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What is a "perc" test and why do I need to know about it?



What the Heck is a perc test anyway? A percolation test or soil suitability test are terms that mean the same thing.


You need to know if the lot or property you are investigating is not served by a public sewer system. This ‘perc’ test is performed to make sure a septic system can be installed and function properly without contaminating the drinking water supply. This is typical in rural areas.

The results from these tests help determine the soil’s ability to accept effluent (wastewater) over a period of time.


These results also help determine what type of septic system is needed to meet the client’s needs, based on the soils, for government approval for a system to be installed.


NOTE: If the property will not perc, then no house can be built. However, there may be alternative systems available that may work. You will need to check with the local government to see what is acceptable.


How is this “perc” testing done?


This test is often accomplished by hiring a licensed soil scientist, a geotechnical engineer firm, or using the county environmental department. These professionals have several ways to perform the test but all are done by digging holes and testing the soils. The holes can be anywhere from a few inches wide and a few feet deep to several feet wide and several feet deep. The professionals will determine the type of testing needed based on the client’s desires.


Real Estate Agents NOTE: Make sure you allow enough time for these tests to be completed when writing up a contract. It may take several weeks or even a couple of months to get the perc test results back. You would not want to close on a vacant lot or land until you get acceptable results back from a perc test. That is, if you want to build a house or structure that requires a septic system on that property.


Also, if a previous perc test was completed, confirm the permit and time on the permit, they do have an expiration date.


Now that you know the importance of a perc test when purchasing a lot or piece of land, make sure you do your homework prior to a contract closing. I hope that this will give you a better insight of why you need to know what a perc test is and what it does for you and your clients.


Need more information? Check out this article and video.


Here is a favorite of mine that is a really simple explanation about Septic Systems by Seth Williams with RETipster.


For more information on this topic, refer to Chapter 7 of “10 Things You Need To Know About Land”.


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