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How to Tell if a Building Has Foundational Stability Issues

In real estate, when you’re going to either buy a property or sell one, you quickly learn to look for a few particular things. You might find some relatively small issues that will not affect a property’s sale that much. For instance, minor plumbing or electrical problems aren’t going to be all that expensive to fix.

If the roof is in poor condition, though, or the foundation is, either of those might be reasons not to buy a house you’re considering, or they may be reasons why a buyer might decide not to purchase the property you’re trying to unload. A new roof can be anywhere from $10-25K to replace, or even more with larger homes or elaborate roofs.

In this article, though, we’re going to talk about a building’s foundation, especially if you’re a potential buyer looking for a new place to live. When you pay for a home inspection, your inspector will undoubtedly let you know if they find foundational issues. However, even without the inspector telling you about them, you can be on the lookout for telltale signs yourself.

How Critical is Foundation Stability?

If you’re wondering whether a home’s foundational stability is even that big of a deal, the answer is a resounding yes. Think about the Surfside, Florida, condo building collapse that has been in the news a lot recently. A private home will be a lot smaller than one broken up into many condos, but you can still draw a parallel.

With any building in which you are going to live, structural instability can be deadly. If the building suddenly shifts, as the one in Surfside did, you can find yourself buried in the rubble before you have any clear conception of what’s happening.

How Can You Tell a Home Has Foundational Problems?

Unless you’re a home inspector or someone who works in the real estate industry, you might feel uncertain about how to tell whether a house you’re considering has any foundational irregularities. There are some warning signs that are hard to miss, though.

Exterior cracks are a frequent giveaway. If you look at a home’s steps or exterior walls, small cracks from an unstable foundation often form as time passes. When you start to see larger cracks, especially in a zig-zag pattern, that’s when you need to watch out.

Uneven floors and doors that don’t seem to be square on the hinges can indicate foundational problems as well. If you can look at a door and see that it is out of true, look to the foundation, especially if there are cracks in the wall surrounding that door.

Are There Any Other Signs?

Rotten wood is another possible foundational issue sign you should look for as you’re house hunting. If you’re in a basement or crawlspace, and it seems very humid, that’s a situation that can rot wooden beams, especially older ones. You might also have termites or carpenter ants that have been working on the beams, weakening them.

Tile cracks are another possible indication some foundation issues are happening. Tile makers often fire them at high temperatures, so they’re quite brittle. A single tile in a bathroom might crack, and it may not necessarily indicate anything too sinister. If you see many cracked tiles in a bathroom, though, check the foundation carefully.

Some home inspectors also pay attention to things like nails popping out of drywall. A single one doing it is probably fine, but if they see many of them, that might clue them in that the foundation is in trouble.

Whether you see these things when you’re house hunting or you notice them in an apartment or condo you’re thinking of moving into, you can’t afford to ignore them. If you do, you may end up in a situation like the Florida building collapse.

If you do check out the building’s foundation and see that there are obvious trouble signs, you’ll want to look into either a different apartment or condo or a different house. If you’re trying to sell a house, and you see these same signs, you’re probably going to have to deal with the home’s foundation issues before you put it on the market.

These problems lay bare how vital home inspections are for potential buyers. If you do decide to go house hunting this year, don’t ever waive the home inspection. If you do, you might learn about foundational problems too late and to your detriment.


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About the Author

Kaya Wittenburg

Blog Author and CEO

Kaya Wittenburg is the Founder and CEO of Sky Five Properties. Since the age of 10, real estate has been deeply ingrained into his thoughts. With world-class negotiation and deal-making skills, he brings a highly impactful presence into every transaction that he touches.

He is here to help you use real estate as a vehicle to develop your own personal empire and feel deeply satisfied along the way. If you have an interest in buying, selling or renting property in South Florida, contact Kaya today.

Feel free to call me at: (305) 357-0635
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