Is Your Home For Sale?
Important Water Well Home Selling Tips
This article offers homeowners serviced by a water well a few seldom heard but important Home Selling Tips. This information would be better used if considered prior to putting your home on the market. Unfortunately many homeowners may not have this information until it’s too late.
There’s plenty involved when you have a home for sale, even more so if your home is on a private water well and or septic system. I’ve specialized as a Groundwater Consultant in Real Estate with Water Wells for nearly two decades. Not all that long ago there were very few Real Estate Agents or purchasers requesting a water well system be fully inspected. Over the years I’ve inspected many wells and water systems.
What we see occurring when a vendor has their home for sale really hasn’t changed too much over the years. But because today’s home buyer is much more knowledgeable it seems that so many more water well problems are being discovered at the time of the sale. This is not a good situation… for the seller, the purchaser or the Real Estate agent who has maybe gone to great effort to bring you an offer in today’s market.
If you have your home for sale, you may receive an offer quickly, perhaps in a few days but perhaps not. For whatever reason you may have your home for sale and need a quick offer, maybe you have an offer on another home. If so, your offer may be “subject to the sale of your existing home”, there may be little time to spare, so you certainly don’t need any last minute problems! All the various dates involved may already be very tight for everyone on both ends. Dates are very important for Real Estate deals… in fact they can make or break a sale.
When You Receive an Offer
An offer on your home for sale may also include a few “subject to clauses.” Generally all subjects need to be satisfied and removed from the offer to purchase before you actually have a firm and binding unconditional sale on your property. Subject clauses are generally in place for the sole benefit of the purchaser.
A purchaser’s mortgage may be pre-approved but prior to the final approval of the mortgage the home for sale will often be required to undergo a complete Home Inspection. A purchaser may also decide to have the septic system inspected, as well as a regular home inspection. Most purchasers now invest in detailed home inspection reports… inspections are money well spent.
If the home for sale is serviced by a water well, there’s usually a requirement by most banks and other mortgagors to have the well water tested. Most Banks and mortgage lenders will require a “Potable Water Report” prior to approving a purchaser’s mortgage.
Once You Accept an Offer
With an accepted offer on your home for sale, the next stage of most Real Estate offers will be the inspection phase. This is the purchaser’s opportunity have detailed inspections done, there are several that should be considered. A Realtor who is acting for a purchaser at this point of the offer may contact me to inspect the water system often requesting a detailed report. The Realtor may advise and guide the purchaser through this entire process until everything is satisfied, the sale then becomes unconditional. It may be a requirement that a very basic test be performed the well water that supplies the home for sale, known as a water analysis or a “Potable Water Report”. This document is required by most lenders for mortgage approval.
A purchaser may be new to the whole process, as the process itself is still rather unfamiliar to a lot of people. A purchaser may be a first-time buyers or often people just don’t have any water well or septic experience. Often a purchaser will just go along with their lack of knowledge, they may only perform what is required or advised and not request anything more detailed as far as the water well or septic is concerned. Few questions may be asked, a good real estate agent will be important in this case… please be represented by an agent that will help you through this maze.
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I may not even meet or speak with a purchaser who’s not making their own arrangements or decisions. Frequently though, I do have purchasers who have been on my data-base for a few years, later… they’re now the home seller with “their” home for sale. I’m once again called to the property to sample the water for the next purchaser.
Attempting to be helpful the homeowner may offer me a copy of the same Lab report that I had produced when they purchased the property a few years prior. They may ask why we are testing the well water again when they already have a perfectly good five year old “Potable Water Report” that they would be happy to pass on to the new buyer and sometimes that’s exactly what happens! Only current reports should be relied on.
When a water analysis report is required for a real estate purchase, I will always visit the home for sale to take water samples. My water samples are carefully processed, with a “Chain of Custody Record” the samples are then shipped in coolers with ice to an approved Lab then tested for Total Coliform, E-Coli bacteria and likely Non-Coliform plus a Total Plate-Count. In several days our office will be sent a
“Potable Water Report “. The report will indicate whether the water sample meets requirements, this data will indicate the contamination level if one does exists. If there’s nothing more extensive requested, no further information will be offered by the Lab, only this very basic “Potable Water Report” will be issued.
Purchasers want to know more about the property; they often will not rely on the Real Estate disclosure forms alone. For this reason a purchaser might decide on a water well inspection, the quality and quantity of water may make or break a deal. The Realtor may have suggested that they do get a full inspection done on the structure including the inspection of the water system and septic.
I’ve worked with many agents over the years, many for quite a few years. Most never want to be involved in water sampling or will offer advice on a water well system due to what is known as conflict of interest or potential for misrepresentation.
If there is so much more awareness regarding water wells and water systems, then why are homeowners with their homes for sale often experiencing tremendous last minute stress and unnecessary problems and expenses? Not unlike your home inspection… you would not ask your real estate agent to perform that for you, don’t expect the same when it comes to your water system. I’ve heard far too many people blame the agent over the years; it’s up to you to do your one due diligence. Most agents give good advice in this area… especially if there are familiar with working with real estate and water wells.
Is It The Lab Report?
As we’ve discussed, water might only be tested for possible disease causing pathogens and be considered potable, but a purchaser may also be interested in a little more information such as the basic water chemistry of the water that they’ll be living with on a daily basis. I visit many homes for sale where water chemistry or dirty well issues are quite visible to a trained eye. Not all water chemistry is the same… that’s for sure; in fact it’s never the same. Some purchasers will go even further insisting on very a comprehensive report, they will want all the bells and whistles. This is how we detect metals such as Arsenic, Lead or Mercury in presumably “Potable” drinking water. A complete water analysis report is a bit more costly than a basic report, but the cost of such a report is far less important than not knowing that your family is ingesting naturally occurring Arsenic, that could be present in your well water
If you have your home for sale you may very well be the proud owner of a fantastic water well as there are some wells without even a single aesthetic concern. These are very nice wells to have, and providing there’s adequate water quantity, many wells do pass an inspection without any concern what-so-ever. They’re certainly not all doom and gloom, so don’t fall for that either.
A good water well is a very valuable asset to any property! A failed water sample is not uncommon. Even a well that has been tested in the summer months with no reported microbial concerns can fail miserably during the wet weather months. There are also plenty of reasons why a water sample might fail a Total Coliform / E-Coli test. This is where things can get interesting… even a report is not black and white all the time.
I’ll adding much more information to this site, water quality issues will be covered but not on this page. If you have your home for sale please don’t limit yourself to this page as it’s very general. I have a habit of turning my posts into small books… sorry!
A Failed Lab Report
Unfortunately this is when I often become involved with a Real Estate sale. The Real Estate Agent or purchaser has a lab report suggesting that the home for sale has a contaminated water well… very concerned as they are very eager to remove subjects.
Home Selling Tip #1 – Your Real Estate sale is almost final…there can be lots of pressure at this point; everyone is just waiting for the Potable Water Report so the bank or lender can give final approval. This is not a good time to discover as a vendor that your well is possibly contaminated. This could be the beginning of a long, expensive and completely preventable string of events. It happens far too often!
If I’m involved, the first thing I’ll be asking is who took the water samples and how were they taken and processed? There’s procedure involved in taking water samples, from the home for sale where the samples are first taken, to their final destination the “Certified Laboratory”. Precautions always need to be taken at the time of sampling well water; if this is not understood then a sample will often become contaminated at the kitchen tap.
We’re often contacted at my office and asked if a water sample can be dropped off at our office so we can process and shipped the samples to the Laboratory. I explain to callers that we would never accept third party samples. Even after nearly 20 years of doing this work I still go to the property for sale and do the sampling myself. The liability to the homeowner is too great otherwise. There are many Real Estate situations concerning contaminated water wells that do become a problem because the water samples were not taken or processed properly. The water analysis can only be a good as the samples submitted; it’s not much unlike blood work. When sampling, a water sampler may need to make some important decisions. A person with extensive knowledge in this area will know what they are looking for.
Because there’s now a failed “Potable Water Report” report indicating that you’ve got a contaminated water well servicing your home it may be enough to collapse your sale or at least bring it to a dead stop until the problem is somehow resolved if there is in fact a problem at all. Remember all those important dates that everyone was trying to meet? Well this is the time that a Real Estate deal can go south in a hurry. It will usually take time to get the situation safely resolved whether there is an issue or not.
Sometimes after re-sampling as it must be done immediately, it may found that your well is not contaminated as the original report had indicated. It could have been the sampling method or the complete lack of a sampling method that contaminated the water samples. What I’ve explained happens often, it’s completely preventable on several levels.
Home Selling Tip #2 – Prior to ever listing your home for sale; have your own independent water sample taken. Have a report generated even if all you do is a basic “Potable Water Report “. This report could be quite valuable to you in the future. If you do have a contamination problem you’ll find out about it long before an offer comes in. When it can easily be resolved while you’re not under huge pressure to make a quick and expensive decision to save your Real Estate sale. If you DO have a problem that you are not aware of, it can be a vendor’s worst nightmare… so resolve it before you have an offer on the table!
Hopefully your professional and independent “Potable Water Report” does meet the drinking water guidelines. You will now have a recent report on file and it’s not conflicting because you also didn’t do your own water sampling. Because the water report is recent, independent and the samples were not taken by yourself or your listing agent a purchaser may be willing and able to accept the ” Potable Water Report ” and may be happy to offer this report to their lender.
If the purchaser should decide to retest your well water and they do not have your water professionally sampled (which I would not accept as a vendor), they could end up with a failed report but then the burden should be on the purchaser and their agent to bring in a professional to re-sample your well water and prove that it’s indeed contaminated as your own report indicates otherwise. Personally, I would eliminate all potential problems if I were to sell a home with a water well. When you accept an offer on your home you can simply make it a condition of the offer that that your well water only be sampled and handled by an experienced and independent professional.
This one simple Home Selling Tip alone could sometimes save everyone of lot of grief.
This one simple Home Selling Tip alone could sometimes save everyone of lot of grief.
Home Selling Tip #3 – As you can probably see by now if you have your home for sale there are some compelling reasons why no one should handle your water except an independent professional. Even though the offer may not contain a “subject to” clause regarding the water, it may not mean the well water will not be tested. A “subject to (water) clause” may not have been written into the offer for a couple of reasons. Perhaps no one thought to write anything concerning the water into the offer or there could also be a competing offer so it was decided to write an offer that was as clean a possible because it will be more appealing to the home seller.
Not including a “water testing clause” does not indicate that the lender will approve the mortgage without the “Potable Water Report “, but it may leave the purchaser scrambling to get a water sample to the Lab on the eleventh hour as they are now running out of time to get their mortgage approved and firm up their offer. There are just too many scenarios to mention.
As a home seller and with your Real Estate Agent’s guidance you can add to an offer at the time that it’s presented to you a condition such as the following example “in the event that the well water is to tested samples must sampled and managed by an independent professional”, you could apply a date so that there is plenty of time allowed, too often it’s left to the very last minute. If enough time is not permitted then the purchaser will be looking for a time extension for their financing as their mortgage may simply not be approved without a “Potable Water Report.”
Permitting a non-professional to handle your water sample may easily get your well labeled “contaminated”. The cost of having your well water sampled professionally is not expensive. Many homeowners who don’t have their homes for sale, still have their water tested on an annual basis, and have done so for years. I’m also finding many experienced listing agents are now requiring that the well water be testing at the time of listing the home for sale. Realtors are also becoming more proactive; many are making it a standard requirement on their listing agreements. A lot of effort is put in by an agent to bring you an offer… we pay them to market and sell our Real Estate not resolve our water well issues.