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1470 Views 13 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  beaglady
My wife and I are looking to move, and we've checked out a few houses so far.

We took a look at one on Sunday, which is priced $25,000 less than similar houses we've seen so far. Now, this house is in the next valley further north than we've been previously looking, but it seems pretty nice. Nice village location, but the back yard adjoins farmland. Post office across the street, Elementary school 2 blocks away, etc. Lots of Amish folks in the area. (Maybe it was just that it was Sunday they were all going to church).

Anyhow, the selling agent was real vague on what happened to the poop after you flushed the toilet. She said the owners don't know what type of system they have, but most houses in the area have cesspools (this house was built in 1910). I don't understand how someone doesn't know what they have. Now, I realize this person is working to sell the house, not to answer my questions. I am working on getting a buyers agent for us.

I'm concerned about this, especially since the other 'issue' we have with the house, it that it apparently gets water in the basement "only during heavy spring thaws". There is a visible swale (dry right now) in the backyard, and the basement is only maybe a foot or two above that elevation. There's a culvert across the alley next to the house, for the water to flow. The neighbors have an above-ground pool in the depression.

Even if I accept the fact that I might have to replace the cesspool at some time in the future, if I have some sort of creek in my backyard once a year or (probably) more, how could I have a septic or even a sand mound?

My question: Who here has cesspools, and how much of a problem are they?

Keep in mind this is in a village, about 80 houses along a state highway. .3 acre lots, the neighbors are real close. Public water supply.

Oh, there is another issue with this house - the upstairs is only about 6'3" high. I am 6'4" tall. You do the math.

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Cesspools are not allowed in Minnesota any more, and any house sale automatically invokes a septic inspection & compliance with newest codes.

I'd do a lot of research & buyer's clauses into this making sure you can get title to an occupiable house or no sale. I do not know the laws in your state, but _you_ better know the state, county, township, & village ordanences on this!

You sound like the farm in the back is a bad deal?

I'm not sure what a sess pool is, but there is very likely a septic tank in the yard.. In farm country it was once common practice to hook the septic drain to a farm field tile. Not legal anymore. Talk to the neighbors. They know more about the place than you are being told.. I'm 6'4" and I would look long and hard elsewhere.
I think you are talking about a Lagoon.Which basically is just a hole where all you waste water runs into and breaks down.

Everyone around here has one which is legal,but an Outhouse isn't.Go figure!

big rockpile
big rockpile said:
I think you are talking about a Lagoon.Which basically is just a hole where all you waste water runs into and breaks down.

Everyone around here has one which is legal,but an Outhouse isn't.Go figure!

big rockpile
hey rockpile!

i was meaning to ask about ur septic lagoon. how bibg is it? did u have to have it inspected? do the work ur self? hire it done? and like that. thanks!

Our 100+ year old home has a cesspool, and it works better than most septics. Ours is approximately 8 feet deep and 6 feet in diameter, lined with stone, and has an outlet pipe leading to some type of drainfield. (I say some type because the drainfield has never been uncovered and I don't know if it's gravel filled, sand, or just topsoil)
Working in the real estate business, I've seen cesspools that work great, and those that don't work at all. I've also seen conventional septics and sandmounds in the same light.
Here in Pa, you should ask for a seller's disclosure. Any information regarding the septic should be made available to you. DON'T rely on what anyone just "tells" you!! All listed properties must have a disclosure on file in the listing office.
Then, if you are still interested, put an offer in writing, contingent upon the septic passing an inspection. Hire your own independent inspector (typically will cost you around $250-$500) and get a report on the system. Also, the seller is responsible for locating and uncovering the system for inspection.
Some other advice, talk to the neighbors. Most often, especially in rural areas, the neighbors will tell you more than any disclosure.
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Actually a true cesspool has no drain field at all, so I think your contraption would be a septic tank, perhaps not a tank but functions like a septic tank? Cesspool is a big old tank that is made of rock or other porous material and the water just drains out & down into the ground around it. Basically like a drywell for storm water.

Here's one web site explaining a true cesspool.

Real estate agents cannot lie to you to sell the house they have to tell everything they know.
My dad built a few ceptic type tanks back when no one cared. He would dig a pit and make an igloo type tank out of cinder blocks on the outside of the tank he would fill in with stone then bury the whole thing. They worked great but aren't allowed today.
If they can't tell you what they have for a system along with the low ceilings I would find something else.
Wouldn't the 6' 3'' ceiling be a deal buster here (or do you have a plan to lower the floor somehow)?

I can't imagine walking that way all of the time, and it seems like the air would sit still in the summer.

Try walking stooped down by an inch for a trial run.

Good Luck.
Thanks all for the input.

As for what's on the seller's disclosure, the space for listing what type of sewage disposal system was left blank.

I'll be calling the township today to hopefully get answers about cesspools and the flooding.

And no, the back being against a farm is not a bad thing at all. I meant that it's in a village (really just 1 mile of houses being on both sides of the state road, and there's just farmland behind the first row of houses.

I'm planning to take another trip to look at the house and look at details this weekend, and bringing a tape measure. To check the height, I'll stand in the tub and look at where the shower head comes out of the wall. Getting a shower from my belly down is pretty useless.

What my wife and I both realize, is that for any of the houses in our price range, we would like to make plenty of improvements for cosmetics, adding closets, new windows, insulation, etc. If we start with a house that needs the same type of work, but is $25,000 cheaper, we would be that much ahead in the long run.

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I reread your first post this morning, and with a little sleep behind me, have some more advice.
With the parcel size being only .3 of an acre, there is not much room for a new system on lot should the cesspool fail. Contact the Sewer Enforcement Officer for the municipality/borough that the property is in. He will be the one you would need to work with should any problems arise down the road, so feel him out now. Does he have any knowledge of that property? What would need to be done if the system does fail? Most often, if it's a cesspool, there isn't a drainfield at all, and the property would need to pass a perc test before doing a replacement of the system.
Usually, I suggest that anyone buying a property with questionable sewage needs to request that the property pass perc elsewhere on the parcel. Put that in writing in the original written offer to purchase! Frustrating thing is though... as you probably know, this time of year it's just not possible to do a perc test in Pa. Have to wait until the ground thaws.
Good luck.
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Hi John,

Your lender may have restrictions on what type of septic they will finance. If you're in my end of the county, that price seems awfully high for what you describe. Before planning to raise the ceiling, make sure they're joists, not logs. "Where is this place?", she asked nosily.

This is up near State College. Rather, halfway between State College and Lewisburg, at the eastern end of Centre County, in Rebersburg.
I called the township, a supervisor called me back and said that yes, that whole row of houses gets a creek going through their yards if there's a heavy spring thaw.

He said that the township does get a permit filed when a new septic system is put in, he didn't know of anything going on with this specific property. I have the Sewage Enforcement Officer's number, I will be calling him today to get info.

See my other post "Raising Ceiling in a House" about the ceiling height issue. I didn't check the joists, but I believe they're dimensional lumber, not logs. The attic is a walk-up and it has a plank floor. The stairwell up to the attic is framed out in dimensional lumber. But, in the basement you can see that some of the first floor joists are logs. For some reason, the basement is about 9 feet high :confused:

JWH123 said:
Rather, halfway between State College and Lewisburg, at the eastern end of Centre County, in Rebersburg.
JWH123 said:
That's a beautiful area. Are you sure you don't want more land, though? .3 acre is room enough for a garden, but not a tractor full of broilers, lol. check on any possible zoning restrictions if you want a few laying hens in your shed or whatever.

OTOH, the property could be a good stepping stone to eventually finding a larger place in the same area and you might be able to make some profit on it. Or it could become a money pit where you end up living for much longer than expected before you get your country place. (This was our experience, but at least our son got to grow up in a small town, not suburbia.)

Good Luck!
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