Buy home with structural issues

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investor1012
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Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm

Hello,

I am in a big mess and could use some advice.

We live in a high COL area where homes are quite expensive and its common to have multiple offers on a home. To get an offer accepted you have to put lot of earnest money and waive contingencies.

We have been looking for 6 months and finally found a dream home. It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean. Home was 1.5M and we had to put 100k earnest money to get offer accepted.

Everything was smooth, closing was scheduled for next week, but went to see the home one final time before purchase and I see a crack in the wall. I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

At this time I have no contingencies left, and closing is next week. I am very confused what I should do now. Do I have any legal recourse to get my earnest money back? If I do proceed with the purchase, can this be a money pit with more $$$s at risk down the line? Further, even if I fix the issues how much will this affect resale?

My gut says that with the amount of money I will have to put in, the stress I will have to deal with to resolve this and the resale that will be affected will cost me more than $100k in the long term so, as painful as it is, I should eat the loss and move on.

Would love to hear thoughts from the community.

Thanks!

btenny
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by btenny » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:32 pm

I am not a structural engineer but I do know that new houses settle and develop some cracks over time. This is normal. The ground moves a little and the house squirms and develops a few cracks. It is not major issue in most cases. Yes you can get excited about this and a foundation engineer will make a big deal of this. But in most cases it is just no big deal. Go find a experienced older general contractor and ask him to come and inspect your home and talk thought the things you have found. Ask him what you should do. I bet he says this stuff is not a big deal and mostly cosmetic and can be easily fixed.

Good Luck and Move fast.
s

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:52 pm

Thank you btenny.

I initially thought that this was cosmetic as well but found the second level floor sagging 1.5 inches towards the middle. Is that normal for a two year old home? The foundation contractor said he has to jack up the home.

Am I making this a bigger problem than it is?

Allan
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Allan » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:01 pm

Couple of things I would recommend. Sounds like you might be in legal default if you do not close? If a defect has been found and you give the seller the inspection report, even if you do not close they might be legally bound to disclose this to a subsequent buyer. So perhaps you have a bit of leverage at the very least to get an extension on the closing, giving you some time to get a second inspection (which I would do). Secondly, if the house is only 2 years old the builder still has warranty obligations, it does not matter that you are the second owner, the warranty continues. You might seek out the builder and get their opinion. I am a new home builder and that is how warranties work in my state.

And it goes without saying, consult an attorney.

Allan

mgensler
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by mgensler » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:03 pm

Hire a structural engineer to take a look. While you are waiting, you can also check windows and doors. Do they open easily or are the frames twisted? We had some large drywall cracks that turned out to be simple framing issues.

Globalviewer58
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Globalviewer58 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:07 pm

You might have a licensed professional structural engineer review the foundation contractor’s report and comment on the completeness of the analysis and conclusions. The engineer can be a resource to ask the right questions of the contractor. The engineer may want to look at the as-built plans approved by the local building inspector to ensure that the structural members are sized and spaced properly for the structure and site.

fogalog
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by fogalog » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:15 pm

I am missing something here.

You had a pre-purchase inspection done within the last few weeks but that didn't spot these problems? I would call that inspector back. I am assuming the pre-purchase inspection was one of your contingencies?

You don't say what your realtor has to say about this? I would ask him /her. This is exactly the sort of thing for which you are paying them. I would not assume that you will be out $100k, at least not without talking to a lawyer.

So, take a breath. Call the home inspector. Call your realtor. Then, if none of those work, call a lawyer.

Good luck!

Uniballer
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Uniballer » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:22 pm

Does your purchase contract say anything about a "substantial change in condition" of the property (or something like that)? Have you discussed this matter with your lawyer?

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:27 pm

fogalog wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:15 pm

You don't say what your realtor has to say about this? I would ask him /her. This is exactly the sort of thing for which you are paying them. I would not assume that you will be out $100k, at least not without talking to a lawyer.
In most case the real estate agents works for the seller and their duty to the seller (and self-interest) is to get the deal done. Not a good source of unbiased advice.

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Watty
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Watty » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:32 pm

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Do I have any legal recourse to get my earnest money back?
Does your purchase contract say anything about a "substantial change in condition" of the property (or something like that)? Have you discussed this matter with your lawyer?
+1

Now would be a good time to get a real estate lawyer involved. It is very unusual for people to be selling a two year old home unless they were transferred or something like that. I would have to wonder if they might have had a clue that there was a problem that they did not disclose to you.

From the sellers point of view having you back out of the deal has all sorts of problems since the house could be tied up for a long time while lawsuits are going on and they would then have to disclose the problems to other potential buyers so you may still have some leverage to get them to fix the problems. $20K is less than 2% of the homes value so while it sounds like a lot it might make sense for them to pay for the repairs.

We cannot discuss pending legislation here but any changes could impact their ability to sell the house later on too so having the sale fall through and then have to try to resell the house next year could be undesirable for them since the local housing market could cool off by then.

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:34 pm

Allan wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:01 pm
Secondly, if the house is only 2 years old the builder still has warranty obligations, it does not matter that you are the second owner, the warranty continues. You might seek out the builder and get their opinion. I am a new home builder and that is how warranties work in my state.

And it goes without saying, consult an attorney.

Allan
I checked with the builder. It seems like warranty ends when there has been transfer of ownership.

Tortoise2030
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Tortoise2030 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:37 pm

I would think that the seller would pay for the repairs prior to closing. I'm in the mortgage business and we see appraisals made "subject to" repairs, and we want to see the engineer's report in the file, along w/ a final inspection indicating that the repairs have been completed. Maybe you can get your security deposit back though? That would probably be my first choice.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm

A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:52 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm
A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
I agree that’s a solution. My concern is if there will be continuing problems and what it will do to my resale value? Will people want to buy a home where there were structural problems even if they were fixed?

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jfn111
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by jfn111 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:55 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:27 pm
fogalog wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:15 pm

You don't say what your realtor has to say about this? I would ask him /her. This is exactly the sort of thing for which you are paying them. I would not assume that you will be out $100k, at least not without talking to a lawyer.
In most case the real estate agents works for the seller and their duty to the seller (and self-interest) is to get the deal done. Not a good source of unbiased advice.
Maybe if they asked the Realtor, who isn't working for the seller unless it's Dual Agency, they might tell them to talk to their lender. There should be a financing contingency still in place and if they can get the lender to withdraw the loan approval, because of the structural issues, they should have grounds to get the earnest money back. YMMV

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Sandtrap
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 pm

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:52 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm
A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
I agree that’s a solution. My concern is if there will be continuing problems and what it will do to my resale value? Will people want to buy a home where there were structural problems even if they were fixed?
Your concerns are valid. If the house has settle that much in so short a time, then it will continue to do so. I would not buy this house for 10x the price. And, suggest you avoid it as well if the structural issues are as you say. Either the foundations were not to spec or the sitework was compromised (cut and fill wrong), or more. This may be the reason the house is for sale.
This would be a huge "black flag" for me as a R/E developer.

You have a valid argument for disclosure. The only way something like this might sell is "as is" with a waiver for inspection by yourself. If the sale went this far and it was not disclosed then it would be grounds for lawsuit on your part.

I would have legal counsel, ASAP, send a notice that you have identified a "serious" structural problem that had not been disclosed. That the residence is potentially "unsafe" due to this ongoing problem as there is no way to know if the settling will escalate over the next heavy rains and so forth. You get the idea. The Seller and Realtor are both liable for selling you an "unsafe" residence. This is your primary angle and one that is usually not contested. Akin to a rental tenant calling the "dept. of health for unsafe residence". Ouch. Everybody runs.

Also, have legal counsel demand "immediate" refund of all monies paid by you. And, if contested, the Realtor and Owner will be liable for all expenses that you might outlay for a structural engineer, etc, to support your case as well as legal fees.

This is one instance where you need to have legal counsel make a firm and immediate demand for resolution. (after all you are dealing with "sales people who work by commission). You will not be taken seriously without legal counsel representing you. Or, you will continue to be "sold". There's money on the line and the old saying, "possession is 9/10 of the law or leverage" is on their side. So it's not a time to be popular or liked.

I hope this is actionable for you and helpful.
j. :D
Retired R/E developer.

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:01 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 pm
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:52 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm
A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
I agree that’s a solution. My concern is if there will be continuing problems and what it will do to my resale value? Will people want to buy a home where there were structural problems even if they were fixed?
Your concerns are valid. If the house has settle that much in so short a time, then it will continue to do so. I would not buy this house for 10x the price. And, suggest you avoid it as well if the structural issues are as you say. Either the foundations were not to spec or the sitework was compromised (cut and fill wrong), or more. This may be the reason the house is for sale.
This would be a huge "black flag" for me as a R/E developer.

You have a valid argument for disclosure. The only way something like this might sell is "as is" with a waiver for inspection by yourself. If the sale went this far and it was not disclosed then it would be grounds for lawsuit on your part.

I would have legal counsel, ASAP, send a notice that you have identified a "serious" structural problem that had not been disclosed. That the residence is potentially "unsafe" due to this ongoing problem as there is no way to know if the settling will escalate over the next heavy rains and so forth. You get the idea. The Seller and Realtor are both liable for selling you an "unsafe" residence. This is your primary angle and one that is usually not contested. Akin to a rental tenant calling the "dept. of health for unsafe residence". Ouch. Everybody runs.

Also, have legal counsel demand "immediate" refund of all monies paid by you. And, if contested, the Realtor and Owner will be liable for all expenses that you might outlay for a structural engineer, etc, to support your case as well as legal fees.

This is one instance where you need to have legal counsel make a firm and immediate demand for resolution. (after all you are dealing with "sales people who work by commission). You will not be taken seriously without legal counsel representing you. Or, you will continue to be "sold". There's money on the line and the old saying, "possession is 9/10 of the law or leverage" is on their side. So it's not a time to be popular or liked.

I hope this is actionable for you and helpful.
j. :D
Retired R/E developer.
Thanks for the advice. Very helpful.

How do I find a good legal counsel?

wilked
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by wilked » Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:07 pm

First red flag: home being sold after only 2 years

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:18 am

wilked wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:07 pm
First red flag: home being sold after only 2 years
Agreed. Too bad we put an offer on the home despite this red flag.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:23 am

Our neighbors sold their after living there only 2 years. Reason is family expansion. Wife was pregnant with child #3, they want each child to have a room.

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LittleGreenSoldiers
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by LittleGreenSoldiers » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:32 am

I assume you are out of your due diligence period of your contract. Does the real estate agent representing you as the buyer have anyu good advice to offer?

Could you inform your lender of the structural issues and would that disqualify the loan? Assuming your purchase is contingent on financing this might be an angle to look at with your lender and real estate agent.

ResearchMed
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:40 am

It's pretty unlikely that this "just" showed up.
Perhaps owners had painted over?

Point is... IF the owners knew the house was defective, there may be recourse, but check with a real estate attorney. It could be complicated, and difficult to prove.
Did the owners sign a disclosure form? What did it show?

Good luck.

RM
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clutchied
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by clutchied » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:56 am

so you're paying $1.5M for a house and $20k is going to break the deal?

I'm assuming you think that the person you hired isn't telling you the whole truth and the house is going to fall down?

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Sandtrap
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:45 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:01 pm
Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 pm
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:52 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm
A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
I agree that’s a solution. My concern is if there will be continuing problems and what it will do to my resale value? Will people want to buy a home where there were structural problems even if they were fixed?
Your concerns are valid. If the house has settle that much in so short a time, then it will continue to do so. I would not buy this house for 10x the price. And, suggest you avoid it as well if the structural issues are as you say. Either the foundations were not to spec or the sitework was compromised (cut and fill wrong), or more. This may be the reason the house is for sale.
This would be a huge "black flag" for me as a R/E developer.

You have a valid argument for disclosure. The only way something like this might sell is "as is" with a waiver for inspection by yourself. If the sale went this far and it was not disclosed then it would be grounds for lawsuit on your part.

I would have legal counsel, ASAP, send a notice that you have identified a "serious" structural problem that had not been disclosed. That the residence is potentially "unsafe" due to this ongoing problem as there is no way to know if the settling will escalate over the next heavy rains and so forth. You get the idea. The Seller and Realtor are both liable for selling you an "unsafe" residence. This is your primary angle and one that is usually not contested. Akin to a rental tenant calling the "dept. of health for unsafe residence". Ouch. Everybody runs.

Also, have legal counsel demand "immediate" refund of all monies paid by you. And, if contested, the Realtor and Owner will be liable for all expenses that you might outlay for a structural engineer, etc, to support your case as well as legal fees.

This is one instance where you need to have legal counsel make a firm and immediate demand for resolution. (after all you are dealing with "sales people who work by commission). You will not be taken seriously without legal counsel representing you. Or, you will continue to be "sold". There's money on the line and the old saying, "possession is 9/10 of the law or leverage" is on their side. So it's not a time to be popular or liked.

I hope this is actionable for you and helpful.
j. :D
Retired R/E developer.
Thanks for the advice. Very helpful.

How do I find a good legal counsel?
Your personal lawyer should be fine.
Remember, the house can be leveled, the foundation propped up, but the ground beneath it will continue to settle. The $20,000 fix is just the beginning. Our General Contracting company wouldn't go near these types of projects for fear of callbacks. The footings should be down to undisturbed solid base soil or if slab on grade then compacted base fill on undisturbed solid base. If a tree was removed and the home built on it, bad. If it is cut into a slight grade or more and part of the pad is on the fill, then also perhaps compromised. Etc. Etc. There are a lot of conditions to create ongoing problems.
The fact that the compromised foundation has spread to the floor line is cause for alarm. Regardless of repair costs, would you purchase a used car with symptoms of a broken engine?
j :D

bubbadog
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by bubbadog » Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:50 am

If I were you, I would try to get my earnest money back and find another house. Even if I were to lose the 20K, I don't think I would want to move forward on this 1.5 million dollar purchase.

Good luck

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celia
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by celia » Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:44 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:34 pm
I checked with the builder. It seems like warranty ends when there has been transfer of ownership.
Something sounds fishy. If the original owner is moving because of the structural issues (even though they may claim otherwise), it could be that they brought it up to the builder's attention and got nowhere.

LifeIsGood
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by LifeIsGood » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:42 am

If the original warranty ends with the transfer of ownership, then get the seller to fix it under warranty before closing.

aqan
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by aqan » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:05 am

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 pm
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:52 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm
A solution is to buy and then spend the $20k on the corrections as noted. I'd think that the center of the house where the sag is would be cranked back up into proper level during this process.
I agree that’s a solution. My concern is if there will be continuing problems and what it will do to my resale value? Will people want to buy a home where there were structural problems even if they were fixed?
Your concerns are valid. If the house has settle that much in so short a time, then it will continue to do so. I would not buy this house for 10x the price. And, suggest you avoid it as well if the structural issues are as you say. Either the foundations were not to spec or the sitework was compromised (cut and fill wrong), or more. This may be the reason the house is for sale.
This would be a huge "black flag" for me as a R/E developer.

You have a valid argument for disclosure. The only way something like this might sell is "as is" with a waiver for inspection by yourself. If the sale went this far and it was not disclosed then it would be grounds for lawsuit on your part.

I would have legal counsel, ASAP, send a notice that you have identified a "serious" structural problem that had not been disclosed. That the residence is potentially "unsafe" due to this ongoing problem as there is no way to know if the settling will escalate over the next heavy rains and so forth. You get the idea. The Seller and Realtor are both liable for selling you an "unsafe" residence. This is your primary angle and one that is usually not contested. Akin to a rental tenant calling the "dept. of health for unsafe residence". Ouch. Everybody runs.

Also, have legal counsel demand "immediate" refund of all monies paid by you. And, if contested, the Realtor and Owner will be liable for all expenses that you might outlay for a structural engineer, etc, to support your case as well as legal fees.

This is one instance where you need to have legal counsel make a firm and immediate demand for resolution. (after all you are dealing with "sales people who work by commission). You will not be taken seriously without legal counsel representing you. Or, you will continue to be "sold". There's money on the line and the old saying, "possession is 9/10 of the law or leverage" is on their side. So it's not a time to be popular or liked.

I hope this is actionable for you and helpful.
j. :D
Retired R/E developer.
Perfect advice. I’d go with this OP. No point buying the house with big issues that can become bigger over time.
I’d also call the pre-inspector to come back and redo the report. My guess is that he missed this during first inspection, the house has been there for 2 years it’s had to imagine that in two weeks it sagged 1.5 inches.

mouses
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by mouses » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:29 am

You absolutely need a real estate attorney, not a general attorney. They know the ins and outs of this.

When I sold my house in California about twenty years ago the required disclosure forms were a stack about a foot high. I assume from that that the law is based in favor of the buyer, at least in that state.

I would be very surprised if this situation is news to the sellers. They probably patched and painted over it. Surely the floors didn't slope this much in one week or whatever. If they did the problem is even worse.

The quality of inspectors varies a lot. It sounds like yours missed this. I would not trust him to be useful now as it's in his interest to minimize this.

If there are nearby neighbors, they might have useful information, including if the sellers knew about a neighborhood-wide problem.

msk
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by msk » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:32 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Everything was smooth, closing was scheduled for next week, but went to see the home one final time before purchase and I see a crack in the wall. I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.
There seems to be a lot of panic around, quite possibly, trivia. THE FOUNDATION IS IN GREAT SHAPE. $20k hardly covers a paint job on a $1.5 million house!

marc515
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by marc515 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:35 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean.

I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

Thanks!
Your OP is a little confusing; you site a great builder, If he's that great he should back his work.

You hired a foundation contractor, who says the foundation is in great shape, but yet you indicate he saw multiple structural problems.

You have received some great advice here to include getting a good Real Estate Lawyer, hiring a structural engineer, and contacting your mortgage lender.

You need to follow this advice, as you do not have enough information to make an informed decision.

Buying a home with multiple structural issues may not be a wise investment, and $20K might not fix them. In this situation relying on one contractor is not enough, you will need more input to ensure you do not get stuck with a significantly larger repair down the road.

I'm sure if the home has "multiple structural issues" you can either require the seller to make all the required repairs, or have them deduct the cost of the repairs from the selling price, or get your money back

investor1012
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:03 am

marc515 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:35 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean.

I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

Thanks!
Your OP is a little confusing; you site a great builder, If he's that great he should back his work.

You hired a foundation contractor, who says the foundation is in great shape, but yet you indicate he saw multiple structural problems.

You have received some great advice here to include getting a good Real Estate Lawyer, hiring a structural engineer, and contacting your mortgage lender.

You need to follow this advice, as you do not have enough information to make an informed decision.

Buying a home with multiple structural issues may not be a wise investment, and $20K might not fix them. In this situation relying on one contractor is not enough, you will need more input to ensure you do not get stuck with a significantly larger repair down the road.

I'm sure if the home has "multiple structural issues" you can either require the seller to make all the required repairs, or have them deduct the cost of the repairs from the selling price, or get your money back
marc515 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:35 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean.

I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

Thanks!
Your OP is a little confusing; you site a great builder, If he's that great he should back his work.

You hired a foundation contractor, who says the foundation is in great shape, but yet you indicate he saw multiple structural problems.

You have received some great advice here to include getting a good Real Estate Lawyer, hiring a structural engineer, and contacting you mortgage lender.

You need to follow this advice, as you do not have enough information to make an informed decision. Relying on one contractor is not enough.

Buying a home with multiple structural issues may not be a wise investment, and $20K might not fix them.

I'm sure if the home has "multiple structural issues" you can either have the seller make all the required repairs or get your money back
Thanks. I have already talked to the builder, but like I said before the warranty does not transfer to me so this is something the original seller has to work with the builder before closing.

I will try to get a structural engineer and a lawyer next week.

Finally, even though the foundation looks good, the issues are with the columns supporting the house. Looks like the columns are either settling into the soil or they don’t have enough support to carry the weight of the home (especially the master bath). His comment was that this amount of setting is very excessive for a two year old home.

I will work with a lawyer to see what the options are to get my earnest money back.

Thanks to everyone for the great advice.

Allan
Posts: 808
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Location: Houston

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Allan » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:09 am

As a long time home builder I cannot imagine a builder's warranty that does not transfer. I warranty my work and the house for a period of time, irrespective of who lives in the house. Structural items have the longest warranty, in my state (Texas) that is 10 years as mandated by state code. If and when you talk to an attorney, I would dig into this a bit deeper.

riverguy
Posts: 417
Joined: Sun May 23, 2010 10:33 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by riverguy » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:21 am

msk wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:32 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Everything was smooth, closing was scheduled for next week, but went to see the home one final time before purchase and I see a crack in the wall. I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.
There seems to be a lot of panic around, quite possibly, trivia. THE FOUNDATION IS IN GREAT SHAPE. $20k hardly covers a paint job on a $1.5 million house!
HCOL so its probably a 1500 sq ft house or something... :oops:

Everyone has said its likely this just didn't happen in the past two weeks so why would you be entitled to your money back? You missed it on your inspection. It's going to be pretty impossible to prove that the owners knew about it, if they even did, because clearly you and your inspector missed it as well during a home inspection that is designed to look for these things.

I would say that, if they want to play hardball, you are going to have to buy the house or eat the 100k.

skepticalobserver
Posts: 929
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by skepticalobserver » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:06 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:34 pm
I checked with the builder. It seems like warranty ends when there has been transfer of ownership.
Do not take the word of the builder--he's an interested party after all. You need legal counsel to look at the warranty. There may regulation, case law, etc. that over-rides the warranty language. Also, fraud may trump the no contingency issue.

Review with an attorney and have the attorney flack for you. A settlement--price adjustment, etc.--may follow. $100K is not chump change for me.

tigerdoc93
Posts: 131
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by tigerdoc93 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 am

Am I the only one that is flabbergasted by $100,000 earnest money? I’ve never heard of such a ridiculously high amount. There is no way I would ever pay such a price in earnest money. People in Alabama are satisfied with $500 or $1000 in earnest money even for a home in your price range. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge now and if I was in your situation I’d probably lawyer up. I hope you will be made whole . Good luck.

User avatar
praxis
Posts: 451
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by praxis » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:16 am

riverguy wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:21 am
msk wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:32 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Everything was smooth, closing was scheduled for next week, but went to see the home one final time before purchase and I see a crack in the wall. I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.
There seems to be a lot of panic around, quite possibly, trivia. THE FOUNDATION IS IN GREAT SHAPE. $20k hardly covers a paint job on a $1.5 million house!
HCOL so its probably a 1500 sq ft house or something... :oops:

Everyone has said its likely this just didn't happen in the past two weeks so why would you be entitled to your money back? You missed it on your inspection. It's going to be pretty impossible to prove that the owners knew about it, if they even did, because clearly you and your inspector missed it as well during a home inspection that is designed to look for these things.

I would say that, if they want to play hardball, you are going to have to buy the house or eat the 100k.
ouch

But this is certainly one clear option you face.

On a brighter note, we bought a home 20 years ago that had some structural issues. There had been settling that produced some cracks not only in the slab but also in one brick wall. The cracks have been cosmetically repaired and have never gotten visibly worse. We have had no problems since what was diagnosed as initial settling. Good luck, however you handle this.

DrGoogle2017
Posts: 1322
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:31 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:59 am

mouses wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:29 am
You absolutely need a real estate attorney, not a general attorney. They know the ins and outs of this.

When I sold my house in California about twenty years ago the required disclosure forms were a stack about a foot high. I assume from that that the law is based in favor of the buyer, at least in that state.

I would be very surprised if this situation is news to the sellers. They probably patched and painted over it. Surely the floors didn't slope this much in one week or whatever. If they did the problem is even worse.

The quality of inspectors varies a lot. It sounds like yours missed this. I would not trust him to be useful now as it's in his interest to minimize this.

If there are nearby neighbors, they might have useful information, including if the sellers knew about a neighborhood-wide problem.
In California, people can specify selling as is. I know my brother bought one. I intend to sell my mom’s house as is. It’s too old, who knows what’s wrong with it.

DrGoogle2017
Posts: 1322
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Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:00 pm

tigerdoc93 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 am
Am I the only one that is flabbergasted by $100,000 earnest money? I’ve never heard of such a ridiculously high amount. There is no way I would ever pay such a price in earnest money. People in Alabama are satisfied with $500 or $1000 in earnest money even for a home in your price range. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge now and if I was in your situation I’d probably lawyer up. I hope you will be made whole . Good luck.
I think this is a possible red flag.

Johnsson
Posts: 121
Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:28 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by Johnsson » Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:44 pm

Make the mortgage company aware (assuming you're not paying cash) of the 'new' problem. They will have more $$ invested than you and can exert much power.

There's typically a mortgage clause. No mortgage, no sale.

fogalog
Posts: 62
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:31 am

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by fogalog » Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:47 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:27 pm
fogalog wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:15 pm

You don't say what your realtor has to say about this? I would ask him /her. This is exactly the sort of thing for which you are paying them. I would not assume that you will be out $100k, at least not without talking to a lawyer.
In most case the real estate agents works for the seller and their duty to the seller (and self-interest) is to get the deal done. Not a good source of unbiased advice.
That depends on the state. Note that I actually said, "your realtor". In California - I don't know about other states - there is typically a buyer's realtor acting on behalf of the buyer and a seller's realtor acting on behalf of the seller. For sure they both benefit from the ultimate sale of the property (fees are split), but a reputable buyer's realtor will be more interested in a happy and thus long-term / repeat customer. Not to say there are not charlatans out there as well, of course.

I speak from experience here: I bought a house in CA "as-is" with only a finance contingency and six figures of earnest money. My inspector found a problem with the slab during escrow, which had not been disclosed by the sellers - to be fair, I don't think they knew - and my (buyer's) realtor did all the work negotiating with the seller's realtor to rectify the problem... which was ultimately rectified to my satisfaction before closing.

pshonore
Posts: 6420
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:21 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by pshonore » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:17 pm

investor1012 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:03 am
marc515 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:35 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean.

I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

Thanks!
Your OP is a little confusing; you site a great builder, If he's that great he should back his work.

You hired a foundation contractor, who says the foundation is in great shape, but yet you indicate he saw multiple structural problems.

You have received some great advice here to include getting a good Real Estate Lawyer, hiring a structural engineer, and contacting your mortgage lender.

You need to follow this advice, as you do not have enough information to make an informed decision.

Buying a home with multiple structural issues may not be a wise investment, and $20K might not fix them. In this situation relying on one contractor is not enough, you will need more input to ensure you do not get stuck with a significantly larger repair down the road.

I'm sure if the home has "multiple structural issues" you can either require the seller to make all the required repairs, or have them deduct the cost of the repairs from the selling price, or get your money back
marc515 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:35 am
investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean.

I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

Thanks!
Your OP is a little confusing; you site a great builder, If he's that great he should back his work.

You hired a foundation contractor, who says the foundation is in great shape, but yet you indicate he saw multiple structural problems.

You have received some great advice here to include getting a good Real Estate Lawyer, hiring a structural engineer, and contacting you mortgage lender.

You need to follow this advice, as you do not have enough information to make an informed decision. Relying on one contractor is not enough.

Buying a home with multiple structural issues may not be a wise investment, and $20K might not fix them.

I'm sure if the home has "multiple structural issues" you can either have the seller make all the required repairs or get your money back
Thanks. I have already talked to the builder, but like I said before the warranty does not transfer to me so this is something the original seller has to work with the builder before closing.

I will try to get a structural engineer and a lawyer next week.

Finally, even though the foundation looks good, the issues are with the columns supporting the house. Looks like the columns are either settling into the soil or they don’t have enough support to carry the weight of the home (especially the master bath). His comment was that this amount of setting is very excessive for a two year old home.

I will work with a lawyer to see what the options are to get my earnest money back.

Thanks to everyone for the great advice.
Good point about the columns - most houses have exterior foundation walls (at least in the Northeast). In addition there is usually a main support beam running from one side to the other that sits in pockets on the foundation. The is typically three 3 2X10s spiked together which in turn is supported by cement filled steel columns every 8' or so. All the interior load bearing walls transmit force down to the main support beam. It is very important when pouring the foundation to also pour concrete pads and footings to support those steel lolly columns. Failure to do this will cause the center of the to settle badly. I am puzzled by the second floor master bathroom settling. Sounds like the wall supporting is not adequate. Might want to check with the building inspector to see who approved all this construction when it was built (plans and materials)

August
Posts: 66
Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:03 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by August » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:21 pm

Disclaimer-I am not a lawyer or a structural engineer.
I would for sure contact a real estate attorney-both to discuss your options and in regards to builder's liability. While it varies by jurisdictions, I know my state has around a 10 year statute of limitations for builder liability and it doesn't matter how many owners the house has had.
My other thought is 20k on a 1.5 million dollar house is not that much. That is a repair of less than 2 percent of the purchase price. If this is your dream house and you can swing the repair cost, I'd be inclined to buy the house and then go after the builder if possible. Just my 0.02 cents.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:27 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:00 pm
tigerdoc93 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 am
Am I the only one that is flabbergasted by $100,000 earnest money? I’ve never heard of such a ridiculously high amount. There is no way I would ever pay such a price in earnest money. People in Alabama are satisfied with $500 or $1000 in earnest money even for a home in your price range. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge now and if I was in your situation I’d probably lawyer up. I hope you will be made whole . Good luck.
I think this is a possible red flag.
This seems to be very location specific.

$100k for a moderately expensive home... no surprise. Common.
I suppose it would be less in the rare case where there was less than 20% down planned for financing, however.

On the other hand, going in the other direction, we were *stunned* when purchasing a second home 'cross country, where all that was required was $10k. IF we had needed to do so, we could easily have walked away from that rather than get involved in something unpleasant. Fortunately, we didn't need to walk!

Is that $500 or $1k you are mentioning really the full earnest money, or the amount one gives with the initial offer papers?
(That often is never even cashed where we are.)

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

DrGoogle2017
Posts: 1322
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:31 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:57 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:27 pm
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:00 pm
tigerdoc93 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 am
Am I the only one that is flabbergasted by $100,000 earnest money? I’ve never heard of such a ridiculously high amount. There is no way I would ever pay such a price in earnest money. People in Alabama are satisfied with $500 or $1000 in earnest money even for a home in your price range. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge now and if I was in your situation I’d probably lawyer up. I hope you will be made whole . Good luck.
I think this is a possible red flag.
This seems to be very location specific.

$100k for a moderately expensive home... no surprise. Common.
I suppose it would be less in the rare case where there was less than 20% down planned for financing, however.

On the other hand, going in the other direction, we were *stunned* when purchasing a second home 'cross country, where all that was required was $10k. IF we had needed to do so, we could easily have walked away from that rather than get involved in something unpleasant. Fortunately, we didn't need to walk!

Is that $500 or $1k you are mentioning really the full earnest money, or the amount one gives with the initial offer papers?
(That often is never even cashed where we are.)

RM
I’ve only purchased new homes, so this is not common. The most they ask is $25k. At the time, they didn’t know we put down 20% or 50%. It’s not common practice.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:24 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:57 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:27 pm
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:00 pm
tigerdoc93 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 am
Am I the only one that is flabbergasted by $100,000 earnest money? I’ve never heard of such a ridiculously high amount. There is no way I would ever pay such a price in earnest money. People in Alabama are satisfied with $500 or $1000 in earnest money even for a home in your price range. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge now and if I was in your situation I’d probably lawyer up. I hope you will be made whole . Good luck.
I think this is a possible red flag.
This seems to be very location specific.

$100k for a moderately expensive home... no surprise. Common.
I suppose it would be less in the rare case where there was less than 20% down planned for financing, however.

On the other hand, going in the other direction, we were *stunned* when purchasing a second home 'cross country, where all that was required was $10k. IF we had needed to do so, we could easily have walked away from that rather than get involved in something unpleasant. Fortunately, we didn't need to walk!

Is that $500 or $1k you are mentioning really the full earnest money, or the amount one gives with the initial offer papers?
(That often is never even cashed where we are.)

RM
I’ve only purchased new homes, so this is not common. The most they ask is $25k. At the time, they didn’t know we put down 20% or 50%. It’s not common practice.
Like I said, it's location specific. I've purchased several homes in this location over the years, and also sold several.
I've *never* even heard of such a small amount, at least not in this area. That would probably kill the deal with any offer here, unless it was some sort of "difficult to sell" property and the seller had little choice but to give it a try.

And about the down payment... with the P&S, at least here (and also twice 'cross country), the financing contingency would state some specifics about the financing that the prospective buyer would be seeking, so there wasn't some weird "out" later because they couldn't get some unusual financing approved or such.
The financing contingency typically includes details such as the down payment, and usually something like a maximum rate, etc.
I've never encountered a financing contingency that didn't include this type of information.
(That way, the seller knows that the type of financing isn't unusual/unlikely, and the buyer doesn't need to worry about being held to closing at some sky-high rate, etc. - or... losing that somewhat hefty earnest money...)

But my point was, the only time it would make sense in this area to put a smaller percentage as earnest money would be if the down payment would be even less. So if someone was going for something like 95% (or even 100%) financing, then it might not be that unusual not to require more than the relevant down payment as the amount of earnest money.
On the other hand, I'm not familiar with any purchases, recent or in the past, where it wasn't at least 80% financing, so something like 10% as earnest money was not only common, but also made sense.

And this is for existing homes or new builds. (I'm not sure why there'd be any difference.)

The last thing we'd want is a prospective buyer who felt like we did, 'cross country, that "Hey, IF things go haywire, we can just walk away from that small percentage earnest money," while tying up the property... :annoyed
Obviously, we'd prefer not to do so, but it's a lot different from walking away from, say, 10x that amount...
And we did in fact close on both of those, but we certainly didn't feel the same pressure as when there was far more earnest money at risk, as with all purchases "here".

It's really interesting sometimes, about this (home selling/financing) and other things, how different it can be in other regions of the country.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

CurlyDave
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:37 am

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by CurlyDave » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:39 pm

investor1012 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:27 pm
Hello,

I am in a big mess and could use some advice.

We live in a high COL area where homes are quite expensive and its common to have multiple offers on a home. To get an offer accepted you have to put lot of earnest money and waive contingencies.

We have been looking for 6 months and finally found a dream home. It is just two years old from a great builder. We had a pre inspection done which came out clean. Home was 1.5M and we had to put 100k earnest money to get offer accepted.

Everything was smooth, closing was scheduled for next week, but went to see the home one final time before purchase and I see a crack in the wall. I hired a foundation contractor right away and was told of multiple structural problems in the house including not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor. Further, the center of the home has sagged down by 1.5 inches, which he said is quite a lot for a two year old home. The foundation is in great shape. I could have sworn the crack was not there during pre inspection. So this crack seems to have appeared in two weeks. He gave me a quote of $20k to fix all issues.

At this time I have no contingencies left, and closing is next week. I am very confused what I should do now. Do I have any legal recourse to get my earnest money back? If I do proceed with the purchase, can this be a money pit with more $$$s at risk down the line? Further, even if I fix the issues how much will this affect resale?

My gut says that with the amount of money I will have to put in, the stress I will have to deal with to resolve this and the resale that will be affected will cost me more than $100k in the long term so, as painful as it is, I should eat the loss and move on.

Would love to hear thoughts from the community.

Thanks!
Sit back and take a deep breath before you do anything. I am an engineer and if I saw a report from a contractor which said what this guy has told you I would dismiss the report as pure BS and never hire the contractor again.

Let me tell you some of the problems with what you have been told:

1. "...not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor..." The crawl space is under the first floor, not the second, unless the house is on a hillside. It is not possible for the second floor to sink because of problems with the foundation unless the first floor also has sunk.

2. The foundation rests on piers or pilings in the earth. Columns are above ground and are easily visible.

3. Unless the soil under the house is very poor, it is an easy matter to either add more supports or strengthen the existing ones.

4. You have access to the crawl space. Getting in there is not fun, but it is not that difficult. I could take out 1.5" of sag in a floor over a crawl space in an afternoon with nothing more than a car jack and a few pieces of lumber. If you have to re-do this every year or two it is an inconvenience, not the end of the world. And certainly not something to give up $100k over.

* * * * * * * * *

How big is the crack? What material is it in? Do the doors fit well and close easily? How about the windows? If they do there has probably not been serious settlement. Are both sides of the wall with the crack accessible? Is there a crack on the other side of the wall?

I really think this contractor is trying to frighten you into a repair job that is a DIY project, if it is necessary at all.

There are lot of potential reasons for small cracks in sheetrock and many, if not most, are not serious concerns. The width of the crack is a lot more interesting than its length in determining what is wrong.

Can you post a picture of the crack?

* * * * * * * * * * *

If you are still uncomfortable, before you spend a dime on an attorney or another contractor, get an engineer to look at it. The reason for an engineer is that he will not make money from doing any repairs. A contractor is always more interested in getting a job than in telling someone he doesn't need any work.

Go down to a big box store and splurge $20 on a 24" carpenters level and a framing square. If you are really feeling flush, also get a 48" level. Get someone to show you how to use them. If the floor is level, the doorjambs vertical, and the door frames square, everything is good and the contractor is a cheat. If anything is off, then you have to decide if you can live with that degree of tilt to save $100k.

Try to get a complete set of plans, including engineering calculations and a soils report from the owner. They may be on file at the town building department, but in many instances, the building department will allow you to see these documents, but not copy them. Their excuse is that they may be copyrighted by the architect, engineer or whoever that produced them.

investor1012
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:05 pm

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by investor1012 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:14 pm

CurlyDave wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:39 pm
Sit back and take a deep breath before you do anything. I am an engineer and if I saw a report from a contractor which said what this guy has told you I would dismiss the report as pure BS and never hire the contractor again.

Let me tell you some of the problems with what you have been told:

1. "...not enough column support in the crawl space for the master bath on the second floor..." The crawl space is under the first floor, not the second, unless the house is on a hillside. It is not possible for the second floor to sink because of problems with the foundation unless the first floor also has sunk.

2. The foundation rests on piers or pilings in the earth. Columns are above ground and are easily visible.

3. Unless the soil under the house is very poor, it is an easy matter to either add more supports or strengthen the existing ones.

4. You have access to the crawl space. Getting in there is not fun, but it is not that difficult. I could take out 1.5" of sag in a floor over a crawl space in an afternoon with nothing more than a car jack and a few pieces of lumber. If you have to re-do this every year or two it is an inconvenience, not the end of the world. And certainly not something to give up $100k over.

* * * * * * * * *

How big is the crack? What material is it in? Do the doors fit well and close easily? How about the windows? If they do there has probably not been serious settlement. Are both sides of the wall with the crack accessible? Is there a crack on the other side of the wall?

I really think this contractor is trying to frighten you into a repair job that is a DIY project, if it is necessary at all.

There are lot of potential reasons for small cracks in sheetrock and many, if not most, are not serious concerns. The width of the crack is a lot more interesting than its length in determining what is wrong.

Can you post a picture of the crack?

* * * * * * * * * * *

If you are still uncomfortable, before you spend a dime on an attorney or another contractor, get an engineer to look at it. The reason for an engineer is that he will not make money from doing any repairs. A contractor is always more interested in getting a job than in telling someone he doesn't need any work.

Go down to a big box store and splurge $20 on a 24" carpenters level and a framing square. If you are really feeling flush, also get a 48" level. Get someone to show you how to use them. If the floor is level, the doorjambs vertical, and the door frames square, everything is good and the contractor is a cheat. If anything is off, then you have to decide if you can live with that degree of tilt to save $100k.

Try to get a complete set of plans, including engineering calculations and a soils report from the owner. They may be on file at the town building department, but in many instances, the building department will allow you to see these documents, but not copy them. Their excuse is that they may be copyrighted by the architect, engineer or whoever that produced them.

Sorry I was not clear. Both first floor and second floor are sinking. They have sunk about 1.5 inches in two years.

The crack is in the dry wall and is about 2 feet long, wider than 1/16th of an inch. It’s only on the inner wall, not the outer wall. Doors and windows close without a problem.

I will go to the city to get the plans and have an engineer coming next week.

Thanks for advice.

CurlyDave
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:37 am

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by CurlyDave » Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:05 am

investor1012 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:14 pm

... Both first floor and second floor are sinking. They have sunk about 1.5 inches in two years.

The crack is in the dry wall and is about 2 feet long, wider than 1/16th of an inch. It’s only on the inner wall, not the outer wall. Doors and windows close without a problem.

I will go to the city to get the plans and have an engineer coming next week.

Thanks for advice.
I do not see this as a huge problem. Doors and windows working smoothly is a good sign.

Next check the door strikes (the metal plate on the door jam that the latch fits into). If the house really is sagging, the latch will not hit the strike in the proper position and the door will not latch. A common fix for this is to file away some of the metal, enlarging the hole in the strike so the latch will work again. If this has not been done, you are in great shape. Just to calibrate you, in my 10 year old custom home I have enlarged the holes in about half of the strikes, and I do not feel the there has been excessive settlement. I watched the concrete foundation being poured, and I was not pleased with the quality of the concrete contractor, but it was adequate.

How do you know that it has sunk 1.5"? I bet the contractor said that, but did you actually measure it yourself?

The engineer will give you a much better analysis than a contractor, but without an engineer, what I would do is to get a fairly long level 4' or even 6', a package of shims (ask in the door and window department of Home Depot), and a tape measure. Find the most unlevel part of the floor you can in an uncarpeted area, and shim the low end of the level up until it reads level. Measure the length of the level and the height of the shims. Divide height by length to get a rise per foot. I suspect you will find less than 1/8" per foot and probably less than 1/16" per foot. This is in the "not detectable when walking around" range and is not going to effect livability of the home.

The crack probably indicates some minor settling, but the doors and windows working well puts it in the acceptable category. You can easily measure how much it is out of level today, but that does not give you a rate of settling. Even the best framing crew can be out of level by an inch or so in a medium size house, more in a large one. You have to measure it today and again in a year or two to really get a rate.

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While there are a lot of reasons why a house may be settling the two most common are:

1) it was built on soil with organic material in it, which is deteriorating (tree roots, buried lumber, grass and plants from grading). This is bad, but most contractors know about this and won't do it. I once knew someone whose concrete driveway was poured over a large pile of scrap lumber. This was a big problem when it started to rot and the driveway sank.

2) The soil is what is called "expansive", i.e. the soil expands when it is wet. This is common in may areas of California. When the house is built, rain no longer penetrates to the soil under the house and it shrinks. Sooner or later it reaches a new equilibrium state and stops shrinking.

If 2) is the problem, it will stop and probably already has.

xerxes101
Posts: 61
Joined: Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:25 am

Re: Buy home with structural issues

Post by xerxes101 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:27 am

mgensler wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:03 pm
Hire a structural engineer to take a look. While you are waiting, you can also check windows and doors. Do they open easily or are the frames twisted? We had some large drywall cracks that turned out to be simple framing issues.
OP, IMO the above is very good advice and I would seriously consider it. In my experience contractors are sometimes biased and they make a big deal out of something that is not that big of a deal, because after all this is how they make their money. Also, I believe you definitely have legal recourse, it just happened that the "defect" was discovered later. Don't let the deadlines rush you into purchasing the house. Talk to your realtor and then a lawyer if necessary, closely document everything!

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