When selling a home in Massachusetts and your property is being serviced by a septic system, one of the most important considerations is getting your Title V certification done. The last thing you want is a problem with your septic system!
As a Massachusetts Realtor who is involved in quite a few home sales it continues to amaze me that many sellers are not getting their title V out of the way prior to putting their home on the market or at the least within the 1st few weeks that it gets posted for sale.
The financial burden that a failed septic system creates is fairly substantial for most. The cost to replace a septic system can range from $10,000 to $50,000 or more depending on the soil conditions and the water table.
Aside from the unexpected financial headache, it also involves digging up your yard to install a new system. So what happens if your septic system fails and your title V does not pass?
The 1st thing you are going to need to do is get in touch with a local engineer and the board of health. Here is a Board of Health roster for Massachusetts. The engineer is going to determine if there is a "reserve area" on the original septic design where additional leach trenches could be added.
It may be determined that another area is needed for the system to be placed in which case the engineer will draw up a "septic design". The septic design is drawn by the engineer based upon soil testing that will need to be done. These tests are called "perks and deep holes". The perk test will determine how quickly the soil leaches and the deep hole test will determine the level of the water table. Soils that have more gravel are better than those with clay and rock. A higher water table is not a good thing when it comes to septic systems. With a high water table you may need to have what is called a "raised system".
Most buyers will not want to find out that the beautiful level yard they bought will now have a large mound!
Once the septic system design is done and approved by the board of health you will want to send it out to bid by a few septic installers. I would recommend at least three bids, as in my experience the estimates can vary greatly.
If you are in the middle of a Real Estate transaction and find out your septic system has failed and it will not be able to be repaired or replaced before the closing, the bank giving the buyer the loan will require you to escrow 1.5 times the estimate to fix or replace the system. For example if the cost of replacing the septic system is $20,000 you are going to required to escrow $30,000. Please note that not every bank will allow a septic escrow. The buyer may end up having to wait until the installation is complete.
As you can see getting your Title V done and out of the way with no problems is a huge deal! If you are unfortunate enough to have to replace your septic system, there are a few programs to ease the pain. See the Loan and tax credit information below:
Homeowner Septic Loan Program
If your septic system has failed Title 5 inspection there is a loan program in place that can help you. Participating banks offer low interest rates to eligible homeowners through this Massachusetts Housing Program. For more information contact the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MHFA), 617-723-0500 or go to their Web site:
MassHousing Web site Here is the PDF for the Homeowner Septic Loan Repair program.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides a tax credit of up to $6,000 over 4 years to defray the cost of septic repairs to a primary residence. Forms are available from the Department of Revenue (DOR) to allow homeowners to claim up to $6,000 in tax credits for septic upgrades. The credit cannot exceed $1,500 in any year and may be spread out over 4 years. The tax credit is limited to work done on a primary residence only. Tax Form Schedule SC is the correct form for the tax credits.
MassDOR Web site
You may be wondering how this all applies to cesspools. Cesspools are much harder to pass in Massachusetts. Does every single one automatically fail? NO.
Only those cesspools that exhibit signs of hydraulic failure, are located very close to private or public water supplies, or otherwise do not protect or pose a threat to the public health, safety or the environment will need to be upgraded. Also, cesspools must be upgraded prior to an increase in design flow (e.g., the addition of a bedroom to a home.
So what if you decide not to sell? A Title V is good for two years from the date it is completed. It can be extended for a 3rd year if it is pumped in both years.
Title V, Septic Systems and Bedroom Counts
One other important subject revolving around the Title V and septic systems is the proper representation of bedrooms in a home.
According to errors and omission insurance for Massachusetts Realtors, one of the areas that has drawn the most recent litigation is the misrepresentation of bedrooms when the home is serviced by a septic system.
Septic systems are rated according their bedroom capacity. When someone says the septic system is "rated" for four bedrooms it means that the system will handle the waste generated by four bedrooms. It has nothing to do with the amount of bathrooms in a home!
Where sellers and Realtors get into to trouble is when there are rooms in a home that are counted and marketed as bedrooms when in fact they are not. As an example, you could have a home that has three bedrooms on the 2nd floor and another room on the 1st floor that is called a "bedroom". It may have a closet and a window large enough for a person to fit through - both requirements of being a bedroom.
The problem, however, is that if this home has a septic system that is rated for only three bedrooms, it is not a four bedroom home and should not be marketed as such.
The misrepresentation occurs when the seller or Realtor represents this room to be a bedroom through various marketing channels such as the multiple listing service(MLS). The buyer then relies on this information, only to later find out through town hall or other means that in fact it is not a four bedroom home. There are certainly differences in market value between three and four bedroom homes regardless of the overall size of the house.
Another example would be a home that has had an addition and the room added is called a bedroom but there has been no corresponding "upgrade" to the septic system.
As a Realtor, whenever there is any doubt about the bedroom count, records should be verified to determine the correct information. This information can be found at the local board of health. This information is found on the septic design. If there has been a Title V inspection already done on the property it can be found on the report as well.
Ever wonder how a septic system works? The short video below is an excellent tutorial of how a septic system functions.
Thinking of selling a home condo or other Real Estate in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Northboro, Shrewsbury, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Bellingham, and Douglas? Get in touch I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.