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Selling a House on Septic

Hi Guys, this is Fylicia Waugh with Gateway Real Estate. And I'm here with Randy from Drain Pro . Today we're going to talk about some real estate truths, what it takes to sell your home if it's on a septic tank. We're talking about what needs to happen and the operation and maintenance and pumping requirements that the Pierce County Health Department has.

So Randy, can you tell us a little bit about what your company does when you know that there's a sale of the home and there's a septic tank?


Well, we're a full-service septic company so we can take care of all the inspections, pumping, RSS (report of system status) and application and processes that are required by the health department before the sale of the home.


What is the cost when your company applies for the RSS on behalf of the seller? 


For us to file the RSS online after the O & M (operation and maintenance) has been done, it's $314 plus tax.


Awesome. I understand that if the seller or even the buyer or the real estate agent were to do it online with the health department, it would be $265, a little bit of savings there, but probably well worth it to just have the company do it. You guys deal with it day in and day out. I'm sure you’re pros at it.


Yeah. Well, it's a benefit also for the customer because we can take care of the locating and digging. We can take care of the pumping, the O and M and RSS. We electronically file everything into the health department's systems so that we can make it more streamlined. Everything gets in there at the same time. It's easier for the health department to pull the documentation and then they can do their steps on the back end in the health department to be able to get the RSS released for the home sale.


I see, and one of the benefits with having the RSS application completed with Drain Pro is that they submit the application right away when you complete the operation and maintenance so there's hopefully no delays depending on if there are repairs that need to be made, right?


Correct. The health department is going to need 10 business days to process the RSS. By us filing it up front, even if there are deficiencies or if there's anything wrong, it's not holding up the seller at all in the transaction, even if we have to do any repairs or pumping, we can update the county before the inspect the system. This way it speeds up the processing.


Awesome! If there were say deficiencies like you had mentioned, we kind of talked about how they would be able to complete that after the fact. Go through with the sale and then 90 days, as long as they had those deficiencies corrected, the county could come out after the fact to re-insect, right?


Correct. There's basically some documentation between the seller and the health department that allows the septic system to be completed even after the sale of the house, up to 90 days, if any major repairs have to be done. So the house would still close, the new buyers can move into the house and still use the current system until the major deficiencies get fixed. And it doesn't stop the process.


Right on. I know in most cases they're definitely going to want to complete the RSS, which is the report system status that the Pierce County Health Department issues before going through with the sale. So, nine times out of 10, you're not going to have those cases where it goes beyond closing. But, there are some instances where, for whatever reason, the RSS isn't completed before the buyer purchases it. And in that case, we talked about how the Pierce County Health Department looks back three months for sale records and the new buyer would be responsible.


Correct. Because the health department wants to make sure that all of their systems are inspected and pumped and investigated and up to date, they do look three months after the selling of a house, making sure all their information is up to date in their system. So unfortunately, if it does make it through the process without the inspection, pumping and the RSS, then the new buyer to be will be responsible for all of those services to be performed.


Right, exactly. And then also can you talk to us about, say if they completed an RSS within the past year and they wanted to still use that, just kind of how that process works.


So we ran across a situation where we go and do a pumping for a home sale, do the entire process and the house doesn't sell within six months. Well the RSS is good for 12 months from the date of issue. So, it's good for an entire year from the time that it's been performed. So even after six months, the house was back on the market. You don't have to worry about doing the RSS again because it has already been filed and it's good for the whole 12 months.


I see.  Can you give us a brief rundown of what the inspection, O & M and visual inspections entail?


When, for instance, you call our office and you ask us to come out and do a pumping for a home sale. We're going to investigate the property through our computer system and on the health department website to see if there are any as-builts on file. And that's a documentation that is submitted to the health department that supposedly tells what kind of system, how long the draining field is, how many bedrooms the system is designed for, and how many tanks there are. So that gives us a good rule of thumb to start with. Then we go out to the actual site, verify the as-built to see if that's what we're finding in the ground. And then we do our operation maintenance, which is we inspect to make sure that the tank's holding water, make sure that all baffles are intact.


What is a baffle?


The baffle is either PVC or cement. It is attached to the inlet and outlet of septic tank where this effluent or sewage will hit the baffle on the inlet, drop to the bottom of the tank and if it's a lighter solid, it floats to the top and becomes part of the scum layer. If it's a heavier solid, it drops to the bottom of the tank and becomes part of the sludge layer. And then in between both of those layers of scum and the sludge, there's called the clear zone. The outlet baffle and the bottom of the baffle sits in the clear zone. And so over time as a gallon goes into a septic tank, a gallon goes out of the septic tank. You're trying to set it up so only clear zone goes out of the septic tank to either the pump chamber and/or a drain field depending on what kind of system it is.


Awesome. And then just doing a visual inspection of the drain field and making sure that there are no areas that are concerning, right?


Correct. After we pump and check the filter and clean it, we do a drawdown to the pump chamber to ensure it meets the specifications that the designer intended it to. We walk the drain field, look for surfacing sewage, look for broken components, either lateral ends or inspection ports or infiltrators depending on when the system was installed and assuming that there are no issues, then we would fill out the paperwork, file a good O & M. And we do the RSS at the same time and then there'll be no issues. You wait the 10 business days for the health department and then they release it to the seller and Drain Pro and then that step of the home sale will be done.


Yeah. In an ideal world, that's how it works.


Well, thank you so much Randy. I really appreciate it and Drain Pro's awesome. I highly recommend if you need some septic services to give myself or Randy a call and we'll help you out. So again, this has been Real Estate Truths and the truth about your septic tank and selling your house. Thank you.


Let me know:

Have you sold or bought a house that was on a septic tank?


Were there any hiccups?