What Every Realtor Should Know About Water Wells

Realtors know that in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, it is common for homes to draw their water supply from private water wells located on the property. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, 46 percent of state residents draw water from a private well. Whether you are a representing the buyer or the seller, having as much information as possible about the condition of the well system and the quality of the water is typically a benefit to your client.


Water Well Information For the Seller

If the homeowners are aware that their water has an unusual odor or smell, real estate agents should recommend testing for contaminants. Although the test may reveal there are contaminants like bacteria, iron or other minerals, fixing the problem could be as simple as installing a water treatment system or a one-time well chlorination treatment. Homeowners may resist the extra cost, but having documented evidence of a resolved water quality issue, and proof that the current water quality is high, will make the home more attractive to buyers.


Water Well Information For the Buyer

Some mortgage companies require water testing, but they are not required by law in states like New Hampshire. Sellers must disclose information about both the water supply system and the septic system, including the date of the most recent water test and if the test showed any water quality problems. But the most recent water test disclosed could have been done many years ago, so asking for an updated water test may be warranted.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing, at a minimum, for coliform bacteria, nitrates and nitrites and pH. The NH DES recommends a Standard Analysis for potential buyers, which in addition to the EPA recommendations, tests for arsenic, iron, and hardness, all common contaminants in well water in this part of the country. If there is a reason to believe there could be other issues with the water, additional testing, such as for radon or volatile organic compounds, may be necessary. For example, if the home is located in an area where there was recent heavy construction, there was heavy use of hazardous chemicals, or there was a recent unexplained change in the quality of the water, more testing is recommended.

The buyer should also consider asking for an inspection of the water well’s mechanical condition. The well pump, water tank and area surrounding the actual well should be examined for signs of corrosion and proper construction.


Things to Consider When Testing Water Wells

Most states have a list of certified or recommended laboratories where water can be tested for a variety of contaminants. These tests can vary in price, depending on the degree of testing. It is important to use proper testing procedures when taking samples. The laboratory can advise on the best methods, as can our well water experts at Skillings & Sons.

Most tests require the water sample be taken from a cold water tap used for drinking water. If a water treatment system has been installed, samples should be taken from the treated water, as well as the untreated water drawn from the well.


If the test results do reveal levels of contamination, neither the homeowner nor the buyer should panic. The EPA sets limits on the allowable amount of a contaminant in drinking water. These limits aren’t typically used in private wells as an enforcement tool, but can be used by local health boards to ensure water quality and lending firms in determining whether to issue a loan. Although there are varying levels of contamination, if the amount is below the EPA limits, the water is considered safe to drink. However, if the contaminant levels are higher, the home likely needs a water treatment system.


Skillings & Sons has been installing well systems for more than 40 years. If you have questions about what your homeowner or home buyer should be looking for, please contacts us.