Home In Mountains

Well Inspections: What You Need To Know Before Buying A House With A Well

Carla Ayers4 minute read time
August 13, 2021

If you’re looking to relocate to a home with more land and room to grow, then you may be looking in rural or remote areas of the country.

In these areas, private wells are a common source of water. They have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s walk through the inspection process to learn more.

Are You Considering A House With A Well?

In today’s frenzied real estate market buyers are expanding their search criteria to include more suburban or remote areas. Many of these homes will have a private well.

How Does A Well Work?

Many homes have private wells that tap into groundwater provided by an aquifer that runs underneath the property. The location and depth of the well are determined by the geology and underground water levels.

Wells are drilled 100 – 500 feet deep to reach the permeable layer of rock that contains water. The home builder will then install a pump large enough to bring water to your tap.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Census data, 123 million American homes rely on a private well to meet their water needs.

What Is A Well Inspection?

Many homeowners rely on a municipal or city water supply. Water is taken from the source, treated, tested and distributed to paying customers. Homeowners with municipal water pay for their water service, which includes testing and maintenance fees.

In a home with a private well, maintenance and water testing is the responsibility of the homeowner.

Who Regulates Private Well Water?

The EPA regulates municipal drinking water supplies but does not have jurisdiction over private wells. Many states have a patchwork of regulatory measures in place with overlapping jurisdiction among several agencies. So it’s fair to say that in the majority of cases, private well water is unregulated.

This is why it’s important for homeowners to take control of their water quality and ensure they’re maintaining and monitoring their well.

What Does A Well Inspection Consist Of?

Well inspections are usually a matter of state law. The recommended frequency and procedure may vary depending on where the property is located.

For more detailed information on what to look for when inspecting a well, refer to the Centers For Disease Control’s guidelines.

Visual Inspection

Most inspections begin with a visual inspection of the well, the well cap, the pump, the pressure tank (usually located in the home’s basement) and the grout.

Equipment that is leaking water or missing grout can cause water pressure problems and allow contaminants to enter the system.

Water Testing

Water testing is one of the best ways to ensure your well is in good shape. Testing water at the tap for contaminants can reveal a lot about the health of the property’s water supply system.

There are naturally occurring unwanted contaminants, like radon, that can build up in a well that can be potentially injurious to human health.

It’s recommended that homeowners check for bacteria in their water annually and other contaminants every 2 years or any time the homeowners notice a change in the water’s taste, smell or clarity.

Record Tracking

It is important to keep all maintenance records and test results throughout the ownership of the property. In some states, a well inspection and water quality test must be submitted prior to the sale of a property.

Does The Well Inspector Also Repair The Well If There Is A Problem?

For states with private well inspection requirements, the well inspector is generally prohibited from also offering well repairs because of the inherent conflict of interest.

What Other Maintenance Does A Well Require?

It is important to know the location of the well on the property. It’s a good idea to keep contaminants and their storage containers away from the well area.

Substances like paint, motor oil, fertilizer and pesticides should be kept away from the well, pump and pressure tank at all times to avoid the water supply becoming contaminated.

A homeowner should routinely visually check the well cover or cap to make sure it is securely attached and in good condition to keep insects, rodents, and other pests out of the water source.

Are There Special Considerations When Selling A House With A Well?

In some states, like New Jersey, a well inspection must be completed by either the seller or buyer prior to the sale of a property. Remember each municipality, county, and state could have overlapping jurisdiction.

Other states authorize local officials to test the water for pressure and safety as part of the home inspection process.

If you’re planning to sell a property with a well, having the well inspected and the water tested in advance can help ease buyer and lender concerns regarding the private well.

Is It A Bad Idea To Buy A House With A Well?

If you’re interested in a home with a well, don’t fret. If the well is properly maintained and the aquifer remains unpolluted, there is no reason to avoid the property.

One of the biggest advantages of owning a home with a well, is being in control of your water quality. Homeowners can maintain their well to a higher standard than most municipal sources. Some homeowners prefer the taste of well water and it can be a desirable feature when planning to sell a home. 

How Much Does A Well Inspection Cost?

The average well inspection can cost $300 – $500. Some inspectors will pass on lab fees for water testing, bringing the inspection and testing to around $650.

Many municipalities offer free water inspection services, often through their health department, to incentivize private well owners to test their water.

How Do I Choose A Well Inspector?

Choosing a well inspector who knows the local and state requirements for private wells can save you a lot of headache.

The local health department is a good place to start. Many health departments will have a few inspectors on file that they can recommend that are familiar with local and state regulations.

The National Ground Water Association maintains a database with certified water inspectors across the nation at www.wellowner.org.

The EPA website provides the most up-to-date information on certified water safety resources.

What About Homes With Septic Systems?

Most homes with a well also have private septic systems for wastewater treatment. This is instead of having a sewage hookup to remove wastewater to a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Many well inspection service providers also provide septic services. If you need both the well and septic system inspected, it’s a good idea to arrange both services at once to save time and money. 

The Bottom Line: A Well Inspection Ensures Your Home’s Most Precious Resource Is Clean

Homeowners with private well systems are truly in charge of the quality and taste of their water. A well inspection can provide the insight and peace of mind to make your home an oasis.

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Carla Ayers

Carla is a freelance writer and Realtor with a background in marketing, communications and property management. She attended Eastern Michigan University where she received a Bachelors in Arts Marketing and a Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.