Category Archives: Land Use Issues

The Grass Really is Greener over The Leach Field

Some days when I think of the Septic systems it always makes you think of Ole Erma Bombeck and that book the grass is always greener over the septic tank.  Well I have come to determine that it might only be greener over the septic tank if its broken and leaking.  But the grass really should be greener over the leach field if the septic tank is working properly.

 The septic tanks job!

The Grass is always greenerThe Grass Really is Greener over the leach Field!


I have had the pleasure ( or more directly the nightmare) of living in an older home that was a remodel project from day one.  I will probably write a series on this house as it has been a trial and tribulation that is amazingly unreal.  But I do have to say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.  Maybe not financially though when it comes to a home.

But the education this home has given me has been a total gift when it comes to dealing with houses.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better educator!

One of the things we really never think of when we buy a home is the health of the septic system.  We have the home inspector check if the drains work and the toilet flushes.  Well all must be well if that is done.  Usually in Idaho we have the septic tank pumped so they hopefully find it and pump it and generally they say all is well and off we toddle into the world of home ownership.  Never totally having a clue if the septic tank is truly doing its job.

The grass is Greener over the leach field

The grass is Greener over the leach field

So in my instance I buy my lovely fixer upper.  And it needs a lot were not even going to touch everything that it needs but lets just say for starters we take care of replacing most of the plumbing.  Change some rooms and put in new plumbing to take care of the new position of some of the conveniences aka new toilet and tub.  So I tend to that and I continue to have “problems”  an occasionally clogged pipe an occasional odor in the house that smells like septic.  Have the plumber come and I chase down having lines snaked out.  Tear out a wall looking to see if they “forgot” a trap when they put in the new pipes.  Have the plumber tell me that a lot of homes with basements have an “odor” that just can’t be cured.

If that thought isn’t enough to just about gag you I don’t know what is.  As there was days that it really stunk!  I carried on with this pattern for about 4 years.  Pump the septic on the advice of a plumber snake out a line here and there open windows to let the stench out at times.  And none of it was ever consistent it wasn’t like it stunk every day or that it clogged all the time I’m talking an occasional here and there just enough to slowly beat you up as a home owner.

Well being an active Real Estate agent and an active blogger on Active Rain I came across a company  Lateral Concepts LLC that was blogging in my area that specialized in looking at septic systems.  I have to be honest I had talked to so many plumbers etc. and No one had recommended a service like this that I was a little skeptical.  So on my last clogging and a you need your septic pumped routine I decided to give this company a call.  As frankly I’m getting to my wit’s end.  I had this tank pumped a year ago.  Its only 2 of us living in the home we can’t be that full of poo.

So we get the tank pumped out as he can’t look at things without the tank pumped down.  And we dig it up as most tanks should have two lids ( LOl I learned something new there) 2nd lid heads to the leach field so you can check on it.  So he checks out my line from the house to the tank.  Were dirty but there is a path to the tank.  So the house can drain.  Then we start on the checking of the leach field.  That is a joke for starters as my older tank does not have a 2nd lid.  Well it does now!  He can get about 6 inches into the leach field with the scope.  Guess what is not working!  There should be many feet of space for that tank to drain.  I am not certain of the exact and I am sure it’s going to be subject in length to your ground and the size of your home.  but lets just say that 6 inches of grime just doesn’t cut it for a leach field.  I had always wondered why my lawn dried out so in the summer LOL.

So Moral to the story I have a new leach field.  They had to come in and dig up a new leach field put me down new piping into the septic tank and head me off into a new direction.  Because Yes the water should skim off the septic tank and go somewhere preferably not back into the house!  If the leach field is working well I was told that I should not have to have that septic tank pumped for at least 4 or 5 years.  Wow isn’t that an amazing thought since its been an annual job for the last 3 years,.  I now have clean outs and spots where you could get a scope down it at any time and be able to check on it.  I truly don’t expect to have a problem with it for a very very long time.

As for now my basement no longer stinks!  Oh you might smell the cat box once in a while but the sewer smell is gone.  Doesn’t burp back on us every time the washing machine runs even the clothes smell better out of my washing machine.  I know that sounds crazy but seriously it is better.  No clogged drains in almost 6 months.  I may not know what to do with myself if that problem goes away for good.

And I just have to say Brad at Lateral Concepts was amazing to deal with.  He orchestrated the whole repair for me.  Recommended the excavator who was amazing!  First person in the trades that I have ever had that showed up when he said he was going to show up and just plain rocked out the job.  I am totally impressed.  If you ever need someone to call for that type of work call or email for his number he is amazing!  Recommended the plumber that did the piping.  Frankly it was done in a long morning.  Wonderful service sometimes out of the stinkiest moments you find a gem.

Learned a lot about pipes this little experience.  I think we all take it for granted that issues like I just got to experience are for the folks that live in the country.  We forget that every time someone parks a car over the line heading to the city sewer or that beautiful tree in the front yard wraps its roots around the line that any little tap or stranglehold on those pipes can at sometime create an issue or cause damage.

Talking to Brad he reminds me that it’s not just for the older homes that even some of the newer homes have issues.  I know even talking to one of the plumbers that I had out over the years.  He tells me oh Yea a lot of the homes in this area have this problem.  it’s just because you have a basement.  Maybe it’s because the leach field is clogged, or maybe it’s not draining right.  Ground settles what if the house does and the leach field doesn’t .  One thing I have learned is water does not run up hill.  And I am 6 months out now and low and behold the odor has not returned to my “basement”.  Fancy that!

So moral of the story is the grass really is greener over the leach field that is working.  And if that septic needs pumped more than every few years the problem really is not the septic.  It is just the symptom to a much larger problem.

Perc Testing and Utilities on North Idaho Land


Perc Testing?

I got asked the other day.  I’m looking at this vacant land listing and what does it mean its been perk tested?  A perc test (also spelled perk – both are correct) is short for percolation test. It is a test which measures the absorption rate of the soil where a proposed septic system will be installed.
Usually A hole, 5-7 feet deep is dug in an area to be tested for future use as a drain field, or near the drain-field area in representative soils. Water is poured into the hole and and the septic engineer or contractor observes the rate at which soil absorbs the water by noting the time that it takes for the level of water in the hole to drop one inch (for example).

More precise “perc tests” may involve using a specific quantity of water or a perc test hole of specific dimensions to make these observations.

For Idahos required specs click here.  They are pretty lengthy so be prepared.

Before you ever plan on building you will need to do a perc test.  I suggest not purchasing land until you know it has been perc tested.  If the ground doesn’t drain right or there is no proper drainage for “waste” you will not be building what you are planning on building.  Always a good little piece of homework to get done prior to the commitment of a new piece of land.


Idaho Real home

Building your dream home can be very rewarding

Utilities are there what does that mean?

Generally it means that the utilities are at the property line.  Now if they have already cleared a home site you may have utilities to the site.  that is a very important question could save you thousands of dollars.

What Utilities are we talking?

In North Idaho we are usually talking Electricity and Telephone.  Some areas that may include gas also but for the real rural properties probably not.  So if gas is important to you definitely make sure that is a specific question that you ask.  Otherwise you may be surprised when the deal is done.

Our Main utility companies for Rural land (depending on the area) are Avista, Kootenai Electric and Northern Lights.  They all have different charges etc for installing utilities.  So depending on where your property is that you are considering you may want to get a quote on the price for utilities prior to purchasing your land.  Electricity is usually brought in to the meter.  From there you will have an electrician finishing the electrical install from there.

Water is usually supplied by either a community service out in the country or by a priviate well.  You will want to really check that out prior to purchase.  Some of the community systems are running 5-7k to hook up to there service.  And that usually is just the hook up its not usually running the pipes into your yard and connecting to your house.  So you want to clarify that prior to purchase also if your on a budget and want to keep track of what everything is going to cost.  A well is going to probably run you from 10k and up depending on the location, how deep the water is etc.  You can check out my other blog on wells for the list of local well drillers.

Buying land in Idaho can be a fun and rewarding proposition if your prepared and you can offset most of the surprises.  Nothing more fun then knowing that property you live on you built from the ground up.  You know it so well from the inside out per say.  Its a great feeling.

I hope this gives you some ideas of where you will be starting from and gets the question process started for you.  Feel free to contact me with questions ideas and other additions that you have to the process.



North Idaho Water-Wells


North Idaho Water

North Idaho Land comes in a variety of shapes, and sizes.  An assortment of topography, an assortment of trees and other outstanding features.  But beneath it all you still need water.  The source of life.  So where does the water come from in North Idaho and Eastern Washington?

Lots of Water in Idaho

Lots of Water in Idaho


One Great big giant aquifer:  Kootenai County Aquifer:

The Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer formed during the last ice age, 12,000 to 20,000 years ago, when massive floods spread across northern Idaho and eastern Washington. The Spokane floods occurred when an ice dam holding back 500 cubic miles of water in Glacial Lake Missoula broke. Waters raced across the land, dropping sands, gravels and boulders. Scientists believe these floods may have occurred dozens of times.

Where is it?

The aquifer lies below 325 square miles of land surface in northern Idaho and eastern Washington, and is the sole source of drinking water for the region’s 450,000 people.

What composes it?

The aquifer is composed of glacial out wash–sands, gravels and cobbles. It is extremely permeable, high in groundwater velocity and susceptible to contamination. Coeur d’Alene Lake and the Spokane River contribute about one-third of the water flow in the aquifer. Precipitation contributes another third. The lake watersheds of Hayden, Spirit, Twin, Hauser and Pend Oreille provide most of the additional flow crossing the state line.

Check out these links for a bit more information on the history of water in North Idaho and Eastern Washington

Panhandle Health District

Idaho Ground Water

So maybe you buy that land without water already on it.  You have a multitude of options around here depending on where you buy.  Sometimes you may need to drill a well – please check out the link for the list of licensed well drillers to find one in the area that you are buying in.

Otherwise some of the bigger rural subdivisions have a community system that everyone pays into and all share or if you go in town you will have town water.  All coming to and from our great aquifer.  

Licensed Idaho Well Drillers

For the most part our water in this area is excellent.  We do have a few pockets of areas North of the Aquifer though that the water is not so great.  We have quite a few prehistoric forests under our ground  up North and depending upon where they are in the decomposition phase can greatly affect your water.  Your local well driller should be able to advise you on the quality of water and as your Real Estate Agent I do have a pretty good idea of the areas that you are going to want to be a little more selective on really checking the water quality before purchasing if you can.  Contact me for questions on the water in this beautiful area.



How to Buy vacant land in Idaho!

How to buy land  in Idaho:

Land!  One of the few things there not making anymore.  Can’t print it, can’t manufacture it!  Better Buy it while you can!

So you found the vacant land you want to buy.  You plan to  make a good investment and potentially build someday in the future,  hang onto it, hand it down to the kids, or resell it when its retirement time.  So the big question is how to make that purchase.  There is not a ton of banks out there willing to loan on land.  Frankly only a very small handful.  And then the hoops to jump through as anyone knows to get a loan right now is not easy.

Buying Land in Idaho

Land for Sale in Idaho

So here are the options:  Cash of course is king:  But-  don’t have the cash?  I do have a few lenders available  that are willing to loan on vacant land.  Contact me for the list.   They all usually require at least 20% of the purchase price down plus your closing costs.  You will have to go through all the regular hoops of doing a purchase.  Click here to get an idea of what it will take to get a loan.

Your other option is to hopefully find someone who has their land paid off that doesn’t mind carrying the paper.  There is a good handful of them available also.  You will usually pay a little more interest then you would if you finance it but that sometimes is what it takes. Especially if you’re having a hard time qualifying for a land loan.

Most sellers that are going to hold paper usually require at least 10% down and up to 20% down maybe even more just depends on their situation.  And yes its always negotiable but you want to be prepared for worse case scenario.  They usually need enough to pay their closing fees, Realtor fees etc.  You will also have closing costs so add that little extra into the equation.  

When buying land with seller contract Quite often  you will not find sellers willing to carry for traditional bank terms.  You will be more likely finding them wanting it paid off in 5 or 10 years.  

Buying vacant land is a great investment opportunity for you though.  Here in North Idaho you can get in as low as 25k for some smaller town lots and probably on the average 50-80k will buy you up to a 10 acre parcel.  Sometimes for less, sometimes more, depending on the location of course.

To have a special search of land made for you in the price range of your choice please contact me and I would be happy to set it up for you.  Otherwise you can always use the free search here on the blog post.  Have a Special day:) And Welcome to Idaho!


Idaho Dog Laws: Fido has room to run!

Do you ever wonder what Idaho law says about your dog running at large?

I always cringe when I have folks in the car showing them property and I hear “I’m so excited to be moving to the country so Fido has room to roam,” “but the property you just looked at doesn’t have a fence”, I say. “Well Fido stays home!” “Even when your gone?” “Oh yes and he’s the sweetest dog he would never hurt or bother anyone.” These are the same people who call crying 6 months later because something bad just happened to their dog.  I just wish they understood what the Idaho Code says about dog laws.

Beyond just plain good manners and being courteous to your neighbor, your dog has no business pooping on the neighbor’s lawn; getting into their garbage; chasing or harassing their livestock; or the total clincher, chasing some poor deer. Idaho law mandates that your dog is not be allowed to do any of those things and respect for your neighbors should clench that.

Here is what Idaho dog laws has to say about your free roaming dog!

Idaho Code # 25-2805  deals with:   Dogs running at large — Vicious dogs–

To summarize :  It is a misdemeanor for your dog to be any place outside of your own personal property unattended.  It can be punished with jail time and a fine as noted in section 18-113A,  of the Idaho Code.  All anyone has to do is complain to the sheriff about your dog and you can be fined.  Definitely not worth it if you ask me.  Not to mention, how much trouble he could get into if he eats something that he shouldn’t or gets hit by a car as he is crossing the street.

Other sections of this law to note is that it is also a misdemeanor to you if your dog bites anyone that is not trespassing on your property.  If you have a dog that wants to be extra protective, you certainly want to make sure that he is properly contained at all times.  I love having a protective dog that I know will take care of you in a pinch, but boy if he bites someone at the wrong time you are in deep trouble.  And also taking a chance with his life, as the courts may order him to be put down.  So tread carefully with that one.

Idaho Code # 25-2806  discusses the Liability for livestock and poultry killed by dogs.

Did you know that if your dog kills any livestock at all that is not yours that you are liable for the cost of that animal.

Now I am a farm girl and I can tell you it may be shocking to you what that goat or sheep may cost.  Even a chicken can have a $25-$35 value.  It is also legal in Idaho for that livestock owner  to go out there and shoot your dog dead while it is in the act of killing, and not only have you lost your dog but you are also still liable for everything he/she damaged.  And its pretty impressive what a dog can do when it is on a killing spree.  They’re not like a wild animal that will kill one thing and eat it.  Your dog is not hungry, he will kill for the fun and the excitement of it.  I have experienced whole flocks of chickens taken out in just a short amount of time by one dog.  If he goes after something bigger  it can get expensive quick.

Livestock and dogs don't always mix

Animals that run or bounce can entice chasing and rough play real quick that can lead to death of the animal


The next spot that he can get into trouble real quick is chasing wild game.  If your dog is caught chasing game (deer, elk, etc.)  any fish and game warden or police officer will shoot him dead on sight.  I would hate to see that happen to your beloved pet.  Your dog doesn’t know better.  They see something run or flap and its enticing and they take it.  No different then chasing the neighbors cat or getting into they’re garbage can.  They are/ can be a little opportunist when no one is looking.   He does not always know when he is in danger. Especially for a dog that has lived a city life and then all of a  sudden has all this open space and things to chase.  

It’s not only in Fido’s interest that he doesn’t run free and terrorize the neighborhood, but it is in your interest also.  Nobody wants to be breaking the law and we all like to enjoy our neighbors and not have people angry with us.  Why take the chance to have bad relations with the neighbors because you don’t want to keep your dog at home? It’s a crazy reason to have your neighbors mad at you, or you mad at them, if you’re the one getting violated.  Respect for each other and respect for each others property, keeps the neighborhood pleasant and your beloved pet safe.

For your beloved pet’s safety, please don’t let your dog run free.  Questions comments please feel free to leave some.  Or contact me here for resources  that you need when dealing with your pets here.