What is Title V and Why Do I Care?

When searching the Cape & Islands MLS, you’ll frequently encounter references to something known in Massachusetts as “Title V”, a state regulation pertaining to septic systems. Many buyers of Cape Cod homes live off-Cape in metropolitan areas such as Boston and New York City and are unfamiliar with septic systems. If you are one of these people, here’s a brief summary of what you need to know when buying a home on Cape Cod.

The Journey of Waste

Nearly very home has a large drain pipe in the basement or under the house that passes through the foundation and exits the home. Every toilet, sink, shower, bathtub, and washing machine drains into this primary drain pipe, so that all water and waste exits the home. But where does it go once it leaves? That depends on where you live.

The majority of Americans are serviced by sewer systems. Sewage exits the home and connects to the municipal sewer system where it is drained, treated at a treatment plant, and returned to the environment. In some rural areas like Cape Cod, sewers are just starting to be installed. Instead, each home is serviced by a private sewage system located on its own property. SepticSystemOlder systems are typically the cesspool variety, whereas newer systems are referred to as septic systems (see diagram) that must meet current state regulations known as Title V.

In both cases, the system is buried in the ground outside the house. Homeowners have the tank pumped periodically to remove the solids that accumulate over time.

Enter Title V

In the mid-70’s, in an attempt to protect especially groundwater from being adversely effected by sewage, Massachusetts adopted Title V, a set of regulations governing the proper siting, construction, upgrade, and maintenance of septic systems and the transport and disposal of sanitary sewage. Local Boards of Health are tasked with the enforcement of Title V. One of the key rules related to Title V and effecting both homeowners and home buyers is that all homes with private sewage systems must pass a Title V inspection before being sold. The inspection is generally initiated and paid for by the seller, and typically costs in the neighborhood of $400. It should be noted that in many Cape Cod towns, presence of a cesspool system is an automatic failure, so no test is needed.

If the system passes, the homeowner is issued a Title V certificate by the town that is good for 2 years. If the home is sold again in 2.5 years, another inspection must take place. If the system fails, a new septic system MAY need to be installed, but not always. A brand new system typically costs in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars, but could run as high as FIFTY thousand dollars, depending on a variety of factors, such as being located in a flood zone.

There is no law dictating who pays for the new septic system, although the cost is generally absorbed by the seller. Ideally, the new system should be completely installed and approved prior to the sale, although there are situations when the town will allow the sale to take place prior to the final installation and approval. Financial assistance, in the form of low interest rate loans, is available to help homeowners finance the cost of a new septic system.

In summary, if you are a Cape Cod homeowner who is thinking of selling your home and you are serviced by a cesspool or septic system, it may be in your best interest to have the system tested BEFORE you list your home so that you’ll at least know whether or not you need to factor in a brand new septic system. If you are a buyer looking to purchase a home on the Cape, one of the first questions you should ask is whether or not the Title V inspection has been done and if so, if it passed. Whether you are the buyer or seller, your real estate agent should be able to assist you with Title V compliance issues.

For more information on Title V, click here.

For more information on Title V financing assistance, click here.

Buying a Cape Cod Investment Property

The newsletter goofed! Click the link below for the blog article on the Home Buying Process.

Review of the Home Buying Process


Cape Cod is a peninsula off the east coast of Massachusetts boasting 550 miles of coastline. Much of that coastline is occupied by gorgeous, sandy beaches and picturesque harbors — making Cape Cod an ideal vacation spot and a perfect location for purchasing a second home. If the thought of owning a home on the Cape appeals to you, but you just don’t see how you can afford it until later in life, perhaps you’re not considering the fact that most homes on the Cape go a long way toward paying for themselves through summer rentals.

Consider the following example. A woman wishes to buy a relatively young 3-bedroom 2-bath home in Harwich for $400K. The home is a short drive or bike ride to the beach and to downtown Harwich Port, but not close enough to walk. The weekly summer rental rate is estimated at $2500. The woman plans to rent it for just 8 peak weeks in the summer, and use it herself the rest of the year. Her gross rental income will be $20,000 annually. If we deduct from that the estimated rental agency fee of $3,000, and another $2000 for cleaning and utilities during the rental period, the net rental income is roughly $15,000.

If the buyer puts 20% down ($80,000), she will be mortgaging $320,000, which will result in an estimated monthly payment of $2000 — taxes and homeowner’s insurance included. So her annual mortgage, tax and insurance payment will be $24,000, or roughly $9,000 more than the gross rental income. She’ll be able to deduct her mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and some other expenses on her taxes, resulting in further subtractions from the $9000. In the end, owning her new Cape home might only cost her in the neighborhood of $6,000 annually. And this does not factor in the money she will save by not renting someone else’s home, nor the fact that she will now have a Cape house that she and her family and friends can use 44 weeks out of the year.

So if you’ve been putting off buying the beach house because you think you can’t afford it, don’t forget that a home on the Cape is one of those few investments that can help pay for itself, and that you can actually enjoy in the meantime. For details and for expert advice, contact your accountant or financial advisor. And remember — nobody on their deathbed ever said they wished they’d spent less time relaxing on Cape Cod. Happy Holidays!

“Fall” for the Cape

The Harwich Cranberry Fest, the Wellfleet Oyster Festival, the Bourne Scallop Fest. Walking on uncrowded beaches. Playing 18 holes in 4 hours. Warm, dry days and cool mornings and nights. These are just a few of the many reasons why autumn is the most beautiful time on Cape Cod. And it’s also one of the best possible times to explore the available inventory of Cape Cod homes for sale.

Consider the advantages. All the young kids are back in school, so assuming they’re not yours, you have the Cape “to yourself”, or at least it seems so compared to the summer. Rooms are available at discounted rates and you probably don’t need a reservation at your favorite restaurant, which is offering 3-course gourmet meals for $25 or less. So your home-shopping trip to the Cape doubles as a decadent yet inexpensive weekend getaway.

Next, inventory is up because not much sells in July and August and many summer rentals go on the market after the summer tenants leave on Labor Day. Seller motivation is usually at an all-time high, since many sellers would love to be rid of their homes before the end of the year. And they know that Labor Day through Thanksgiving is pretty much their last shot at doing so.

Finally, if the home needs work, buying in the fall gives you many months to work on it before next summer. Whether you plan to use it yourself or rent it, you’ll have plenty of time to get it ready for next year’s high season. And all the furnishings you’ll need will likely be on sale over the winter.

So if a home on the Cape is in your future, I suggest you start scanning the Cape Cod MLS and make plans to come down and visit. At the very least, you’ll likely have a picture-perfect weekend and you won’t want to leave. At best, you may find the home of your dreams so that next time you come down, you won’t HAVE to leave.

When you’re ready to visit properties, contact me and I’d be happy to make all of the arrangements.