Journey to Find a Home

1055 Sproul Rd, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Disclaimer: All below represent my own research, and I am not a realtor, lawyer, none of the content below shall be seen as financial advise or legal recommendation of any kind. You should only use following content for information purposes only. All contents listed are of writer’s own understanding, reader NEED to apply their own judgment and RECOMMENDED to do their own research.

Recently I spent quite bit of time to research on a house located at the said address.

As a first time home buyer, following are the things I learned and deemed very valuable.

Seller Disclosure

Seller cannot balant lie in their disclosure, but they can be fuzzy on details. Or ocassionaly have “unkown” checked. Of course they can legitimately has unknowns, as buyer, you just need to be extra careful when you see those. This is not to say sellers intend to lie in general, but since it is marked unknown, you probably need to assume it is true, and then investigate.

Flood Zone

Key Takeaway #1: When you see unknown, you should scrutinize it.

In my experience, one of the question on the disclosure is “Is the Property, or any part of it, designated a Special Flood Hazard Area(SFHA)?”, the answer says unknown. Following that question, “Do you maintain flood insurance on this property?”, the answer is yes, but only “due to proximity to Darby Creek”. Upon my research, flood insurance is required for this property not simply due to its proximity to Darby Creek, it’s because it is located in a flood zone, specifically Zone AE, which is considered high risk for flooding. Note that flood insurance is required if you need/have a mortgage for any property located in a flood zone.

Definition: Special Flood Hazard Area

See below map from FEMA


Key Takeaway #2: When you see anything related to flood/flood insurance, you should use FEMA tools to look up the property and see its risks.

What is worse for this property is: not only it is located in the flood zone, half of its property is actually a flood plain, meaning that partial area is designated flood water way, for which you are subject to special codes and regulations. For us, we initially planned to build addition to the house and turned out the code forbids that. (more on code later)

Things to note if you are getting a house that’s located in a flood zone.

If seller is willing to provide elevation certificate, and shows property is above certain flood level, then you get discount from flood insurrance. (In this case there is none)

If seller is willing to provide flood claim history (back to 20 years) either from FEMA or lexisnexis which only provides to the property owner for free upon request, you as the buyer may get a peace of mind. (In this case seller refused to provide, but did provided that during their stay, there were no flood claim)

Utility - Well

Key Takeaway #3: If the property doesn’t have access to public water and you are thinking about connecting to it later on. Call the water company as soon as possible!

While I have only dealt with public water, this property has well water as its only water supply. It did surprise me at first but not too alarming. Because you should be able to connect to public water right? Wrong, not that easy.

Calls to public water company to get estimates was not easy, once we get through, they were very helpful. They help drew up the map and find all possible watermain around the region. The cost is $162,000 for best case scenario.

A watermain is the major water pipe that transport water from region to region. I was told there are three ways to connect to public water: 1. The water company has a watermain going under your property - great, you can connect to the watermain for free; 2. Your neighbor has access to public water - ok, you can get an easement, BUT only if you are landlocked; 3. Probably the worst case scenario. There are watermain around the property but not that close and you are not landlocked. Then you have to pay water company to extend their watermain, and this is the situation for 1055 Sproul Rd. There are 3 watermain around 1055 Sproul Rd. (all numbers below are just budgetary and estimates)

  1. Up the hill: 650 Feet, and work price is $250 per foot, and because it is state rd, there could be more costs invovled.
  2. Cross the creek: there is a water main rough 130 feet. However it needs to cross a creek, and it will be a task. To achieve that, water company needs to get a team of engineers to draw graphs for plan and ask for special permit. To build just crossing part may cost $40,000 to $100,000 (or more). This does not include the cost of actually extending the existing main and connecting to your own house.
  3. Neighbor cross the street: Well since neighbors across the street have water, so we can get from them? Nope, not so fast. That will require crossing of other people’s properties. I know what you are thinking, we are nice and neighbors may want to help us? Sure, but water company does not allow it because 1055 Sproul Rd is not landlocked. I asked them to humor me and see if exception was made, what would happen, turns out the closest water main is still about 700 feet away and need to run 2 properties and get 2 easements, and cross state rd. You will also need to budget in your private plumber cost and ability to get a Highway Occupancy Permit from PA. The cost won’t be that low or easy. Not to mention, easement is not allowed/accepted by water company anymore, unless property is landlocked.

Of course other than the option number 1, 2 and 3 is really just for whatifs, for completeness, not for practical installation.

(I greatly appreciated the help from those public utility workers who helped, they went above and beyond to clarify the scenarios for me, even though the outcome seems indicate public water is out of most people’s budget for this particular house)

Along Sproul Rd (State Rd, which makes things expensive and complicated), only two properties has no public water, which gives water company even less insentive to start new connection.

And now we are dealing with a well, let us learn everything about it. But before about how it works, we may need to take a look at the rules regarding private water well? Boy, let’s look at codes.

Key Takeaway #4: If you are ok with using well as water supply, make sure you are familiar with the township’s requirement regarding well water quality test, ask for well maintenance record, and ask for a thorough well inspection. Well flow test is the most important one as it will determine whether the well can produce enough water at a fast enough rate for your family

Some poeple tells me well water is great, and let’s dive in:

  1. Water is free? True, but you need to pay for electricity of pump, pump itself, a watre filtration system and all related maintence.
  2. Clean? Delco requires quarterly water quality test. Because well water could have easily been contaminated by all kinds of things, and if you drink or use it on your skin, its up to you to ensure its quality is at certain standard. Depending on the where the well water source comes from, it could be as bad as the stream water or contained by sewage. Your filtering cost is manageable but hard/taste of water is not your worst enemy, its the bacteria and toxic chemicals. Which I recommend using Chester County Water Quality test, if whomever working for your well water quality test does not know, you should switch tester.
  3. Does well run dry? Some say they don’t, I think that requires some expert analysis, either be it weather change or excessive use, well can run dry. At some point you may need to drill a new well, current quote is around 6,000-15,000 for drilling a new well. (I dont think that includes plumber hook up.) To know more about well, you can simply Google. To know how well a well is performing, you need to do a real well water flow test and well meachnical inspection.

Additional thought on lead content in well: there are 2 sources you can think of

  1. lead pipeline
  2. contaminated water source

If it is the former, you can fix by replacing pipes, if it is the latter, you may live in constant fear that your well water is not properly filtered. You may forget to replace filter in time, filter may fail prematurely, purchased defective filter, you used too much water which caused filter wear out sooner than you realized. It is not a great situation be in.

Key Takeaway #5: The situation for water also applies to other utilities. If the property uses an utility resource that you are not familiar with, you should find out how costly the utility resource is. For example, some properties use oil to generate heat, which is pretty expensive compared to natural gas. If you plan to switch, call the utility company and see if it’s feasible first.

Township Code

First you need to find out what township you are in then find its code, luckily in Haverford Township, it uses an easy way to search code:,wells&searchId=43400121832054956#14582551

And here it is about wells:

§ 181-2         Prohibition.             

It shall be unlawful for any owner, occupier or lessee of any property 
within the areas designated by this article to use or drill a private 
groundwater well, as a source of water, for use for potable purposes 
or industrial purposes.

§ 181-3         Affected areas.          

The prohibition set forth in § 181-2 of this article shall be applicable 
within the Township of Haverford as follows:

A. Any property located within 300 feet of a public water supply 
by a licensed provider;

B.... (till D)

That does NOT sounded good at all, especially if you remember, one of the public water main is within 300 feet. Even though it was a hard to cross area.

At first, panic set in, is this property in violation of code? Seems like it, at least based on the wording. What do you do? Go to township code enforcement officer for help. They are very firendly and willing to give great anwsers. Turns out Haverford township has lost its power to enforce that rule due to loss of health department in 2022, now enforcement and rules are governed by Delco. Another layer of government and another time consuming process to get clarification. In the end, you can have well per Delco rules. And one need to hope Haverford Township does not get back its power to enforce these rules, since this house would not be compliant, and to be compliant would be a costly adventure. (See public water conneciton in Well section)

Another enmey we discussed earleir with was flood zone. Partially it has floodplain, which in Haverford Township, has strict rules.

Applicability. It shall be **unlawful** for any person, partnership, business
or corporation to undertake, or cause to be undertaken, the construction,
reconstruction, substantial improvement, enlargement, alteration or relocation
of any structure (including manufactured homes) or any other development of
a structure or grounds within an identified one-hundred-year floodplain area
or flood-prone area as set forth in the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and on its
attached Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) prepared and approved by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, Community No. 420417, Map Panel Numbers
42045C0038F, 42045C0039F, 42045C0043F, 42045C0101F, 42045C0102F, **42045C0104F**,
42045C0106F, 42045C0107F and 42045C0108F, dated November 18, 2009, or any
revisions or amendments thereto, and made a part thereof by reference,
including any digital data developed as part of the flood study, unless an
approved building permit has been obtained from the Township Code Enforcement
Office. The above referenced FIS and FIRMs, and any subsequent revisions and
amendments, are hereby adopted by Township of Haverford and declared to be
a part of this chapter.

[Amended 9-8-2015 by Ord. No. 2759] (bold is editted in.)

Well if you remember part of the house was in floodway, and the bolded (actually ** surrounded) Map Panel Number is what this property is located in. So almost half of this house is really not yours (refer to the FEMA map, and understand what is Regulatory Floodway). And regarding any new building, you will need elevation certificate, both construction and materials will cost more because they need to withstand/resistent to flood. So I guess in this case, you cannot build much but still possible under certain conditions. (there are many details and regulations, well things just get complicated here)

This looked alarming at first, if you keep reading it does layout conditions on how you can build (aside from the flood-plain part) for the AE zone part of the house.


Be there, ask questions, this is good opportunity to understand how things work and where are things located. Also raise any concerns inspector is not seeing. They have a checklist and sometimes they can miss things, but if you raise your question, they will have to look and note down if there are issues.


Lesson #1: if seller disclosed that something is broken, you cannot ask them to fix later in inspection based contingency.

Lesson #2: never expect seller to give concession even if you think your request is reasonable and be prepared to walk away.

Of course this is where the deal falls off, and we did not go further. With these complications, hopefully this will help someone. And they won’t have to call 10 diifferent people and get voicemail, and tries again and again.

So what is concerning

  1. Flood zone, this requires flood insurance as long as you have mortgage, for about $3000 a year, this is regulated by NFIP ( which means rates are not something that differs among companies. (insurrance in this case helps you if you do get flooded, not bad. The risk of getting flooded is not pretty)
  2. Active well code violation, likely cannot be enforced, but unless township scrap that code, could be a ticking time bomb, especially given cheapest public water option is bigger than $160,000
  3. No well maintence history whatsoever (no knowledge of any kind other than: they used the well and it works). And last test (by our inspection) shown to have higher lead and lower pH than federal limit.