Now that I am in the process of moving out to the country from the city, I’ve had to learn a lot about wells, water treatment systems, and septic systems because these properties are not hooked up to municipal water or sewer. There’s a plus side to that of course: lower taxes and no water or sewage fees, but the minus side is that you have to do some work to maintain them.
My new house has a well. When I bought the property, I didn’t order a well inspection because it was a multiple offer situation, the house was only five years old, it had been built by a reputable builder, and I was willing to take a risk. This is not something I recommend to buyers, but as a seasoned realtor, I felt that I knew what I was doing.
To get title insurance, however, and financing, your lawyer does need a water treatment report and a well record. I thought getting those would be pretty easy.
You contact Ministry of Environment for the latter and fill out an online form — it’s free; you just need to provide the municipal address and the legal address (concession number etc). Imagine my surprise when no well record could be located and the buyers (who built the house new) said they didn’t have one either.
I talked to my water guy, Moe Rayyes, who we all use for water inspections, and he told me there were two well drillers in that area and that one of them might have the record, so I contacted them, but nope, nothing there. I was starting to freak out a little when the listing agent contacted me and said her sellers had found the record: the well had been a test well for an adjacent subdivision and so it appeared on a different address/legal description. With that information, I was able to get the record from MOE, which was a little more legible than the seller’s copy.
The moral of the story: be sure to ask for a well record if the seller has one, when you put in your offer! Most sellers are cooperative, and mine were terrific, but I can imagine a situation where that isn’t the case.
Now Moe explained to me that if there isn’t any paperwork like a well record for a given well, it doesn’t matter as long as the well is working properly. Setting aside the legal reasons for wanting one, it’s one of those things that’s nice to have but not essential.
One of the ways (and an essential one) to indicate that the well is functioning properly is the water test. You have to get a sample of cold water after running the water for a while, using a special bottle supplied by the township or city. You label it, keep it cold, and then take it to one of the drop off spots that do lab tests to make sure there is no E. coli or bacteria in the water.
In Ottawa, where there are still some homes on well water even within the city proper as well as in the rural areas, you can pick these up at the City Hall office on Constellation Drive — the box is by security on the main floor and so is the drop off . In Beckwith township, where my new home is, you can pick up the plastic bottles at the township office on Highway 15 and there is a form that indicates the various drop off locations.
In my case the sellers had just done one, so they provided it to me and that satisfied my lawyer’s needs.
In my area, the water has a lot of iron in it and is very hard, so there is a water treatment cannister that needs to be maintained — the seller was kind enough to explain what’s required:
The water softener is easy to maintain- just dump the salts in it when it gets low. It takes a bag or two per month. We’ve tried a few different brands and like the “rust remover” kind the best- when we first moved in it we would get a tiny bit of staining in the toilets in between cleanings, but none since switching to those salts. You can buy them at the BMR in Richmond, any Home Hardware or Lowe’s- Home Depot doesn’t carry them for whatever reason. There is also a small reservoir on the side for a cleaning/maintenance solution called Res Care.
As for the septic, one of the mortgage brokers I work with mentioned that you have to clean the filter every so often: apparently, his daughter bought a house with a septic and didn’t do that and it backed up. I have an old septic tank at my cottage that doesn’t have a filter so I was off to Youtube to find out what I have to do. It looks a little gross, but essentially you screw off the top, pull out the filter and rinse the grunge out of it with a hose, then put it back. Once again, the sellers were super helpful:
The septic tank lids are in the front lawn, a few feet from the porch. They screw off. We can show you how to get the filter, you have to reach down to pull it out, and then just spray it off with a garden hose every year. It’s not as gross as it sounds, it just gets a scale-y type of build up.
So – that’s it for me and country moving tips! Next posts will be about the renos I’m doing to tweak my new house!