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Water: Important Considerations When Choosing a Home

Water is a vitally important utility. Think about all the things we use it for: drinking, cooking and cleaning. There isn’t a day where you don’t turn on a faucet somewhere in your home. Yet this utility sometimes drifts towards the bottom of the list of things to consider when choosing a home.

If you are looking for real estate in Bucks County or Montgomery County, you will encounter both city water (public) and well (private) setups for a home. There are significant differences between the two that should be considered carefully when choosing a property.

Private Water

Private water is almost always brought into your home via a well. A pump draws the water out from the well and a tank in the home provides the pressure needed to move the water throughout the dwelling.

There are important considerations when considering a home with a well.

Quality and Treatment

Well water can be the best tasting water you can have, and many appreciate it as a feature in their home. Since you are literally pulling the water from the ground, your well can be susceptible to virtually anything that can seep into the ground. It’s important to get the water tested during the inspection process and once the home is yours, it’s entirely up to the owner to test the cleanliness and safety of the water.

Common contaminants can include:

  • Pesticides – using fertilizers and pesticides may help beautify your property but can also contaminate your water. Homes in close proximity to crop fields may have elevated instances of pesticides
  • E. Coli – damaged septic systems or area farming can also infect your well with E. coli, which is a dangerous bacteria that can wreak havoc on your health.

Testing kits are easily available and affordable, and it is recommended that you test annually for contaminants. If there are unsafe levels of a contaminant such as E. coli, you may need to shock your system with chlorine and other agents to kill off the bacteria.

So long as your well is in a good location and you take proper care of your well, there are few better options for clean, pure and un-tampered water.

Cost of Ownership

In addition to testing and potential disinfection, the owner of a well has to manage the entire system and should any part of that system fail, it’s up to the owner to fix. Think of a well system as a furnace or central air system; it’s part of the mechanics of your home and as such, may need occasional maintenance and possible replacement. A knowledgeable real estate agent can help further explain a well system and some of these costs.

If one is not already in place, most owners of well systems opt to install water filtration systems to remove contaminants. These systems can also include UV light filtration which will kill bacteria like E. Coli. They can run from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars for multiple stage units and is a solid investment for your home and also you and your family’s health. They, too, require occasional maintenance.

That being said, all the water you do draw from the ground is free.

In Real Estate

Lenders may require that a water test be performed as part of the inspection process. While this shouldn’t delay a real estate transaction, it is another factor. If there is an issue with water quality, it is usually up to the seller to remediate.

Other Considerations

We’ve all heard the term ‘the well has run dry,’ and a home’s well system can indeed run dry during a period of drought. This can be fairly devastating when you think about all the things you use water for. You can purchase bottled water but in severe drought conditions, you can start to see shortages at grocery stores.

Another consideration is the loss of water during a power outage. Since your pump relies on electricity, a power outage will effectively turn you system off. Many homeowners with private wells choose to get a generator, which come with additional costs to install and maintain.

Lastly, pressure can be more easily impacted depending on how many utilities or faucets are being used. When it comes to pressure, you are at the mercy of your pressure tank and how quickly your pump can keep it full. If multiple people are showering and you have other appliances such as a dishwasher and a washing machine going, you can expect to see a drop in pressure.

Public Water

Public water is seen as a more hands off, hassle free source. It’s treated at a plant via underground infrastructure and brought to the curb of your home. You pay for the service based on usage (much like electricity,) and any problems with the system leading to your location will be dealt with by the utility company. Furthermore, any issues with contamination will be dealt with by the utility company as well.

There are some important considerations with public water.

Quality and Treatment

City water is regularly monitored and should be fairly consistent in quality, yet it is not immune from contaminants. It is also treated with chlorines, which some people may not like the taste of, and can still include trace chemicals and contaminants. Depending on your location, the infrastructure can be old and be susceptible to bursts and contamination. As an example, New York City workers often encounter pipes that have been installed in the 1800’s. Public water can also be hard.

Cost of Ownership

Owners are charged either via a bill or through a tax. For the former, it is usually based on usage similar to electricity. Owners are also responsible for the piping that brings the supply from the curb to the home. Any issues that take place on the property are the owner’s responsibility.

Like private well owners, homeowners frequently opt to install and subsequently maintain a softener and other filtration systems to correct hardness and to remove other contaminants that affect quality and taste.

In Real Estate

Public water is typically seen as a plus from lenders since it represents a more stable cost of ownership and maintenance. There are no required tests, making it one less thing to worry about during the inspection phase of a real estate transaction.

Interested in buying or selling in Bucks or Montgomery County? Speak with one of our knowledgeable agents today to get started!