In the Seattle area, there is a combination of very old homes (and old sewer pipes) in the city, and mostly newer homes in the suburbs on the east side of Lake Washington. We always recommend that our buyers obtain a sewer scope on the home that they are buying, regardless of its age. This draws some scoffs from eastside agents saying things like “I’ve never heard of someone doing a sewer scope on these newer homes.” or “We don’t do that on the eastside. Why would you need to do that?” The reason we recommend a sewer scope on all ages of homes is that we have uncovered serious and expensive problems on even the newest homes.
Why a sewer scope?
When your home is on sewer, there is a sewer line that exits the home underground and joins the sewer main in the street. On very old homes, the line is made of clay. If your home was built in the middle of the 20th century until the 70’s or 80’s, it is likely made of concrete. Newer homes have sewer pipes that are either ABS or PVC plastic.
A sewer line can be cracked, crushed or infiltrated with tree roots. It might also be separated or improperly sloped. Any of the above-mentioned problems can lead to a backed up sewer and a potentially very expensive repair. The only way to inspect the sewer line is to hire someone with a sewer scope camera to take a video of the condition of the line.
Newer homes can have serious sewer problems
It is true that plastic pipes in modern homes are immune to many problems found in concrete or clay sewer pipe that has deteriorated. While the incidence of sewer line problems is considerably lower on newer homes, we’ve found plenty of expensive problems, sometimes from mistakes made when the home was built. The notion that “we don’t need sewer scopes in this area” or “it’s a plastic line, so there aren’t problems like in the city” are completely false. Here are a few examples that we’ve come across recently:
- On a 2012 new construction home, the sewer line was all ABS plastic from the house to the sewer main. The line was sloped upwards for a span of 10′ and filled with rocks and sediment. It was a sewer backup waiting to happen. We made the builder dig up the sewer line and fix it.
- We sold a home built in 2005 that had a major break in the ABS plastic lines which cost over $2000 to get repaired.
- We sold a home built in 1989 with plastic sewer lines that had a disconnected pipe right after it exited the home.
- On a 1969 home, we found a separated line 11′ deep under a tree. Total bid to replace was $5000, which we negotiated a credit from the seller to get fixed.
Don’t let your real estate agent talk you out of a sewer scope
Sewer line problems are far less common on newer homes, but they happen and they are potentially expensive. No matter how well-maintained a home is, there is only one way to find out the condition of the sewer line. Spend a couple hundred bucks on a sewer scope to avoid a potential sewer backup and thousands of dollars in repairs. Real estate agents who claim “it isn’t needed on a home of this age” are misinformed and not looking out for your best interests.