Water Testing For Real Estate Transactions

Do you sometimes get confused or frustrated when it comes to the requirements of a water test by a lender as part of a real estate transaction? In our area with all the Marcellus Shale drilling activity it's important you understand some things about water testing for real estate transactions. Let this article clarify many issues associated with this testing.

For most real estate transactions a bacteria screening only is required. This is the absolute bare minimum testing that can be done on well water. It is however the bacteria levels that are what deem water as Potable or not. Some loans require more in depth testing such as VA and FHA loans. Below is further explanation and details on each of these screenings. It is important that you know what is required so that we can draw the appropriate samples at time of inspection. There is also a significant difference in cost.

Bacteria Only

The water sample will be drawn from the point of use. It will be analyzed by a certified lab for coliform and fecal bacteria. DEP / EPA standards require NO ppm ( parts per million ) Even one ppm will deem the water not potable. The results are generally reported as either negative or positive. For positive results the simple and quick solution is to disinfect the well and re-test. The best long term solution is to install a permanent treatment system such as a UV light. HHI actually recommends that anyone who might be concerned with future contamination install a system regardless of the test results. The most important thing for a buyer to understand is that the test results area a one day snap shot as of that date only. In fact if you utilize Hancock Home Inspections for your clients water testing needs our reports will note in five different places that bacteria levels can and WILL fluctuate. It is important for the customer to understand this so that when the national water treatment company comes into their home a year later and does one of their free analysis in order to try and sell them a $5000 system we are all protected by the customers understanding.

FHA/VA Testing

Again, certain loans require this testing. Banking and lending requirements are ever changing and some VA lenders now only require a bacteria screening. The most important thing one can do is check in advance, so that problems do not occur right before closing. These screenings will not only include bacteria for the potability but will also include Nitrates, Nitrites, Lead, Solids, PH, Iron, and MBAS.

Time Frames

We realize that once a real estate contract is signed they often include specific time frames in which to receive the inspection reports. You need to understand that with all the Marcellus Shale drilling and water testing going on all labs are busier than ever. The days of a 24-hr turn around are gone. Hancock Home Inspections does not perform the analysis and cannot control the time frame. As of late it has taken up to a week to get bacteria only results and up to two weeks or longer to get FHA / VA sample results.


We have been on many a job and seen realtors drawing and taking the water samples to the lab. Generally this is done to save a customer a little money, and as a courtesy. Please understand if you do this you are exposing yourself to certain liabilities since you have a vested interest in the property. I think any attorney would agree it is best to have an independent third party person perform this service. Your real estate agent insurance may also not cover you should litigation occur as a result of you performing this service. There are also very specific protocols to follow when drawing samples. If not followed you may be held liable.