Septic systems: What to be aware of when selling or buying county properties

BY KAREN LIBIN, KL REALTY

Septic systems are not something most folks want to think about. Matter of fact, most of us prefer to think of them as little as possible. But when it comes time to sell or buy county real estate, you’ll have to give a bit of thought to septic systems. Here’s why:

Every so often Boulder County updates its septic system standards, basically making them a bit more stringent than in the days of yore. It’s not that septic systems are being picked on; all building codes have gotten more rigorous over the years. This is not without merit. If you’ve run across some of the crazily built stuff done in the 70s, you probably have wondered if everyone was smoking weed back then.

But here we are in a time of more stringent septic standards (yet, ironically, looser pot regulations), selling and buying properties built with old systems. Before a property can be sold, Boulder County needs to sign off on a permit which indicates the system meets certain standards, called a Property Transfer Certificate. For this the system needs to pass an inspection done by a septic systems professional. Completing this process is normally the responsibility of the sellers but can be the buyer’s. So what can go wrong?

The most common issue is an older system may not be big enough to handle the number of bedrooms in the house. The number of bedrooms is the key factor, not bathrooms. Technically, if you have a room with a closet (and in a basement, an egress window), it is considered a bedroom. Instead of putting in a larger septic system, some folks get around this by getting rid of the closet in a bedroom. They may remove it completely or just remove the closet door. Now the room is technically not a bedroom, and a realtor may call it a “non-conforming bedroom” in the MLS (Multiple Listings Service) description.

Another issue a seller may have is the system is functioning, but it’s not functioning correctly or at full capacity. A seller may get the bad news that despite the fact they’ve never had an issue with their system, it’s not functioning well enough to pass inspection. Now repairs have to be made, or worst case scenario, a new system has to be put in.

You can see why if you are selling a property, it behooves you to have the septic inspection done as soon as possible to deal with any issues which may arise. Keep in mind septic system businesses are extremely busy in Boulder County; there are not enough of them to support our population. This is especially true when it comes to repair work. If you are buying a property, you may want to require the septic system inspection to be completed sooner as opposed to later to know what you’re dealing with — if there are any problems that would delay the closing date or otherwise affect the transaction. Keep in mind, however, that the Property Transfer Certificate is only valid for six months. For more information, go to: http://www.bouldercounty.org/env/water/pages/septicsmartproptransferhow.aspx

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