Last Updated on May 24, 2023
In today’s day and age, it’s easy to take for granted how important clean water is to daily life. From brewing your Monday morning coffee to your end-of-the-week stress relief bubble bath, water plays a major role in our health and wellness.
Now, you’re ready to invest in your first home or retire to that country cottage you’ve dreamed of. You know how big you want the home to be. You have your down payment ready. And you’re comfortable with the steps you need to take to purchase the home of your dreams. But the home you want has a well, and you don’t know what to do.
We get it. For “city slickers” who have always lived within municipal water systems, buying a home with a well system can feel daunting. However, if you understand how wells work, if you ask the right questions about the house you’re purchasing, and if you know how to treat your well once in the home, we know you’ll be fine.
No need to search your couch for shiny pennies to wish for good luck. We believe in you! And to help, here are 16 questions to ask before buying a home with a well.
What is the state of the well?
Not all home wells are created equal. Most homes have drilled wells, but depending on your location and the age of the home, you may come across homes with dug or bored wells. No well is foolproof, but drilled wells are more reliable and less prone to contamination. When inquiring about homes with wells, start by learning more about the type, age, and condition of the well.
1. Does the home have a drilled well, and if so, when was it drilled? The average lifespan for a well is 30–50 years.
2. How deep is the well? Drilled wells typically go down 100 feet or more.
3. What is the flow rate of the water? 3–5 gallons per minute is standard.
4. What is the overall capacity of the well? This is especially important if many people are living in the house. The typical household requires 100–120 gallons of water per person per day.
5. How is the groundwater in the area? Groundwater is shared. Consult the EPA or your local water expert about widespread groundwater issues in your area. (Or ask your REALTORⓇ!)
6. How much land comes with the property? Homes with wells bringing water in have septics to treat waste going out. In worst case scenarios, you don’t want your waste contaminating your water. If you have at least an acre of property, it’s more likely that the septic and well will be at least 100 feet apart to prevent contamination. Additional acreage also ensures that you’ll be able to find a spot to drill another well should you ever need one.
7. Are there any abandoned wells on your property?
What’s the state of the rest of the water system?
Your well is connected to a pump, a pressure tank, and a series of pipes that bring the water from deep in the ground into your home. It’s just as important that all these pieces are in working order.
8. How old are the pump and pressure tank? As an average, well pumps last around 10 years. When purchasing a house with older equipment, keep in mind that you may need to budget for replacements sooner than later.
9. When was the last time the pressure tank was tested? Periodically, the pressure tank should be tested for pump cut-in pressure, cut-out pressure, and the pressure differential. You should also know how long it takes to go from the low limit to the high limit with no water running in the house.
10. Is there any visible corrosion on the pressure tank or at the pump fittings?
11. Is the wellcap on level ground or (even better) uphill? Both natural and artificial contaminants will flow downhill and pool in low-lying areas. Make sure there are no holes around your wellhead and that it sits well above any spots where runoff is likely to happen.
12. Does your well casing depth meet state and local codes? Does your casing sit 12 inches above ground (or more in flood-prone areas)? Are there any visible holes or cracks in the casing? Is the well cap vermin-proof? These are all questions you don’t want to find out the hard way.
How is the water?
When it comes to shared groundwater, even well-kept well water systems can experience issues or contamination. As a homeowner, it’s important to check the quality of your well water regularly. As a home buyer, it’s important to know that regulations for testing vary by state and municipality. You should take it upon yourself to make sure the well has been tested before your purchase is finalized.
13. Is the home currently occupied? Sometimes, leaving a well unused for weeks or months leaves it more prone to bacterial contamination.
14. When was the last time the water was tested? And will you be receiving logs of that maintenance?
15. What’s in this water? A local professional can help you test for water quality issues and interpret those results for you. Make sure your water quality test covers the following:
- Water safety and purity
- Presence of minerals
- PH, hardness, alkalinity, turbidity
- Coliform bacteria
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Some minerals and impurities are easy to live with, like iron in the water. Other issues like hardness and bacteria can be treated effectively. But keep in mind that treating radon in your water can run you into the thousands.
16. How will I need to adapt to my new well? Even in healthy systems, well water is bound to look and smell different than city water. While that won’t affect your health, it may change what soaps and detergents you choose. You may also want to invest in additional filtration or treatment systems.
Are you ready to make your home buying wish come true?
Running a home on well water may feel complicated. But don’t forget—you’re not in this alone! Your REALTORⓇ can coach you through these questions and more.
Contact us today to speak with an Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks real estate agent about buying homes and land in Western North Carolina. Ask for the complementary Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks Buyer’s Guide that walks you through the home buying process, from planning your home search to what to bring on Closing Day.