“Gorgeous two-story on a quiet cul de sac with show-stopping exotic luxury granite countertops—oh yeah, and don’t miss the super functional sump pump in the basement!” – Said no real estate advertisement ever.
When you go to sell the house you may not think to address this contraption in the basement that protects your house from water damage. As one of a home’s less glamorous features (and one that could spook buyers into thinking your house is Noah’s Ark), it’s not something that you’ll put on page one of the marketing materials.
But considering that more than 60% of homes in the U.S. experience some kind of flooding or moisture in the basement, a house that needs a sump pump and has one installed is certainly more attractive than a house that should have a pump but doesn’t.
So let’s cover all the ground you’ll need to know for selling a house with a sump pump and how to position the fixture to buyers as a positive, including:
- The types of places sump pumps are common and their role in keeping low-lying areas dry
- Typical buyer skepticism over a house with a sump pump and how to address questions head on
- Your top concern as a seller with a sump pump: to remedy and disclose any known or apparent moisture issues in the basement
Without further ado, let’s dive into it!
What exactly is a sump pump and how does it work?
Put simply, a sump pump redirects water from the basement away from the home through a pump. More specifically, the sump pump is located in a sump pit, typically in the deepest part of a homeowner’s basement or crawlspace. When the pump senses water, it activates and pulls moisture away from the home.
To detect water, a pump turns on automatically when the float activator or pressure sensor is triggered. As water builds up in the pit, the sensor activates and the pump starts to move the water out through the discharge pipe.
Sump pumps use electricity and don’t need special wiring, just an outlet with a ground fault circuit interrupter.
There are two different types of pumps; the submersible and pedestal. The main difference between the two is the location of the pump. A submersible pump sits in the pit, while the pedestal pump sits outside of the water.
A sump pump is a relatively simple piece of hardware, but it’s a selling feature for your home.
“It’s nothing but a positive feature that can help a buyer feel more comfortable that they won’t have issues going forward. It’s also a smart way to protect your investment when the basement is finished,” explains top-selling Rhode Island agent Nick Slocum.
Instead of the water sitting still in the basement, leading to mold, mildew, and damage, a sump pump will direct the water out to the exterior of the home, leaving the space dry.
Are sump pumps common fixtures in a house?
You’ll find a sump pump on a property where moisture in the ground is present, or if your property sits on a water table. A water table, as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, is the upper layer of an underground surface where rocks or the soil are almost always saturated with water. The water table serves as a separator between the soil surface and the water table below it. Homes with certain types of foundations such as fieldstone also benefit from a sump pump to keep water from accumulating on the basement floor.
Sump pumps can be regional. “In the Northeast, many homes need them, especially in the springtime as the ground is still thawing and is not as receptive to heavy rains or melting snow,” explains Slocum.
However, pumps are also specific to your property. You may have a sump pump in the basement of your townhouse, but your neighbors on either side might not.
What your sump pump means to home buyers
As a potential buyer looks at your home, questions around the sump pump are bound to arise. Barbara Dopp, a top-selling Meridian, Idaho-based real estate agent with over a decade of experience reasons, “Typically if you’ve got an existing home that you want to buy and it has a sump pump in it, you want to make sure why it was put there in the first place. Not all homes are built with a sump pump.”
Being able to answer the question of why it was installed can help clear up most questions from buyers. Moisture levels in the basement will always be a concern to buyers, and oftentimes, the presence of a sump pump can make them feel more anxious about the issue. In reality, it should put them at ease and demonstrate that you’ve gone above and beyond to protect the basement from water damage.
For that reason, consider your sump pump a positive. It’s not enough of a feature to mention it on the property listing, says Dopp, but it’s something to bring up during an open house or a showing.
“It’s not a negative at all. If it’s there, then that’s great. You’ve got a way to take care of it. The problem is if you’re in a high water table area and there is no sump pump.”
While real estate agents don’t recommend including a sump pump in the listing, you will be expected to include it in the property condition disclosure, says Dopp. “Typically, if they’ve had any problems with the sump pumps, they would, by law, be supposed to disclose that as well.”
Where water is prevalent, sellers need to be extra vigilant about moisture in the house
While a sump pump signifies a seller is taking the initiative towards addressing moisture in the home, its presence in the basement will typically raise the antenna of buyers, agents, and home inspectors. Once they see a sump pump, they’re going to look more closely for signs of water damage.
When a home inspector examines your basement, they typically check for:
- Efflorescence, a chalky white powder you might find on the foundation, walls or floors of a basement. (Efflorescence itself isn’t a huge issue, but it’s often an indicator of additional water damage.)
- Water staining on the base of woodwork, paneling or framing.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has a full list of features to be inspected in the basement, which can be helpful for sellers to take a look at before listing their home.
Note that you’ll be required to disclose any known water damage issues with the house as part of your seller’s disclosures.
Although real estate disclosure rules don’t require you to go out and try to find problems with your house before you sell it, it’s nevertheless a smart idea to use your spidey senses to check for any signs of moisture if you’re in an area with a lot of snow and rainfall. Can you smell anything that might be off in the basement? Can you see mold, staining, or chalky powder on the walls?
The buyer’s inspector will be sure to point out any visible problems, so it may be wise to even order a pre-inspection before listing your home to identify any issues, fix them, and keep a record of the repairs to show buyers as a selling point.
“You want to make sure that you’re taking on everything that inspectors may or may not see and disclose to the best of your ability, and fix and remedy if it’s something that is going to come up in a home inspection,” Carbone advises.
In the event that a problem comes to light, you’ll need to call in the professionals to get the job done right.
“Sellers looking to remedy significant water damage before putting their house on the market should have a professional install the sump pump system. Make sure there is a battery backup system in force for when the power goes out and when possible, and couple the system with a French drain system to maximize the chances of keeping the basement dry,” recommends Slocum.
Water damage in a portion of your basement doesn’t always mean catastrophe for the whole space—it may only affect one specific area. In the event that it’s not clear where or how water is coming in, a basement waterproofing company can use its equipment to identify the source of moisture and implement a remedy for it.
For minor signs of water damage, a good dehumidifier, like those recommended by The Wirecutter, could do the trick, in addition to a new coat of primer and paint that’s suitable for higher-moisture areas.
Selling a house with a sump pump: A dry home is a marketable home
Sump pumps certainly aren’t the most exciting feature in your home, however; they can be a great way to show that you’ve cared for your house and taken steps to actively prevent water damage.
While having a sump pump means you are prone to getting moisture in your basement, it also signals you are a responsible homeowner taking care of issues that arise. Being able to answer the question of why you have a sump pump, and dealing with any additional signs of moisture in your home right away can turn the sump pump from suspicious to selling point.