While looking for a new home, you find a place that checks all the boxes: it’s in a good school district, taxes aren’t painful, it has a nice yard, enough bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a roomy kitchen. Even the basement seems all right; it’s unfinished but clean and dry. And then you see it: a large steel bracket set into the basement wall.
Just like that, all your hopes are dashed. Your first impulse is to walk away, because you’ve heard that “if the foundation has needed repair once, it will need it again” But is that true? Is a repaired basement wall a sign the house is irredeemably broken? Not so much.
Acculevel has been repairing foundations and waterproofing basements since our start in 1996. We understand the concerns that homeowners (and home buyers!) have about the resale value of a house after repairs have been made. And while we can’t speak for every home repair contractor, we firmly believe that any foundation we’ve repaired is 100% stable and secure. (We provide life-of-structure warranties on all major foundation repairs to support this.)
In this article, we’re going to explain what you need to know, what you need to ask, and when you should buy a house with foundation repairs.
What Do You Need to Know?
Start by talking with the homeowner to learn what was wrong with the foundation, who made the repairs, and what repair method was used. Once you know those things, you can research the problem and solution. This should help reassure you that the problem was properly diagnosed and addressed. If it leads to more concerns, you’ll want to consult with the contractor for a more detailed explanation.Note: you may have to get permission, verbal or written, from the current homeowner before the contractor can release details of the repair to you.
I recommend that you bookmark our foundation repair guide, and use it for this purpose. Our guide reviews causes, symptoms, repair methods, and costs. Each chapter covers a different foundation issue, from hairline cracks to bowing walls, so you can easily navigate it to find the information you need.
What Do You Need to Ask?
Once you’re comfortable with how the foundation damage was repaired, you’ll want to learn more about the warranty on the repair. Most contractors warranty their work, but not all of them allow it to transfer to a new owner. Others require a transfer fee, or only support a warranty if you pay an annual service fee.
Another item to consider is the longevity of the company. If they guarantee the repair for 25 years, but have only been in business for 3 years, there is a real possibility that they may not be around to service the warranty in 20 years. I’m not trying to be cynical, just realistic; over 70% of businesses fail within the first 10 years.
We’ve explored the topic of warranties in considerable detail on our blog. I’ve learned that a “lifetime warranty” is highly subjective and varies widely. In fact, when it comes to services like home repairs, there is no legal definition that specifies how long a ‘lifetime’ warranty has to be. This was a shock to me- I expected better consumer protections than that. This discovery prompted us to develop a list of things homeowners should ask about warranties before signing a contract. (The resulting questions are included in the article.)
Should You Buy a Home with a Repaired Foundation?
Ultimately, this is a decision only you can make. But please consider the following facts:
- I alluded to this concept earlier, but it bears repeating: if a foundation issue is repaired correctly, it’s unlikely to need additional work later. Again, we can’t speak for all contractors, but Acculevel rarely has to work on the same foundation repair more than once. For example, if we install helical piers on a settling foundation, there’s a small chance (2-3%) that foundation will need additional piers.
- All houses, no matter how well-built, are exposed to the elements. Needing foundation repair does not necessarily mean that a home is defective or poorly constructed. And once good quality foundation repairs are made, that area of the home is generally stronger and more reinforced than it had been originally.
- The warranty on a foundation repair may be as good as- or better than- the warranty you’re going to get on a brand new home. Here in Indiana, newly built homes must be free of structural defects for 10 years. Acculevel warranties major foundation repairs for the life of the structure.
- A quality home inspector will review the foundation and the repairs made, and present a detailed report on their findings. This is an objective third-party evaluation, and we recommend that all home buyers have one before a home sale is completed. (We don’t recommend that you ask a foundation contractor to evaluate another’s work; you want a reliable and neutral assessment.)
Buying a home is a stressful decision, and we are often asked to evaluate a home’s foundation, basement, or crawl space before a sale is made. (Just a note: we cannot provide an estimate for both sides on a property because it presents a conflict of interest.) Over our 20+ years in the industry, we’ve been asked many of the same questions by multiple potential homeowners:
- How Long is a Lifetime Warranty on Your Home? It’s (Probably) Shorter Than You Think.
- What Does a Home Warranty Cover?
- Responding to a Home Inspection Report: Whom Do You Call and When?
- Buying a House? The Top 5 Questions Buyers & Realtors Ask Contractors
- Do You Offer Any Discounts? Questions about Contractor Pricing
- A Homebuyers Foundation Guide: Potential Signs of Trouble
Do You Need A Contractor to Evaluate Your Foundation?
We recommend that you only work with reputable service providers: you can verify them with their appropriate organizations.
- Real estate agents at realtor.com.
- Home inspectors at ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors).
- Engineers at your state’s chapter of the Structural Engineer’s Association.
- Contractors at the Better Business Bureau.
At Acculevel, we frequently contribute to the home buying process. We work with realtors, home inspectors, structural engineers, homeowners, and other contractors as needed.
If you live in our service area and your project involves waterproofing or foundation repairs, we are here to help! You can request a free estimate, or call us at 866-669-3349. Our friendly office staff will make an appointment for you with one of our local project managers. He or she will evaluate your dream home, address your concerns, and recommend the best course of action for you.