Foundation problems can be scary for homeowners trying to sell their property and they often have a lot of questions. Questions like…

  • Will the seller want me to drastically lower the price?
  • Will buyers even be interested in my property given the damage?
  • Should I fix the damage before attempting to sell?
  • Is it better to sell the home ‘’as is’’, with the foundation damage? Is that even possible?
  • How do I know if my home has serious foundation damage?

Yes, foundation problems are serious. However, the good news is they don’t automatically make your home un-sellable. Keep reading to find answers to all the above questions.

You’re legally required to disclose any structural damage when selling a home

In most US states you are legally required to disclose – in writing – any structural damage to potential buyers. If you know about it, you have to make sure potential buyers know about it as well. If you fail to do this, you could get into big trouble. So, don’t be tempted to go this route thinking that concealing the damage is the only way you’re going to sell your home. There are aboveboard ways to sell a home with foundation damage and we’re going to talk about them here in just a bit.

First things first…

If you already know your home has foundation problems, you need to call a foundation professional and schedule an inspection. When they’re done they’ll give you a written report and a repair estimate that you need to show to potential buyers. Make sure the buyer acknowledges the problem – and whether it was fixed or not – in writing.

Now, some people reading this might be tempted to think…

“If I don’t get an inspection from a foundation professional I’ll be able to say truthfully that I didn’t know the home has foundation problems.”

You don’t want to do this. Just because you don’t have a written report detailing the damage, doesn’t mean you can’t get into trouble for withholding information from a buyer. It’s always best to be transparent about these things. You never know. It’s possible a professional foundation inspection will show that the problem is not as bad as you think.

Just know that whatever the foundation problem – large or small – it’s going to affect your net gain from the sale. So, let’s take a look at your two options..

Option one: Fix the problem first and then sell the house

If you’re considering this option, you’ll need to hire a foundation professional to perform an inspection, write up an estimate, and then do the repair work.

Yes, foundation repairs can be costly. However, if the buyer sees they’ve already been taken care of they’ll usually feel relieved knowing the problem has been solved and that they won’t have to deal with it. Of course, any repair work on your foundation should come with a warranty and you’ll show this to the potential buyer.

It can’t hurt to check to see if your homeowner’s insurance policy covers foundation repairs. However, keep in mind that it probably won’t unless the damage was sudden and accidental.

If you can’t afford the cost of assessment and repair – or maybe you just don’t want the stress of doing the repair yourself – you can always sell the house ‘’as is’’.

Option two: Sell the house ‘’as is’’ to an investment buyer

Your other option is to sell the house ‘’as is’’ and let the buyer handle the foundation repair. You’ll probably need to significantly lower the price, of course. However, if you do, you’ll be targeting buyers looking for “fix and flip” investment opportunities. This is because many traditional lenders won’t lend money for buyers to purchase homes with structural problems. If they do, they might ask for higher interest rates or impose less than optimal loan conditions. So, buyers needing loans won’t be your target market. You’ll be looking for buyers paying cash.

Of course, if you’re going to lower the price significantly and sell your home to an investment buyer you’ll still need to disclose any foundation issues. You don’t want to hide any problems, because the foundation professional the buyer hires to inspect the home will find them and then you’ll find yourself in hot water.

At Bay Area Underpinning, we do foundation repair work all of the time for house flippers who buy homes in very poor condition.

Signs of foundation problems

Minor problems with the foundation probably won’t lower your home’s value. However, larger problems will. So, as we’ve pointed out above, you’ll either need to repair them before you sell, or sell the house “as is”. But, how do you know if you even have foundation problems without a professional inspection? Are there ways to tell even before you hire a foundation professional?

There are. Take a walk through your home and look for these signs. If you see any of them, you definitely need to contact a foundation professional and schedule an inspection. Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. These are the most common signs of foundation trouble…

Interior signs of foundation problems

  • Windows and doors that are hard to open and close because they are no longer aligned properly.
  • Sloping, uneven floors.
  • Cracks in walls (including drywall), especially cracks that run diagonally from the corners of windows and door frames up toward the ceiling.
  • Walls that are pulling away from the ceiling or floor.
  • Walls that bulge or bow outward. You can use a level to see if the wall is straight.
  • Cracks in flooring. Look for cracks that stretch across the floor from wall to wall. Cracks that are limited to one tile are usually the result of something that was dropped on the floor.
  • Wood floor planks that are sagging.
  • Damp basement or crawl spaces. This could indicate that the soil around the foundation is saturated with moisture. See wall rotation below.
  • Large vertical or horizontal cracks.

Exterior signs of foundation problems

  • Walls that are bulging or bowing. Use a level on the wall to find out if there’s a problem.
  • Wall rotation – When the soil under your home becomes soaked with water, the weight of the structure pushing down on the soil causes the outside edge of the foundation to sink into the soil while the drier inside edge of the foundation pulls up. This can cause the walls to rotate.
  • Large vertical or horizontal cracks.
  • Cracks in bricks or masonry. One common sign of foundation trouble is stair step cracks in bricks or the grout between them. Again, hairline cracks aren’t usually a problem. However, you should keep an eye on them for changes.
  • Leaning chimneys or porches, including porches or chimneys have that separated from the building.

If you need to sell a house with foundation problems, it’s not the end of the world. You do have options. Yes, the problem will need to be fixed. You just need to decide if you’re going to fix the problem first and then sell the house, or if you’re going to sell the house “as is’’ and let the new owner handle it. Whichever option you chose, you’ll need to disclose the foundation problem to all potential buyers.

At Bay Area Underpinning we offer foundation inspections for a fee for real estate transactions. Contact us today to schedule yours.