Thinking of buying a home with a well? While you might be used to city water, 44% of households in the US are dependent on well water, with about 13% of them privately owned and operated, according to the National Ground Water Association. While wells can be a very reliable source of drinking water reliable source of drinking water, there is a learning curve about well ownership. Your real estate agent can be a valuable resource in this area as they will be able to get the documentation that confirms that the well conforms to all state and local ordinances and that it has been properly maintained. Without doing the proper due diligence, you might be positioned to quite literally throw your money into a hole in the ground.
What to Expect from the Seller
In many states, home sellers must pay for water tests and disclose the results to potential buyers. Smart owners will have an inspection done prior to putting the home on the market and use the results as a selling point. Where the law does not require inspections and testing, savvy buyers request a well inspection and water test as a contingency on offers to buy a property, as a well inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and requires a specialist. If the results do not prove favorable, you can cancel the sale or request the seller make things right.
In the absence of an inspection prior to sale, you can find yourself with a costly problem.
What to Look for when Buying a Home with a Well
As a buyer, there are several things to consider when examining property that has a well.
First of all, how does the water taste and look? If minerals or bacteria have leached into the water, you should notice that the taste and appearance of the water are off. This is a sign that you need the well inspected and the water tested for contaminants.
Water problems are often dominant in an area. You can often find information about local water problems on the EPA website as well as from local testing companies. If there is a factory, an agricultural operation, or a coal mine near the property you are viewing, a lab might test for specific chemicals such as sulfide, nitrate, iron, chloride, or other chemicals related to the industry.
Well owners should have maintenance records available to verify how old the well is, whether there are other old wells on the property, compliance with local codes, and past testing results. Seeing the past records will indicate how much time you have before you might need to replace the well, and alert you to other problems related to it.
Since wells have an average life expectancy of 20-plus years, the home should be set on two or three acres of property to assure that you have enough acreage to have another well drilled in the future.
The current well should be properly located on the property so that it is at least 100 feet away from backyard chicken or poultry coups and the nearest edge of the septic drainfield, and 50 feet away from the house and any pesticide applications. The wellhead should also be positioned so that rain water flows away from it.
Get Help to Determine the Condition of the Well
With the help of your real estate agent and well and water professionals, you should get a good idea of what to expect if you buy a specific property with a well. Many water quality issues can be handled with testing and installation of water treatment equipment, but some well problems require more extensive, costly repairs that might make buying a home with a well impractical.