The Bedroom Count Doesn't Equal Septic Perc

By
Real Estate Agent with Montague Miller and Company

I list a lot of homes. They are my bread and butter. I am meticulous, and take very seriously my duty, to my Sellers, to sell their home in the quickest time, at the highest price possible, with no legal entanglements. I am a certified relocation specialist. I meet the criteria for all relocation companies nationally. I do not take my reputation lightly.

My sellers hear from me regularly, and know what is going on in the market in the area. I even contact other Realtors conducting open houses in the neighborhood to track traffic overall. I coordinate with other listing agents to nest our open houses together, whether for the public or Brokers Open Houses, in order to increase the traffic received overall. In my market homes do sell at open houses, and I routinely get listings from neighbors who stop by, and get to talking with me.

Communication with sellers is vital to a successful sale. I pride myself on it, and this is what happened. I took a listing, that had been on the market (many months) with another Realtor, at a much higher price. A number that could be construed as testing the market, not at the sweet balance price, of getting it under contract anytime soon, in today's buyer market.

A beautiful Home, that had recently had an appraisal done. Which came in very close to my recommended list price, and likely sale price range. I had no idea there had been an appraisal done at the time I was doing my CMA. I patted myself on the back quietly, for doing a "good job Carol".

After I secure the listing, I begin my marketing plan, and get all the paperwork I need to ensure a smooth transaction. Once we get that ready, willing and able buyer, I want to have our ducks in a row. No surprises, we could/should have known about. I went to the Health Department where the well and septic information is kept.

What??? How many bedrooms is the perc? The bedroom count does not equal the septic perc.The paperwork is clearly for 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. The house definitely has 4 bedrooms, all on the second floor, and 3.5 baths. I call the Seller- there must be a mistake I am told, I have gotten the wrong lot information.

Back I go, and I pull the original application for the building permit, and perc test. No mistake, clearly 3 bedrooms on all the paperwork. This will be a HUGE REDUCTION in the market value of the house. I tell the seller the news. Not good! The house can't be marketed as 4 bedrooms unless we make application to the County for another perc test and follow their requirements.

Possibly, we may have to have a larger septic tank installed, we may have to have lines added to the field. If the ground will not support the 4 bedrooms, we may have to put in an alternative system. Seller is not happy about any of this. We can market it as a 4 bedroom home, if we get a variance from the County to limit the house to 6 occupants. The variance does not transfer though when sold, and we must disclose the variance.

New Realtors and/or lazy Realtors, who would have sold this home when it was on the market previously as a Buyers Representative, would have had a possible lawsuit. A lawsuit hiding in the wings, waiting for a meticulous Realtor to discover the problem in paperwork. This problem I have discovered more than once, in more than one area. We have a responsibility to Protect the Public, sometimes it is from themselves!

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Carol Costanzo, GRI, SFR, Realtor - CharlottesvilleSold.com - 434-962-1419                  

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 Montague Miller and Company 500 Westfield Rd Charlottesville, VA 22901

Licensed to Sell Real Estate in the Commonwealth of Virginia

 

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Rainer
65,537
Carol Costanzo
Montague Miller and Company - Charlottesville, VA
GRI, SFR

Leigh, I found it interesting that even though the house has more than the 3 bathrooms the county approved, it is the number of bedrooms that matter. My thought was the bathrooms make the water.

The county's thought is 2 people per bedroom, and they are the water users. They calculate 75 gallons per person per day. The well output is considered as well.

November 26, 2006 05:02 PM #2
Rainer
17,223
Rob Wills
Gilpin Realty Inc. - Everett, WA
I had one just like yours. On a ranch. Plus a lot or add ons that had no permits.
November 26, 2006 05:35 PM #3
Rainmaker
230,585
Michele Connors
The Overton Group, LLC & CB First Realty - Greenville, NC
Your Eastern North Carolina Realtor

I like your topic...Our policy is to do a permit request day of listing from Health Dept. They typically reply in a few days. We then hjave the truth in the file. Often the sellers arent aware they bought a home with more bedrms than permitted. Sometimes it is a big deal for a buyer- other times not a concern for buyers- but- always disclosed.

Just part of the job when listing- but-we love the listings w/o a septic dont we  !!!

November 26, 2006 05:48 PM #4
Rainmaker
315,766
Monika McGillicuddy
Prudential Verani Realty/Hampstead - Hampstead, NH
Southern NH & the Seacoast Area
I've had a few listings  like this...hurts when it detracts from market value but you have to disclose it and price accordingly. I had a seller that added a gorgeous in-law apartment with top of the line everything...lost about 40 k in value due to no permit. Not fun!
November 26, 2006 05:50 PM #5
Rainer
61,226
Netta Blackwood
La Rosa Realty - Kissimmee, FL
REO/BPO Expert
It's good to always stay on top of things.  I'm glad you did not just take the sellers word for it but you did your own investigation. 
November 26, 2006 05:53 PM #6
Ambassador
1,828,412
Jeff Dowler CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad CA Homes for Sale (760) 840-1360
What a great post, and a terrific testimony to the liability that can come from homeselling and how a knowledgeable REALTOR can really make a difference. We don't have septic here where I am in California, but I certainly dealt with it back in Boston, plus we had the Title 5 inspectional issues to deal with.  And if the septic is near a well, even more issues (don't get me started on that - ran into that when selling my beach house on Cape Cod...UGH!!). Thanks for sharing this information.
November 26, 2006 07:26 PM #7
Rainer
99,630
Kaushik Sirkar
Call Realty, Inc. - Chandler, AZ
I posted a similar comment on another blog recently - I take it that something like this is much more important to watch out for in places that aren't cookie cutter, tract home neighborhoods??
November 26, 2006 08:18 PM #8
Rainmaker
147,725
Home Design
Alpharetta, GA
Home Design and Real Estate
Carol I have seen this time and time again.  We always must be alert and do our job.
November 26, 2006 08:56 PM #9
Rainmaker
111,716
Carl Guild
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties - East Hampton, CT
Central Connecticut Real Estate
Excellent post as a reminder for us to do our due diligence!
November 26, 2006 10:37 PM #10
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George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages Connecticut - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert
Carol, this can be a big problem during the mortgage approval when the Appraisal comes in, we also get into issues with the well on occasion be closer than 50 feet to the septic.  Better to know things upfront before more and more money gets put into the deal, and people's lives get turned upside down.
November 26, 2006 10:52 PM #11
Rainmaker
522,360
Jim Lee
RE/MAX By The Bay - Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH

In a county adjacent to mine it seems a common practice for builders to get a permit and install a 2 bedroom septic system for a 3 bedroom home.

They call the home 2 bedrooms and a den (with the 3rd bedroom being the den) to get away with paying the smaller permit fee and installing the smaller septic tank.

The savings could not be more than a few hundred dollars but the litigation potential and liability for some innocent bystander a few years down the road could amount to many thousands of dollars.

You need to watch yourself with septic systems and know what size they are and how they're rated by the local governing authorities.

Same with sewer connections. On older homes in my area it is not unusual for a seller to be paying a sewer improvement or usage fee and still not be physically connected to a sewer but rather still on a septic system.

The only certain way to determine if a house is sewer connected is to have the local water company do a dye test where they flush a colored dye down a commode and watch for it to appear at a manhole.

November 26, 2006 11:15 PM #12
Ambassador
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ASHEVILLE 1031 SIGNATURE PROPERTIES specialists in - LAND,INVESTMENT ACREAGES, AND LUXURY HOMES
Signature Mountain Homes and LAND- Asheville 1031 Realty, Inc. - Asheville, NC
Tell Us What Is Most Important to YOU
Septic permits are the "thing" in our rural areas. We are forever double-checking and in some cases revealing that there is NO spetic permit to be found!  I sure appreciate hearing about your energy for your clients...that level of professionalism helps all of us!
November 26, 2006 11:45 PM #13
Rainmaker
620,604
Randy Prothero
Island Style Realty Inc. - Mililani, HI
Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645

I have a similar set of red flags on a listing I will be getting in about a month.  The tax records say it is a 1200 sq/ft home.  It is more like 3000 sq/ft.  The owner of 30 years is a licensed contractor who said everything is permitted and I believe him.

I just ordered a building permit package.  He will be shocked when I give him the needed documents to make this go smooth.

November 27, 2006 12:51 AM #14
Rainmaker
605,794
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Saint Petersburg, FL
St. Pete FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS
Another example of why local knowledge is SO important. We do occasionally run into a house with a septic tank, and that brings into play additional inspections for the buyer, and the agent needs to know who does the inspection, and what they do and DON'T provide in them.
November 27, 2006 06:58 AM #15
Rainer
200,545
Eddy Martinez
Nationwide Funding Group - Highland Park, CA
wow you got the extra mile for your clients thats strong!!!!!!!!!! local knoweldge is vital i agree with you
November 27, 2006 03:51 PM #16
Rainer
5,572
Barb & Jennifer White
Re/Max Xecutex - Centreville, VA

Great post, another reminder that we are hired as professionals who must do their homework and guide sellers according to law requirement.  We must do the right thing under law even if it’s at the expense of listing.

Thanks!

Yasir 

November 29, 2006 10:11 AM #17
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