Market Wise Q&A - How To Handle a Faulty Foundation

Pat Kapowich for the Pulitzer Prize Winning San Jose Mercury News, (SJMN). Look for Pat's "Market Wise" Q&A advice column in a Bay Area News Group newspaper near you, and in the SJMN on the first and third Sunday.

Q: We are thinking about buying a house that has sold twice and each time the buyers backed out. The listing agent tells our agent that if it does not sell soon, the seller will take it off the market and make repairs. According to the listing agent, the seller will shore up the one section of the foundation and put the home back on the market. However, our agent showed us how all the roofing downspouts dump rainwater next to the house. He said "shoring up" one section of a foundation on an 80-year-old house with these rainwater conditions sounds fishy. The basement door is padlocked, and no key is at the property. Is the seller hiding something?

A: One cannot hide a MLS Transaction Fell Through (TFT), let alone two. Nor can this seller deny, that thousands of gallons of rainwater have been dumped adjacent to the home's foundation. Hiding in plain sight is the worse unspoken problem in residential real estate: the downspout.

This avoidable root source of wintertime soil expansion and summertime settlement via excessive water abutting a concrete perimeter is an expensive folly. Lest we forget, nowadays the ground a home sits upon is properly engineered and prepared before a foundation is built and rainwater is directed away from the foundation.

Ask once and then ask twice for all new and old the written reports and inspections on the property. Simultaneously, get a basement key. Have your agent suggest a foundation expert you all can meet with on site. If that is not possible, have a conference call with the foundation expert. He or she can give you a ballpark number based past foundation work on homes this size, age, city permit costs, timelines and even soil condition based on the neighborhood.

Now, the other two buyers might have been scared off by the expense of a foundation redo. However, if you have the means to rebuild a foundation under a wonderful home, in a nice neighbor where you will live for many years, let their lost be your gain.

Sunday, January 22, 2017 San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group

Pat Kapowich is a full-service Realtor® representing first-time buyers to re-sizing sellers.  Take a class with Pat at De Anza College or contact him a (408) 245-7700 or

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