A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment system that is commonly used in areas that lack centralized sewer systems. Most rural homes with septic systems will also have a well that provides water for daily use. According to the EPA, over 15 million homes rely on private wells for drinking water.
With well water, you cannot make any assumptions about its purity. Beyond water quality, other problems can arise with wells you should make yourself aware of, so you’ll know what to check for before you agree to purchase a home.
And well inspections are vital for ensuring water purity. Well inspections are a thorough evaluation of the entire well system. It starts with the operation of the submersible pump and water recharging into the well. The inspection continues by evaluating all the parts through to the pressure tank, which is located in the basement.
When buying a home that is serviced by a private well, there are always questions that come up when testing the water. If you are purchasing a home that is serviced by a well and not by public water, make it a priority to have it tested as part of your contingency of sale.
Do Your Research
Groundwater is a shared resource across broad areas, so problems that affect one home will often affect many others in the area. You can research known water issues within the county or neighborhood through the EPA, and you can ask your realtor of any known water problems in the area. Once you know of common problems, you can be on the lookout for them.
In counties where there is a point-of-sale mandate, the health department will provide a list of certified and approved well and septic inspectors, but it’s important to use an experienced, trusted professional. Be sure to do you research and ask around for referrals.
Different states, and sometimes municipalities, have rules and regulations concerning wells in the area. In Massachusetts, for example, the owner of the home will need to have a permit to have the well — a permit which you will want to see before you buy if it is new construction.
These are regulations you should know as you go to buy a home. Depending on the area, the seller of the home may be required to test the well water before selling you the home.
For example, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the seller is required to test the water quality before passing papers. Hopkinton is one of the few towns in the area that has this requirement. An excellent local buyer’s agent should understand your desired area’s requirements before making an offer and walk you through them.
It’s also important to note that in most locations, it is the buyer’s responsibility to check the quality and quantity of the well, not the seller’s.
Testing The Water
Never buy a home without having the well tested first. The well is high on the list of things you should inspect when purchasing a home. There are a few tests that can be conducted, the most obvious of which is one for water safety and purity. A water sample will be taken from the tap at home, and will then be sent to a qualified water testing lab to get a clear idea of what it contains. You will receive a report from the lab that details the water results.
The lab will show you what the water contains, along with what the passing limit is for each element. You will want to have a water professional familiar with the area look at the results to help you understand them, as water conditions can vary quite a bit in different areas.
Standard water tests will check for things like PH, hardness, alkalinity and turbidity. Standard mineral testing will often include things like iron, calcium, manganese, copper, fluoride, Chloride and a few others. Coliform bacteria is also checked in most well tests, especially in rural areas.
When you are testing the water, you will want to do what is known as quality and quantity test. Both tests are important, as you want to make sure the water is safe but also that you will have enough to service the home properly. One of the primary concerns you should have with purchasing a home with a well is to check the quantity of water that is being delivered to the home along with the quality (hence the name of the test).
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost for a well and septic inspection runs between $600 and $700, which includes the inspection process and lab fees. The cost to pump a septic tank is $350. Repairs, if needed, can vary drastically. While the responsibility for repairs falls to the seller, it all depends on negotiations.
What Comes Next?
Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will turn the report in to whoever made the request, either the county, the lender, the buyer, or the seller. Once it’s been turned in to the county, the health department reviews the report and determines if the system is approved or disapproved. If disapproved, the parties will need to work with the county to take corrective actions. When you’re approved, you’ll be one step farther along in the home buying journey.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a home with a septic system, working with a knowledgeable Clever Partner Agent who understands property values and maintenance will ensure that you don’t end up buying a house with major issues. Clever can help.