Our Septic System, a.k.a. The Pit of Disrepair

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I keep reminding myself; I'm excited for our upcoming move. Really. Just 15 days to go. Unfortunately, the stresses of work, broken foot, single parenthood (James has started working; he's living in a tent at a campground outside Carbondale and comes home on weekends), selling this home, packing, getting the kids ready for school in Carbondale, moving, and buying the new home are starting to wear on me. Amazingly, today was the first time I've been truly angry (okay, the second if you count PAH), and so far I've managed to not lose my temper.

Our realtor, Dee, has been great. This is our first full-blown homebuying/selling at the same time experience. (We rented our current home before we bought it from the landlord--so easy!) She was very reserved while we were shopping, but once we made an offer on this house, she has driven the whole process and we just couldn't have made it this far without her.

One new aspect of our impending rural life is having a septic tank, since we won't be living in an incorporated town, with a sewer system. No big deal, I thought. I was wrong.

We paid $175 for the Jackson County Health Department to do a septic inspection. Unfortunately, the system flunked completely. The septic system is 30 years old; not only did it fail the inspection, but we learned that this system was sized for a 4 bedroom house. It was even repaired to make it smaller than the standard 4 bedroom system. The home we offered money on was listed as a 6 bedroom house. The seller, Fred, had to have been stunned, as he built this house himself, and has kept it in very good condition. He's been living alone in the home, so one guy isn't going to tax the system to the extent that a family of 5 will. (As part of this whole buying/selling game, the owners and sellers don't talk to each other directly--we go through our realtors. It's silly, but I guess it keeps us from calling one another nasty names in person.) Of course, our lender won't let us buy a home where the septic has failed, so this has to be addressed before we can close on the house.

After some thinking and discussion, we realized we want a new system. We don't want to inherit an undersized, 30-year-old system that has been repaired, only to have the headache and expense of replacing it next time it fails.

The next stage of the game was waiting to hear what Fred was going to do about the septic system. Dee spoke to Fred's realtor, Lyn, and we learned that Fred planned to just repair the old system. He had recently spent $500 to fix the septic system, but he used an unlicensed contractor who had done sub-standard work. Dee said that we want a new system to comply with a 5 bedroom house (a compromise on our part, but we felt badly about the septic failing), and she reminded Lyn that this house was listed as a 6 bedroom house. "Well, a 4-6 bedroom house," Lyn replied. "No, a 6 bedroom house. We owe it to these buyers to deliver what was advertised" Dee answered.

In the meantime, we waited for estimates for the repair and replace options. The estimate we received for a 5 bedroom compliant system was $4875. We wrote a letter, rejecting Fred's repair offer, and countered that we want a new septic system that is the correct size. We even offered to pay $2500 of the replacement cost, to try and soften the blow.

Today we received two frustrating pieces of news. First, the estimate was incomplete--it didn't include removing and disposing of the old septic system (like we want to have that sitting around) or filling in the old hole (we don't want a giant hole in our yard--we already have one pond!). Dee asked what the full cost would be, and got another incomplete estimate of $5585; doing the math, we think it's going to be ~$6000. Second, Fred countered that he would only spend up to $2500 towards replacing the septic system.

We have to have this septic disaster fixed within two weeks, and during good weather (of course the forecast is 4 days of rain starting on Thursday), and we're wrangling over dollar amounts for something that is the seller's responsibility to begin with!

James and I wrote our last letter to Fred this afternoon. $2500 is our final offer, to get us a new, 5-bedroom-compliant septic system. In the letter, we asked him to let us know soon if he rejects this, as we will need to go home shopping again. It's scary to think that we may be homeless in two weeks. If we don't close on 9/3, our loan approval is invalid and we'll have to apply again for a loan. It's also sickening to think of the money we will have wasted on a house we didn't buy.

As for Fred, his septic system will still have failed; he'll have to fix it/replace it before he can put it on the market, AND he will have to (if he's ethical) relist the house as a 4 bedroom property, which will significantly lower the market value. His home has been on the market since March 1st, and he's had it off the market for a month while we've tried to buy the place. He has already built himself a new home, so right now he's paying two mortgages. Talk about a lose-lose situation if this septic system breaks our agreement.


Lori Ann said...

When will it end? I am so sorry for all the trouble you are having with the house. It's good that you have a realtor who is good and is making things a little easier for you.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.