Should I Have a Sewer Scope Done When Purchasing an Indianapolis Rental Property?

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I think we can all agree that the inspection phase is one of, if not the most, nerve racking part of purchasing a property.

There are a ton of factors to consider and you just never know what might be discovered.

Our stance on home inspections is that you should always, always, ALWAYS have one.

Even if it’s an “as-is” sale, you’ll want to have a well-rounded understanding of the condition of the property and its major components.

One of these major components that you may have not given much thought to previously, is the sewer line.

Keep reading to get a full breakdown on sewer lines and the importance of having it evaluated as part of your inspection process when purchasing an Indianapolis rental property.

What is the Sewer Line?

As you may already know, the sewer line is the plumbing that runs underground and channels all of the waste from tubs, toilets, and sinks from your home to the main sewer. 

Depending on the age of the home, you’ll likely come across several different types of plumbing material. Homes built before the 1950s are more likely to have clay pipe, cast-iron, or Orangeburg.

Homes post 1970s will usually have a plastic material.

  • Clay Pipe: Clay pipes are very common here in Indianapolis for older homes, however, it is still laid for newer homes as well.A benefit of clay piping is that it is highly resistant to chemical degradation, but a downfall is that it attracts tree roots which can cause major issues.Clay piping is also considered to be a stronger and longer lasting material as opposed to some of the newer PVC type piping.
  • Cast Iron Pipe: Cast iron is another material you may come across in older homes, yet is also still used in newer homes.Like clay, it tends to have a longer life span.
  • Plastics: Plastic options such as PVC and ABS tend to be the preferred materials for sewer pipes today.It’s a light, easy, and cheaper material to work with making it more budget friendly.

What is a sewer scope?

A sewer scope is simply a video inspection of your main sewer line. A qualified technician will take a long, stiff, cord-like tool with a camera on the end and record as they snake through the piping.

Should I have the sewer line scoped during my inspection?

For all intents and purposes, the answer to this is almost always going to be yes.

Most Indianapolis sewer companies will charge between $200-$300 to perform a sewer scope and provide you a video and report.

There are a number of issues that a sewer scope can reveal such as cracks, blockages, debris buildup, tree root intrusion, breaks, collapses, and improper installation.

Replacing a sewer line can cost anywhere from $3,000-$10,000+, so a few hundred dollars now could save you thousands in the long run.

Not to mention additional cost you may incur from backups, displaced tenants, etc.

Pro Tip: If there is a PVC cleanout located on the property, that is a very good indication that the sewer line has likely been replaced since the home was built or that the line is newer. That’s not always the case, but is something to look for.

What if the home does not have a sewer main clean-out?

If a clean-out has not been installed on the property, you can usually still have the line scoped.

A plumber can either try to pull a toilet and get to the line that way, or sometimes they can also go through the plumbing stack on the roof.

These methods are more difficult and may cost extra, but it’s still highly recommended to have it completed if possible.

What if the full sewer line cannot be scoped due to blockages?

I have seen several instances where a sewer scope was only able to go in so far before hitting some sort of blockage.

Typically when that happens they will tell you the line needs to be cleaned so they can come back out and re-scope the whole thing

In a perfect world, we would make that happen every time, but in some transactions it’s just not feasible depending on timelines, the seller’s willingness to work with you, etc.

When these situations arise, it’s best to discuss it with your agent to determine the best way to move forward.

How much does it cost to have a sewer line cleaned?

If a sewer scope reveals that the line may need to be cleaned, the cost can vary depending on the extent of debris in the piping.

If there is just some sludge or minor buildup, you can likely expect to pay in the $200-$300 range, however, if there are roots or other more intrusive items that need removed, it can cost upwards of $1,000.

What if the property is on a private septic system?

If the property you are purchasing is on a private septic system and not connected to city utilities, it’s more standard to substitute a sewer scope for a full septic inspection.

In a septic inspection, they should evaluate every component of the system which should include the main waste line leading to the tank.

Pro Tip: Do not have your home inspector perform a septic inspection unless they are qualified septic service professional.

Instead, spend the money to have a specialized septic company perform the evaluation as they will be able to provide a much better understanding of the functionality and estimated costs for any issues they may find.

A full septic inspection with pumping will typically cost in the $300-$500 range.

Will you have a sewer scope done on your next rental property purchase?

If you’ve been getting sewer scopes done during your home inspections, that’s great.

If you haven’t, hopefully this has raised enough points that you see the importance of making it a part of your home purchasing process.

If you need assistance with investing in the Central Indiana real estate market or even if you just have questions related to purchasing rental properties, we would love to help any way we can.

About the Author

Devon L. Hicks

As well as being a licensed Realtor, Devon has her Bachelors in Marketing from Missouri State University and utilizes her skills in a variety of ways to educate and advise real estate investors in the Central Indiana region.

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