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If you’re considering buying a home in a rural area, there’s a good chance it will be serviced by well water instead of city water. But is well water versus city water an important factor to consider when buying a home?
We’ll explain how homes supplied by well water work and outline the required upkeep. Then we’ll dive into some pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your home buying needs.
How Does a Well Work for a House?
When a house sits on well water, all the water delivered through the plumbing system comes from a private well on the property. The water is used for everything from drinking, cooking, showering and flushing the toilet.
Well water is found deep underground. It’s so deep underground that the rock and soil layers act as a natural water filter. The water is drawn up through a pump and stored in a pressure tank that regulates water pressure throughout the house. Before the water is distributed, it usually passes through a water treatment system, which decontaminates and softens it.
Once the water has been treated, it flows through the plumbing system and pours out of your faucets, showers, hoses and more.
Does a well affect property value?
A well is a common sight in rural areas because city water isn’t always available. In rural areas, a well wouldn’t be a distinguishing feature that would affect property value. A well can be a selling point that increases property value in places where residents don’t trust the city water because it’s unsafe or unreliable.
If your well needs repairs or the water is contaminated, this could negatively impact your property value.
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Well Maintenance Requirements
One of the main responsibilities of owning a home served by well water is keeping up with maintenance. The city does this for municipal water, but when you own a home with a well, you’re responsible for the upkeep.
The CDC recommends getting your well tested at least once every year during the spring. Your well’s mechanical system should be inspected to ensure all its equipment works properly. The inspection should include:
- The well
- The electric water pump
- The insulated supply line
- The pressure tank
- The water treatment system
- The distribution system
You should also test the water quality. Check for coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels.
A well inspection costs an average of $250 – $550. Water testing is an additional $100 – $350 on average. You should also check with your local health department. Many of them sell inexpensive DIY water-testing kits.
Who should I get to inspect the well?
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) partnered with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to relaunch WellOwner.org, a nonprofit website that provides resources to well owners.
One popular feature on the site is its contractor lookup tool. Well owners can use it to find locally certified water well service contractors.
And you can always use the tried-and-true strategy of asking your real estate agent for contractor recommendations or asking our neighbors who services their well.
House With Well Water Pros and Cons
To help you decide whether you should consider a home with a well or keep house hunting, we’ve put together some well ownership benefits and drawbacks to consider.
You won’t get a water bill because the water is from your private water supply. Eliminating your monthly water bill is one of the biggest perks of owning a well.
A natural disaster or other issue can affect a city’s water supply. Because there is less chance a disaster or other event will affect your well, your water supply will likely remain unaffected.
Well water is often enriched with more minerals because of the natural filtration from soil and rock. Many people believe well water tastes better than city water.
You are responsible for maintaining the quality and safety of the water coming from your well. And you’re responsible for its associated costs.
A well’s water pump runs on electricity. If the power goes out, you won’t be able to get more water, and you’ll be limited to your reserve in the well’s chamber.
Even water in well-maintained wells can become contaminated through natural processes or nearby contamination sources.
Additional Considerations for a House With Well Water
Even if you’re leaning toward buying a home with a well, there are some additional factors to consider before you make an offer on a home.
- The EPA doesn’t regulate well water. There is no government oversight of well water. You – and you alone – are responsible for making sure your well is safe to use and the water is safe to drink.
- You must combat hard water staining. Well water is naturally hard because of its high mineral content. Even if you use a water softener, the minerals are still there, and it can lead to staining over time.
- You must pay attention to the age of the pump and pressure tank. The older the water system is, the more likely it is that you’ll need to replace it at some point. The average combined cost to replace a pump and pressure tank is $800 – $2,300.
Yes. A well “runs dry” when the water level drops below the pump’s intake. This can happen for several reasons – and isn’t always permanent. For example, water levels may drop because of a drought. But once enough rain falls, the well could resume functioning.
Well water isn’t regulated by states or the federal government. The safety of your well water is your responsibility. You should routinely test your water quality and inspect your well.
Water pumps typically run on electricity. If you lose power, you can only use water for a limited time until the well’s storage tank is emptied.
Final Thoughts On Well Water
For many homeowners and aspiring buyers, well water edges out city water because many people think it tastes better, and they know it can save money because there is no monthly water bill to worry about.
If you’d rather have more control over your water supply, a house with a well offers that control. But tapping out of tap water has its responsibilities. You’ll need to vigilantly maintain the well and ensure the safety and quality of your water.
The Short Version
- When a house sits on well water, all the water delivered through the plumbing system comes from a private well on the property
- Wells usually don’t hurt property value unless they’re in disrepair. They can actually increase value by cutting utility costs and promoting homeowner self-reliance
- The biggest perk of having a well is not getting a water bill. But the tradeoff is that you’re responsible for maintaining the well and its water quality