Selling a House with Foundation Issues? We’ve Cracked the Code for You

One of the scariest homeowner repairs to face is that of foundation issues. The foundation is what holds everything together, the support, and the base! And if your foundation is in rough shape, you may encounter many other subsequent problems. We recently worked with a couple, Denise and Frank, who had purchased a home in 2002, which has since shown signs of major foundation problems. There were cracks in their pool, the concrete surrounding the home, and the door getting to the backyard would get jammed all of the time. What do you think happened when Denise and Frank listed the property with an agent? You guessed it- potential buyers ran for the hills as soon as the words were uttered “foundation problems.” The house was in otherwise nice condition, but the looming possibility of major repairs or foundation replacement was too much for homeowners to swallow. Without the funds to fork out for the renovations prior to sale, Frank and Denise came to us to see if we would take on a project like theirs.

A common misconception about “foundation problems”

One of the most common misconceptions about foundation cracks and problems is that people think that the problem is in fact the “foundation” itself. Granted, there are some cases where your concrete can be deteriorating because the mix had too much salty sand or too much water (a common issue for homes built in the 1900’s).

But, in most cases, the problem is due to settling. Or, more simply, your soil! With changes in weather and other elements, soil expands and retracts and ultimately shifts underneath the structure of your home. Some of these shifts are normal, anticipated, and aren’t a cause for concern at all. But, while a little bit of expansion and foundation shifts can be expected, there can still be consequences to your home. Now that you know that cracks in concrete and block foundations are normal, the trick is determining which are harmless and which are serious.

Hints that you may have a settling and foundation issue:

  • Alignment that is off in your windows/doors
  • Windows become difficult to shut or have cracks in the glass, and the doors stick or jam shut
  • Sloping of your floors or staircases
  • Drywall cracks and gaps between the wall and ceiling
  • Large gaps outside in the concrete around the house
  • Cracks beginning to show in vinyl and ceramic tile
  • Wood planks in your flooring are becoming ajar
  • Water in the basement or crawl spaces of your house

Not all Cracks are Created Equal

settling crack issuesNow that you know a bit more about why foundation problems occur and what to look for, here is some insight as to how you’ll determine severity.

  • Less than ¼ inch: As a rule of thumb, most often, these small cracks are typical and occur as the house settles. Don’t worry too much yet.
  • Hairline cracks: These take place between the mortar in concrete and are not usually worth losing sleep over, either.
  • L-Shape location: These take place where the foundation steps down (to follow the curvature of a hillside etc.) and are probably shrinkage cracks. This may not mean structural damage, but the cracks should be addressed and sealed so leaking doesn’t happen.
  • Masonry join cracks or “stair step:” These are more serious, especially if the crack is larger than a ¼ inch and the wall is misshapen or bulges out.
  • Horizontal cracks: These are scary. In this case, the foundation is broken by the soil and you may potentially need an entirely new foundation for your home to be stabilized and to prevent further damage.

At this point, you might know which type of foundation issue you are dealing with and the question remains: should you sell your house as-is or should you fix it up and then sell?

Your options in selling a home with foundation problems:

  1. Fix the issues and then sell the home – First things first if you know you have a potential issue at hand – hire a structural engineer (not a home inspector) to come and take a look at the property if you’re considering fixing the issue before selling. Receiving an educated assessment from a foundation expert is very important in this case because it is sometimes very hard to see foundation issues until things are torn up. This will give you an idea of actual cost for repairs. The assessment will run you between $300-800. If your foundation requires anchor bolts or new support piers beneath the foundation, this can cost between $5,000-$10,000. Furthermore, if issues require extensive repair or entire replacement, costs can quickly escalate to $20,000-$40,000 depending on the size of your home and scope of work. If you can afford to put in the work, buyers may be less weary to place an offer on your home because they know that all of the heavy lifting and tough renovations have already taken place. Because of this, fixing the problems may be in your best interest in getting buyers to “bite.”
  2. Try to sell the home with its foundation issues – If you know that your property needs extensive repairs, buyers who are looking for an investment property may see this as an opportunity to provide value. Many other buyers, on the other hand, will see the words “foundation repairs” and automatically think “money pit.” . If a buyer isn’t afraid of renovations, that doesn’t mean that their lender is okay with it. With many stricter traditional lenders, like VA and HUD, their programs require that the home is structurally sound. Many buyers will be denied financing from lenders, or be subject to higher interest rates or unfavorable loan parameters, which will likely steer them away from your home and in another direction. So, if you decide to sell the home as it is, understand that many typical or traditional buyers will not have an easy time qualifying to buy it.

Option 3: Selling Your House Direct to a Buyer Who Likes Repairs

Your last option, which is the route that our friends Denise and Frank took, is to leave the foundation as it is and sell the home to an investor buyer like us who is prepared to make the required renovations. Because extensive repairs can make a significant dent in anyone’s bank account, its not always realistic to expect homeowners to fix their foundation before selling. And honestly, it shouldn’t be expected of sellers either. Foundation repairs require expert consultation and construction services, its not a renovation project to take on lightly. There are many cases in which we have purchased properties where the homeowner hired someone to fix major issues, and as it turned out, they really just made the problem worse. By selling direct, you can avoid all of the hassle and commitment in fixing your scary foundation problem. We gladly take on your problems with no questions asked, because we know how to address them. With a full in-house construction company, we have the network and resources to handle these issues with ease. So, if you’d like to sell your house as it is without worrying about the repairs – we can absolutely help you. No lending nightmares here. We can close when you want, as soon as you’d like.