Buying a house with a cistern

Has anybody done this or know anything about it?

I have to go FHA and FHA will not insure houses with a cistern, however you can get a waiver under certain conditions.
This house seems to meet all the conditions, there is no city water available, the other houses in the area also have cisterns.

I heard from the neighbors that the cistern is new, and according to the county it’s not a true cistern, it is a water holding tank. The water in it is trucked in and is city water.
It’s inside the house so, unlike the neighbors cistern, it doesn’t freeze. It’s got a tight lid so there is no chance of critters falling in and dying or of contaminants running/seeping in.

I like the house but this is one extra hoop to jump through and there is no guarantee HUD will issue a waiver. I don’t want to waste my time getting through the mortgage process to have HUD say no, but I really like this house.

it is a new water holding tank. make sure that is noted which may help you qualify for an wavier.

Here’s the rules

But it doesn’t mention storage tanks specifically.

They want you to connect to town water if it costs less than 3% of the purchase price to connect it.

Thank y’all.

I didn’t know about the 3% part but I think it would cost a lot more than that. This house is in a small strip of about a dozen houses in the middle of corn fields. It look like maybe a farmer sold off a few acres along the road to make some money.

I’m just worried about the hoops, how hard is it to get HUD to give a waiver and how much the appraisal will suffer, if at all. The house has come down considerably since has been on the market, simply because of the cistern.
My offer goes in on Monday, I don’t want to waste any more time. I wasted too much on the last house because it took over 5 weeks for me to be able to get an inspection, only to find out the foundation was crumbling.

B. Kliban cartoon: A pair of bearded gents in plain black suits stand next to a well.
Caption: Brethren and cistern

Now you’re never going to get that out of your head.

I don’t know anything about cisterns - but could you attempt to have a well dug? Would that solve the FHA issue?

It would except it can be very expensive to drill a well. I can’t drill one on a house that isn’t mine yet anyway and since this is a foreclosure the bank won’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to finance it as part of the mortgage because I have no idea what it would cost and AFAIK (I will look into it) there is no way to estimate the cost of drilling a well. It depends on how many holes have to be dug and how deep they are until you find water.
To get a FHA 203K loan you have to have a written estimate for the cost of any repairs. If I knew it would cost $5000 to have a well dug I could finance it. The bank isn’t going to let me finance an unknown amount for a well. If I could qualify for a conventional mortgage it wouldn’t be an issue but unfortunately the rules changed on me. This is what I get for not having any credit cards. My only debt is a car loan.

I think you need to step away from that situation. Never heard of a neighborhood in the US that relied on deliveries of water to cisterns or holding tanks. Maybe that land has no water rights? Can you get electric or natural gas or do you have to truck in propane as well. That would be some expensive water to truck in and how long do you think it will last for bathing, cooking and drinking anyway? And not to be a snot, but the location sounds a tad depressing, in a field without water amongst homes in foreclosure…

keep looking!

Just because you never heard of it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Half of Apache Junction (AZ) houses have to truck in water, and that’s a city of 35000. Not to mention that rural houses don’t have city water or sewer or gas pipelines, but somehow they manage to survive in the wilderness, with their gas powered computers and smoke signal emails.

FYI - I PMed the OP because I am involved with this process at work. Hopefully I was able to help.

You have! Thank you.

It’s not really a neighborhood, it’s about a dozen houses along a road that runs through cornfields. It’s zoned agricultural. I’d rather live there than in a neighborhood with an HOA. HOAs make me want to paint my house fuchsia with lime trim. I think maybe a farmer at some time needed some money and sold off a few acres as building lots. AFAIK this is the only foreclosure although a house a few doors down is up for sale. However, from the size of the boat in their driveway I doubt they are hurting for money.
Cisterns are common in the area, but so are wells and a weird combination I have never see before, lots of houses with city water that still have septic tanks.

The next town over from where I live now? You have entire suburban type neighborhoods with wells and septic. Who’d think houses that close together wouldn’t have city water and sewer?

I already priced water delivery and it should cost me about $50/month. Much less than this county where a typical water bill runs $250-$300/3 months.

Welcome to the American desert! Many folks who live in Montana, Western Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, & parts of California use cisterns. Oh Yeah! Do not forget Eastern Oregon & Washington!

My neighbor is a business that supplies water from their Artiesian (sp?) well to “dry country” folks. They have a dozen trucks that are in use daily. I have helped out when inclement weather has made deliveries difficult. IIRC, the cost per gallon was about the same as city water. The cost per mile was very reasonable compared to delivering freight.

I would expect the lenders from these dry places are VERY familiar with the use of cisterns. It should be no big deal for them. A bit more paperwork is all.

There ya go!! No worries! Cheaper water, and a better neighborhood! What is not to like?

Okay now i get it! Something i take for granted living in the great lakes. no different than my well extracting water from the ground, pressure tank and pumps involved, but it’s always cold.

How often do you have to refill the cistern? Guess less showering going on in the less humid west…lol

Now i have questions? …how is the water that’s coming by truck, of course it’s potable but do you soften or filter it anyway?

A cistern is a hole fed by rainwater. A holding tank filled by truck is not a cistern.
My childhood home (1915) had an original brick cistern even though it was in what was, by 1950, a part of contiguous Dayton. The thing was a hazard - as soon as we were strong enough to open the cast iron lid, you know we kids would get stuck - dad spent a day with a pickaxe. Spoil sport.

The quality of the water will vary way too much to predict - find a supplier and ask for a sample.