For most people, a house is the most expensive investment they will ever make. Obviously, as with every investment, there are always hurdles to negotiate before final decisions are made. And some hurdles can seem unsurmountable, real deal breakers. Take structural problems, for instance. Fundamental problems that affect safety and value can torpedo seller-owner negotiations before they ever get off the ground. And the stigma surrounding issues with home foundation, are the worst deal killers of all.
However, foundation issues are not the deal crusher they once were. More often than not, the geology around a house is the problem, rather than poor construction quality or negligence by previous owners. Concrete slabs and pier and beam foundations can give problems when underlying, and undetected substrate geology causes degredation. Long term erosion, water intrusion, climate, plumbing leaks and a wide array of problems with varying outcomes. Statistically, about 25% of all homes experience some form of structural distress over time. And about 5% exhibit some form of major structural distress in their lifetime.Thankfully, almost all these problems can be rectified with modern techniques and newer material science.
I got in touch with Tim Tracy, who is with Groundworks Companies, America’s largest foundation services company in order to answer a few common questions potential homeowners have where the issue of foundation damage is concerned. Here’s the brief Q & A we had.
RBN: One of the first questions a buyer might ask if the foundation of a prospective home is called to question is, "Why did the seller not inform us about this problem beforehand?" In your experience, how often do foundation problems go undetected?
Tim Tracy: This happens often enough for protections to be put in place for a real estate buyer, such as the property disclosure statement. This was an effort to prevent this from happening to a homebuyer. Foundation issues can often go unnoticed by homeowners but whether you are buying or selling a home, it is in everyone’s best interest to have your home inspected by a professional. That way there are no surprises for the buyer or the seller in the process.
RBN: If you can, could you give examples of problems that can easily be rectified versus a few "dealbreakers?"
Tim Tracy: All foundation issues should not be overlooked, whether they seem minor or not. Although the cost will vary, most issues can be fixed. Once a home inspection is completed and the buyer is aware of the severity of the foundation issues, it will be up to them to decide if the damage is a dealbreaker or not.
RBN: Another question homebuyers will ask deals with the costs of foundation repairs. Can you briefly outline some general figures?
Tim Tracy: The cost to fix foundation problems varies by location across the U.S. and depends on the severity of the issue at hand. That is another reason it is so important to identify the key issues that may be caused by a deteriorating or damaged foundation as early as possible. The average starting cost nationwide to make foundation repairs, according to Inch Calculator, is $3,500, with advanced repairs costing closer to $10,000. In major metro areas, the average cost is even greater – from $14,000 in Virginia Beach, VA, to $11,000 in Raleigh, NC, and $14,500 in Denver, CO, to $50,595 in Washington, D.C. Remember that foundation issues only get worse over time, so it is important to make sure to get these items taken care of sooner rather than later. There are a variety of options, but you want to make sure you find a permanent solution - not just the cheapest repair. Talk to a foundation repair specialist about financing options to make the costs more manageable. Again, the severity of the damage and what types of repairs used to fix that damage is going to vary and affect the cost differently.
RBN: How much attention should potential home buys put on foundation issues as opposed to other potential problems?
Tim Tracy: Because foundation issues can be such a huge undertaking to repair, most would agree that it is important to pay special attention to the signs when having a home inspected. Foundation issues can be a major problem, not just structurally, but also for the overall health of your family.
Tracy, was previously a Certified Field Inspector (CFI) at the Manassas branch of JES Foundation Repair™ (JES), one of the 11 brandsthe Groundworks family of brands. Earlier this year, Tim was counceling homeowners to take heed of the coming hurricane season and offering tips for preparadeness. His suggestions, and the fact that structural problems go unnoticed in a percentage of home sales, suggests to me that sellers and buyers are well advised to get independent experts involved.
My preliminary research for this report turned up some alarming situations many homebuyers may not be aware of. For instance, this NPR report found that the the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sells flood prone homes to unsuspecting buyers. An NPR investigation found that the reposessed homes HUD sells are disproportionately located in flood-prone places. Given global climatic changes, it seems logical to assume drought and wet weather problems will become more of a problem.