New Buyer Question: Septic vs City Sewer

Hello all! I’m new to the MHP world and I’m actively looking to buy my first park. I’m trying to make sense of the septic vs. city sewer issue. Should I be looking only at parks with city sewer. Is septic “bad” and something I should steer clear of? I’m looking to keep things as simple as possible, so if septic lends itself to a lot of problems, I’ll stay away…but I need to make sure I’m making an informed decision. I welcome everyone’s thoughts! THANK YOU!

For your first park do not even think about a park with septic tanks–with experience maybe.

I like the way Frank puts it. If you don’t like whats on the menu, don’t eat at the restaurant. With city sewer , your worst case scenario is a pipe that needs to be roto rootered or maybe a section replaced ( this is making the assumption you did good diligence). With septic, your exposure to larger potential costs rises exponentially relative to a city sewer setup. There are also other variables at play such as regulatory bodies , additional work etc. If everything else about it is superb, you might want to look more into it , but in an apples to apples scenario, I believe its more beneficial to stay with city sewer as you get a grasp on everything else in the park business.

The trade off for buying a city park as opposed to a country park is usually reflected in the purchase price. You pay for the convenience of having city services up front. Ease of operation as opposed to higher cash flow.

Fianna1996, my Husband and I purchased our first MHP which had City Water and Septic Systems.

Septic Systems have many variables. Thus, it is hard to compare one Septic System with another.

Some of the variables are:

  • Is it 1 Septic System per 1 Mobile Home?
  • How many bedrooms is each Septic System designed to handle?
  • How much land is each Septic System on?
  • How old are the Septic Systems?
  • Have the Septic Systems been maintained? Have they been pumped on a regular basis? Have drain lines been replaced when needed or have they just continued to pump the tank? (Pumping the tank is much cheaper than replacing the drain lines.)

Our MHP has 24 Lots on approximately 10+ acres with one Septic System per Mobile Home and it is on City Water.

Personally, I would purchase another MHP with the following:

  • 1 Septic System per 1 Mobile Home
  • MHP with Septic Systems /AND/ City Water
  • Septic Systems with land to drain
  • Septic Systems that have been maintained

We wish you the very best!

I have to state for the record that I own a park with city sewer and private water. Firslty - my park was more or less forced to be on city sewer (former owner did not upgrade the on-site mini package plant nor maintain it well). In the end - this was a BAD idea as the park is not located within the corporate city limits of that city - and they have been nothing but awful to work with as a customer. They offered sewer service but the park still owns all the sewer systems - and the city bills at 120% of the regular average rate they bill to citizens.

It all simply depends on what your comfort level is - how involved you will be or how you are able to manage people who can take care of things fr you.

It is realatively simple to manage when your records, proceedures and rules are spelled out. You have a process and clearly written expectations of staff to follow. It’s only when you ignore the rules and proceedures that problems happen.

Sure - it’s more work - but if the deal facing you makes more financial sense to be on private system - you can save a lot of headache with dealing with politicians who may have a beef with mobile home parks for whatever reasons. Owning any site improvement, utility or otherwise - like all the utility risers and water lines in the ground - all require routine maintenance and insepction. If you are not inspecting regularly, have a skilled tradesman on staff or readily available or not able to manage health department paperwork processing and routing (daily and monthly) testing of the water system and sewer plant (some plants require active management, some only require monitoring for build up of solids and some septic systems are multi-stage that have either discharging or non-discharging systems plus a tank that might need to be pumped out once a year, 3 times or as needed).

Each setup needs to be evaluated. If the setup is 20 years old - it’s likely to need upgrades. If it’s not too old - has good maintenance logs - you can better judge the “risk” and decide for yourself what is the best way to proceed. Often there are times when the state health department changes rules and makes small sewptic systems or lagoons a non-option and if you find yourself needing to replace something you will not get a permit or will be barred from installing new things that don’t meet new code.

Don’t be scared away of a park with private water especially - that simply means there are water wells and usually some form of metering for gallons pulled out of the ground and some form of disinfectant injection system - some have large filtration systems too. We pull up to 6 million gallons a year out on our water permit. The licensing and training provided by the state is affordable and good. We test water daily for chlorine levels and routinely for bacterial and contaminents (send water samples to state labs and local labs on regular schedule). The time invested is actually quite minimal and the reward is FREE WATER (more or less). That is huge in the long run… If we have a water line break - we have to erpair it - but we are also saving thousands in water bills every month. If a tenant has a broken pipe, an abandoned home water line bursts or leaky faucets we don’t find for a day - we don’t get hit with a huge spike in monthly expense. We can also monitor all the usage and look for unusual readings to help find trouble spots as they arise - saving even more.

There are headaches - like finding vendors willing to crawl down into a smelly broken down lift station to pull and replace worn or damaged sewer grinder pumps, needing to invest in a good sewer auger machine with multiple attachments for the various sizes and types of sewer lines to deal with tree roots and random things that end up in the sewer lines… but overall - it’s my opinion that all the headache is time invested wisely as it generally would be more expensive to have a municipality come out to cover the costs… anyhow - my 2 cents… I am not scared of a park that has septic, lagoon or private on-site sewer and water. You just have to run the business like a business and be open to looking for ways to save. Sometimes it makes sense to be on city utilities - if you have the space and can get a system installed on-site at an affordable price - it may be better in the long run to own your own utilities.

It is work - so if you are looking at a park that owns its own utilities - you need to make sure you have the ability to manage people effectively so that if you are not the one doing the work - you can hold people accountable to ensure the system is maintained and runs smoothly. Routine checks and maintenance is absolutely necessary to avoid huge troubles. When you have that in place - it’s fairly smooth sailing from my perspective… just be sure to inspect the systems and be aware of anyone with mulltiple old tanks in the ground that may or may not be up to code.

-Eric

WOW. Thank you so much, to everyone, for all the well thought-out responses! They are VERY helpful. Please keep them coming!!