Without a doubt, buying a home is a major life choice. Whether it’s your first time to buy, or you have previously done it before, there are many things to pay attention to in the buying process. Among these is the property’s foundation.
A home’s foundation is the most crucial structural element. A proper foundation will ensure your house lasts for generations to come. A badly made foundation, on the contrary, will cause you headaches and a lot of money.
When buying a property, have the habit of inspecting it for foundation damage. You don’t need a vast knowledge on concrete or construction experience. However, since you are unlikely to be an expert, the following are a couple of things to be on the lookout for:
- Improperly fitting doors and windows. If the windows and doors are not opening and closing properly, it could mean the home is experiencing a foundation problem.
- Cracked, crumbling or buckling walls. Over time, structures naturally settle. However, if the settling continues after two to three years after construction, it could signal a foundation problem. Foundation settlement is common in older homes.
- Sagging floors and warped ceiling issues. Saggy, uneven floors are a common sign of foundation issues. To check whether the floor is level or not, use a tennis ball. On a level floor, the ball shouldn’t roll.
- Water damage and soil shifting. Water is another common cause of foundation problems. Improper water drainage in areas with expansive clay soils often causes foundation movement in homes.
- Cracked, crumbling or compromised foundations. Foundations are built to last. When they begin to crumble, it may mean there is a problem. Make sure to inspect for this issue both inside and outside the home.
If you notice any of these signs, the following are six things you must do:
1. Call a foundation repair expert.
Have the home thoroughly inspected by a foundation repair specialist. Preferably, have the inspection done by a structural engineer. This will cost you anywhere between $300 and $900 depending on your location.
After the assessment, you will be able to know whether the problem is deep or not. If it were indeed deep, it would be best to walk away. However, if the problem is just beginning, you could consider doing the repair.
2. Do not ask the seller to fix the problems.
This is a big no-no. Asking the seller to fix the problems is risky. They will oftentimes choose the cheapest repair option.
Typically, foundation repair companies offer different estimates and quotes. One may quote that it may require 10 piers to fix the issue while another may say it requires six. It is not hard to guess which company the seller will choose. Obviously, they will choose the cheaper alternative.
3. Understand the full repair costs.
Not all foundation problems cost a fortune to repair. That is why it pays to get a professional assessment from a competent foundation repair company first.
The report from the assessment is usually enough to make the decision on whether to proceed with the transaction or walk away.
Some foundation cracks, for example, may not cost you a lot. Those that are wider than 1/4” only require patching. This may set you back by a few thousand dollars. Problem is, patching them doesn’t solve the underlying issue.
Foundation movement costs significantly more to repair. This is because it may involve rebuilding the entire foundation.
4. Understand the different financing options.
Even when you are willing to buy a home with foundation problems, getting financing is often a hurdle. Conventional lenders usually only give financing to homes that are structurally sound.
So, to get financing, you may need to seek alternative methods.
5. Put a contingency clause in place.
If you do decide to go ahead with the purchase, ensure all contingency clauses are in place. These will allow you to wiggle out of the deal suppose something goes wrong before closing the deal.
6. Decide whether to close the deal or not.
Foundation issues are no minor thing. In some cases, the issue could go deeper than the foundation itself. It could have been constructed perfectly but the ground beneath could’ve moved.
Before the foundation is laid, a soil test will be done. But, the test may fail or the builders may fail to do it at all. In this case, the foundation may need to be rebuilt. This could cost you significantly and may not be worth it in the end.
Ultimately, you must know when to quit. You could always find another home that has lesser issues to deal with.
When buying a home with foundation issues, always get a professional assessment to determine the severity of the problem. If the issues are relatively minor and you like the house, you could consider fixing them. However, if the issues are extensive, it may be best to walk away.