Purchasing a house is one of the largest investments you’re ever likely to make. The standard mortgage payment ceiling is an astounding 28 percent of a homeowner’s income.
With this much cash on the line it’s only natural that you’re looking for homes that don’t require many repairs. It’s a difficult task, as most houses need at least one thing fixed.
Many potential homeowners find their “dream home” soiled when they learn the house may have foundation problems. Fixing a foundation is possible, but very quickly gets expensive.
Understanding what you’re up against when dealing with a foundation can help you decide whether a potential home is worth the investment.
Before you make an offer, check out our guide to deciding on homes that need a foundation repair.
Symptoms Of Foundation Problems
Foundation problems are difficult to identify to the untrained eye. Many are inconspicuous or small enough that homeowners can easily patch them prior to your walkthrough.
Knowing what to look for is the first step in financially protecting yourself. Let’s run through some of the lesser known symptoms that indicate potential foundation repair:
- Misaligned Doors and Windows: Doors and windows that don’t shut properly could indicate a shifting foundation.
- Sloping Floors or Staircases: Settling dirt ensures no floor is perfectly level. However, a severe slope or crooked staircase means fully releveling the foundation.
- Cracked Drywall and Uneven Walls: These symptoms appear due to individual sides of the home rising or falling.
- Foundation Cracks: Normally, large foundation cracks are simple enough to spot, but sometimes homeowners seal them with concrete.
You can probably see how easy homeowners have it disguising some of these symptoms. Drywall patching, sanding down doors, and new windows all can conceal larger issues without much effort from the seller.
It’s always wise to outright ask the seller if the property has any foundation problems.
Dishonest sellers might tip their hand with a hesitation or contradiction, and reveal something you hadn’t previously spotted.
So How Bad is Too Bad?
It depends on what problems you’re looking at. If the floors are obviously sloped and the exterior foundation shows large cracks (more than 1/4 inch) than you can confidently assume the foundation needs work.
However, the exact amount of work it needs is not something the average person can discern. It’s always wise to hire a professional to evaluate the homes you’re serious about purchasing.
Home inspectors are your first line of defense against foundation issues. These jack of all trades inspectors can point out common problems, although that’s about all.
If you suspect major foundation issues, even in the slightest, you’re much better off hiring a structural engineer.
These engineers typically cost anywhere from $500-$1000 dollars for home inspections, but can save you thousands upon thousands of dollars in the long run.
Have the engineer go over any and all problem points in your home. If you decide to purchase the house anyway, you’ll have someone to consult with who’s familiar with the property.
We advise always taking the engineer’s advice seriously, and getting a second opinion if you’re wary of anything. Locking yourself into a 30-year money siphon is very possible with foundation issues.
So Should I Buy Despite The Foundation Repair?
This is the million dollar question. Is the home worth purchasing despite its foundation problems?
Unfortunately, the answer to this questions is only available on a case-by-case basis. The variables between homes are enormous, and what’s right for one person isn’t right for another.
The best we can do is explain the decision-making process. Consider these thoughts when deciding to purchase your new home.
How’s Our Budget?
Many homebuyers make the mistake of only budgeting enough money for the initial home purchase. These are the people who max out their mortgage with zero foresight.
Buying a home with foundation issues means you absolutely must keep room in your budget for foundation repair.
When we say make room, we mean make a lot of room. Foundation repair is one of those projects where unexpected costs always arise.
Just rebuilding part of the foundation, without any other issues, costs into the tens of thousands of dollars.
What Does The Bank Think?
It’s not terribly common, but some lenders won’t approve your mortgage if the home has obvious structural issues.
No lender wants to sink money into a property that could potentially bankrupt the homeowner. Remember, the bank is gambling on your ability to pay back the loan.
If you don’t make good on your mortgage payments the bank themselves are stuck fixing the foundation issues.
However, this doesn’t mean foundation repairs immediately disqualify your mortgage. A structural engineer’s report detailing your situation often eases lender apprehension.
Can We Negotiate a Discount?
Many sellers eager to move on from their home are open to offering discounts. Show the seller your engineer’s report and make an offer lower than the asking price.
Realtors talk, and once yours know about the foundation problem you can guarantee the local realty market will know as well.
Use your advantage to negotiate down the sale price to match the estimated cost of your foundation repairs.
Fifty thousand dollar foundation repair, surely it’s only fair to knock $50,000 off the asking price.
Foundation problems can cause untold headaches for homeowners. It’s imperative that potential homebuyers recognize any and all foundation issues they may run across during their search.
This doesn’t mean that homes with structural damage are worthless, rather that homebuyers need to take appropriate caution.
Follow our guide and you should have no issue recognizing and handling any foundation issues that come your way.
Who knows, with the right negotiation you could turn a crumbling foundation into an extra few thousand dollars in your pocket.
If you’re living in the Dallas area and need an expert on foundations, contact us online.
We help homebuyers, home sellers, and average homeowners make sure their foundation is structurally sound.
When you need any foundation work, or have questions about your homes backbone, we’re always ready to help.