Clean and clear: home water quality issues to address before a sale

How agents can help sellers improve their water systems, and streamline a sale

Community water systems must test and monitor drinking water supplies to ensure safe, clean and good-tasting water. But what happens once water hits neighborhoods and homes?

The answer: It varies. Which is why homesellers, especially those in older homes, should test their water to ensure they support clean, healthy water. And their listing agents should support them, because home water quality issues can complicate a sale.

The water quality tests homesellers should do varies based on their home water setups. We outline the four most common, and how to address them, below.

Beware of lead

Older homes may have lead-based service lines, which can leach lead into water as it enters the house. Older lead fixtures, or those with lead-soldered joints, can also cause elevated lead levels.

Without a doubt, pipes and fixtures containing lead should be replaced with new materials when possible.

Watch for corrosion

Many homes built before the 1960s have galvanized steel pipes. While galvanized pipes do not create chemical contaminants on their own, they are susceptible to severe corrosion, which can flake off and clog taps and faucets. In some instances, rust can also build up inside galvanized pipes.

To be on the safe side, it is a good idea to have all galvanized piping replaced.

Prevent emerging contaminants

“Emerging contaminants” are another water-quality concern for homeowners. If present in a home, they usually occur in very low amounts. They create two primary concerns: one being health, the other aesthetic.

Emerging contaminants that affect health include detergents, pesticides and medications. Other contaminants that don’t affect health may adversely alter water taste, odor or color.

Home filtration systems are the most common way of reducing emerging contaminants. Options include filters within faucets, in separate pitchers, or in the plumbing itself. There are also reverse-osmosis filters, which treat the entire home’s water supply.

Any filtration system used should meet national standards for reducing multiple contaminants.

Maintain your well, if you have one

While most North Americans get their water from community water systems, millions rely on well water at home.

Water from a well should be tested on a regular basis for contaminants such as bacteria and metals. Water quality problems can be avoided by locating wells away from septic tanks, livestock and pooling water runoff.

Homeowners and sellers should not overlook well maintenance. If they regularly test and maintain their wells, they’ll mitigate health problems or costly fixes before a sale.


Water quality can easily be tested for metals, bacteria and other contaminants. Find a local Pillar To Post home inspector for more information about this and other home inspection services here.