If your family is house shopping this summer, you already know the anxiety associated with buying a home. You’ll wonder what mysteries lurk behind the walls and whether you’ll inherit a bunch of new problems that the current owner might be hiding. Water heaters and sewer lines can prove costly. As plumbers, we hear from lots of customers who experience plumbing problems within the first year at a new (older) home. So here are some tips for you to remember before you buy.
1. Buyers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems so ask questions! Ask when the home was built. If it is more than 12 years old and still has the original water heater, expect to replace the unit within the next year or two. If the house is 25 years old or older, it may not have plastic/PVC sewer pipes. And that’s not good. When it comes to reliable sewers, plastic is good, clay, iron and concrete are bad because these materials do not wear well underground as well as plastic does. Root intrusion is common in every type of sewer line except for PVC. Ask the owner if they’ve ever had trouble with the sewer clogging.
2. A sewer line inspection is not included in a standard home inspection. It’s true because sewer inspection video camera snakes are expensive. Good ones can cost more than $5000 each so most home inspectors don’t make the investment. Sewer repairs are expensive and sewer replacement costs can easily exceed ten thousand dollars. When you think about it that way, paying a company like Roto-Rooter to video inspect the sewer line is a good investment. You can expect to pay between $200 and $550 for a complete sewer line camera inspection and that will include a DVD or thumb drive copy for your records.
3. If it happened once, it will happen again. While you’re asking questions, ask if the basement has ever flooded. Ask why it flooded. Find out if the basement or crawl space is equipped with a sump pump. Then ask the owner when it was last replaced. Rest assured, if the homeowner confesses that the basement flooded once many years ago during some super storm but it has never happened since, Murphy’s Law dictates that it will probably flood again during your first year in the house – if the previous owners did nothing to mitigate the cause of the first flood. Personally, I would never buy a basement home that doesn’t have a sump system and a backflow preventer in the sewer. These plumbing fixtures are a must and if you have them, you’ll never know how many catastrophes they prevented over the years. But if you don’t have them, you’ll find out the hard way how difficult and expensive homeownership can be.