While many think that septic systems are only found in rural areas, that's definitely a myth, and if you are buying a home in Georgia, there's about a one in four chance the home you buy will be on a septic system (rather than on a city or county sewer service). Septic systems can be present in homes even where you least expect it -- my personal home in the City of Sandy Springs, for example, is on septic; one side of our street has sewer service, and the other side is on septic...and we're mere miles from I-285 and the City of Atlanta!
If you're thinking about buying a home and have never lived in a home with a septic tank, you may be a bit wary of this home feature. However, if you make sure to have the home thoroughly inspected during your due diligence period, including a professional septic inspection, a home with a septic system may not be any more or less desirable than a home on sewer service.
There are some things you will want to take into consideration, though -- and here are a few things to think about if the home you fall in love with is on a septic system:
Plan to conduct a professional septic inspection.
Making sure you have the septic system professionally inspected during your due diligence period is a must-do if the home you're buying is on septic. You should plan for this to cost between $200-500, depending on the size of the septic tank/system and whether the tank also needs to be pumped at the time of inspection (if the tank hasn't been pumped recently, the septic inspection company may tell you that they need to pump it in order to effectively conduct the inspection).
Seek information from the seller but don't necessarily take it as gospel.
We'd love to think that every seller keeps detailed home maintenance records and is also 100% honest with all details when selling their home, you should always remember that Georgia is a "Buyer Beware" state and you should do your due diligence to make sure you get all of the information you can during your Due Diligence Period. Our Seller's Property Disclosure does ask the seller for details about their septic system, date of last pumping/service, etc., and we try to make sure that we get as much of that information from the seller and their agent as possible, but as with all other details of the home, you as the Buyer should rely on professionals you hire to conduct inspections and assessments on your behalf rather than relying on information from the seller. Information on past maintenance may be helpful to the inspector, but we should also consider that many sellers may be well-meaning but not keep records as meticulously as they should.
If the house has been vacant more than 30 days, the inspection may not be conclusive.
Our preferred septic companies have told us that, if a home has been vacant for more than 30 days, the septic tank may not be able to be effectively inspected, due to a prolonged period of disuse. Does this mean you shouldn't do the inspection? Does this mean you shouldn't buy the home? While we cannot really answer those questions, as we are not experts in septic systems, our professional opinion is that you should consult with a septic inspection company and get their expert opinion.
Buying a home on sewer doesn't necessarily mean less money spent on inspections or less maintenance cost as a homeowner.
Why not? If you're buying a home on sewer service, we still recommend an additional inspection of that component. A sewer camera scope/inspection can alert you to potentially costly repairs due to defects in the main sewer pipe from the home out to the street. In most cases, when a home is hooked into the city or county sewer system, the city or county will maintain the pipes in the street, but the pipe from the street to your house is your responsibility. Tree roots can damage and grow through those pipes and repair/replacement can be costly. A sewer camera inspection, which costs about the same as a septic inspection, can alert you to these defects during the due diligence period -- before the home is yours to maintain. As with a septic tank, spending a few hundred more dollars during your Due Diligence Period can save you thousands or tens of thousands later on.