Can An Old Septic Tank Cost Me When I Sell My House?

Approximately 20% of U.S. homes rely on septic tanks to dispose of their sewage. Many of these are located out in rural areas where municipal pipes are unable to reach; while the allure of some peace and quiet (and privacy!) can do wonders if you’re trying to sell such a home, the septic tank lurking beneath the ground can be a turn-off for many potential buyers — especially if it’s getting on in age.

Though steel septic tanks last between 15 and 20 years, and plastic or concrete tanks last even longer (up to 40 years), failing to properly care for your system can seriously shorten its lifespan. If you haven’t been the most attentive homeowner, or if your tank discharges into surface water, replacing or upgrading your septic tank is in your best interest (in fact, it’s required in the latter case). Let’s find out why.

If an inspection is done, you may have to replace or upgrade your system anyway.

These days, home inspections are included in nearly all purchase agreements. They offer additional protection for the buyer by proving that the home is in good condition; depending on the specifications, they can request that the seller make changes to ensure the home is safe and up-to-code. If your home inspection includes a septic tank inspection (which it almost definitely will), and it’s discovered that the tank is in exceptionally rough shape, your potential buyer may demand that you replace the system before they move forward in the sale. Rather than deal with the back and forth — as well as the stress of negotiating –, it’s much smarter to check on and replace your tank ahead of time.

Potential buyers may decide not to take the risk.

Septic systems already put people off. The knowledge that their home’s waste is sitting in a large tank in their backyard can be a bit gross to some, and the additional effort involved in septic pumping can seem extraordinarily unappealing. If you add in the fact that your system is near the end of its life and hasn’t been properly cared for in years, they may withdraw entirely — poof, no more sale. By installing a brand new system, you can reassure potential buyers that they’ve got nothing to worry about.

A new septic system will allow you to raise the selling price.

Generally speaking, the more up-to-date your home is, the more you can ask for it. Whether you’ve installed new kitchen cabinets, new wood floors, or new appliances, your investment goes toward your asking price. In fact, bathroom additions typically offer an average of 86.4% return on investment — and septic tanks are no different. When you calculate the cost of an excavator (which are big enough to reach max digging depths of 32 feet), as well as the manpower required to install the things, you’re looking at several thousand dollars worth of expenses; when you put your home on the market, you can turn those pennies into profit and include them in the final price.

At the end of the day, replacing your tank is your decision. When you weigh the pros and cons, you’ll find that installing a new system is often much more worthwhile (and easier) than trying to sweet talk buyers into ignoring the old one.

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