Buying a House With a Well
One of the challenges home buyers in rural areas typically encounter is that most rural houses do not have connections to municipal water. Houses in rural settings often rely on privately owned or shared wells as a drinking water source.
Water from municipal sources is readily available and often meets the safety standards of the municipality. However, homeowners who are using well water need to make sure that the well is functioning properly and the water is safe for drinking.
We also have found that many well populated areas also do not have well water because the infrastructure was not put in place well in advance. So, there is a good chance the area where you would like to purchase a home may not have well water.
Things to Check Before Buying a House With a Well
Before buying a house that is serviced by a well, it’s essential to consider several factors and you should also be aware of the potential problems that you may encounter.
Here are the three crucial factors to consider, as well as the major issues associated with them, when buying a home with a private well:
1. The Well System
The three common types of wells are dug, bored, and drilled. Both dug and bored wells produce water from shallow surface aquifers. Because the water is sourced from less than 50 feet deep, wells that are dug and bored are usually prone to water shortages and contamination from surface water infiltration.
Drilled wells, on the other hand, are designed to penetrate deeper aquifers of at least 50 feet to more than 200 feet deep. They provide a safer source of drinking water at better quantity, however, they are more expensive to construct.
Here are the common problems with the well system that you should be aware of:
- Cracked casing – Casing is the structure around the hole of the well that keeps it from collapsing. Make sure the setting of the casing is visible and that there are no cracks. Cracks let sand get into the water and this may cause clogs in the system that can cause low water flow. A damaged casing needs to be repaired immediately.
- Damaged well pump – The pumping system is designed to pump water from the well into the house and a pressure tank. Well pumps that are not in good condition can disrupt water pressure and cause low supply.
- Drainage problems – Surface water should drain away from the well and should not pool around the casing. Problems with the drainage can cause clogging or an overflow.
2. Water Quantity
The quantity of water drawn from a well depends on the type of aquifers used. An aquifer is an underground formation of permeable soil or rock. Gravel and fractured bedrock can support high water pumping rates, while silty sand and clay make poor-quality aquifers that cannot support high water pumping rates.
Low water supply is one of the most common problems that you may encounter when you buy a house with a well. Wells can run dry because of any of the following:
- When the pumping rate is higher than the groundwater recharge rate.
- When the well screen is plugged by sand, chemical precipitation, bacterial fouling, or corrosion.
- When the level of saturated water in the soil has dropped to below the pump suction or inlet.
- When the well vent is blocked, which can cause negative pressure in the well during draw down and can disrupt the pump from drawing water.
3. Water Quality
Water quality is a crucial factor to consider when buying a house with a well. Problems with water quality can be costly to remedy. The quality of well water can be affected by certain contaminations, such as bacteria and chemicals. Such contaminations are commonly caused by infiltration from septic systems, pet waste, and chemicals naturally present in the groundwater like calcium, sulfur, chloride, and iron. Other factors impacting the quality of your well water include contamination from adjacent properties.
Poor water quality is the most common issue with water sourced from wells. Poor well water quality can cause health problems, unpleasant odor, and awful taste. It’s important to get the water tested before deciding to buy the property. Water samples should be taken to test for the presence of coliform, E. Coli bacteria, nitrate, sodium, hardness, sulfate, chloride, lead, iron, manganese, and pH.
Water sampling procedure:
- Take the sample from a tap between the well pump and any water treatment units and pressure tank.
- Remove the aerator.
- Disinfect the faucet.
- Run the water several minutes and take the sample midstream.
- Do not touch the sides, opening, or inside of the collection bottle.
- Store the sample in the refrigerator if needed.
- Submit the sample to the lab within 48 hours of collection.
Ask your local public health office where to obtain appropriate sterile sampling bottles and where to submit water samples for testing. The cost of water testing may vary per state. Simple home well water testing kits typically cost between $50 to $150, while lab tests can cost a nominal fee at government labs. Private laboratories charge around $50 to $500 or more, depending on the number and type of compounds tested.
Hiring a Well Inspector
To help ensure that the well is in good condition, it’s recommended to hire a professional well inspector to have the well inspected before you purchase the house. The average cost of a well inspection ranges between $300 and $500 and can vary depending on the rate of the inspector and the types of water tests to perform. The cost may increase if you need a septic inspection at the same time.
The well inspector will typically take a look at the following:
- Well record – this should indicate the location of well, the date when the well was drilled, its depth and diameter, static water level, pumping water level, recommended pumping rate, and the recommended pump setting.
- Location – a well should have a good separation distance from any source of contamination, such as septic systems, manure storages, fuel storages, agricultural fields, and roads.
- Well system – the casing, inlet, well cap or cover, pumping system, drainage system, and surface protection are thoroughly inspected for possible clogs, cracks, or damage.
- Abandoned wells – abandoned wells should be properly decommissioned by a licensed well contractor.
- Inside the house – inspectors will check for sand or grit in the faucet strainer, verify the pressure tank reading, and ensure that the check valve or foot valve can sustain the system pressure.
Age of the Well
The age of the well is a crucial factor to consider before buying the property. The average lifespan of a well is between 30 to 50 years, this can vary depending on different circumstances. Wells that are over 15 years old often have parts that need replacement, such as pumps or well pressure tanks.
Cost to Repair and Replace a Well
If you encounter issues with the well, you can either repair the well or have it replaced. The cost to repair a well depends on what part needs to be repaired. This can go as high as $500 or even more. You can fix several well quality issues with a proper filtering system. All water treatment systems are self-cleaning and some can eliminate several pollutants. The average cost of water treatment and purification system can range between $866 and $2,772. We would recommend a reverse osmosis system to completely purify the water.
Drilling a new well may be a good option, however, it can be expensive. You will need to find a new location on the lot where you can put the new well system into the ground. The cost can vary depending on where you are located, the conditions of the soils, and how deep the well needs to be to produce a constant supply of water. This can cost from $5,000 to $15,000, or more.
If The Property Also Has a Septic Tank and a Well
A septic tank is an underground, watertight container that’s typically made from concrete, polyethylene, or fiberglass, through which domestic wastewater flows for basic treatment. If the property that you are planning to buy has a well and septic system, you need to ensure that certain guidelines are followed to avoid potential issues that can be costly to remedy.
- The property must have at least two to three acres of land.
- The well should be drilled, not dug or bored.
- The visible well should be a 6-inch diameter pipe with a bolted cap.
- The separation distance of the well head should be at least 100 feet from the nearest edge of the septic drain field, and at least 50 feet from the nearest corner of the house.
- Check the maintenance records for the septic system.
Well Water vs City Water: Pros & Cons
Water sourced from a well means you get your drinking, bathing, and cleaning water from a private well in the house. If your water is supplied by the city or comes from a municipal source, it means that the city provides the water to your home through pipes after it has undergone a purification process. Both well water and city water has benefits and drawbacks.
Pros of Well Water:
- You won’t have monthly water bills
- Well water that comes from the aquifer underground are naturally fresher
- During a natural disaster, well water is protected from contamination
- Well water usually tastes better than city water when pure and not contaminated
Cons of Well Water:
- Well water can be costly to maintain and you are responsible for its quality and quantity
- Well water is dependent on electricity
- Well water can become contaminated by chemicals, radiation, sewage, and other potential pollutants
Pros of City Water:
- The city is responsible for the quality and quantity of the water
- City water is often readily available and meets the city safety standards
- City water is more regulated
Cons of City Water:
- City water can be expensive and you need to pay monthly water bills
- The city can cut off your water supply if you failed to make payments
- City water can become easily contaminated on a large scale during natural disasters
- City water is often collected from run-off and surface water so it is less fresh compared to well water
Selling a Home With a Well
If you are selling a home with a well, you can help ease the mind of your prospective buyers by having the well water tested before listing the property to ensure that the water meets the safety standards. Gathering all necessary information is essential. Know about the well’s overall condition and prepare all necessary documents, like a copy of the well record and its history. This can be a huge selling point that can add value to the property.
Meanwhile, if your well is challenged or if the water is not testing positively, then it could be more difficult to sell the home. Make sure you stay on top of your well’s performance and water quality.
Buying a home with wall water does not have to be a major concern if you follow the checklist of things to test and watch out for. In fact, many people prefer well water to city water and in the summer it comes out very cold! However, if the well inspection comes back as a concern, then you should consider moving on to look for a different home.
Are dug or bored well safe?
The recommendation is to stay clear of the dug or bored wells and purchase a home that has a drilled well only.
What is a well log and do I need one?
When you are buying a home, you should review the well log and hopefully the seller has been keeping one. It is essentially a chronological account of everything that has occurred with the well including repairs, inspections and any water testing. If you own a home with a well, you should maintain a log because it can help you to sell the home later.
How much does a well inspection cost?
A well inspector may charge anywhere from $300-$500 depending upon the location and how detailed and difficult the inspection is.
What is the correct flow rate from a well?
The flow rate will be determined by a specialist and it will be based upon the size of your home and the number of people living there. Having more than four people using showers, dishwashers, washing machines and flushing toilets will use a lot more water and a higher flow rate will be needed.
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