I find that quite often buyers are surprised when they start shopping for Homes in Westchester County, that some of features of these quite expensive yet modest properties are things you would expect see in homes that are way off the grid or that were built 75 years ago.

Westchester has amazing school districts, extremely manageable commutes and some of the most amazing properties in the tri-state area. But the infrastructure in much of the county in terms of energy, water and sewage is behind the times.

While I don’t think any of these items are “Make it or Break it” as far as whether you should shopping for Real Estate in Westchester, it is certainly important to make sure you know the pros and cons of each.

Oil Versus Natural Gas

Some parts Westchester have access to natural gas but a large portion of it does not. The portion that does not generally relies upon heating oil to heat the home.

The downsides of heating are undeniable:

  • Oil is expensive, burns quickly & oil prices fluctuate greatly making budgeting difficult
  • Oil is dirty and produces high emissions
  • Oil needs to be stored in tanks and frequent deliveries are needed
  • Oil tanks that are currently buried in the ground should be removed, the soil should be tested and new tanks should be installed above ground. This is a pricey endeavor.

Natural gas is cheaper and the pricing is more stable. Natural gas is also cleaner and can be piped into your home on demand so users never run out of gas.

If Natural gas is not available, another alternative that is clean and cost effective is propane. Propane has many of the advantages of natural gas, but can be stored in tanks on your property.

Septic Versus Sewer

Some portions of Westchester have access to public sewage, usually the parts of towns located near the town center. As you move further away from the town center, it is generally more likely that your home is on Septic.

The downsides of Septic:

  • Costly annual maintenance and pumping is needed
  • It is sometimes illegal and usually never wise to install a garbage disposal if you have septic
  • If items other than waste or toilet paper are flushed, the system could be damaged
  • Failed septic systems, cracked tanks or inoperable septic fields can be extremely expensive to replace

A home has either sewer or septic. You cannot change or upgrade. Again, this is not a reason to avoid buying a home but you should know the risks and advantages to the system on whichever homes you choose.

Well Water versus Public Water

Similar to septic, the closer you are to the town center the better the chance you will be on public water. However, some homes further away rely on wells for water.

The downsides of well water:

  • Wells need to be tested regularly to make sure water is free of contaminants
  • Wells operate on pumps. If the pumps fail or your power goes out, the home will not have access to water.

Having well water is not as large of an issue as having septic or oil, but it is still important to be wary of. Many homeowners in Westchester who have rely on well water have generators on hand to assure water is always available. One advantage of well water is that is free, where-as public water, while not expensive, is still billed on consumption.