The Home Buyer's Korner

Information presented should be used for educational purposes only.

July 7th, 2015

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GREATER METAIRIE LOUISIANA

The Home Buyer’s Korner

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Homes Served by Cisterns and Low Producing Wells

CisternsMany homes affected by drought have wells that have gone dry or so low they have had to come up with alternative solutions. In an effort to deal with the problem many dig deeper wells and some have chosen to place large water storage tanks on their property with a booster pump to serve the home.

Routinely a water truck will bring city water to fill the tanks when they’ve depleted their water reserve that supplements the low producing well and find the arrangement works fine. However the situation prevents a qualified home buyer from being approved for an FHA, USDA, VA or conventional loan to purchase their property, if and when they choose to sell and the only financing more real estate agents are aware of for these homes are from portfolio or community bank lenders.

FHA loan rules state that a cistern–basically a water tank using the classic definition of the word–is unacceptable. In certain cases a waiver may be applied for in situations the FHA defines as those where cistern use is common. These waivers are not automatic and a home buyer in need of such a waiver needs to contract FHA to learn how to apply, or discuss the matter with their loan officer.

FHA provides a list of unacceptable conditions related to this scenario. They include the following:

  1. Mechanical Chlorinators – This is a pump that separates hazardous chemical from the water source.
  2. Water flow that decreases noticeably and not able to provide a continuous and adequate supply of water, when simultaneously running water from several plumbing fixtures.
  3. Properties served by dug wells, unless a complete survey is conducted by an engineer and delivered to the lender and FHA appraiser. Dug wells are holes in the ground dug by shovel or backhoe. Historically, a dug well was excavated below the groundwater table until incoming water exceeded the digger’s bailing rate. The well was then lined (cased) with stones, brick, tile, or other material to prevent collapse. It’s usually covered with a cap of wood, stone, or concrete. Since it is so difficult to dig beneath the ground water table, dug wells are not very deep. Typically, they are only 10 to 30 feet deep. Being so shallow, dug wells have the highest risk of becoming contaminated.
  4. Properties served by springs, lakes, rivers or cisterns.

The alternative to getting a waiver, if you can get one or seeking out a portfolio lender who’s willing to finance these homes or the FHA 203K home renovation loan. In this scenario you would simply secure your home financing with an experienced FHA 203K lender and include the cost to dig a deeper well that meets FHA minimum health and safety requirement. The task is performed after closing and must be completed within 30 day.

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