Foundation issues on an inspection report on older home.

kellienoelleJanuary 14, 2013

I am going to cross post this here from The Old Homes forum since I have been posting here and perhaps somebody has some background with this type of situation. Any advice would be appreciated!

Hello all, I am continuing my quest on moving from my 1990s suburban home to a house with a bit more age and charm. As older homes are new to me, I am not sure what is a substantial, and want is just part of owning an older house. In the 1937 house that we are considering, we noticed some steel braces in the basement, as well as some bowing to the block foundation which the braces were obviously installed to address. I was able to obtain an inspection report. Here is the most worrisome point regarding the foundation...
"subtantial bowing and crack was observed on mainly the north wall, but also on the west and east walls. This is usually the result of excessive soil or frost pressure on the foundation. Part of the north wall has been reinforced with steel beams. It is standard practice for cracks to be sealed during foundation repairs. Unsealed cracks were observed in several locations. Additionally drywall cracking and sticking doors were observed suggesting movement has occured since the foundation repairs. Since repairs may be needed to protect the building from more serious damage, a structural engineer who is familiar with foundation repair or a company specializing in foundation repairs should be consulted to evaluate the condition and suggest corrective measures. Lot drainage and foundation should be addressed to keep water away from building."

So, a walk away immediately situation, or is this not uncommon and worthy of proceeding with an evaluation by a structural engineer and having the sellers correct to his specifications. The yard needs work so we know we'll have to do some grading of the yard to ensure water flows away from the foundation to prevent further damage.

My husband is in the run away camp, while I am still interested in at least seeing what somebody who knows a whole lot more than me do says about it. Honestly we have some cracks and sticking doors in our current "newer" house so I think its isn't out of the ordinary.

Any advice?

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I'd probably run away. Where'd you get the inspection report? If from the sellers, then why haven't they also had a structural engineer's report to find out how to remedy it?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 12:29AM
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If the sellers are willing to fix it, then what is the problem? If they are not, I would not persue it.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 8:16AM
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We won't know what needs to be fixed until it is addressed by an engineer who specializes in this type of thing. I say, let's get it looked at by somebody much smarter than I am. My husband is ready to walk away. This concerns me because I have a feeling that when you are dealing with much older homes than we are used to, if we continue to run from anything that may just be common to all older homes than we'll end up selling our house in the suburbs to buy another house in the suburbs. We have a perfectly lovely house now which has just been sold, I don't want to just buy a similar one. This entire exercise was to move to the charming area of older homes closer to the city.

The inspection came from the seller's REA. There was a contract on the houes (two actually by the same buyer) and this is the inspection that resulted. I don't know what happened to the buyer. I don't know why they made and retracted two seperate offers. I don't know why the sellers didn't go ahead with the evaluation by the structural engineer. I don't know that we will ever know any of those things. I do know that they have been transfered so don't live in the city anymore. Maybe it is just more difficult to arrange for things that way.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:43AM
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When we were considering buying our (first home) one house we looked at had a structural issue. As first time buyers, it wasn't something we wanted to mess with and so we never went to hire a structural engineer.

It could be that your previous buyer retracted the first offer after the inspection (through inspection contingency), then submitted another (lower) offer contingent upon the structural engineer's findings. And, after that finding, they weren't interested in persuing the house. It would be fabulous *IF* you could find that original offer's REA and get the back story. But, I wouldn't hold your breath.

If you need a structural engineer's report/findings and it hasn't already been paid for, be prepared to pay for that engineering report. (which will probably include a soils report/soil engineer)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 10:10AM
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A foundation that has been repaired and is still buckling and having moisture infiltration problems is a very serious issue. Enough so that it's puzzling that after several offers and inspections from non specialists that the owner wouldn't get their own engineer's report. Perhaps they are afraid of what he'd find, and then they would be required to share that with any future buyers. So, they don't get the report, and put the onus on the buyer to do so.

IF the sellers would pay for the report, I think I'd let the offer ride for now subject to that report. If they refuse, then you could pay for it yourself. ($500-$700 would be typical) but, you might be out that money if the report comes back with major work being needed and you decided to walk away.

The problem is obviously more of a serious nature, and the fix will be in the thousands to fix it. How many thousands depends on the root cause and the ultimate fix. Completely regrading a lot with mature trees in existance on it that is adjacent to an easement not owned by you is fraught with unknown costs, including the potential for having to remove several trees and paying to connect to a storm drain instead of just doing some type of swale to direct water away from the house.

I think that if you truly LOVE this house, that you should consider this part of the birth pangs of acquiring it. IF you can get it cheap enough. What "cheap enough" is, well, that will be up in the air until the engineer's report. Getting that report is probably worth it to you, simply because you've fallen in love.

And, the other flip side to that is, if you provide the homeowners a copy of that engineer's report, they are required to disclose that information to any future buyers, so that would be the absolute FIRST thing I'd do with the report. Make them a copy, send it registered mail. They can't deny the facts now. And now, they are required to share them. This is going to sound nasty, but it "contaminates the field" for the sellers. They can't claim ignorance then. They either have to reduce the price to deal status for you or anyone else who might consider the property, or else they have to keep paying the mortgage on a house they've already moved from, or they have to let it go into foreclosure. Either way, you're the winner here, because you're the bird in the hand. If you push that angle, then you might end up with a substantial price reduction to make it worth repairing the foundation and drainage issues.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 10:26AM
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Great advise. My REA seems to think that the findings are not problematic, but a "punchbox" on the inspectors sheet followed by almost a CYA clause (I work in healthcare, I know all about those), and the repairs would be less than $1,000. I told her with all due respect I would wait to hear that from a professional. And then I also said pretty much what GD said. If it isn't a big deal, and such a cheap fix, then why wouldn't they do that to move the house? She's looking into it.

Regarding the structural engineer, I have mixed feelings. Obviously it needs to be done, but if I was the one to pay for it, I feel maybe I would get a much more thorough report than one found by the sellers.

FYI, I did have a friend (who happens to be a structural engineer who works in a management role for larger construction projects, not residential) come and look at the house. He pointed out pretty much everything that was indicated on the inspection report, but didn't think they were things to absolutely run away from. However he obviously recommended a thorough report by somebody more familiar with this type of situation than he is. We got the name of the engineering firm he would use, so obviously feel comfortable providing our own if we decide to go that route.

GreenDesigns - we gave up on the house with the easement because of fear of the unknown with what would happen there, so this is a new house. Unfortunately, we are going to have to make some sacrifices along the way since I am positive I will not find anything "perfect". But I just want to make sure that we are reasonable, but not stupid, if that is possible. Plus, we have sold our house, so the clock is ticking!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 11:50AM
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First, I doubt it's a $1000 fix.

It's not something that would make me walk immediately, but it is something which would make me walk if there are other options out there.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 12:54PM
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Ok, update. They did have a foundation expert come and look at it based on the inspection. Why that wasn't a part of the paperwork up front is beyond me because it seems important. They felt like it was stable. They compared finding from Nov to those in May (we had a horrible drought here resulting in settling concerns in many houses) and didn't see any sign of recent movement.

So, we are going to get our own inspection by a structural engineer and go from there. The cost is $325, and yes, we'll be out the money if there is something major they find and we have to walk away.

Apparently, this house is part of a relocation deal, so I don't know how that factors into that as far as being easier or worse to deal with. Any thoughts on that?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:58PM
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When we relocated and were selling our house, our company required us to fix certain things on the inspection list for it to go through.

Other than that, companies typically cover selling expenses and otherwise try to facilitate a sale, so theoretically they're easier. Some say you can get them for less (or say you should offer less on a relo) because companies sometimes make up the difference.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 10:47PM
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When a Realtor, I worked with many relo companies, as a buyer agent and a seller agent. Like all things in real estate there are no hard and fast rules. It varies from company to company and seller to seller. Relocation is typically part of a benefits package and not all sellers receive the same benefits.

Most will require the listing agent to submit a lengthy report on the house and conditions. Many will require fixes as weedy mentioned.

As to getting them for less: it depends entirely upon the relocation benefits package the seller has received. I've seen a wide range of benefits from the type indicated by weedy to a simple "bonus" for using the real estate company associated with the relo firm. Not all sellers will get the selling expenses covered, and many do not, and not all sellers will get the difference in prices made up. Actually this is less and less common.

In my experience the only thing that was easier about a relo was that the sellers definitely needed to sell and to sell quickly.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 11:16AM
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Hi. I rented an old bungalow with serious retaining wall problems (like yours) and bought an oldster cottage (1924), where the retaining wall looked fine visually when I bought it but six years in it crumbled. Not that big a deal. I have good workmen, and we dismantled the wall from the inside and built a form heavily reinforced by rebar and repoured that section of wall--all from the inside. The thing that worries me about your deal is that your sellers did not fix this before listing the house. A classy seller would have been all over this. If it had been me, I would want to offer the cleanest, structurally soundest home possible. Based on that issue, I think I would walk. Unless you are in LOVE--and it does not sound like you are. Old houses will offer a few challenges now and then (not that many, actually, if you do good maintenance), but they are a joy. Another one will show up.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 8:07PM
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" A classy seller would have been all over this. "

Not everyone has money to pour into repairs on a place they are selling.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:51AM
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