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6 Septic Issues That Could Sink Your Home Sale

house for sale

With the real estate market reaching all time highs in certain regions, there may be no better time to sell your home. But if your humble abode includes an aging septic system that is in need of inspection, you will want to ensure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s so that your home sale doesn’t end up sinking due to a failing septic system in need of repair or replacement. 

Septic inspection costs and the inspection process vary depending on region and property type. Although many areas require septic inspections during the purchase and sale of a property, oftentimes houses will be sold “as is” requiring the buyer to perform their own due diligence. There are also major differences between a full septic inspection and a visual inspection which you need to take into consideration.

When buying a house, or any property with a septic system, you should be aware of regions which offer regulatory assistance such as Title V Inspections in Massachusetts, requiring the seller of the property to have a septic system inspected prior to closing. When such regulations are not in place it is the onus of the buyer to have the septic system inspected.

It’s important to know that you can still purchase a house with a failed septic inspection. Oftentimes this is presumed when someone lists a property for sale “as is”. However, purchasing a home with a bad septic system can be high risk and the necessary precautions should be taken before doing so.

Selling a house properly serviced and recently inspected septic system can be the difference between a smooth real estate transaction or potential buyers pulling their offers off the table due to severe septic problems.

Here are 6 septic issues that could sink your home sale:

1. Excess Water in the Septic Tank

Too much water in your septic tank may not sound like much of a problem on paper, but excess water leads to septic overload resulting in potentially catastrophic septic system failure. A septic tank inspection can identify symptoms that lead to a potential overflow, but it is important to also diagnose the issue that is causing the problem.

Where does this excess water come from?

Water sources including sinks, showers, toilets, and washing machines all contribute to the water in your septic tank. This means that above-normal use of washing machines, flushing toilets, or showers without regular maintenance of your septic system contribute to excess water in the septic tank. All of this, in large volume, leads to septic tank damage and untreated wastewater contaminating surface water. Surface water includes any ponds, lakes, or rivers that are nearby your home.

What causes excess water to build up?

High sludge levels cause excess water in your tank, which impacts how much water fits in the tank itself. Your tank’s sludge level is how much of the bottom of your septic tank is filled with solids and is also dependent on the size of the tank. Regular septic tank pumping removes sludge and alleviates the worry of potential damage caused by excess water in your tank.

2. Tree Root Infiltration or Other Landscaping Issues

Your yard’s influence on your septic system isn’t always immediately apparent, but it definitely impacts what’s beneath the ground. Trees, for example, are a major offender in septic system issues. Certain tree roots grow faster than others and often infiltrate septic pipes or even the tank itself. While landscaping your yard, make sure to research which trees are septic safe.

Blocking access to the septic tank is another landscaping issue that causes major issues. Homebuyers often ask about the septic tank cover and if something has been built over it, the tank becomes less accessible for septic pumping. Planning your landscaping with your septic system in mind helps you avoid this issue.

3. Non-Biodegradables and Non-Septic Friendly Appliances

Non-biodegradables play a large role in septic problems including clogs, backup, and pipe damage. Items including tissues, tampons, paper towels, and plastic cannot be flushed or washed down a drain.

Even popular cleaning products such as anti-bacterial wipes should always go in the trash, regardless of the common label “flushable”. Check out our “Do Not Flush List” for more information regarding septic systems and products you should never watch circle down the drain.

Appliances to Avoid with a Septic Tank

It might be a convenient addition to your kitchen sink, but a garbage disposal is a huge detriment for your septic tank. Adding solids to your septic system only expedites the buildup of sludge in your tank, which easily reaches unsafe levels with the addition of a garbage disposal. If the home already has a garbage disposal installed, make sure to increase service frequency and buy additives for your septic system.

4. Septic Tank Ground Movements

Slight ground movements over time can cause fractures or cracks to appear in your septic system. Although these may not be catastrophic failures, recent hurricanes or flooding could cause an aging or cracked septic tank to flood with groundwater causing overflow and potential backups.

Coastal Living, Coastal Problems

Erosion and sinkholes, both problems familiar to coastal region homeowners, can also cause movement in the earth. This will lead to the same issues – frequently more devastatingly so – as slight ground movement over time. Having a qualified company inspect the area in which a septic tank has been installed – or is proposed for installation, is a necessary step to ensure avoiding these issues.

5. Vehicle Damage

Did you host a socially distant BBQ this summer? Friends and family parked on the lawn to avoid clogging up the streets or parking tickets? Driving or parking heavy vehicles on top of your septic system is one of the leading causes of damage to tanks and drain fields. Never allow friends or family members to park on a portion of your lawn above your septic system – even if they always bring the best food to the party!

Utility Work, Landscaping and Routine Maintenance

Utility workers often drive their vehicles onto or operate heavy machinery on your property to perform routine maintenance. Even something as light as a landscaper’s pick-up truck driving over your septic system can cause massive damage to your tank, drain field, and other essential components of the system. Be sure to have your system adequately marked when it requires such maintenance.

Calling 811 before any digging is done is crucial for avoiding any property damage. Marking gas and electric utility lines, as well as the septic system, protects both the homeowner and contractors. Contacting Dig Safe is an important first step for any professional septic service provider.

6. Incorrect Septic Tank Installation

In certain cases, the septic issue homebuyers and sellers run into is simply incorrect installation. Smaller, less-experienced companies are sometimes at fault for these and they likely aren’t in service anymore. Look into who installed the existing system and find any records of inspections or service frequency. Hiring inexperienced septic companies is sometimes cheaper, but there’s a risk for improper installation, mistakes that require repairs, and headaches down the line.


Can I sell my house with a failed septic system?

Yes, you can sell your house with a failed septic system, but it's trickier. Legally, you must disclose the issue to buyers. Expect a smaller pool of interested buyers and a lower selling price. You can consider getting quotes for repair or replacement to show transparency and potentially attract more buyers. There's also the option to sell "as-is" to cash buyers who handle the repairs themselves.

Should I buy a house with a failed septic system?

Buying a house with a failing septic system is risky. Repairs can be expensive, and financing might be difficult. However, the discounted price could be a good deal if you factor in repair costs. Get a septic inspection to understand the specific repairs needed. Only proceed if you're comfortable with the potential costs and hassle.

I'm dealing with a failed Title V septic inspection—now what?

Don't panic! Here's what to tackle first:

  • Inspection Details: Get a copy of the inspection report to understand the specific reasons for failure.
  • Repair Options: Consult Wind River Environmental for repair estimates. This will help you decide if repairs fit your budget.
  • Negotiate (if buying): If buying the house, use the inspection report to negotiate a lower price reflecting the repairs needed.
  • Seller's Responsibility (if selling): In some areas, sellers might be responsible for fixing a failed system before selling. Check your local regulations.

Ask a Professional

Going into buying or selling a house with a septic tank without identifying any possible issues is going to cost you time, money, or frustration. In order to avoid these six issues that could sink your home sale, research the home’s septic system and contact a septic service provider like Wind River Environmental to inspect, pump, and evaluate any septic needs for a stress-free real estate transaction. 

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home with a septic system, don’t hesitate to contact WRE today!

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