Portland Home Tests: Sewer Scope!

sewer scope portland

Continuing our series on home tests Portland real estate agents recommend on older Portland homes, let’s talk about everybody’s favorite subject: Sewage.

Okay, most of us would rather not think about what happens when we flush the toilet or run the garbage disposal, but just as you wouldn’t buy a home with fraying electrical lines or rusted-out water pipes, you should look into the condition of your potential home’s sewer system before you commit.

In case you weren’t aware, all of the drains in your home’s kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc., are connected to a sewer pipe that you become responsible for when you buy the home. Your sewer pipe runs under your front or back yard to connect to a main pipe in the street, which is owned by the city. These lines direct wastewater from every home in Portland to either a central treatment facility in Portland or a smaller one in Lake Oswego.

It’s the sewer pipe – or line – buried in the yard that most often causes problems for Portland homeowners. Luckily, there’s an easy way to check out that pipe without digging it up. It’s called a sewer scope, and it actually takes a video of the inside of the sewer pipe. The best part is, you don’t have to be the one to send a snake with a camera attached down the sewer line and peer at the ultrasound-like images. There are plumbing professionals who do it for a hundred bucks or so in the Portland area.

If your Portland home is more than 30 years old, you should consider getting a sewer scope to be able to disclose to buyers what the sewer line looks like. If it has been replaced relatively recently, that can be a good selling point. If there are problems, it’s good to know about them before the buyer has agreed to purchase the home.

If you’re shopping with a Portland real estate agent for a Portland home that’s older, definitely order a sewer scope. It will find breaks or bellies in the line and discover what type of material was used to make the pipe. Before PVC, they used a kind of tarpaper, so you can guess what that line will look like after a couple of decades under the ground, collecting hair, grease, and other items (and you thought Portland real estate home shopping was a treasure hunt). Also, in the urban forest we call Portland, tree roots have a tendency to take advantage of the vacant space found in sewer lines, growing into and eventually blocking them.

Your plumber can advise on how best to handle whatever they find in the sewer scope. They often can replace sewer lines using a trenchless method, so your home’s landscaping need not be disturbed. If the sewer pipe needs to be replaced, the cost can be significant, and the expense should be reflected in the sellers’ asking price. Even if the closing process has begun, the costs of these repairs can and should be credited back to you if they weren’t disclosed before the transaction took place (consult with your Portland real estate agent).

Although a general home inspection typically occurs before a home sale takes place, home inspectors don’t inspect the sewer lines, although they may recommend that this be done. Even if they don’t, on older homes it’s a good idea anyway. It’s up to astute home buyers, sellers and Portland real estate agents to make sure this little detail – no matter how unpleasant – is looked into. By spending a little up front, you can save yourself a lot of headache and money down the line.

May 29, 2014

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. and a top 1% agent in the Portland Metro. Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales in the Portland Metro area. Call him direct: 503-714-1111.

Pay less (4.5% commission max.) and get more with his top 1% listing team or buy your next home with his excellent top 1% buyer’s team. We work from Salem, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington and beyond. Check out our full services areas on the top menu.