Buying a Home with a Well? 5 Things to Know and Do
Approximately 15 million American households (roughly 15%) rely on private residential wells for their drinking water. The other 85% obtain theirs from local or regional public water systems.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer new to water wells or a long-term homeowner with extensive well experience, we’ve outlined five things to know and do before you decide to buy.
- Testing. Some states require home sellers to disclose the results of recent water tests, but many do not. Make sure the test results reports were prepared by an approved water quality testing lab, and don’t rely on home test kit results. Keep in mind, also, that water quality can change rapidly, so if the tests were conducted more than a year ago insist on new tests conducted by a trained, objective professional.
- Permits. A number of states require well owners to obtain a usage permit for private water wells. In many instances, these permits are non-transferable, so be prepared to pay a permit fee and possibly additional expenses associated with whatever tests and/or inspections are required by the permitting agency.
- Inspections. Water quality tests provide clues about well condition, but they’re no substitute for an inspection. Arrange to have a thorough inspection conducted by an experienced well driller, installer or home inspector who also specializes in wells. They’ll determine if the well meets state regulations; assess physical condition, integrity, flow rate, pump capacity and projected pump lifespan; and identify potential problems or needed repairs. If you’re buying an older home, ask about old, abandoned wells and arrange to have them inspected to ensure they’ve been properly sealed.
- Well Age and Lifespan. Ask to see the original well driller’s report and all the records associated with improvements, modifications and upgrades since it was first installed. Wells have a lifespan, but there’s no way to predict how long a particular well might last. Some wells last for generations while others tap out in 10 years, so 20 years is a reasonable estimate.
- Due Diligence. If you’re new to the area, do your due diligence. Research local water quality issues, especially factors such as frequent flooding or large scale livestock operations that might affect the water source that feeds your well. Talk with neighbors and ask about water issues, it can be the best way to learn about recent or persistent water quality problems.
Homes are the single largest investment for many families, so you want to make an informed decision. At each stage, don’t hesitate to ask questions and request explanations, so you understand the implications of water quality tests, inspection reports and similar findings.