What You Need To Know About Buying a Property with Foundation Issues
For both the owners and potential buyers of a property, foundation damage is the worst kind of problem a house can have. The mere association of the words “foundation damage” with a building is enough to send buyers scurrying away. Owners whose properties suffer from
foundation problems often feel as if the issues make their home unsalable.
But are these assumptions justified? Is foundation damage a death sentence on the market value? When looking to buy a property, should you ever consider a home with foundation issues? The answers to these questions depend on several things, and to find the correct answers, we need a good understanding of what foundation damage is.
What is foundation damage?
The foundation is that part of a building that is in direct contact with the ground. It is the main load-bearing structure of the building; it bears the weight of the entire house. The foundation efficiently transfers the weight of the house to the layers of soil and rock beneath. It provides stability for the building by anchoring it in place.
Foundation damage is when there is a defect in a foundation that impairs its ability to perform its function. Foundation damage can happen as a result of artificial or natural events. Common causes of foundation damage are: improper soil compaction during construction, the type of soil in an area, plumbing issues, and poor drainage.
The types of foundation issues you are most likely to encounter are:
The three most common types of foundation problems
A sinking foundation
It is natural for the foundation to settle after building a house. Settling is the term used to describe the downward movement of the structure as it buries itself deeper into the soil. Foundation settling is not a problem if the foundation sinks uniformly across its entire area. However, if one part of the foundation sinks lower than the other parts, that is a problem. A sinking foundation is often due to poor soil preparation.
Foundation upheaval is the opposite of a sinking foundation. Foundation upheaval happens when one part of the home’s foundation is pushed upward until it gets higher than the rest of the structure. That primarily occurs when you build the house on expansive clay soil. When exposed to moisture, expansive clay soils can expand significantly. The source of water may be flooding or a plumbing leak.
It is not uncommon for tiny cracks or hairline fissures to appear in a building’s foundation as the structure settles. But if those cracks become wider than 15mm, that is the sign of foundation problems, especially if those cracks run in a horizontal direction. Cracks in a foundation may be caused by excessive foundation settlement or vegetation that grows too close to the building.
Before you buy a house with foundation issues
The first thing to know is that you can fix foundation problems, but a lot depends on the cause of the problem, the type of foundation, and how long the problem has been there. Generally, the longer a foundation problem has been allowed to go on, the more difficult it is to fix it. Before you ever think of buying a house with foundation problems, do these:
Have the foundation inspected
The only professionals trained to do a proper evaluation of a home’s foundation are structural engineers. A licensed structural engineer can identify the cause of the problem, the degree of damage and recommend solutions if there are any. Note that lenders and insurance companies only accept foundation inspection reports prepared by a licensed structural engineer.
Get an estimate of the cost of repairs
If the inspection report shows that the foundation can be repaired, get a foundation repair company to tell you how much it will cost to fix it. Compare estimates from at least three reputable companies. Ask the companies if they offer guarantees for their work. Do not go with the lowest quote; choose the company that has the most comprehensive solution and the best track record.
Should you buy a house with foundation problems?
It depends on the cost of foundation repair and the permanence of the solution. If the foundation problem is reparable and you can do it at a reasonable price. There is no reason not to buy a house, even if it has foundation problems. Buying a property with foundation problems is one of the best ways to buy a home well below its market value.
The only way the owner of a home with foundation damage can attract buyers is by listing their home below its market value. If you can find and fix such a home, you will often end up paying a lot less than it is worth. After repairing that home, you can turn around and sell it for instant profits, if you want. That is a time-tested strategy used by lots of seasoned property investors.