You’ve been looking at houses for a while and you finally found . . . THE ONE. It’s in a great location, the neighborhood is lovely, it’s everything you were looking for, so you’re ready to put in an offer and then . . . *abrupt record scratching sound* concerns come up about the foundation. Perfect home fantasy bubble popped . . .
There’s no need to bail on your deal yet, there are solutions to this foundation problem.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been assessing and repairing foundations in the Bryan-College Station area for over 35 years. We have seen thousands of homes with foundation issues in the Brazos Valley and some need repair and some don’t.
With our background and experience, we offer homeowners practical thought on foundation problems and give peace of mind about how to handle these issues moving forward.
In this article, we will go over some key considerations on how to work through making the best decision for you and your potential “new” home. We want you to feel good about any home you’re buying and start your future off right by addressing the big questions you have on your mind right now:
1. Can I buy a home that has or needs foundation repair?
2. How do I know for sure that foundation repair is needed?
3. Do I have to get the foundation issues repaired or not?
4. How much would it cost to get the foundation repairs anyway?
5. How can we negotiate the sale taking the foundation repairs into account?
6. Should I even buy a home that needs foundation repair?
We know you’ve got lots to think about, so let’s get to it by answering your most pressing questions.
1. CAN I buy a home that has or needs foundation repair?
You can most certainly buy a home that has had foundation repair. If the foundation repair has already been completed, great, nothing is stopping you from a financial standpoint. You can still get financing for homes that have had past foundation repair.
As for a home that needs foundation repair, the answer is still yes. There might be some negotiating or compensation for repairs from the seller (which we will discuss later on) but this CAN be worked out.
Consider the fact that thousands of homes in our area have been affected by foundation settlement. It’s a very common issue in this area that can be worked around and homes are being bought and sold all the time with these issues.
“I have been in the area long enough to know that any home can be sold with the right terms. Seldom do I see a home that absolutely cannot sell because of foundation settlement. I do know that it will make a certain set of buyers uneasy and the price may need to be altered or concessions made to account for the potential for foundation repairs.”Craig Tripp – Anchor Foundation Repair Owner, CEO, El Presidente, and Foundation Repair Extraordinaire
Your loan type is a factor in whether the repairs need to be done.
Depending on the type of financing you are using, you may or may not have a choice in whether the repairs have to get done or not. If it is a (rare) all-cash deal, you can pretty much handle it however you like. If it is a conventional loan, sometimes you have choices too.
There are certain kinds of loans and financing or even your chosen lender that might require that the repairs be done before closing. VA (Veteran’s Affairs) loans and FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans are two types of loans that have more restrictions about the home’s condition. Certain lenders can also choose to have policies that require particular repairs.
Talk to your lender and find out if there are any restrictions or requirements with foundation repairs to get the loan. You can or might need to change from a more restrictive loan/lender to a less restrictive loan/lender to get the deal done in some cases. Your ability to do this depends on your financial situation.
2. How do I know FOR SURE that foundation repairs are needed?
You or your real estate professional noted 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.
General Home Inspections vs. Repair Quotes vs. Engineering Reports
Think of a general home inspector like your family doctor that knows a little about everything. A foundation repair professional like a specialist or surgeon in their particular field. While a structural engineer is like a top-level research scientist.
Each viewpoint offers different levels of detail and information about your home. Their service costs will vary and you may not need the full expertise of all of these professionals to get to the bottom of the foundation problem.
About General Home Inspections
You will likely have a general home inspection during the option period of the home buying process. General inspections present a current condition “snapshot” of the home and make no guarantees about the future.
Just because something is mentioned in a general inspection report, does not mean that a true and serious problem exists. Inspectors are very detailed in their notations, but some of the things noted can be very easily remedied DIY style, or repaired with little cost. Not everything noted on an inspection is cause for overwhelming alarm.
A general home inspector will note possible foundation issues, but they are not an “official foundation inspector.” There is actually no such thing as an official foundation inspector license or certification, but there are structural engineers which we will talk about in a moment.
“General inspectors are going to be a little more conservative in what they point out and will err on the side of caution. More often than not, they will recommend evaluation by a foundation repair company or in some cases a structural engineer,” says Craig.
About Foundation Repair Quotes
An in-home foundation inspection is done by a foundation repair company and would involve a specific repair plan and written quoted cost. But sometimes you don’t have time for that during the option period.
Since time is of the essence in real estate transactions, Anchor Foundation Repair offers a free phone estimate that can get homebuyers a quick verbal estimate to work from for negotiation purposes. We just need some photos of the problem areas and about 15 to 20 minutes on a video call.
Our full homeowner foundation repair process also includes an In-Home Assessment for $225, but extra time is needed to get this scheduled so we do not recommend it during the option period.
About Structural Engineer Reports
Structural Engineers assess buildings of all kinds and can evaluate and report on the condition of a structure in a more scientific and precise way with measurements and calculations. This level of detail is not always needed to facilitate a real estate transaction, but it can be used when necessary to get a deal done.
Engineering reports are more expensive than either a general home inspection or foundation repair assessment, so keep that in mind when deciding what services to use. If it’s worth the expense to you in the long run to get you the house you desire, then it is a useful tool for your peace of mind.
Cosmetic Damage vs. Foundation Performance
The need for foundation repairs is often a performance issue as opposed to a cosmetic one. Home settlement can cause cosmetic symptoms that don’t really hurt anybody unless you have extreme OCD. The “normal settlement” line gets crossed when it starts to affect how the home performs. Can it perform the job of keeping you safe, secure, warm, dry, etc.?
The most common safety concern would come from doors or windows not locking or latching due to foundation settlement. Cracks or trim separations large enough to let in air, water, or pests would not be keeping you warm, dry, and bug-free.
3. Do I HAVE to get the foundation issues repaired or not?
Unless your financing or lender requires it, no, you don’t have to get the foundation repaired right away. If the foundation symptoms you are seeing now do not bother you that much, then it might not be time to act.
If you see that foundation issues are increasing over time, later on, you could choose to save for future repairs when you are ready. There are some reasons to wait on getting foundation repair completed.
In the meantime, is it safe to live in a home that needs foundation repair?
Yes, you can live safely in a home that needs foundation repair. The need for foundation repair is not the kind of “safety issue” where your house is going to fall over on top of you at any moment. Foundation problems develop very slowly over many years and are not suddenly going to result in earthquake-like damage.
“There is rarely such a thing as a catastrophic loss in the business of home foundations. Most homes in the Bryan, College Station, and greater Brazos Valley area that are properly built according to code will not suffer a total failure and be ready for tear down any time soon or during the time it takes you to act on your foundation repair needs,” according to Tripp.
One safety issue that was mentioned earlier in the article is that of doors not locking or latching properly. If this is happening on an exterior door, there are certainly some temporary workarounds that you could use to keep your home secure while you wait and see if you want to move forward with foundation repair down the line.
Your feelings on the home’s performance will tell you it’s time to repair.
We talked earlier about home performance, is it doing its job to keep you safe, warm, dry, and whatnot? But also, is it doing its job to make you feel safe, secure, warm, dry, etc? Notice the word “feel” being used here. Deciding when a foundation needs repair is often a feeling of the homeowner as well. You should wait until you *feel* the time is right to repair.
If your home and foundation are not giving you the feeling of safety and security, it’s not performing well either. In other words, you can’t quantify it in numbers or measurements, but it’s still failing to perform its job for you to feel safe, secure, warm, dry, and happy even. It’s okay to wait for that feeling if it’s not right now.
Is the home in need of remodeling or has it recently been done?
Another consideration to think about is if the home has recently been updated or not. It is best to have foundation work done before remodeling because the repair process can damage new finishes. If the home has not yet been remodeled and you want to remodel, you would probably want to negotiate to get the work done.
“It makes sense to me that if a home has been remodeled or flipped before putting it on the market, then it also makes sense to not do anything to correct or stabilize the foundation until enough history in the home has been established to know whether it’s a good investment or not,” says Craig.
You will have to decide what is more important to you if the home has already been remodeled. Do you want to run the risk of ruining new work by going forward with a repair (which will result in further costs to you most likely)?
Or can you hold off until after you have some history in the home? If remodeling hasn’t been done yet, then there’s no risk of damage in repairing now or in the future.
4. HOW MUCH would it cost to get the foundation repaired anyway?
The question on everyone’s mind is always, “how much is this going to cost?” The price of things plays a huge factor in deciding to do foundation repair and doubly so if it’s during a real estate transaction. Well, the answer is, it depends on the method chosen for the foundation repair. Let’s see if we can break it down for you a little here.
There are two different repair methods available in this area.
Foundation repair companies in our area specialize in different methods. We live in a smaller community and don’t have a great number of choices in each repair method type. So really when you are choosing a foundation repair contractor around here, you are also choosing a specific repair method.
The two foundation repair methods available are the pressed pile system and the bell-bottom pier method. Each repair type has its advantages and disadvantages. To break it down into the most bare-bones of differences: pressed piles are cheaper and faster, while bell-bottom piers are higher quality and longer lasting.
It’s important to consider which method the seller of your home would choose, versus which method you would choose as a buyer. How much control do you want to have over what method gets used? This will come into play when it’s time for negotiations later.
How is the pricing different for the two methods?
Let’s consider a very average repair size to make a comparison. A typical foundation repair project might need between 15 to 20 support points. We are estimating costs to account for pricing differences between various companies, home locations, and support locations.
For pressed piles, 15 to 20 piles would cost between $7,500 to $14,000. The cost for a bell-bottom pier project of the same size, 15 to 20 piers would range in cost from $9,750 to $18,000. Exact pricing would be obtained by getting bids from the companies you choose for comparison.
5. HOW can we negotiate the sale taking foundation repairs into account?
If you have some estimated numbers to work with, your Realtor® can help you negotiate for repairs in a few ways.
Most deals can be negotiated with terms that are agreeable to both sides if everyone is willing to give and take a bit. It might take more time to get the home you want. It might cost more for the seller than they were expecting. But contracts can be amended to allow for more time or different compensations when it is worked out to make the deal happen.
Ask for a Price Reduction
Some buyers might opt to simply get a price reduction on the home instead and save money on monthly loan payments. This might work for you if you don’t really see the need for repairs to take place now, but want some compensation for the future repairs in the form of a “discounted” home price.
Compromise Cost Sharing with Seller’s Contribution to Closing Costs
This is a lot of alliteration to say that the seller will compensate you for a part of the repair costs indirectly. When writing a real estate contract, a buyer can ask a seller to pay a certain amount of the closing costs for them.
It’s kind of like when you buy a car or truck and they give a cashback incentive.
There’s a limit to the amount that can be kicked in towards a buyer’s closing costs. You would need to ask your lender what that amount or percentage would be. Don’t expect that a $20K foundation repair can be fully paid for using this method, this is where partial costs can be covered.
The seller gives money towards your closing costs, which defrays the cash you have to pay out of pocket at closing. Then you have money that you were going to use for closing costs, that can now go towards repairs later on. You can control which contractor gets used and what method is used to do the foundation repair on your home.
You do still have to “have the money” in your bank account to pay for the repairs (and you should if you were planning on buying a house). But the seller contributed in a roundabout way by saving you money on another expense.
Ask the Seller to Pay for the Repairs by Amending the Contract
Sellers can be asked to pay or complete repairs during the transaction as part of the contract. Buyers can be specific about what they want done. Sellers can pay for the repairs with money from the sale of the home. But the repairs will likely need to be done before the closing per lender requirements.
Since the seller would be paying fully for the repair, you might not have as much control over which repair contractor or which method of repair is used in a case like this. The repairs can get paid for but it could be in the seller’s control and terms if they don’t want to use who you want to use for the repair.
Just because a buyer asks for a particular repair or repair contractor, does not mean that the seller has to say “yes.” But part of negotiations is this asking and answering back and finding something agreeable to both sides.
If you do have a company in mind to use, you will need to get a bid or quote for the work from that company and attach it to the amended contract. And then the seller has to agree to it.
Time is also a factor in this situation, where everyone would need to make sure that the repairs can be completed within the timeframe of the sales contract. Sales contracts average 45 days from the end of the option period to closing.
However, option periods can be extended, and contract timelines can be adjusted as long as everyone agrees on and is okay with things taking longer than originally planned.
6. SHOULD I even buy a home that needs foundation repair?
This makes me think of the scene in Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum says, “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.” Unlike the case of bringing dinosaur DNA back to life, buying a home that needs foundation repair is not that monumental. It comes down to this: do you love this home?
If you love this home and really want it to be yours, go for it! But here are a few more “if-thens” to help you out in case you can’t decide or don’t know which option sounds best for you.
- If this is all too much for you to handle or think about, then move on to finding another home that is more move-in ready, but be prepared to possibly increase your budget.
- If your financing is restrictive on the repairs needing to be done before closing, then ask the seller to pay for the cost as part of the contract.
- If the home has recently been remodeled, then you can buy the home now and wait until you have more history in the home to determine if foundation repairs are needed.
- If you are not that bothered by the foundation symptoms, then skip the repair, buy the home “as-is” and ask for a reduced sales price to save on your monthly mortgage payments.
- If you want the repair done and you don’t care who does it (or by what method), then ask the seller to pay for the repair as part of the sales contract negotiations.
- If you want the repair done and you want to have control over what contractor or method is used, then ask the seller to help share the cost via a seller’s contribution to closing costs.
- If you still don’t know which route to choose, then ask for advice from your experienced Realtor®, who has surely dealt with this situation in the past.
- Most importantly, if you love the home, then be willing to negotiate to make it yours. This can mean some give and take from both the buyer and the seller.
TALK to Your Real Estate Professional for Help Moving Forward
Your real estate agent represents you and your interests. Tell them what is most important to you so that they can help you buy the home in question or help you find something else you are comfortable with.
All buyers and sellers have different personalities and there are infinite combinations of personality types that your Realtor® will be working to mesh together into a deal that works for you.
Focus on the ultimate goal of getting the home your heart desires and make sure you feel confident in your chosen real estate professional to guide you through.
If you want to peek in on what a seller might be thinking about during this process, check out this article about selling a home with foundation problems. See the other side of the coin for an edge and extra insight!