industry is very wishy washy, and there are no objective and/or proven expert opinions out there.  The basic truth is that septics are fairly inexpensive, are low maintenance, and usually easy to fix.  There are tale tale signs that a septic is failing when a home is occupied:  sewer smell, constant backed up toilets, collapsed lids or holes in yard.  An empty house is reason for concern, but not the end of the world either. 

So think about who you hire to inspect and think twice about inspecting – you may be doing more damage than good in the end. related reading:

Aroma: Miami Real Estate’s 5th sense

Miami Beach Home Inspections Continued

*original article from June/2010

2 thoughts on “Holy Crap!

  1. Ines,
    How big a problem are septics in your area? I’m surprised to hear you have them at all. I would think the water table is high and could be a problem? Because Colorado is so dry we don’t have many issues unless they aren’t deep enough, then they freeze.

  2. Septics are not a problem in Miami, it’s misinformation that’s the problem. There are many cities that still run on septic (Miami Shores is one of them). These systems are designed taking into consideration the water table.

    Because people don’t know much about septics (including REALTORS), they tend to rush into inspections by people that are not equipped, or not very honest. Fishy to think that no septic inspection has ever passed in our real estate career and not a single one of the owners had reported any type of problems with the system.

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