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Real Estate Nuggets

Professional Pointers on the Buying or Selling Real Estate

By Matt Heisler | Agent in 01532

WELLS, Well Water, vs. City Water, what do I need to know?

With many people in dense urban areas, I have many customers that have never had well water before, and often have concerns about what they need to know.  While not exhaustive, I'll try to post the fundamentals here.


The really good news is you won't have a water bill.  If you're getting water out of a private well, it's yours, so no fee.  Most experts expect the cost of municipal, or public water, to go up in the future, so this could be a real positive going forward.  The bad news is the water doesn't come out on it's own - it's pumped out, and generally has a small reservoir system to keep the pressure steady.  Both of these components can, and do, wear our and need maintenance/replacement over time, so a home owner learns to keep an eye on them just as they must with any other mechanical system. 


Pressure can be worse or better than municipal flows, but in general is not a concern.  As noted above, the systems can help regulate pressure, and there are other tricks (like the faucet heads) that can simulate or increase the pressure should you desire it.  All wells should have a pressure test, generally paid for by the buyer, at inspection time to make sure their are no issues here.  If there are issuse, they can usually be corrected, but depending on the pressure issues involved, they can be expensive, so it good to know the projected cost before you move in.


Well safety is about both biological (bacteria) and chemical factors.  All wells should be tested for water quality at inspection time as part of the purchase process.  Most issues are easy to fix, but some are not, and generally the tests will give you the peace of mind you seek as to the safety of the water.  Well owners should re-test on a regular basis (yearly is often suggested), especially if their communities are in at-risk areas for certain containments.  Note that "standard" testing packages oftentimes may not include important, but more expensive tests (like Arsenic and Radon) that I recommend ALWAYS be tested.  These rare water issues are expensive to fix, and can be health problems to boot.  Discuss with your agent which tests you need to perform, and review the quality report diligently.  Once you sift through it, you'll be more knowledgeable about your water (a good thing!) and well prepared to move forward with your purchase.

Many wells do require power to operate, so if you do lose power, once the reservoir is empty, you may lose water too.  If you are in an area where power outages are frequent and not short, you may want to consider a battery backup of generator solution.  Battery backups can be just for wells, and generators are really a more full service (and expensive) solution.

A well is certainly no reason to NOT purchase a property.  Well water is generally safe and reliable, in some cases, even safer than municipal water.  But it does require more care and knowledge, and hopefully this is a good start for a prospective purchaser.

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Matt Heisler is a real-estate professional and owner of Heisler & Mattson Properties.  He has been selling residential real-estate for over 10 years.  He has given several talks on real estate, including presentations on first-time buyer tips & tricks, and profiting in real estate investing in Massachusetts. As a Vanderbilt University alumnus, he is proud to serve the communities of Natick, Framingham, Medfield, Millis, Holliston, Hopkinton, Southborough, Westborough, Northborough, Grafton, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Worcester, Milford, Charlton, Northbridge, Sutton, Hudson, Sudbury, Clinton, Boylston, and West Boylston.  His company website can be found at http://www.bjheisler.com, and his Metrowest Blog can be read at http://HomeSellingInMass.net.  

*All information is posted in good faith and is assumed to be reliable, but may rely on third party information sources.


By Wellgirl,  Fri Mar 1 2013, 10:29
I think it may be time for you to educate yourself a little more about wells before you speak with authority Matt.You have some great points and you captured the general basis of water wells however Ist and foremost water well pressure should not only meet city water pressure but in most cases exceed it. This is a common misconception of water well systems.In fact we get several calls a year regarding Booster pumps for city water applications. I also noticed that you did a great job pointing out the negatives but what about the positives like lack of chemicals in the water such as flouride and chlorine.There is also the fact that although ever 7- 25 years you might have to replace a pump of a tank you wont have any water bills during that period of time so all that money you have been sending to your towns pocket will be sitting in yours until your system has an issue.
By mainechap,  Thu Jun 19 2014, 06:50
I'll add the voice of experience here. I've always lived in a city and always been on city water, until I moved to a small city in Maine four years ago. Despite being in the middle of the city, our entire neighborhood is on well water (the developer was cheap and it's cheaper to sink individual wells than to run water and sewer pipes through the Maine bedrock). In my experience, well water is a nightmare. Sure, if you only think about it superficially and don't bother to have your well water tested, it sounds like a great deal! Free water! Natural spring water! First of all, it's anything but free. Our well pump died a couple of years ago and replacing a pump located 400 feet underground is not an inexpensive thing to do. Furthermore, we had our water tested and even though there aren't any chemical pollutants, ground water is often naturally loaded with heavy metals. And though the water is "naturally filtered" by the ground, there is still bacteria, and depending on the ground composition you can still end up with murky and/or smelly water. (All of the above in our case!) So we also had to install a softening and filtering system, to the tune of several thousand dollars, plus a couple of hundred dollars a year in maintenance. Yes, over the long run having a well is probably a little cheaper than being on city water, but it's a hassle. And unless you deal with the hassle of having your own filtration system what you get out of the ground may very well be a much, much worse product than what comes in through the city pipes. As the author mentioned, if you're on a well a power outage means a loss of water. As he alluded to, and in contrast to a previous comment, the water pressure is probably going to be a lot worse than what you'd get through the city because, once again, the only pressure you have is the pressure you create. We have a (fairly expensive) pressure tank in our basement, but because we have a somewhat large house with plenty of plumbing, the pressure is mediocre at best. I've always has better pressure (much, much better pressure) from city connected plumbing. Unless your city is being fined by the EPA for having bad water, I personally strongly recommend city water over well water. I would be very reluctant to purchase another home that relies on well water after this experience.

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