June 24, 2021

Selling Your San Diego Home That Has Foundation Issues

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The phrase "foundation problems" scares the living daylights out of homeowners—and it's true that these issues pose significant risks to the safety, value, and appearance of your house. However, foundation issues don’t have to keep you from putting your house on the market.

We asked real estate professionals, structural engineers, and appraisers to share their firsthand knowledge of selling a house with foundation problems and what you can do to get the best price for your home. Here are their answers to six foundation-related questions from home sellers.

1. How do you know if your house has foundation or structural problems?

In most cases, you won't be able to identify foundation or structural problems on your own, but you should look for clear signs that may require further investigation.

Take a walk around the house, looking for cracks, or something unusual, such as bent walls, separated siding, or long cracks in the paint of the house.

Look for broken tiles, wetness or a mildew odor, and an uneven floor.

If you notice any of these, contact a foundation repair specialist to come take a look and give you some answers. A foundation inspection takes roughly about two hours.

Since foundation work is not a do-it-yourself project, it is recommended that you obtain foundation assessments from at least three contractors.

Post a message on your Nextdoor news feed asking your neighbors for recommendations for foundation repair contractors in the city. Alternatively, you can use Thumbtack to be matched with a foundation repair company after supplying some details about the suspected problem and the characteristics of your house.

2. What is the cost of foundation repair?

This is entirely dependent on the form and severity of the foundation problem at hand. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for foundation repair is $4,033.

A general crack in the foundation caused by a home settling over time could cost up to $10,000 to repair—though several inspectors would tell you that if the crack is less than a half-inch, it's probably not a big deal.

Sometimes, a broken block can be quickly repaired with mortar or caulk that you add yourself. Bowed walls, on the other hand, will cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to repair because framework is needed to keep the walls up.

The cost of repairing a water problem is determined by the nature of the problem. If it's just a clogged downspout, the cost may be as low as $100. However, depending on the size of the basement, installing an entire drainage system when water is coming up from it could cost $10,000. Waterproofing the basement afterwards can cost the same amount.

3. Should you fix foundation problems before selling?

It depends. If you are looking to sell your home at a higher price point, then the answer is usually yes.

However, it is recommended to get multiple bids from different contractors to ensure that fixing the foundation issue before selling will be worthwhile.

If you choose to not fix the issue before selling, it is recommended that the buyer conduct their own inspection and that the seller negotiate based on what they know about the issue.

The buyer may ask for a price discount, but in the best-case scenario, the seller will have several offers and the buyer will be concerned about the foundation after they purchase the house.

There are advantages and disadvantages to repairing the foundation before selling. On the positive side, you won't scare anyone away, and your pool of potential customers will grow. However, taking the plunge on foundation repairs before selling could cost you thousands of dollars that you would not have had to spend if you had taken the opportunity to see what the market would bring.

One thing is certain, if a seller does not report the problem beforehand, there is a possibility they could be sued later. Repairs can also be covered by insurance, making it a more cost-effective alternative.

4. Should you sell your home "as is" to a cash buyer if it has foundation issues?

When you sell your home to a cash buyer, it is usually an easy, no-hassle transaction. You must also report any foundation issues, but you avoid repair talks because the investor buys your home "as is." If you're facing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs, this could be an appealing choice.

So, what's the catch? The cash offer you get would almost certainly be much less than what your house will sell for on the open market. Fixers and flippers, the sort of investor most likely to buy a home in disrepair, pay pennies on the dollar. The truth is that buyers are willing to pay cash for your home so that they can fix it up and do all of the legwork before selling it for market value.

Today's direct-buy market, on the other hand, is more dynamic than previous generations'. The need for a simple transaction has paved the way for a slew of new high-tech players to enter this room, including Opendoor, Offerpad, and even Zillow.

That means that if you want to sell to an investor, you now have more customers to choose from, and the competition can potentially boost the amount of money you will earn if you browse around for different deals.

However, some of these buyers may not be interested in making offers on homes with foundation issues. So, depending on the severity of your foundation problems, your choices might be more limited.

Before you make a decision, consult with a real estate agent to determine what your home is worth in a conventional sale.

5. Are there any investors out there who would be willing to buy a house with foundation problems?

The response is an emphatic yes. Fortunately, there are many buyers that will purchase homes with foundation issues—though you can end up selling at a lower price.

When it comes to selling homes with foundation issues, there are many scenarios. The buyer may negotiate the price in order to fund the foundation repairs, they may ask that the seller fund a portion or all of the repairs, or they may pay full price and agree to do the repairs themselves.

Best case scenario? A structural engineer can assess the foundation and find that the issue won’t get worse over time.

Depending on whether you're in a buyer's or a seller's market, the negotiating power changes.

6. How do I sell a house on the open market that has foundation issues?

There is a common protocol to follow if you want to sell your house on the open market and you know it has foundation issues.

Get the foundation checked out.

This is a three-fold situation. It's likely that you don't have as big of a problem as you think, so have a real estate agent look it over and give you their opinion.

A trained Realtor should be able to walk into a home's basement or look at it from the outside if there isn't a basement and pick up on any warning signs.

If the agent says yes, you should contact a home inspector or foundation company to come out and inspect the issue. Then you can seek out the assistance of a structural engineer, if necessary.

Keep in mind, however, that something above your agent's informed walkthrough will incur a fee.

Buyers should be informed in writing of any established foundation problems.

This is an extremely important measure. Most states require you to report known foundation problems to prospective buyers in writing at the outset.

If you are not upfront and truthful with the buyer, they will come after you later for selling a home that had major issues that you were aware of but did not report.

Distribute the inspection report to the buyer.

Make every effort to be as straightforward as possible. You want the buyer to understand what they're getting themselves into. It is recommended that you share not only the inspection report, but also the invoice or estimate for repairing the issue, whether you can afford it or not.

That way, you have an expert on the line who can quote exactly what it will cost to be repaired. This will eliminate the buyers fear of the unknown and provide complete honesty with all parties involved.

Negotiate as needed.

Remember that foundation issues would almost certainly have an effect on the selling price. If a buyer has to repair something right away, they may want to pay less for the house, and you would want to sell it for more if you had to fix the problem on your own dime.

Alternatively, the repairs may be incorporated into the sale in some way. In any case, the foundation problem must be solved.

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