You’re out there looking at homes online and in person, hoping to find a hidden gem. Friends and family love to give you advice on this process and you have heard to watch out for foundation problems.
“Foundation problems are a dealbreaker,” they say . . . “But homebuying is fun,” they say . . .
Well, now you’re like, “Ummm, no this isn’t any fun! I don’t know the first thing about foundation issues. How will I even know if a home has a problem?”
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been spotting foundation problems for thousands of Brazos Valley homeowners since 1985. We know that when you’re looking to buy a house, there are several ways that foundation issues can be revealed to you. We can share about them because we are often a part of this process.
In this article, we will unearth three ways that homeowners can find out about foundation problems in a prospective home.
- You Notice Signs Yourself on a Walkthrough
- The Seller’s Disclosure Tells You
- A General Home Inspection Reports It
Let’s dig in and find out more about how foundation issues are uncovered as you are shopping for a “new to you” home.
1. Indicators of Foundation Problems You Might Notice on a Walkthrough
You or your real estate professional noticed a few “flaws” during your visit to the property. Are they foundation-related or something else? If you’re buying a home that has been “pre-lived in,” it’s not going to be perfect in every way. Normal wear and tear from previous residents are bound to happen. How do you know what to be concerned about?
Here are the 5 most common true indicators of a foundation issue in no particular order:
- Diagonal Cracks on Interior Walls
- Exterior Brick Cracks
- Doors Sticking or Not Latching
- Gapping or Separation of Exterior Trim
- Movement of Wood Trim and Other Inside Fixtures such as built-ins or cabinetry
We also get asked about many things that are not necessarily indicators of foundation issues, especially if you are seeing just one symptom all by itself and nothing else. Foundation problems tend to present themselves in combinations and it is rarely “just one thing.”
To help you out a little further, check out this picture guide: Is Foundation Repair Needed? Real and False Problem Signs. You will want to first make sure that the signs you saw are really even a cause for concern, the guide will help you sort that out.
2. The Seller’s Disclosure Can Indicate Any Existing Foundation Issues or Repair
Your Realtor® should provide a “Seller’s Disclosure” for you to review if you are considering making an offer on a home. It is required by Texas law that one be completed by sellers on a single-unit residential property.
The Wiki-explanation of this disclosure document is: “A seller disclosure statement is a form disclosing the seller’s knowledge of the condition of the property. The seller disclosure notice or statement is anecdotal and does not serve as a substitute for any inspections or warranties the purchaser may wish to obtain.”
One thing to keep in mind about this document is that the seller may or may not have actual knowledge about the property, especially if they didn’t live in it. If they didn’t live there (like in the case of a rental property or inherited home), they might not have much actual knowledge of the condition.
BUT, if they do know something, they are required to disclose it. It’s against the law if they don’t disclose something that they know. So what does this have to do with foundation repair, you ask? If sellers know of confirmed foundation issues with an inspection report, have a bid from a foundation repair company, or have had foundation repair already, they have to tell you about it on the form.
If they have had a previous foundation inspection indicating problems, they probably also know the cost of repairing it. You should ask for the price they were quoted and from what company. Are they taking this cost into account in the pricing of the home?
If they have had the foundation repaired, find out how long ago the repair was completed. This information will be helpful to know moving forward. If it hasn’t been too long, hopefully, you won’t be seeing any signs of foundation issues anymore if cosmetic repairs were done following the foundation repair. If there are still symptoms present in the home, it might mean that the repair was not effective or the home is still experiencing settling and movement.
3. A General Home Inspection Notes Signs of Foundation Settlement
So maybe you didn’t see any signs around the home, and the seller’s disclosure didn’t indicate anything either. This is where home inspections come in to help.
It is highly recommended to have a general home inspector come out to review the condition of the property for you. If conditions that might point to a foundation problem are present (or damage is present caused by foundation movement), the inspection report will note it.
About General Home Inspections in General
It’s important to understand that a general home inspection report is not a “pass or fail” test. Homes do not “pass” inspections, homes do not “fail” inspections either. It’s a condition report, not a scorecard or grade. It is also only a snapshot of the condition at that moment, it gives no promises, predictions, or guarantees on the future performance of the home.
A home inspector’s job is to identify current problems as well as point out things that are no longer “up to code.” Building codes change over time (typically for the better), but not everything has to be up to code for a home sale to be completed–this is a common misconception.
Inspections give you awareness of the current codes and any existing problems or conditions that could lead to problems later.
For a “non-new” home, expect that there will be many items noted on the inspection report. Expect that there will be many more items than you would ever expect. It doesn’t mean a home is in bad condition if many things are mentioned. Inspectors note every little nit-picky thing, even stuff you don’t really care about.
What to Focus on in a General Home Inspection
The main thing is to not freak out about home inspection results. It’s going to be a lot of stuff, especially if it is an older home you are looking to buy. The older the home, the longer the list of notations will likely be.
Your experienced agent will help you weed out the important things from the not-so-important things to be worried about and ask for repairs on during contract negotiations.
You can and should ask for concessions on the things most important to you that you feel you can’t live without, can’t fix yourself easily, or are higher dollar repairs.
Can you live with a slightly rusty outdoor faucet? Probably. Can you trim back some bushes so they are not touching the house? Most likely. Can you do small fixes that cost less than ten dollars and take less than ten minutes? Sure. Can you fix your own foundation? Nope.
Asking for only a few larger things to be repaired or negotiated on will likely get you the results you want. Asking for everything to be fixed will get you nowhere fast with a seller.
How Home Foundation Repair Inspections Work
Let’s say a general home inspector notes some evidence of foundation settlement on the inspection report. Now what? Depending on the amount and severity of foundation settlement or damage to the home, the general inspector might recommend further assessment by a foundation repair professional or structural engineer.
A general inspection only points out problems, while a home foundation repair inspection is really a repair plan and a cost for completing the repair. This is also known as getting a quote or a bid from a foundation repair company. This “inspection” is focused on how the repairs will take place and how much it will cost.
Some foundation repair companies will charge for this service, and some don’t. Anchor Foundation Repair charges $225 for an In-Home Assessment and at the end of the visit, you will receive a written repair plan and exact pricing for the project.
Will I need to have a foundation repair inspection or not?
There are many layers to real estate transactions: time constraints, market conditions, personalities, pricing strategies, seller needs, buyer interests, just to name a few! Not every home sale with noted foundation settlement conditions will require going all the way to the step of an in-home foundation inspection.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, as part of our process to get a bid or a quote, we offer a free estimate phone call that can often get you enough information to work your home sale negotiations. After 35+ years serving the community, we can talk through signs and symptoms over the phone with pictures or video and listen to your concerns.
Now you’re wondering if you should even buy a home that has foundation issues, right? We have an article that addresses more burning buyer questions when the home you love has foundation issues and explores the negotiation options you may have in making that home yours.