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Houses with Foundation Problems
Old 02-28-2013, 07:05 PM   #1
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Houses with Foundation Problems

As I was looking for relocation possibilities, I often saw houses that are unexpectedly cheap compared to everything else in the neighborhood. Some listings just say some repair work needed, and some put down something vague like TLC needed. When I called, the agents said the houses have foundation problems and will need a lot of money to repair. And even after the repair, some other problems may develop, and the house will be difficult to re-sell if that kind of problem had existed, even when repaired.

Of course I said thank you but no thanks to considering those properties. But I wonder how common are foundation problems? When do they typically got discovered? I mean if you buy a 5 or 6 years old house and the problem developed in year 11 when you are the owner, you will be the one left holding the bag. I suppose the problem will not be known in a house newly built, but how long would a house warranty cover for those defects that may not show up for a few years, and is the warranty transferable when a house is resold? Are there region more prone to such problem? I read the Dallas-FW area have more problems because of the soil characteristics.

The more I look at buying vs renting, the more I am leaning towards renting, because I do not want new headache and nightmares in retirement.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:15 PM   #2
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The more I look at buying vs renting, the more I am leaning towards renting, because I do not want new headache and nightmares in retirement.
Good plan, but don't make the mistake of thinking renting will help you avoid the asteroid strike - unless you're renting the ISS.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:18 PM   #3
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Good plan, but don't make the mistake of thinking renting will help you avoid the asteroid strike - unless you're renting the ISS.

Even in the ISS could suffer the asteroid strike. Have you ever seen a Russian drive?
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
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Good plan, but don't make the mistake of thinking renting will help you avoid the asteroid strike - unless you're renting the ISS.
I am 99.999% sure I am out buying the winning Power Ball ticket when the asteroid scores a direct hit on the house I am staying in. If I were renting, I do not have to worry about paying the bill to repair the roof, even when it is miniscule compared to my Power Ball winning. In the very remote chance that I am home when the asteroid struck, renter or not, I can save on funeral and cremation expenses.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:04 PM   #5
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Out here is Arizona the majority of site built home are built on cement slabs and since it is dry you'll see very few serious foundation problems. If you pull up old carpeting you'll see some cracking in the slab but that's normal. What you have to be careful with out here are manufactured homes, they are popular in some rural areas because they are so much cheaper than a site built home. Buying a manufactured home is more like buying a car, they deliver it to your site and it's up to the buyer to make sure the site is prepped properly. Many times they aren't and over time settling will cause the home to get out of square and walls will start cracking.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:18 PM   #6
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Always have a building engineers inspection report as a pre-condition to a purchase written into your offer/contract.
IMHO better to own your house than rent in retirement. You don't want to be at the mercy of the landlord or market when on a fixed income.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:48 PM   #7
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Good plan, but don't make the mistake of thinking renting will help you avoid the asteroid strike - unless you're renting the ISS.
At least there shouldn't be too many foundation issues for the ISS.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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Actually there is a first way to screen for foundation problems as a possibility, look to see if the are you will buy in has clay soil. This soil tends to expand when wet and shrink when dry. For example that is the case in Houston leading to lots of problems with foundations. If the soil is sand then there is not as much of a problem, and the foundation problems are more related to how it was installed. (In Houston they use a post tensioned slab to keep the slab in one piece).
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:18 PM   #9
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Our house was about 16 years old when we bought it and a couple years later I noticed that the foundation wall (3/4 below grade) was a bit out of plumb and never really gave it another thought until we were selling the house 20 years later and the home inspector raised it as an issue. The buyers brought in a structural engineer to assess the problem and he indicated that it wasn't particularly unusual in our area, the extent that the foundation bowed was not unusual or of concern structurally and only periodic monitoring was required.

It was a relief to us as the only contingency was a home inspection. We closed a week later.
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:58 AM   #10
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Foundation problems vary a lot from relatively minor to very serious. As mentioned, it is more of an issue with expansive soil. Foundation repairs usually have two parts to them. First, the foundation itself is stabilized and repaired. This can be done a variety of ways but often involves putting in some piers. This is not necessarily all that expensive. The second part involves repairing the damage that was done by the foundation problem. This can be thinks like repairing sheetrock cracks, repainting, etc. Those repairs can be more expensive than that of repairing the foundation itself.

Some years ago we were selling our house that had never had any foundation problems when the buyers did an inspection they found evidence of an apparently new foundation issue that affected the garage. It was not something we had ever seen at all. There was no damage to the interior.

I was worried the buyers would cancel the contract. However, they had an engineer and a foundation company look at the problem. It was going to cost, as I recall, about $2500 to repair it. I credited the buyers with that amount and they completed the purchase.


Personally - having seen many houses or other buildings with foundation problems and having talked to many engineers about it - I would not necessarily reject a house because it had a repaired past foundation problem if the problem had been repaired by a reputable company, there was a transferable warranty from a long established company and any interior damage had been repaired. That said, there are certainly people who would reject such a house.
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Old 03-01-2013, 06:36 AM   #11
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Foundation problems vary a lot from relatively minor to very serious. As mentioned, it is more of an issue with expansive soil. Foundation repairs usually have two parts to them. First, the foundation itself is stabilized and repaired. This can be done a variety of ways but often involves putting in some piers. This is not necessarily all that expensive. The second part involves repairing the damage that was done by the foundation problem. This can be thinks like repairing sheetrock cracks, repainting, etc. Those repairs can be more expensive than that of repairing the foundation itself.

Some years ago we were selling our house that had never had any foundation problems when the buyers did an inspection they found evidence of an apparently new foundation issue that affected the garage. It was not something we had ever seen at all. There was no damage to the interior.

I was worried the buyers would cancel the contract. However, they had an engineer and a foundation company look at the problem. It was going to cost, as I recall, about $2500 to repair it. I credited the buyers with that amount and they completed the purchase.


Personally - having seen many houses or other buildings with foundation problems and having talked to many engineers about it - I would not necessarily reject a house because it had a repaired past foundation problem if the problem had been repaired by a reputable company, there was a transferable warranty from a long established company and any interior damage had been repaired. That said, there are certainly people who would reject such a house.

Excellent points and everyone should note that a lot of problems are really do to improper water routing. By that I mean how ground water is dealt with. If you have a high water table or a water table that rises at certain times of the year that water has to have somewhere to go. Being able to route the water away from troble is the first step in most repairs.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:50 AM   #12
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Thanks for the insights from everyone, whenever I heard about foundation problem with a property previously , I ran away screaming. Now I know to ask a few more questions. Although the fact that I looked at those properties that were so heavily discounted, they likely know the problems were significant and would be expensive to fix.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:18 AM   #13
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Actually there is a first way to screen for foundation problems as a possibility, look to see if the are you will buy in has clay soil. This soil tends to expand when wet and shrink when dry. For example that is the case in Houston leading to lots of problems with foundations. If the soil is sand then there is not as much of a problem, and the foundation problems are more related to how it was installed. (In Houston they use a post tensioned slab to keep the slab in one piece).

I was going to mention Houston since I live here... but yes, the soil can expand and lead to cracks... not all homes were built with good slabs... which is why you will see cracking in whole neighborhoods...

My mother's old house had the foundation crack into two pieces... the smaller piece dropped down about 6 inches and pulled away from the other by two or three inches... you could put your hand in the crack of the bricks... (and it surprised me that bricks actually cracked, not the mortar separating)....

She paid to get it leveled, but after 10 to 15 years it shifted again... the inside of her house was horrible, with the sheetrock walls and ceilings with big cracks...

There were houses in the neighborhood that cracked even worse and had to be torn down...

As the real estate agent said, you have trouble selling a house that had a crack at any time.... and I think you have to disclose the fact to any potential buyers...
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:31 AM   #14
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I was going to mention Houston since I live here... but yes, the soil can expand and lead to cracks... not all homes were built with good slabs... which is why you will see cracking in whole neighborhoods...

My mother's old house had the foundation crack into two pieces... the smaller piece dropped down about 6 inches and pulled away from the other by two or three inches... you could put your hand in the crack of the bricks... (and it surprised me that bricks actually cracked, not the mortar separating)....

She paid to get it leveled, but after 10 to 15 years it shifted again... the inside of her house was horrible, with the sheetrock walls and ceilings with big cracks...

There were houses in the neighborhood that cracked even worse and had to be torn down...

As the real estate agent said, you have trouble selling a house that had a crack at any time.... and I think you have to disclose the fact to any potential buyers...

Disclosure is a law in Massachusetts. Foundations all need the proper base. One that doesn't expand or contract. One that lets water expand and depart when present. It really does all depend on how the surrounding soil/base handles water. Just built a new house here in Massachusetts. The foundation is absolutely bone dry. The key was that around and through the whole sub soil stone and piping run through and around and brings all of that towards the street and into the storm drain. Yes it cost more to do but it is so worth it.
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Old 03-01-2013, 12:49 PM   #15
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There are two types of homes in Texas: those that have termites foundation problems, and those that are going to have termites foundation problems...
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:54 PM   #16
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As the real estate agent said, you have trouble selling a house that had a crack at any time.... and I think you have to disclose the fact to any potential buyers...
You definitely have to and should disclose it.l However, it does not necessarily cause trouble with selling the house. I do think it scares off some buyers, but a lot of buyers are fine with a house that has been repaired with a transferable warranty from a known long-time foundation company. Of course, it can depend on how bad the problem was, what was done to correct it. If I was going to buy a house with a past foundation problem, I would have a structural engineer take a look.

I do think that people who are selling a house with an unrepaired foundation problem will have far more difficulty selling the house than those who are selling a house with a repaired foundation problem that has a transferable warranty.

Also, bear in mind that if you get some discount in buying a house with a past foundation problem then that pays for the fact you might get a little less when you sell it. The person who really suffers is the one who bought a house without a foundation problem and then has to pay to repair it and then has to sell it. Although as mentioned when a foundation problem (relatively minor) turned in the inspection on a house we were selling the seller only wanted us to credit them for the cost of the foundation repair which was a small amount of money.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:22 PM   #17
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This is really a tragic story and I feel sorry for the victim and his family:

Florida sinkhole - chicagotribune.com

"The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.
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Old 03-02-2013, 11:16 AM   #18
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That sinkhole isn't to far from me. Central Florida has a nickname of "sinkhole alley", as is the threat of hurricanes wasn't bad enough. But, I love living here.

That poor man and his family. He was in his bedroom minding his own business. I've always considered a bedroom to be "save haven" so this story kind of freaks me out.

You can hire a company specializing in sinkhole inspections. I didn't know that when I bought this house and every crack in the sidewalk now gives me the willies. I know for next time and will definitely have my next (and last) home inspected.
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