April 7, 2007

Sewer Scoping Saves Home Buyers Thousands

by Irene Nash

Sewer repair gone wrong

Want Your Clients to Avoid This?

Start talking about sewer scoping to a room full of real estate agents and chances are only a few will know what you’re talking about. But scoping the sewer during the buyer’s inspection period can detect expensive underground problems – ones that are often not covered by home insurance!

The picture above was taken by one of my clients from the window of her new home. She didn’t have a sewer scoping because the property was new construction and the builder had already scoped it, but it appears that city work in the street damaged the line prior to closing. That lead to a sewer backup next door months later, and the majorly botched repair shown above.

Given the risks, it makes a lot of sense to know how to advise your clients regarding sewer scoping. Here’s a description of what it entails and how it’s typically handled.

What Exactly is a Sewer Scoping?

A sewer scoping is a way to inspect the sewer line from the interior of the home to the main line in the street. (Problems arise with sewer systems when pipes become dislodged or cracked, or tree roots grow into the system and create blockages.)

The sewer scoping contractor shows up with a very long, coiled metal hose that has a tiny video camera at the end. He or she finds a starting location in the home and snakes the hose through the sewer system, from the home to the street. (Occasionally this requires going up onto the roof for an entry point, and on rare occasions even removing a toilet inside the home.)

The camera view is typically visible on a video screen attached to the main equipment. If problems are detected, the sewer scoping contractor will typically point those out and explain how serious they might be. At the end of the inspection the clients usually get a written report and their videotape, if it was recorded.

How Much Does Sewer Scoping Cost?

Well, there are really two costs to consider here.

One is the cost of the inspection, which in an area like Seattle is typically in the $200 to $400 range.

The other is the cost of repairing damaged sewer lines. This can go well into the thousands of dollars.

We are not insurance experts and this is not expert insurance advice, so check with an insurance agent for exact detailsĀ – but homeowner insurance typically insures what is under or around the footprint of your home, and the utility district typically takes over where the line from the home meets the main sewer line, in the street.

That means that any problem located between the home and the main line in the street is likely to be the responsibility of the homeowner!

I know of more than one occasion in which people had to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 out of pocket for sewer line repairs. Comparatively, $200 for a sewer scoping inspection seem pretty cheap.

A Word to the Wise

Sewer scoping isn’t just for older homes, as the photo above proves. The safest course is to present your clients with as much information as possible so that they can make a wise decision, and have a good sewer scoper available in case they want one.

P.S. If you’re an agent in the Seattle area we can highly recommend Hydro Physics Pipe Inspection, owned and operated by the ever-competent Rick Delamare. (A nice thing about this company is that they do only inspections, not repairs, so clients never have to worry about them having a vested interest in finding a problem.) Hydro Physics phone: 425-775-8445 or 866-775-8445

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