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How to Overcome Structural Issues When Buying or Selling a Home

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Buying a home is an exciting time! There are plenty of wish list items to look for, like the chef’s kitchen you’ve been wanting, or maybe laundry on the main floor. But before you start envisioning yourself in what seems like a shiny new home, pull back a bit and start with the most crucial part of the home – the foundation. It’s what the home is built on, after all. If what lies beneath the surface is not in good condition, it can cause lots of headaches (and cost you big).

Whether you’re a buyer with concerns about your potential new home’s foundation or a seller who has noticed some structural issues, you’ll need to take some kind of action to resolve the issue or get help.

1. What to look for when assessing foundation damage

When you’re looking at homes for sale in the Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia, areas, or really any other city for that matter, you’ll need to find out whether you’re dealing with a damaged foundation or whether those are normal cracks from the house settling. Here are some things to look for that could indicate potential foundation problems:

  • Misaligned doors and windows
  • Doors that stick or don’t latch shut
  • Windows that are difficult to open
  • Sloping floors or staircases
  • Cracked drywall
  • Gaps between wall seams or between the wall and ceiling
  • Large cracks in exterior concrete
  • Water in the basement, crawl space, or around the outside of the home

If you spot any of the above issues, it’s time to hire a structural engineer. The average home inspector often won’t know the full extent of the damage, or the cost involved to fix it.

2. Should you buy a house with foundation problems?

It all depends. If the house you’ve fallen in love with has foundation issues, and you’re house-hunting in a competitive real estate market, it might be time to start negotiating the price to help with the cost of repairs. Foundation problems can usually be corrected.

3. What about foundation cracks?

First and foremost, not all foundation cracks are created equal. Some indicate normal settling, but others can be a foundation problem. How to tell the difference? Consider the size. Thin cracks on a foundation and walls are typical of a settling house. They usually just need to be sealed to prevent water intrusion. But wide cracks could indicate a problem that needs to be addressed. If you buy a house with a foundation problem, you should be prepared to take action quickly and have the funds to do so.

4. Can you sell a house that has foundation problems?

If you know that your house has a foundation problem, you might consider fixing it before you list it. It’s pertinent to be honest and upfront with buyers by disclosing what the foundation problems are if you do not take care of the repairs yourself. Here’s why: The history of the repairs to the home will likely require permits to be pulled, then becoming public record. The issue then becomes having potential buyers that will probably cross your home off their list if they see there have been foundation issues.  Sometimes it is better to not fix the problem but let the buyers know about it so they can bring in people they trust to do the job. On the other hand, some would say it’s advisable to fix the foundation before selling. The warranty of the contractor can be a strong selling point to a potential buyer.

5. Make the most of it!

Sellers can market a foundation problem as a good thing. This is possible because after coming down on the price of the home, let potential buyers know that while they’re fixing the foundation, they can easily add new amenities and features to the property. Then the new owners have the freedom to make the home their own!

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