Buying & Selling: Looking Below Ground


It’s hot, hot, hot right now and not just because it’s summer.  Local real estate is doing quite well, and in conjunction with that, we are getting a lot of calls from realtors and homeowners.  How should you address issues with your sewer system?  How can you be proactive as a buyer?  Here are some helpful tips when it comes to inspections, issues and closing the deal, that both sellers and buyers should know.

First, ongoing maintenance is critical.  If you have records showing yearly maintenance of your drains by a reputable drain cleaner, this is a sign to a buyer that you have cared for your property and have kept damaging root intrusion at bay.  If, however, you have had to clean your drains more frequently, this could be a sign that you need to address a repair or replacement of your sewer service.  Beware of Drano-type products that are dangerous and can actually eat away at your piping.  A foaming root killer like Bio-Clean is better.

Second, get a video inspection of your sewer service.  This is pretty much standard procedure in the home inspection process nowadays.  Most general home inspectors don’t offer this service and will either subcontract out or refer to a contractor, such as Joe Frei Excavating.  We can assess the condition of your line, and give you an honest recommendation of what you need to do.  On average, we charge $100 to $150 for a typical sewer inspection (expect to pay $125-$500 from local rooter-type companies).  Beware of contractors that advertise free inspections – their sole intention is to sell you a new line.

Third, if you are a first-time buyer, you should know that as a homeowner, the sewer service is the homeowner’s responsibility, from the house to the point in the street or alley that it intersects with the city’s main line.  The service, usually a 4″ line made of plastic, cast iron, clay tile or fibrous orangeberg, is rarely covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy.  Average replacement costs start at a minimum of $6,000 so you can see why it’s important to know the condition of the line.  Is the seller going to pay for a new line if needed?  Are you prepared to have it replaced at some point in the future?  This is one of the larger costs when it comes to owning a home – make sure you are informed.

Fourth, know what to expect from an inspection.  When we camera a line, we are looking for root intrusion, low spots or bellies, damage to the pipe, poor workmanship and breakage. There are many, many times when we can pinpoint the exact location of an issue and just repair the troublesome spot.  Do not feel pressured to replace your whole line if the rest of it is in great shape.  And if you need a flash drive for your records, we can provide that.

Fifth, know that there is a segment of this industry that is all about high-pressure sales. There’s “conveniently” a crew that just happens to be around the corner that fix your line right now.  You might feel as if you are backed into a corner if you are selling your home, have a sewer issue, and are afraid to lose a contract.  Get a second opinion!  Last week, a homeowner called us for a sewer replacement.  He already had it camera’d by another company, who gave him a pretty high bid for replacement.  We bid it for considerably less (thousands!) and when we showed up with our equipment, Joe camera’d the line again.  It was a perfect line!  Joe could not, in good conscience, replace this homeowner’s perfectly intact service and we pulled off the job.  Do your homework, ask your neighbors and friends for referrals, and call the city or county utility inspectors to see if a company you are considering is efficient and passing their inspections the first time.

Buying or selling a home can be exciting, stressful and full of new experiences.  If you would like more information about the utilities in your home, or one you are planning to purchase, give us a call at (719)447-1114.  Phone calls and estimates are free!



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