Carlsbad Real Estate News and Views: Should You Have a Sewer Line Inspection on That House You Are Buying?

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Should You Have a Sewer Line Inspection on That House You Are Buying?

Is it Important to have a Sewer Line Inspection

when Buying a Home?

 

When buying a home, new or a resale, having a general home inspection is pretty darn important.

 

The minimum inspection you should have, in my professional opinion, is a general home inspection. I believe you are taking a huge risk by not spending the money on this.

 

And there are plenty of other inspections and evaluations to consider during your due diligence period depending on the house, the overall condition, the age, and any concerns the inspector has or you personally have. Money for inspections is well spent and I have seen numerous times where buyers were very pleased they spent the money on inspections.

 

So what other inspections might you consider? These evaluations could include the roof, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, radon (perhaps more important in some areas than others), septic, well (if not community water), pool and spa, easements/property lines, the foundation, and fire sprinklers (if present).

 

One inspection to consider in some homes is the main sewer or drain line from the house to the street (you can read more about a home’s drain system here). This could be particularly important if the house is old and where the sewer line might be cast iron or clay, or could be damaged.

 

Scoping a sewer line in San Diego

 

Another situation that might warrant a drain line evaluation is where the sewer line is running near trees in the yard; encroaching roots can damage the pipe itself, but can also clog the pipe, eventually leading to a backup into the house. This is NOT something you want to deal with and it could get expensive, especially if a main drain line has to be replaced.

 

The money spent on a camera inspection of the main sewer line from the house out to the street is several hundred dollars well spent (prices might vary by area and company). And it’s rather interesting to watch the live action on the camera screen. Plus you can get a video of the scoping on a thumb drive.

 

But not all plumbers and companies have the equipment necessary to scope a sewer line.

 

scoping inspection camera screenI’m certainly no expert but have seen several sewer line inspections. The plumber will send the camera connected to a long cable, with a light, down through the main sewer clean-out which may be located inside or outside the house.

 

The cable is connected to a screen that allows you to watch the entire process as the camera moves through the pipe out to the street.

 

One sewer line inspection led the plumber to exclaim that there was a “forest” in the main line, easily viewed on the camera screen; the pipe ran right next to a neighbor’s tree and was filling up with roots. Indeed, the plumber could not even get the camera all the way out to the street and was also concerned the pipe might be partially collapsed.

 

Doing your due diligence when buying a home is essential. A home inspection, and perhaps other inspections including scoping the main drain line, are a key part of your due diligence.

 

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Comment balloon 32 commentsJeff Dowler, CRS • March 02 2019 01:23AM

Comments

Jeff Dowler, CRS Yes, yes yes and YES!!! Add energy audit to the list, if you can get the seller to agree. Or at least get it done within HOURS of having the keys in your hand if you can. Had I done so in one of my previous homes, I could have saved thousands on thousands of dollars in heating and AC expenses.

Posted by Lauren Williams, CPO, Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes (Casual Uncluttering LLC) 9 months ago

Hi Jeff - this is an inspection that has become more common in our area since I first became licensed.  Trees are among the worst offenders.  It's one of the reasons why I believe the buyer(or at least one of them) be at the inspection if at all possible --- it's important for so many reasons.  

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 9 months ago

In SFBA East Bay about 95% clay pipe sewer is broken runnng sewage under ground.  I heard the City would like all buyers to have inspection done sometime. 

Posted by Sam Shueh, mba, cdpe, reopro, pe ( (408) 425-1601) 9 months ago

Great points Lauren Williams, CPO  I know some buyers who did energy audits after buying, but it's not yet come up as an inspectional issue yet.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Michael Jacobs 

I think sewer issues are becoming more widespread...of course as pipes are aging. I know it's a particular problem in some areas of SFO. And as I show older homes in San Diego I am seeing more inspections, but also more listings where sewer lines were replaced. That can cost a buyer thousands of dollars!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Sam Shueh 

I've heard there are some areas in the Bay area where replacement of the sewer lines from the house to the street is now being required when a house is being sold...or at least a formal inspection.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Jeff I always advise my buyers to do one, with that said when I represented Diane in her purchase of our home, I made her get a video and it was good news knowing that we had six to ten years:)) sadly time is not on our side we are getting close to .... well you  know, Endre

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) 9 months ago

This is not something we have in our area. We have licensed inspectors who are "generalists" and may recommend other tradespeople...and we always have a radon test ...far too much cancerous evidence. Sewer lines..interesting !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 9 months ago

Such sage advice, Jeff! Trees are the biggest culprits here, besides general corrosion in the lines going to the street. Every time I see a front yard being dug up, I know someone is paying out a couple thousand dollars for a major plumbing repair.

Posted by Debe Maxwell, CRS, Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods (www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310) 9 months ago

Good morning Jeff - what a great post.  I never thought of this and I agree that it is pretty darn important.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) 9 months ago

This is excellent advice, Jeff! I don't think I've ever had a buyer ask for such an inspection... only sewer inspections I see are when the homes have a septic system. Of course, I also sell a lot of new and newer construction, so probably this kind of inspection is less necessary for those homes. 

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) 9 months ago

Jeff,

In my area it is mandatory that Sellers have a sewet test and clearance prior to close of escrow if it has not been done recently.

Posted by Ann Nguyen, Lake Tahoe Truckee Homes For Sale (eXp Realty of California, Inc.) 9 months ago

Congratulations Jeff. Agree with you completely. And Radon testing...it's big deal here. Most of our ViewHome sales are on a septic - which always gets a thorough inspection.  But sewer lines are also important to check, prior to closing. D

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) 9 months ago

Hi Endre Barath, Jr. 

Glad she took your advice! LOL. Now you know where things stand!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Sally K. & David L. Hanson 

We have no issues here - from what I havd read and heard the amounts of radon gas are well below the limits set by the EPA. But it was a big deal back in Boston!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Debe Maxwell, CRS 

Yes replacing a sewer line can get pretty expensive, depending on where it is and how long from what I have heard.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Grant Schneider 

For some houses I think it's essential. I know of a number of people who have had issues with the tree roots, which of course can also cause issues with foundations, driveways, and sidewalks.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

I suspect that's true Nina Hollander . We don't have many homes in my area with setpic - they tend to be further inland, but have been through a couple of sales where a septic inspection and certification was important. They were required through Title 5 back in MA!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Ann Nguyen  - I think that makes lots of sense!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Thanks for your comments Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD . Radon is not a big issue here but I also recommend a septic inspection. I had buyers a couple of years ago where we requested the seller do an inspection and provide certification...which they agreed to do. Good thing, because the septic failed and buyers got a home with a new septic tank and leach field to the tune of about $13,000!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

I think the sewerline and foundation inspections are two of the more important ones to have her in So. Cal. I don't think I have had one sewerline inspection that didn't come up with a problem. Great advice, Jeff.

Posted by Jane Peters, Los Angeles real estate concierge services (Home Jane Realty) 9 months ago

You are right on the money!

One inspection to consider in some homes is the main sewer or drain line from the house to the street. This could be particularly important if the house is old and where the sewer line might be cast iron or clay, or could be damaged.

Posted by Sham Reddy CRS, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) 9 months ago

Jeff I don't think I have ever heard of a sewer line inspection, but it makes sense to do one.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) 9 months ago

Worthy mention this topic is. On septic, it is mandatory to all parties. On properties on grade or with lots of trees ...why not? I cleaned out some gutters on a rental and years of mold, mildew and gunk came out of the entire system. This hadn't been done for years. Imagine what someones sewer line looks like?

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) 9 months ago

Hi Jane Peters 

I agree. I know of some buyers who should have done these and did not, and ater regretted it. It really IS money well spent up front.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Thanks Sham Reddy !

George Souto  - I have certainly been through many transactions where a sewer line was not checked. But more recently have had several. I suspect many do not bother or even think about it.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

Hi Richie Alan Naggar 

Yep the septic is key. I had buyers who got a new one with the sale because the system failed when we requested a certication. I don't come across septic systems often in my neck of the woods!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

We have many septic tanks in our area - so those inspections are mandatory!

Posted by Kathy Schowe, La Quinta, California 760-333-8886 (California Lifestyle Realty) 9 months ago

Hi Kathy Schowe 

They were more common back in MA, too, and yes they WERE mandatory.

It's money well spent, or request the seller do it.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 9 months ago

I agree and thanks for the post! 

Posted by Fred Sweezer Sr., Certified Home Inspector (Hud Certified 203K Consultant) 9 months ago

Sewer line inspections are very common here, esp with the older homes as you say. So often there are problems...that are expensive to fix!  

Posted by Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR, Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes) 8 months ago

Great post and thanks!  And yes, general home inspection is a great idea but honestly it is a visual, non-invasive opinion for the most part.  There are some areas where more invasive and expert inspections can more than pay their way.  An honest home inspector can point out some of them but often the timelines are short.  Sewers are one of them!  But there may be others depending on home.  One often overlooked is the chimney which really does need a Level 2 inspection (and the NFPA-211 even states that).  A Level 2 requires a camera from top to bottom on the inside - same as sewer inspection.  Why?  Well once you understand the cost of a masonry chimney repair it makes total sense!  And if you factor in the risk involved - which can be far more serious to life than that of a sewer then do not overlooke either!

Posted by Robin Wells, Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time ( RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections) 8 months ago

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