Crawl Space vs. Slab foundation

jeracoMay 28, 2012

My wife and I are looking at buying a renovated bungalow in Charlotte, NC. There are two we've found which we like, both in the same neighborhood. One is slab foundation built in 1950, which we will call the "Blue house" and the other is a crawl space, or the "Green House" built in 1930. The home with the slab actually looks like it was a better renovation, but the tax value on it is almost half of the older Green house. We are excited about the fact that the taxes would be lower on the Blue house, but are concerned that the slab foundation might be the reason for the different valuation (it's factoring in future repair costs).

So here's our question: are we crazy to buy a 1950s slab foundation home? The lot has good "positive" drainage. Anyone here have a slab foundation? If so, what are the positives (or negatives) you found?

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weedyacres

In California they're the norm. So there's nothing inherently bad about slabs. If you want to move plumbing or electrical down the road it will be much more of a pain to do so, but I doubt that has anything to do with the tax valuation. Your assessor is probably just behind the times.

Our house is assessed at about 60% of market value, probably because no one has adjusted it for all the renovations we've done. We're not telling....:-)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:52PM
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writersblock

>In California they're the norm.

In FL, too. I'm not aware of anyone who's had any special problems with a properly poured slab unless they're on top of a sinkhole, in which case any foundation is in trouble, not just slab.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:55PM
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chispa

In my part of CA a crawl space is the norm and a large % of new construction have basements. I would avoid a house with a slab foundation if other choices were available - my personal preference.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 7:28PM
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sheilajoyce_gw

I have lived in coastal Southern California for 40 years, in this house 32 years and 3 differnt houses, all on slabs. The only thing you have to be careful about is if the slab cracks badly, then you have problems with any tile cracking too, etc. Also, you risk problems if you put a wood floor on top of a recently poured slab because of the moisture in the slab. Of course, we do miss the basement we had back east for storage and roomy laundry rooms.

Our daughter is in west Los Angeles with a crawl space in their house built about 1950. I do not like it because there is no insulation under their floors and the house is chilly as a result.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 11:52PM
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deee_gw

Around here tax amounts are surprisingly random. Houses that haven't sold for a while seem to have lower tax rates. Then the rates jump after they are sold to reflect the higher value. Or, the blue house owner may have appealed his tax amount while the green house owner did not. I would do more research about the tax situation before I used the figure to evaluate which home I would purchase

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:09AM
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Billl

Buy the house you like and ignore the tax value. The tax value will change on the next evaluation anyway.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:56AM
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jeraco

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses!

We did see that the blue house owner appealed the tax value and it was lowered. I wonder if that appeal is something our realtor could get his hands on?

Also, another thing I didn't mention about the Blue house is that it's all electric. I'm a big fan cooking of gas ranges. Would gas lines have to run through the slab foundation, or could the line run around the house and into the wall where the range currently sits now, against the back wall of the house?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 9:37AM
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brickeyee

"the slab foundation might be the reason for the different valuation (it's factoring in future repair costs)"

Tax assessors are not this sophisticated.

They value mainly based on recent sales in the immediate area and square feet (form an outside measurement usually).

A 30 ft x 40 ft single story house is 1200 sq. ft.

End of tax man's evaluation.

The tax valuation in many places is only remotely related to actual value.
If the assessor values at actual 'market value' (as many claim) there would be so many appeals the system would be flooded.

By evaluating uniformly over a moderate area of similar proprieties and staying below actual sales prices, the municipality collects enough money without a lot of appeals.

I have never owned a property I would even consider selling for the tax assessment.

They have always lagged actual value.

If values on the area have fallen, an appeal to force the assessment down can be worth some time, but remember that if values decline enough the rate will simply be increased to recoup the money.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:11AM
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brickeyee

And having a crawl space often allows better access to any utilities instead of bedding them into or below a slab.

You also have the option of better insulation (and the ability to upgrade) under the floor.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:13AM
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kirkhall

Brickeye,
My house just appraised at EXACTLY the county assessor's number. Coincidence? (it is really low, imo... you'll see my thread elsewhere though).

It would be awesome to get the house with greater access, and then get the assessed value lowered.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:35PM
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brickeyee

"Coincidence?"

Yes.
Purely.

Appraisers are looking at what the lender can quickly sell the property for after a foreclosure.

The tax man wants to hit his revenue number with a minimum of appeals.

Neither is a 'willing seller, willing buyer' situation.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:52AM
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c9pilot

We renovated our slab FL house, where the gas line originally only ran to the water heater in the garage. We gutted the middle of the house and expanded the kitchen with a Wolf range, hood and prep sink on an "island" (really just one side of a galley-style kitchen, but no wall to the ceiling, so sort of an island)
To run it to the kitchen, the new gas line goes up in the attic, down the back wall of the kitchen, and inside (under?) the slab to the island, along with the hot and cold water lines. So the only jackhammering of the slab was from the new wall where everything came down, across the kitchen to the "island".
They also had to add/move drain/waste lines because we moved both sinks. The 40-yr-old drain line from the original sink had completely rusted through due to grease clogs (worst smell ever: rancid oil) and was basically draining to the ground right under the house.
Bottom line, though, is that here they are running everything through the attic now, gas and water. Drain, obviously, is still under the slab.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:06AM
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brickeyee

"To run it to the kitchen, the new gas line goes up in the attic, down the back wall of the kitchen, and inside (under?) the slab to the island, along with the hot and cold water lines. So the only jackhammering of the slab was from the new wall where everything came down, across the kitchen to the "island". "

A much harder path than across a reasonable height crawl space, and you still needed to cut into the slab.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:09AM
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kats_meow

This is just very regional. Where I am houses are on slabs and there are no basements. Occasionally you will see a house with a crawlspace, particularly older houses. Overall, while I can see the advantages, a crawlspace would probably be more likely to make a house harder to sell because people aren't used to it. To those who have only ever lived on a house with a slab it just seems not sturdy to have a space beneath your foundation (I'm not saying I feel that way -- I grew up in a house with a crawlspace -- just that I think others would feel that way).

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 2:33AM
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stinky-gardener

The real core issue of slab vs. crawl space is as Brick points out...utilities. Adding things to a house on a slab can be challenging at best. My house is on a slab, and everytime I've wanted to do something it seems, the slab is an obstacle. Changes would be more costly, and definitely more complicated and messy, with the slab scenario.

Having said that, if you don't imagine that you'll want to make any changes, it doesn't really matter.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 8:10AM
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