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Ask Bill: Should I Get The Well Inspected When Buying a Home?

By Bill Gassett | October 17, 2022

Ask Bill Real Estate is a weekly column hosted by 35 year Real Estate Pro Bill Gassett.  Bills Q&A will answer the most difficult questions for real estate agents, DIY, first time home buyers, and mortgage lenders email your questions now to [email protected]

Question from Ron Jones Holliston, Massachusetts: I am considering purchasing a home that has a private well. All of the homes I have owned in the past had public water and public sewer. Is it necessary to have the well tested? Are there specific kinds of tests that should be completed? What should I be looking for from a well inspection company?

When buying a home there are many types of inspections a potential buyer can conduct. Of course, most people realize the importance of a standard home inspection to find out a property's general condition.

A home inspector can be a valuable partner in determining if the property is a keeper or not. Some homes have hidden problems that only the keen eye of an inspector discover.

When you have never owned a home with a well, there is certainly an education process that goes along with it. Well inspections are essential to check on the quality and quantity of the water servicing the property.

Inspections for a well are a three step process. Let's go over some of the most essential considerations to think about when testing a well.

Do I need a well inspection?
Do I Need a Well Inspection?

Checking the Quantity of The Well

When buying any home, determining that there is an adequate water supply is crucial. The well inspector you hire will do just that.

The well quantity test will consist of running water from a hose into a bucket for 3-4 hours. The inspector will be checking the gallons per minute and recovery rate of the well.

As a general rule, the well should produce a minimum of 3-5 gallons per minute. Anything less than that and you will not have enough water to do daily tasks such as taking a shower and doing laundry.

The quantity testing is often call a flow rate test. The flow refers to the amount of water coming from the well, and the flow rate measures the gallons per minute being dispersed.

The average home requires 100 to 120 gallons of water per person per day. A flow rate of about 6 to 12 gallons per minute is considered more than acceptable. However, this requirement may be higher for families with larger numbers of members.

Before you purchase, it's vital to know whether the well will generate enough water, flow rate, and overall capacity to meet the needs of whoever is living there.

Checking the Quality of The Well

Just as crucial when checking the water is the quality. You don't want to be drinking water that isn't healthy or could even be a health hazard.

In order to test the quality of the water, a well inspector will take a sample from the kitchen tap. The water will be put in a vile and sent of to a certified lab to measure its contents.

Standard water tests typically check for PH levels, hardness, alkalinity, and turbidity. Routine mineral testing often includes iron, calcium, manganese, copper, fluoride, chloride, and other minerals.

A bacteria test is also completed to check for Coliform bacteria, especially in rural areas. E.coli, a subgroup of fecal coliforms, is also checked for in most well tests.

While understanding these elements is important, it is crucial the well does not contain high levels of volatile organic compounds. These elements can cause extreme health issues.

If you have concerns about the health risks of anything you find in the test, you should contact your well inspector or the local health department. They will be able to give you more information about any potential risks.

Checking All of The Equipment

The last phase of a well test is the inspector checking over all of the equipment. The primary parts to look at will be the well cap and the well's pressure tank. The well cap should be firmly attached so not to let any rodents into the well chamber.

The pressure tank should be check to ensure there are no leaks or any corroded parts. The well gauge that measures the pressure should also be checked. It is not uncommon for them to malfunction with inaccurate readings.

Making Your Decision

Once you have gathered all of this information, you'll be prepared to address any potential issues. For example, if the well test shows high levels of something that could cause health problems, you'll probably want to ask the seller to fix it.

Getting water corrected is usually as simple as installing a well filtration system. You might also discover that the home is not getting enough water. Diagnosing the reason why will become crucial. It could be as simple as the well pump needing replacement.

Sometimes there is a larger issue and the well may not be fixable. You might need a new well dug which can be expensive. A new well could easily cost somewhere between five to fifteen thousand dollars.

Your Realtor should be able to help with any necessary negotiations with the home seller to get problems corrected.

As you can see having a well inspection isn't something that should be skipped!

Our weekly ask Bill column welcomes readers to ask questions pertaining to real estate. Please email your questions to [email protected]

Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate industry with 38 years of experience. Bill is well respected for his informative articles for buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Newsbreak, Credit Sesame, Realty Biz News, and his own authoritative resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. He has been on of the top RE/MAX agents in New England over the last two decades.
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