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Sewer Lateral Inspections Are a Must
Regardless of the age of the home you're thinking about buying, we highly recommended you obtain a sewer later inspection along with any other inspections you might be considering.
What is a sewer lateral?
It's the pipe that discharges all waste from your home's plumbing to your city's sewer system. If your home is on a septic tank this doesn't apply (instead, obtain a septic inspection).
In very old homes/subdivisions, the sewer later is made of clay pipes. If your home was built somewhere between the 50's and 80's it's possible that your sewer lateral is made of concrete, and newer homes have pipes made of PVC/plastic. Regardless, all of these can have issues.
Potential problems with sewer laterals
A sewer line can be cracked, collapsed or infiltrated with tree roots. It could also become separated (particularly those made of clay), or not properly sloped away from the home.
Any problems with it can lead to a backed up sewer and a very expensive repair that can cost you thousands of dollars. The only way to inspect the sewer lateral is to hire someone with a sewer scope camera to take a video of its condition.
In addition to inspecting the sewer lateral, you'll want to check with your agent to see if the municipality where the home resides offers any type of sewer lateral reimbursement program. Many municipalities, especially those with many older homes (clay pipes), will help pay for the costs of necessary repairs.
Don't just assume older homes can have sewer lateral problems. An improperly laid sewer lateral line on a new construction home, can be just as devastating and costly as homes with the older pipes. New construction homes can have sewer lateral lines accidentally filled with rock and sediment, cracked PVC, or an improperly connected or sloped pipe.
Repairing these errors can cost several thousands of dollars. You'll want to make sure the new home warranty covers these things, because it's unlikely that a municipality with a lot of new construction activity provides a sewer lateral reimbursement program.
If you're a real estate investor, inspecting the sewer lateral before placing a tenant in the property can save you a lot of money, and a lot of headache.
From our past days of being a property manager, we experienced several sewer lateral problems. Honestly, they stink to deal with even if you don't own the home (full pun intended).
Once, we had an investor/client that bought a property sight unseen (not through Worth Clark), and hired Worth Clark to place a tenant in the property. The investor bought the property very low - it was a great deal.
However, just a week after the tenant moved into the house, the sewer backed up. Upon inspection, we found that the pipe was collapsed in multiple locations.
It not only cost the investor nearly $5000 to repair, he lost a month's worth of rental income (while incurring other carrying costs), and left us (and him) with a very upset tenant.
The cost of these inspections range from $150 to $300, and provide you with a full video showing you exactly what the inside of your sewer lateral looks like. If you'd like a recommendation for a company that provides these inspections, let your Worth Clark agent know and they can get you squared away.
Steven Barks is the President & COO of Worth Clark Realty. He began his real estate career in 2009 as an agent for a small startup property management company in Minneapolis, MN. A natural self-starte....
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