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Why You Should ALWAYS Get the Side Sewer Scoped on Any Property Purchase

I admit, of all of the flips and rentals we’ve purchased, I’ve only ever done two side sewer inspections.

When I’m representing clients I always suggest that they have it done, though when it comes to our own properties I often skip it. Maybe it’s because my husband was an excavation operator for years and he can fix anything, but it certainly was not a part of my personal feasibility checklist.

We were in Maui when one of my partner agents, Jason, was negotiating on a new bank-owned rental property for us. He asked if we wanted to do a side sewer inspection in addition to the regular home inspection, and he said that he had already called the City of Mount Vernon to make sure they were the municipality responsible for sewer, and they had mentioned to him that it didn’t seem like the property was on sewer.

In a bank owned situation, we have no seller to talk to, and the listing agents are often no help. With some further digging, we determined that the property had to have sewer, so we agreed to do the side sewer inspection.

The side sewer inspection involves having a plumber come out to the property, place their hose with a camera at the end into the sewer clean out and snake it all the water to the sewer main, looking for damaged pipes along the way.

About 71′ away from the house (which is a very long distance), the camera found a huge blockage, which was a giant root ball. The plumber mentioned that this part of the side sewer would need to be dug up, cut out and replaced.

Since the camera could not get around the blockage, he said there could be further damage after the root ball, and there would be no way to know until you start digging it up.

We called the city back to find out why they believed there to be no sewer, and learned that the side sewer actually served multiple houses, and that particular line run through the middle of everyone’s yard.

Side Sewer
This is the drawing that the City provided, showing that the original owner had installed a side sewer line for three houses with no easements and in the yard.

This poses an interesting issue as this blockage on the middle property (the one we were buying) would also be affecting the property to the North, who just so happened to have bought that house in November as a bank owned and did NOT camera the sewer, so they had no idea there was an issue.

The city’s remedy was that we needed to hire an attorney and bring it up with the city counsel to have the city take responsibility for this sewer line, and have them do the proper easements.

We estimated the removing of the blockage and attorney costs at around $25,000. The bank was only willing to give a discount on the purchase price of $7000.

We determined the risks and time were too much, and it just so happened that the very next day after the bank’s counter we found an even better investment property and wrote an offer and got mutual within 2 days.

Thankfully we were able to get out of this nightmare property, and while we did lose $400 for the inspection and $350 for the side sewer inspection, I look at it as a cost of doing business and money well spent to make sure we know what we’re getting!

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About the Author

Jennifer Beadles

I’m Jennifer Beadles, and together with my family, we are living the day-to-day of a financially independent family thanks to our rental properties.

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