I’m not sure what “market norms” are in other areas, but in the Charlottesville area, tradition has dictated what I refer to as a “stomp and sniff” test.
Additionally, I had one closing a few weeks ago with an FHA loan (which are very common loans now); the FHA guidelines dictated that if the property had been vacant for more than thirty days, then the septic tanks had opened up to be inspected. Who knew?
Hey. Jim Duncan with Nest Realty and RealCentralVA.com talking about septic systems and septic inspections in Virginia. Traditionally, a septic inspection is required by the Virgina Association of Realtors contract. It states that the Realtor has to to provide a septic inspection stating that everything is all well and good. The problem is when the “traditional septic inspection” is done, it’s really just a stomp and sniff test meaning that the septic inspector goes out, locates where he or she thinks the septic field is located and where he or she thinks the distribution box and the tank are located and says: “Well, it looks like no sewage is on the ground, so I think the septic inspection is working which is fine for the seller because he or she does not know any problems are in existence and it’s not so great for the purchaser because nobody has any idea whether the septic inspection is actually a good one. So I have started doing more for all my buyers who are getting inspections done, an additional inspection which is having the septic tank and distribution box dug up, opened up and looked into by a septic person. It’s a somewhat religious experience to see a septic tank opened up on a drafty day, but it’s some of the best money that can be spent because having a septic inspection done by the traditional stomp and sniff is worthless. Having it opened up and looked at with a humans’ eyes is valuable. For example, I had a client recently where I pushed my buyer clients into having this done because the seller would not allow for that to be done on his dime, and the inspector found that the distribution box was crumbling which amounted to about $1,500 that we were able to negotiate for the seller to repair. So, looking back, it’s a couple hundred bucks to have it dug up, but it’s well worth every single penny.
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Update 31 January 2010: I found this story at Loudoun Realtor Danilo Bogdanovic’s blog – a Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems. Useful.