The Value of Unique Properties
by Mason Spurgeon, Certified General Real Estate Appraiser
The longer I work as an appraiser, the more I encounter properties which are “unique.” One such project involved a “hybrid septic system.” A hybrid septic system is very similar to a standard septic system, but instead of the liquid waste being dumped into a lagoon or leach fields, the waste is pumped into the city sewer system for removal. This setup is called a “hybrid” because it works in some ways like a standard septic system but also makes use of the city sewer.
Last year I was asked to appraise a newer home with a hybrid septic system. The subject had to be hooked to the city sewer system through a septic tank because the main sewer line running out of the home is located below the city sewer line, making disposal of the waste entirely to the city sewer line impossible. According to the recent buyer of the property, the sellers did not disclose that the property had a hybrid septic system. The system was functional, but the buyer felt he had been cheated during the sale. Due to impending litigation, we were contracted to perform a market study and determine whether or not there was a difference in value between the existing hybrid system and conventional systems. For me, this project was a valuable chance to gain new expertise with a very unusual kind of property.
I took several steps to determine if an adjustment was needed for this type of system. I surveyed several appraisers from the area and throughout the state. The majority of them responded by saying that, as long as the septic system is operational and legal in the city, there would be no adjustment, at least not one that could be proven.
Next, I called several realtors in the area and described the issue. The majority of the realtors responded that, as long as the septic system was in working order and was legally installed, they do not think a hybrid septic system would affect the sale price of a property when compared to a similar property without the hybrid sewer system.
Finally, I completed an extensive search for properties in the area with hybrid septic systems. While searching for properties, I found several rural subdivisions located just outside of the city limits with similar hybrid septic systems. However, the water waste is dumped into a public septic system which is then pumped to a sand filter that is owned by the county or the private developer. Whether the system is publicly or privately owned, a monthly septic system fee is collected from the home owners. After locating these types of properties in the market, I began to compare them with other properties that are similar in utility, but are connected to the public sewer system without a septic tank. I found that no adjustment could be proven in the city's market area.
As long as a property has a functioning and legal septic waste removal system, it appears that the market does not place any more value on one type versus another, even though a septic tank may have a little more maintenance as compared to a straight pipe to the city sewer system.
Our work as appraisers would be much easier if all properties were basically the same, or if we refused to appraise properties other than normal homes or vacant farms. But Spurgeon Appraisals has decided not to shy away from the challenges of a unique property. Whatever kind of property you need appraised, we will learn and grow as necessary to meet your appraisal needs.
Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.
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