Local real estate Q&A | PostIndependent.com

Local real estate Q&A

Doug Van Etten
Free Press Real Estate Columnist


Email your real estate-related questions to douglasvanetten@gmail.com, or call Doug at 970-433-4312.

Q: My in-laws are selling their Grand Junction house and it is on a septic system. Everyone we talk with seems to have a different opinion or what they call “fact” about being on septic. Can you please clear up for us what is required in selling a house that has a septic system?

A: That is such a good question since there are properties scattered all over the Grand Valley still on septic while the neighbors next door or around the corner have been on city sewer for years.

First off, let me point you to a website for a look at your in-laws’ neighborhood, just so they can look at, kind of FYI, which properties are and are not on septic near them:


According to the Mesa County Public Works Department, as long as a septic system is functioning properly it is not necessary for a property owner to hook into the sewer system, on any given day or at the time a property is sold. If your in-laws have been in the house for quite a few years and the septic system works, they may not have even thought about it. However, if a septic system no longer functions properly, hook up to the sewer system rather than a replacement septic system is the requirement.

Making this change over was less expensive when the sewer lines were being put into a neighborhood than it is to hook up at a later date. In one example neighborhood on the Redlands, county employees I talked with estimated a $9,500 tap fee and a $4,000 connection fee for a total installation cost of about $13,500 at today’s rates. These costs, they told me, will go up over time. Also, this does not include any fence or landscaping repair or replacement costs. Depending on the street that must be dug up to access the existing trunk line, there could possibly be extra costs or even need for a special permit.

According to the office manager at Goodwin Services, one of the septic pumping companies I talked with, while not required by local or state law, it is suggested an owner have their septic system pumped to remove all the sewage sludge about every five years. Of course, the need for this can vary with a number of factors. If a family of four is living in a house and using a garbage disposal on a daily basis, that time frame for pumping is highly recommended, according to the pumping company.

On the other hand, if your in-laws are just the two of them, they may be using the septic system very lightly and it may not need to be pumped for quite a few more years.

It was also told to me that many septic owners put enzyme tablets into the septic tank to accelerate the biological action, cutting down on the amount of solids left in the tank, prolonging the period between needed pumping. By the way, a typical Grand Valley three-bedroom house is required by the county to have a 1,000 gallon tank for this system and pumping for that size tank is typically in the $250-$300 range.

I hope that clears up some of the questions about a septic system as well as how it relates to a home sale. For additional information, call Mesa County Public Works at 970-244-1590.

From what I was told by both government and the pumping companies, this may very well be a case of, if it is not broken, there is no need to fix it.

Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty. He is also founder and organizer of the Real Estate Investors Network of Western Colorado (www.REIN-WesCO.org). For information about buying or selling a home, investing in real estate or joining REIN, contact Doug at 970-433-4312 or DougVE@kw.com.

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