First Time Buyer - What's a Community Water/Septic System?

Written by Posted On Thursday, 15 May 2014 12:14


Question -  My agent says this sub is on a community well and/or septic system. What do I need to know about those?

Answer – Some developments were built on acreage that may not have many (if any) areas that perk – See my earlier post on Septic Fields. In those cases the developer may choose to put in a shared system, which is usually a large engineered field that is shared as a giant neighborhood septic drain field. In those situations he may also choose to put in a single large well and usually a holding tank to supply shared water, too. It is possible that you would find just one of the two in a particular development.

Here’s a link to great read on septic systems. There are lots of variations on these systems , whether they are for a single house or shared by several homes in a community. In a Community Septic situation you will be responsible for paying into a fund that should exist for maintenance of the system or be subject to special assessments, should something happen that requires repairs or maintenance.

Just like with an individual septic system a community system may require occasional pumping out of the solids tanks. Community septic systems might also have a network of pumps and pipes spread throughout the neighborhood to get all of the effluent to the field. Those pumps may occasionally fail and need to be replaced, so that will be part of the system maintenance charges. You may also find, if this is a newer development, that the developer has divided up the cost of the system and placed a long-term special assessment against each parcel to help pay for the construction of the system.

A community well is just a large, industrial strength well that usually has a holding tank or two located on high ground in the development. It will probably use pumps to get the water to the houses, too. Because this is a shared neighborhood utility each house won’t have to dig its own well. Because the system needs power to operate, you should check to see what sort of backup power is in place (usually a big generator that runs on natural gas).  You should also check to see fi the system has more than one pump feeding the holding tank. You will probably end up with a water meter on your house, since some equitable way to bill for water usage will be required. You may find that your “sewer bill” for use of the community septic system (if there is one) will also be based upon the amount of water used – water in and waste out.

Community wells and septic systems are very much like being on city water and sewer from the perspective of the homeowner except that you and the other homeowners are “the city”. These systems are usually run by professional companies that specialize in this field and they will need to be paid too, so expect that cost to be lumped in with whatever your monthly bill is for these “utilities”.

So, is this a good thing or what? It certainly takes away one or two concerns about your own property, since you don’t have to have a well drilled or a septic field put in. A builder would have normally done that for you anyway, but you’d still have the responsibility for them yourself, once you bought. With Community Wells and Septic Systems you still have a responsibility, but that is mostly just to pay your dues and or monthly fees. Still, a failure in either of these critical systems and your house is dead in the water too; so the risk isn’t all gone. Systems like these are usually professionally managed, so maintenance will likely be better and repairs affected rapidly.

While it saves money for the developer, don’t expect any great savings for yourself. In fact is might cost more, due to management fees. The bottom line may be that it could give you a bit more peace of mind, knowing that these systems aren’t your personal problem anymore. Like anything else, you should do your due-diligence to make sure that the shared facilities in your community are being properly maintained.


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Norm Werner

Norm Werner is a Realtor at the Milford office of Real Estate One serving the southeastern Michigan area of Oakland and Livingston Counties. Norm specializes in residential real estate. Norm lives and works in Milford Michigan and is married to Carolyn Werner. Norm and Carolyn live in a historic home just three blocks from downtown Milford, with their two dogs - Sadie and Skippy. Norm specializes in the historic homes of Milford and the surrounding area and is on the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society. Norm especially enjoys working with first time buyers and those at the other end of the real estate spectrum who are downsizing into their retirement home. 

In addition to his web site, Norm also owns and m,aintains web site, the web site. He is also the webmaster for and the web site and the MilfordCar web site, as well as his church web site - In addition to blogging about real eastate, Norm has a personal blog - - on which he shares inspirational messages and the occasions personal observation about life.

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