It's a buyer's market in the housing industry right now. I've even looked at a few places myself recently, but you really want to know what you're getting into. I read numerous articles, performed my own research online, read books, and talked with friends who are home-owners. You will want to do all that yourself, but here's one piece of information that I didn't learn until it was almost too late.
I was in the basement of a house in New Jersey that was for sale, with my broker. The place was vacant, and the electricity had been shut off, so we were nosing around with flashlights. By the way, seeing a vacant house where the electric's been shut off, is sort of like taking a used car for a test-drive with the dealer while they've got the radio cranked. I bought my first used car this way, unknowingly, but learned a hard lesson. The car needed repair, but I didn't hear the noises until driving it myself without the radio blaring. If you're looking at a house that's vacant, BYOF...Bring Your Own Flashlight!
So, we're in the basement of this vacant place, and my broker (who's luckily a personal friend) says to me, "Hey, you have any idea what this is?" Well, I hadn't. I'd never seen anything like it before, and this wasn't something that's written about in most home-buying guides. We were staring at a huge round cylindric-looking thing, sealed with lots of large nuts. My broker wondered if it might somehow be connected to the sewer system. I whipped out my cell phone and called my trusty handy-man friend. This guy guts brownstones in the city and restores them to their original lustre, he's truly amazing. I asked him if he had any idea what this contraption could be. That's when we nailed it. He told me to never buy a house that has a system like this.
Here's the skinny. This is one person's opinion, and there are valid reasons why this type of system exists, I simply don't want to invest in a house that has one-it's just one more thing to have to have repaired. Most cities have a public sewer system. Plumbing tends to work on gravity, so most houses are built such that the sewage can naturally flow downhill, and into the public septic system (which I think tends to run along the same path as the street in front of your house).
This particular house was nestled down a steep hill from the road. Not to mention, you might even need to have a 4WD vehicle just to get out of the driveway in the Winter, but I digress. The moral of this story was best described by my handy-man friend, ever so eloquently I might add, "No one wants to pump their **** and **** uphill! Plumbing was meant to work on gravity. What are you planning to do if the electric goes out?" Well, I really liked that house, but thought long and hard about this. I even considered putting a septic tank in the yard, but I am certain the town has ordinances against that sort of thing.
These systems are called Pressurized Sewers or Grinder Pumps, and you can read more about them by going to these links:
http://www.eone.com/sewer_systems/intro/index.htm (The video on this site gives me vertigo, but I'm amazed that anyone would take the time to produce this!)
Again, there are reasons why one might need the aforementioned type of contraption, but I'm wondering if composting toilets here, and here (photo above) aren't the best solution, but where do you empty them?! Even if you own your own land, I can just see the lawsuits from neighbors complaining of sewage leakage, but then again, it's legal to put cow and horse manure on your garden, isn't it? Can neighbors sue for that (odor, leakage)? Does anybody reading this have any thoughts?
I'd love to know what Ty Pennington of Extreme Home Makover would say about this? "Hey Busdriver, move that house!" I digress, but that show's reason enough to justify having an idiot box. I threw mine out years ago, but recently decided there's valuable content to be had on the blasted thing, you just need to search for it. Don't miss this show!