Condo With Possible Foundation Issues

richardlyon33August 16, 2014

Hello Gardenwebbies, I am looking to purchase an 850 sq ft condo after living in a 600 sq ft condo for two decades. I am extremely wary of foundation issues because many buildings at my present location have cracks in the walls, ceiling, and sidewalks. Not to mention doors and windows that do not close properly. On top of that, the management and board do not seem to think that this is a high priority, and have taken no preventative measures. Also the property is adjacent to the "Medical Center" and that means ambulance sirens and helicopter fly overs. After looking at real estate listings for a few months, I decided on this particular unit in a nice gated complex with 1-car garages. Today was the day of the home inspection, and as I entered the complex to meet the inspector, noticed some workmen working in trenches around one building. I asked them what they were doing and was informed that they were repairing the foundation. That was of course a red flag, but then it was not the building where my prospective unit was located. I went over to the unit and met the inspector and he began talking into his voice recorder "gutter too close to building, no flashing around chimney, tree root lifting sidewalk, stair rail loose" etc. Of course his job is to check every little thing, but I was completely alarmed. Then we got inside but the power had not been turned on by the seller, as it was an empty unit. Nicely remodeled I should add, granite counter, glass backsplash, new appliances, laminate floors. The only thing they didn't get to was the tub and surround which is a disappointment. In case anybody is wondering they're asking $75K. That is about average; price per sq foot is about $100 give or take here in south texas. My question is, should I be concerned that one building in the complex has foundation issues? Should I be relieved that at least they are tending to the problem unlike at my present complex? Is that to be expected in a 34 year old property? The funny thing is that it is on completely level ground, whereas my present condo complex is on a hill. That makes little difference I am sure. I have 7 days left to back out of the contract, and since the power wont' be on until 3 or 4 more days so it is cutting it close.

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What did your inspector advise?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 8:06AM
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He did not continue with the inspection because the power was not on. The seller should have it on by Tuesday and he will finish then, leaving me 4 days to decide before the option time is up. But I did speak to the manager of the complex, who assured me that all buildings have new roofs and any leaks are dealt with immediately.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 11:19AM
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Tough one. I once walked away from a condo purchase because there were serious water leakage problems, which the seller had unsuccessfully tried to have addressed by the HOA for years.

However, it sounds great that the HOA is addressing the issue. I would try to find out what potential other repairs can be expected and how they will be paid for, i.e. how financially secure is the association, do they have a 10-year plan, any future assessments.

You should have received condo documents, and it may be useful to have them evaluated by an accounting firm specifically dealing with condo associations.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 12:50PM
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The real estate agent told me that the condo documents were coming soon. The unit is on the top floor so I do not anticipate water leak issues from an upstairs neighbor, but the inspector did notice the flashing around the chimney stack appeared to be missing and it had caused damage (at one point) to the exterior electric meter closet that is adjacent to the chimney. Where I live now, we had a major waste water drainage blockage that affected my building only. Twenty four units were unable to flush the toilet for about 4-5 days. It appears a tree root had caused an accumulation of non-dissolving items. The manager said a towel may have been flushed. I blame non-flushable baby wipes. Other supply and drain line issues persisted over the years resulting in 8-hour water shut-offs and culminating in the Association taking out a loan to fix the issue, rather than raise the monthly assessment fees or use the reserve money.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 1:12PM
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In that case, I'd wait for the condo documents and go over them very, very carefully to see how/whether they address and pay for these issues.

I'd also try to talk to the HOA or the building engineer/ administration. Again, I walked from my contract because the HOA and building maintenance refused to give me any answers and even said that there were no problems, contrary to the evidence.

Also, how well maintained does the property look? I'd also talk to some of the neighbors.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 4:19PM
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Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding... Nosoccermom got it right. Speak to the neighbors. They will know more than your agent, the inspector, and the HOA combined.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 4:24PM
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Will try to speak with the neighbors, the only one I saw was monopolizing the maintenance man's time and attention. I think he may have been a vacation property owner, who doesn't get the opportunity to speak with him in person. on the other hand he could have been just a pain in the butt. I will certainly ask for the documents and there is also a delay in handing over the garage door opener. I would definitely want to see the inside of the garage before I make any decision.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 6:10PM
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a lot of land in or near the Texas Gulf coast is clay subsoil - which shrinks when dry and expands when wet - thus it is totally normal to have foundation problems but they need to be addressed by the owner/management folks - sounds like this property is doing something about it. I had neighbors behind me and across the side street who had major foundation problems but I didn't have any issues (this was a house on the West side of Houston) so one never knows. It is just something to be aware of the potential for a problem.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 6:59PM
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The inspection was performed, and other than normal wear and tear, the unit is in very good condition. New AC, air ducts, adequate insulation. All the appliances in working order. The garage is in average shape; the garage door opener appears to the be an older chain driven unit. The exterior wood trim sags a bit, but he says that is normal. The floor is ever so slightly sloping in one direction; again within the "normal" range. I suppose because it's on the second/top floor. Double pane windows all have the airtight seals compromised, unfortunately, including the sliding door and the French door. Fixable but not-so-easy. And the tile tub surround is in bad shape around the knob and has to be repaired, including the backing wall. But hey, for $75K? Not too terrible in my opinion. He says he doesn't see any foundation issue that would warrant me backing out.

This post was edited by richardlyon33 on Tue, Aug 19, 14 at 23:46

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:07AM
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Sounds like nothing that can't be fixed.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:16AM
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