Sewer line repairs can be very expensive, and most people are unaware that they are not covered by standard home insurance. Typically the homeowner is responsible for any problems that occur between the footprint of the home and the point where the city or county picks up the sewer line in the street, which can mean big out-of-pocket costs for any damage resulting from tree roots, cracked or dislodged pipes, or simply deterioration of pipes.
Sewer Line Scoping Inspections
We nearly always recommend that our buyer clients get a sewer line scoping in addition to a structural inspection in order to detect problems ahead of time (sewer line inspections usually cost around $200 to $250). It involves running a video camera mounted on the end of a cable through the sewer line from inside the home out as far as they can get it, ideally to where it meets the sewer main in the street, in order to detect any damage or looming problems.
While most sewer lines are fine, we recently had a situation that required over $10,000 in repairs by the seller prior to closing. The sewer line was completely deteriorated beneath the basement floor and so damaged out into the front yard that ultimately it was replaced. We’ve seen other homes with less expensive repairs needed, and a sewer line scoping will also tell you if there are problems waiting to happen, for example, if there’s a part of the line with insufficient slope. Even new homes can have sewer line damage that occurred during construction because of heavy equipment driving over the area above the line.
Unfortunately, the cost of scoping a sewer line can become burdensome when pre-inspections are common because of multiple offers. Buyers who are already investing $350 to $450 up front on a home they know they may not get understandably find spending an additional $200 or so a hard pill to swallow.
Sewer Line Insurance In Washington State
An alternative for home buyers in this position is a sewer line insurance policy. National Water Company offers sewer line insurance for homes in Washington state for $5.99 per month (the rate as of Feb. 2016). Currently there is no deductible and the maximum benefit in Washington state is $10,000 – twice the maximum benefit in other states. This allows buyers to be protected against sewer line problems without the up-front expense of a sewer line inspection, eliminating the risk of spending $250 on a scoping for a home they are not sure they will get. It’s also potentially a good option for homeowners who never had a sewer scoping when they purchased their home. There are many people living in older homes in the greater Seattle area, and depending on where they live the sewer lines can be made of clay, concrete, and/or plastic. All of them have their issues, especially the ones with clay and concrete.
A Few Things to Know About
– I haven’t personally had any experience with National Water Company, but so far they have a good record with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), with just one complaint, currently closed, in the last three years. The other company that I know about who offers sewer line insurance in Washington state has 214 closed complaints over the last three years, so I’m going to skip mentioning them here.
** A note about the BBB – in my opinion the actual rating means virtually nothing, and the fact that both of these companies have an A+ rating is a good example of why I think that. I usually go straight to the complaints section at the bottom of a company’s BBB page because I think that tells you more. **
– These companies usually also offer a separate water line insurance policy. Whether or not that is necessary is up to each individual, but I can tell you that in my past 16 years of real estate I’ve never heard of one of our clients having to deal with a water line problem. Based on what we’ve seen, however, Mike and I would always choose to do a sewer scoping prior to buying a property – and if we couldn’t, we would seriously consider the sewer line insurance.
– Some companies have been accused of advertising in ways that make it look as though your utility provider is the one offering or recommending the insurance.
– Read your policy: There may be limits as to the length of sewer line that is covered, and deductibles or other criteria may have changed since the time this post was written.
These are some companies we use and/or recommend when it comes to sewer lines. Please use your best judgment when choosing from this list:
Sewer Line Scoping Inspection
Action Jackson – They cover a wide geographical range and are often available on short notice. 425-318-3076 www.actionjacksonplumbing.com
HydroPhysics – The company we started using ten years ago when most buyers and agents had no idea what a sewer scoping was. They’ve become so popular that now they do mostly areas closer in to the core of Seattle and the Eastside. 360-668-8770
Sewer Line Repairs
Sewer Friendly – We haven’t used them for repairs but they’ve been recommended to us a number of times. They also do sewer scopings. 206-890-7478 www.sewerfriendly.com