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Fosse septique - we are at an impasse


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I'll try to be brief. We found a house we wanted to put an offer on, but the septic tank is (obviously) non-conforming. It is on a small triangle of land less than 5 metres in either direction of the house, the road and a neighbour's field, with an outbuilding between it and the road. Therefore we cannot replace it with a new one.

We contacted the estate agent who suggested a micro-station, but we have since found out that these are not authorised for a second home, which this would be for now.

We were given a list of contractors and I tried emailing 2 of them, who have not replied. I also emailed the Mairie, who did not reply. Eventually we were given the name of the guy who had signed the certificate as we were also worried about access to the septic tank. He allegedly told the vendor that he was confident access could be via the road, that a telehandler would be able to reach over to extract the old tank and insert a micro-station. There's that suggestion again!

The estate agent has tried to contact him but has been told that technicians do not tend to get back to people. She has suggested a micro-station (again) and said that some are able to be installed for second homes.

In the meantime I got hold of a guy from SPANC who told me that micro-stations are not authorised for second homes but that they are alternatives and his colleague would get back to me. That hasn't happened despite me chasing twice.

Now the agency are telling me that we will have to pay around 400-650 euros for a soil sample. We feel we are being pushed to do this without any real answers as to whether a solution is even possible.

We are at an impasse. My French is appalling by telephone so I am trying to do what I can online, but no contractor seems willing to reply to me. All we want is an idea of the best solution and the price. The agency has suggested digging up the road which we have balked at. We're considering withdrawing our interest which is a shame as it's a lovely house and ticks all the boxes.

It's in Orne. Does anyone know of any helpful contractors in this area? Or has anyone experienced similar issues that could give advice? Thanks in advance.
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I know what you mean, it would be gutting to walk away. I find this https://www.greentechjournal.fr/microstation-residence-secondaire/ which suggests a solution for second homes, but I would need to find out if it's suitable for the property we are looking at.

I don't mind paying out for a ground survey but would prefer an indication first, of whether there is a solution because otherwise we're just giving 600 euros away. The agency keep telling us that there is definitely a solution but they are not SPANC registered nor are they contractors. They are trying to sell a house.
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Walk (or maybe run)...and put it down to experience.

Really, don't go anywhere near that property. Too much stress.

I have said this before and I will say it again.........try to avoid houses that require a fosse.

If you do go for a house that requires a fosse, make sure it already conforms.

Otherwise you will give yourself an extra headache that you don't need.

P.s. The diagnostics report should tell if you can make the fosse conform or not !!!!

What nationality is the estate agent ? Methinks someone is taking you for a ride.

Welcome BTW.
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Thank you!

The report suggests a micro-station.

We are looking at rural properties so most of them require a replacement. Even if we found one that had a new fosse, it needs checking every 4 years. We've not found a single rural property that is on the mains. Of the ones we looked at only one had a fosse that conformed and that conformity runs out in 2 years.

The estate agent is Belgium.
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Only go for a place where replacing the fosse is straightforward or already done or has a significantly lowered price to take account of any costs.

Expect problems with installers or advisers.

House agents only want to get money off you and will tell untruths or partial truths to get you to sign.

Walk away, IMNVHO.

Welcome to the forum by the way.
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Isn't everything about this telling you to walk away. Why out yourself through all the potential problems and costs. It doesn't make sense to me. I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.

But, go ahead if you want, your choice but..........

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Well Derek, that's why I am posting on here! I've not said that we are going to put in an offer or buy it anyway, I just wanted to hear some impartial advice because the only advice we have so far has come from the estate agents. I am not foolish enough to take that advice alone, hence coming here.

The house has already been reduced by £10k and the vendor was willing to reduce more for a quick sale. He has become disabled, living with his parents and needs the money. It's detached on the edge of a national park, has double glazing, central heating (gas and electric) and 2 log burners. New roof and a paddock across the road.

Seemed perfect. Too good to be true I guess.

We will walk away. Thanks for the advice. We do expect to have to get the fosse septique replaced on any rural property we buy, but like you say, we need one with a straightforward replacement, not one where there are so many unknowns.
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Any old school French estate agent working in a rural environment will tell you straight away what can or can't be done.

Foreign types....not so much.

Reducing a a rural property by 10 K for a quick sale ???

Hmmm.....that does not sound right either.

Reducing it by 50 k is more realistic.

Sounds to me like it is completely overpriced as well.

I maybe wrong...bet I am not.

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Just because it is for sale for 50k don't mean it is worth 50k.

To be fair, I think I am right in what I said.

There are thousands of houses in France that don't have any value. Especially if you can't put a fosse in them.

I think this is one of them.

Listen...if you spend 50 k on a house in France....you will never get that money back. It is gone.

That is the same price as hiring a gîte every year at 1000 euros a week for the next fifty years. Or a 5000 euros a week palace for the next 10 years.

That is before running costs.

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If the property was on for just under €60K then, depending on when it was first put on sale, its value is probably around 1/2 that .. but only because of the investment that the owner has done .. hopefully legally .. of a new roof and the woodburners.

So, Smeg, in this instance is not wrong.

Welcome to France.
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I get it. We’re walking away.

However what I would say is that the property can have a microstation installed for permanent inhabitants. We’re just not permanent inhabitants.

You’re a negative lot aren’t you? Why the assumption that I’m not listening when I’ve stated I am?

The property is worth the asking price to the right person.

Please do not assume I am thick or naive. It’s not necessary. I have taken all the advice on board. Thank you.
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Sherlocked, you're lovely. You're also super rare. Normally, people come to forums like this with a totally harebrained scheme, which they've already made up their minds to do, hoping that total strangers will tell them they're a brilliant visionary and should press on with said harebrained scheme regardless of any advice to the contrary.

Sadly, over many years of trying to advise people to be sensible against their better judgment, many posters have developed a bit of a tendency to push the point home a bit forcefully. This is not a reflection on you or them, but simply the result of years of trying to be helpful whilst realising that you can't always save people from themselves. I doubt anyone thinks you're a numpty, but you have to make some allowances for people who have become used to their genuine and well meant advice being frequently ignored.

If you'd been here fifteen years ago, you could well have witnessed a massive fight kick off, as the minority people with sensible advice to beware were rounded upon by the "everything in France is wonderful" contingent, who couldn't countenance any vaguely negative viewpoint, no matter how valid.

Best of luck in your search.
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Ah, I see. Thank you for explaining. I think I got defensive about judgements on a property that the posters have not seen and on my capacity for being taken for a ride.

I’m from Manchester, we are naturally cynical and don’t spend money easily.

It’s a lovely house and the diagnostic says it’s suitable for a microstation. Which is not suitable for us. The vendor seems genuine and the agents are trying to be helpful, but obviously they’ll only feed us positive news rather than the realism we are looking for.

I came asking if anyone had experienced something similar. Perhaps someone knew someone in the region who could advise. Maybe a micro filter would be a solution. But I realise that would be too much hassle. There are too many uncertainties and the replies have helped to cement that thought.

We’ll keep looking.
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Op said..."The property is worth the asking price to the right person"

That is true I guess, but only if you have money to burn. Which you don't, you admitted that earlier.

Rule number 1 when looking at properties in France....take no notice of the asking price. Really, no point. Prices in France are random.

Work out the market value of the house and offer that less renovation costs. If it is being advertised at 50 k and you think it is worth 10 k.....then offer 10 k. If you do offer 50k they will think you are a mug......... and you will lose a lot of money.
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Well, no other renovation costs needed. Been on sale for 6 months. Owner did a lot of work but had to move out due to disability. He didn’t want to leave.

It’s got 2 double beds. Fully detached. 3 miles from nearest village, 5 miles from nearest town.

Thanks for the advice. As I said the only issue is the fosse and for someone who wants to live there permanently, they can put in a micro. The vendor says he is willing to reduce based on that premises.

For the right family, it’s a bit of a bargain.

I guess you’d need to see it. Or take my word. I’m no fool.

Plus we are hoping for a home, not an investment.

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"I’m from Manchester, we are naturally cynical and don’t spend money easily"

I'm from Bolton. I know ??

The other thing I would say, just cos I can, is...think hard about being out in the sticks to the extent that you have to drive five miles to get a loaf. It's lovely for a while. That's all.
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Rule number 1, ignore ALBF until you have read as many of his previous posts as you can. Once you have realised that he is a one trick pony you will learn to take his attitude and advice with a huge bucketful of salt.

It’s impossible for anyone who has not seen the house in context to say that the house is overpriced. You will know how it compares to others in the area and I would guess that from what you’ve said you’ve found it to be good for the money. With all the recent work carried out on it, if it’s habitable apart from the fosse it sounds worth looking at to me.

The trouble with rural France is there are a lot of vacant properties and turning your back on one with a problem is often good advice. There are exceptions though wher3ca bit of effort is well worth while. Almost any rural property will have a fosse, they are the norm. An area that ALBF knows nothing about.

In my commune a Mancunian bought a holiday home about five years ago. We are now good friends. It had no fosse and he had a micro-station installed. Everyone including SPANC knew it was going to be a holiday home but the fosse was approved. I believe the potential problem is that on his installation there are two electric pumps which normally need to be switched on.

The big shock to me was how big the micro-station is, it’s a much bigger than my 5000l fosse septique and still has an equally large run off area. I believe that the terminology is more to do with the way the system works than the physical size.

If you really want the house tell them that you will pay the original asking price if they arrange and pay to have the fosse installed. They are the locals, they will find it easier to arrange than you. SPANC will assure that it is a good installation and complies.

If you really don’t want to walk away there are options.
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Welcome to the forum Sherlocked.

I won't say anything about the house you are currently looking at, but I would like to offer some advice if you decide against it and decide to look elsewhere.

I would be very wary about a paddock or garden on the other side of the road. I've seen one or two very quiet country lanes become very busy in the summer, and especially with Satnav, people just won't believe that taking their camper vans down it is not a good idea.
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QUOTE Sherlocked

Well, no other renovation costs needed. Been on sale for 6 months. Owner did a lot of work but had to move out due to disability. .... the only issue is the fosse ...

END QUOTE

I absolutely sympathise with the poor vendor. His fosse probably works perfectly, but SPANC in their wisdom have condemned it - as they have 95% of perfectly-functioning fosses in France.

I believe the present owner does not have to do anything, but on the sale of the property the buyer is supposed to carry out the necessary work within 12 months.

I sold my French cottage a year ago, and at the last SPANC inspection - when my perfectly-functioning 25-y-o fosse was found “non conforme” for the lack of a grease filter (that was not obligatory at the time of installation) the guy said there would probably not be another inspection for 10 years, due to lack of resources.

I suspect my (French) buyers, sensibly, will do nothing about replacing it until they are absolutely compelled to.

And for you, it might have been worth the risk - except for the problem with access and lack of available space if you DID have to do the work.

As I said earlier, I am afraid - sadly - I would walk away from this one.

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Some beautiful properties in Orne, Sherlocked.  You will find some other house to fall in love with, more than likely.  I guess you already know that it is blood curdlingly cold in winter.

I love the churches in that area and Bagnoles de Lorne is a charming little town and has spa waters[:)] to boot.  Also has a casino and an auditorium where they stage charming little shows.  Now you are bringing back lovely memories for me[:)]

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Like L'Oiseau we sold our french house last year, with an old nonconforming fosse. But which had worked fine for us all the time we were there.
"I suspect my (French) buyers, sensibly, will do nothing about replacing it until they are absolutely compelled to."
Same here.
But to the OP, yours sounds a bit more complicated. Especially the location of the fosse.

You need to weigh up the costs. If you like the place so much, that means a lot.
I guess a new fosse septique costs about 10,000 euro to install.

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May I just add a thought? My experience after 20 years in France is that real property bargains are usually snapped up by the locals or via the locals. My neighbour’s place was on the market for a week and she got the asking price. Even had viewings before it was available thanks to the village bush telegraph.

Which begs the question, why has the house you are interested in not been snapped up? Price or otherwise?
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