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What to Know About Title 5 Inspections When Selling Your Home

If you are a Massachusetts homeowner who wants to sell a house with a septic system, you need to have your Title 5 inspection done sooner rather than later. Let us help you navigate the process.
If you are a Massachusetts homeowner who wants to sell a house with a septic system, you need to have your Title 5 inspection done sooner rather than later. Let us help you navigate the process.

Homeowners have many last-minute tasks to complete before putting their homes on the market. They should make sure the flowerbeds are weed free, and the bushes are trimmed. They should shampoo the carpets, and sweep the sidewalk. These are all appropriate tasks to wait until the last minute to complete.

If you are a Massachusetts resident who is selling a property that does not have a public sewer, do not wait until the last minute to have your septic system checked.

The State of Massachusetts requires that you have a professional inspection of your septic system completed before the sale goes through. Within the real estate community, this inspection is called a Title 5.

What Happens During an Inspection

A Title 5 inspection needs to be completed by a certified septic pumping professional. The state certifies this individual.

During the inspection, the professional will examine the cesspool, leach field, distribution box, and septic tank. The hydraulics will be checked as well as the groundwater elevation.

The inspector will also determine how many bedrooms the current system can handle. This is where it gets interesting.

If the inspector says the septic system has the capacity for three bedrooms, then you can only list your home as a three-bedroom house. The person who designed your home may initially have added four rooms that were intended for sleeping quarters. All four rooms in your house may have a closet and a window. But if your septic system can only handle three bedrooms, you have a three-bedroom house.

After the examination, the inspector will submit the findings to the Massachusetts Board of Health, and this department will pass or fail the systems. They may also pass the system conditionally.

Home buyers can obtain the information on a specific property’s system before deciding whether or not to put an offer on the house. Keep in mind that the report can only assess how the system functioned during the inspection. Inspectors do not have the capability to see into the future to predict when the system will stop working.

What Happens When Your Septic System Doesn’t Pass?

Why should homeowners complete this inspection well in advance of putting the home on the market? One reason is that if your septic system does not pass, you are in deep poop.

The good news is that you have two years to fix the problems found in an inspection. The bad news is that the state gives you two years because it’s such an expensive process.

If your septic system doesn’t pass, you need to reach out to a local engineer who designs septic systems. You are also required to report the septic system failure to the local Board of Health.

The engineer will look at the system, and hopefully, he or she will determine that additional leach trenches can be added that would allow the septic system to pass inspection.

If adding additional trenches is not an option, hold on to your wallets, because it’s going to get expensive. The engineer will then need to design a new septic system for you. This can cost between $10,000 to $50,000, plus the installation process will wreck your yard.

Without getting too complicated, the engineer will base the new septic system design on the soil surrounding the septic system and the level of the water table. If the water table is too high in your yard, you may need to have a large amount of soil brought in so the raised septic system can be installed. If soil is brought in, the entire look of your yard and landscaping will change.

Once the engineer has designed the system, the homeowner will need to ask for bids from several different companies. Once the new system is installed, inspectors will need to examine it again.

Financial Help for Homeowners

Having a septic system not pass the Title 5 inspection can be quite a shock for homeowners. To help alleviate some of the pain, the state offers a tax credit of up to $6,000 spread out over four years ($1,500 per year) for homeowners who must upgrade a septic system. Homeowners could use this tax credit only if they update their primary residence.

There is also a loan program that offers low-interest rates to eligible homeowners who need to upgrade their septic systems.

So, if you have a property with a septic system and you will be selling your home within the next year, call now to have a Title 5 inspection completed. You do not want to wait until you have an interested buyer to complete the examination. Your buyer will probably not want to wait around for the septic system issues to be resolved, and you will have wasted everyone’s time.

Who Can You Turn To?

Buying and selling a home that is not serviced with a public sewer can be complicated. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, make sure that there is someone you can turn to who will answer questions and offer advice. Reach out to a local Clever Partner Agent. They will sell your home for a flat-fee or low-commission rate while still providing all the services you need.


Andrew Schmeerbauch

Andrew Schmeerbauch is the Director of Marketing at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you top agents to save on commission. His focus is educating home buyers and sellers on navigating the complex world of real estate with confidence and ease. Andrew has worked on projects for the United Nations and USC and has a particular passion for investing and finance. Andrew's writing has been featured in Mashvisor, L&T, Ideal REI, and Rentometer.

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