A few weeks ago we felt our home improvement efforts, though not complete, had reached the point where it made sense to start interviewing real estate agents in preparation for getting our house on the market. We thought a professional and unbiased eye would not only be able to give us a better idea of our marketability, but would also help narrow our focus to the most important remaining to-do items and put aside those that would have the least impact.
Well we did and she did! Our agent of choice was very knowledgeable and had a good strategy and marketing plan. We were presented with market figures based on valid comps that exceeded our expectations. We were also advised which incomplete projects made sense to complete and which were not really necessary – that really helped take the pressure down a notch.
Apparently the market is not only in an upturn and interest rates remain at an all time low, but inventory in our area is minimal, swinging the situation back somewhat in favor of the seller. Even to the point of bidding wars occurring on some properties. On the other hand, it is still the prime properties and lower price points in the market that have the most buyer attention. Fortunately we feel we are positioned fairly well at this time, even though our two bedroom (but expandable) home limits our target market to a smaller segment. Also, our agent was careful to make sure our listing price plan would survive the bank loan appraisal process for the typical buyer.
Anyway, this event has triggered several other tasks – we have ordered another dumpster, we have schedule a professional “Stager” (paid for by our RE agent) to help with the decor, we have started searching for a storage facility and we began the process of getting a Title V certificate for our septic system.
The Title V was our biggest worry. Title V is a statewide Massachusetts requirement to have an inspection of the septic system whenever a property changes hands. Failure of this inspection could mean loss of a sale and costs of up to $50,000 (or more) if the worst happens and the leaching field needs replacement. Once you have the inspection you are required to correct any issues no matter if the house is sold or not.
As you can imagine we were sweating it out – our house is 18 years old and even though the septic is designed for a 3 bedroom and only ever had two full time residents, ya never know! Failing Title V would surely put the acquisition of a new coach in almost certain Jeopardy,
So anyway, now that I’ve made a short story very long, we have conditionally passed our Title V inspection! Whew!
The “conditions” to get our passing Title V certificate are relatively new special requirements of our town (the only town in the state as luck would have it) for the addition of some components to the septic system. We needed to add a filter at the effluent discharge from the septic tank to the leaching field and we are required to add a riser and metal cover at grade to make access to that filter easier. The filter traps washer lint and things like that and must be regularly serviced. Potentially this can extend the life of the leaching field.
Normally, adding a filter is a simple job, it is a cylindrical affair that simply fits into the effluent discharge “T”. In our case for some reason the “T” in the tank was not accessible from the access cover, so as-is a filter could not be added. That means the “T” needed to be extended to make it accessible.
There are to ways to do this; either someone needs to don a snorkel and go into the tank and extend the discharge pipe, or the pipe between the tank and the galleries must be dug up, cut and extended.
As luck would have it the Title V inspector we hired (recommended by our RE agent) is quite a character. Tony C. must be well into his 80’s and seems to be always chewing on an unlit cigar. Believe it or not Tony elected to make the expedition down into the tank to make the changes. I was just kidding about the snorkel – of course the tank is pumped out first – still that can’t be a very pleasant job! He told us he usually goes into the tank because he’s smaller and his younger helper can pull him out more easily than he could pull the helper out!
So we had the tank pumped (required as part of the Title V inspection anyway) and notified Tony. When he returned to make the changes though he informed us of a change in plans and that they would try and dig up the pipe instead. Drat, I really wanted to see that expedition! Well they started digging and 30 minutes later we had an extended “T”, a filter, a new metal manhole cover in the back lawn and a smaller balance in the checking account.
We also received our official Title V certificate – all 17 pages of it! All handwritten by Tony. Total costs including the inspection, pump out, filter, cover, riser, filing fee and labor were about $800. Other quotes we received were a few hundred dollars higher. A tax in disguise? Not really since the town only gets about $25 of that, but it sure must help the local economy! Last time we moved in 1997, the Title V inspection cost $190 and that included additional work correcting an out of level distribution box.
BTW, besides obvious signs of seepage or overflow, the primary deciding factor for Title V pass/fail has to do with the level of the water in the leaching field (in our case “deep galleys” or “galleries”) – it must be a certain distance or more below the effluent discharge – this apparently denotes the ability of the field to absorb. Oh yeah get this, a garbage disposal installed in the home constitutes an automatic conditional fail! Luckily we knew this 16 years ago and never put one in (and never missed it).
Meanwhile, we have found a storage facility with full drive in access to climate controlled units for a reasonable price. One thing we learned here is that some of the storage facilities (particularly the independents) are very willing to negotiate, whereas the franchise operated chains, not so much. Bottom line is we are looking at a storage unit with 50-75% more volume from an independent, for the same price the franchise chains are asking. Climate control means the cold weather temps are kept comfortable (50’s-60’s) and in the warm weather, humidity is maintained below 50% – I assume these specs will vary by operator and depending on geographic area.