Posted on March 30, 2011
If you are selling your home and live in a town like Weston, MA (or Wayland, Lincoln, Sudbury and parts of Needham), which has private sewerage, you will need to pass a Title V inspection of your septic system in order to sell your home. So as soon as you know that you are going to be selling your home, call a Title V inspector to inspect your septic system so you can determine whether it passes or fails. According to the website www.title-5.com, “The average cost of an inspection is between $400 to $550, … which depends upon how much digging is needed to locate the components. Some towns require septic pumping at the time of inspection. The cost of pumping a septic tank is between $150 to $250 depending on how many gallons are pumped out.” Sometimes there are also nominal town charges as well. And interestingly, your septic system is not defined by the number of bathrooms in your home but the number of bedrooms, and so it would be referred to as a four-bedroom septic system not as a four-bathroom septic system.
Generally prior to the inspection, your Title V inspector will go to the town and get the files on the property’s septic system and use that information during the inspection. If the system passes, you breathe a sigh of relief…and take solace in the fact that the inspection is “good” for two years. In fact, if you pump it once a year for those two years, the inspection will actually be good for one more year. So let’s say that you passed your Title V Inspection on March 30, 2009, and you put your house on the market on April 1st of that year, and after six months on the market, it still hadn’t sold. And so you decided to take it off the market for a while…. In fact, you didn’t put your house back on the market until April 2011, but in the meantime, in March 2010 and 2011 you pumped your system, and so great news for you – your Title V now passes until March 2012. This is all good…..
Now let’s go to the not-so-good scenario. Let’s say your septic system fails its Title V inspection. If that’s the case, you first need to hire a septic designer/engineer to do a perc test of your land. S/he will come to your property with the town’s Board of Health officials, and together they will determine the capacity and location of your new system through on-site soil testing. From those results, your septic engineer will design a new septic system and once the town approves the plan, you can install your new septic system. After the system has been installed, you will receive a certificate of compliance from the town, and at that point, your Title V will be good for two years. And if you pump it during the third year, the Title V will be good for three years.
So let’s say that your house is on the market, and you’ve just found out that your septic system has failed its Title V inspection. And it’s December 29, and the ground is completely frozen. The next day, a buyer walks into your home, falls in love and wants to close on the property in 30 days. Wow. This is great…but obviously your new septic system won’t be installed as the ground won’t have thawed in 30 days. What do you do? In most cases, you would get three estimates from spectic installers, and then you and the buyer would decide which estimate to use (usually it’s not the high or the low estimate but the one in the middle). And then at the time of the closing, you would put 1 1/2 times the cost of the septic system into an escrow account. This way, the installation of the septic system doesn’t become the buyer’s financial responsibility, especially since they are the ones living on the property and have to live through the often-yucky and muddy installation process.
Septic systems cost anywhere from $15,000 – $75,000, and once installed they typically last from 20-40 years. That being said, cesspools and original systems, which have been in place since the house was built, can still pass their Title V inspection despite being 50 or 60 years old. I see it often…so you just never know.
All this being said, I am not the private sewerage expert – nor am I the Title V expert. To get expert information, please click here for a list of answers to frequently-asked questions. And as my last disclaimer, this information is based on the way Title V generally operates in Weston, MA. With regard to other towns in Massachusetts, please go to your Town’s Board of Health Department for up-to-date and essential details and information.
So I am curious to hear whether you have ever had to deal with Title V issues. I certainly hope that your septic system has never failed its Title V inspection – though I would love to hear any Title V experiences you’ve had – good or bad….