While it may not be the most glamorous part of buying a new home, ensuring that your prospective property has a safe, sanitary water source is a crucial step in the purchase process, particularly for veterans looking to receive a home loan.
In order to qualify for a VA loan, all applicants must satisfy a set of Minimum Property Requirements that include important details about water connections and treatment systems: a topic that may leave many new homeowners feeling a bit out of their depth.
Well Testing Requirements
Properties that rely on a private or shared well rather than a public water and sewage disposal system will almost certainly need to have a water quality test performed. While the VA itself does not have a blanket testing requirement for well-served properties, many VA lenders will request one in order to satisfy the Minimum Property Requirements.
It is important to remember that any testing must be performed entirely by a third party with no direct relationship to the buyer. This means that a friend, neighbor, or realtor would not be an acceptable agent. In some cases, a representative from a local health authority may be able to handle the testing, but a commercial testing lab or other un-involved third party (such as a home inspector or appraiser) could also perform the sampling. As part of the loan process, the VA and its lenders need to ensure a clear chain of custody for the sample.
Private well tests remain valid for up to 60 days, provided that they are completed prior to the issue of a formal Notice of Value for the property. Often the local health authority will have water quality with requirements in place. However, in cases where local set requirements are absent, the well will need to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal standards.
Testing Requirements for Shared Wells and Cisterns
Homes that make use of a private well that is shared between multiple property owners may also require some additional qualifications to satisfy your VA lender. Some of the most common prerequisites include:
- The presence of a permanent easement that provides ready access for well system maintenance and repairs
- The ability of the well to serve each of the properties with safe water simultaneously
- Existence of a formal agreement among property owners that secures shared access
Even if you are not in the market for a new home, it can be a good idea to have your water tested periodically, and particularly if your property makes use of a private or shared well, cistern, or spring. In some cases, an easy to install water filter would make sense to install to filter out unwanted chemicals like chlorine.
Many online retailers now offer affordable testing kits that can identify a wide range of contaminants, including the presence of bacteria, pesticides, radon, iron, hydrogen sulfide, and many other potentially harmful impurities.
While it is somewhat uncommon, there are many homes that get water from a spring or cistern (a waterproof container that collects and stores rainwater).
Either of these systems should be acceptable in terms of your loan’s Minimum Property Requirements, so long as they are common locally and can meet water quality testing standards. Additionally, your lender and the VA will want to make sure that veteran homebuyers sign a separate agreement affirming that they will be using one of these types of water systems.