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What should a realtor look for when showing a listing to a client?

How does a realtor or a client know whether to pursue a house or to walk away?

It really depends upon what the clients are looking for. If they want a historical home and if the home has not been restored, they can expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more in a restoration. Some buyers are looking for fixer uppers, but even then, they will walk away if the renovation is too costly or overwhelming.

Most buyers are looking for a house that is close to move-in ready without expecting to spend a lot of out of pocket money within the first 5 years of ownership.

The top three high dollar maintenance items facing prospective home buyers in the Houston area are:

  1. Foundation Settlement
  2. Roof
  3. Air Conditioning / Furnace (HVAC)

This blog addresses foundations.

Foundation Settlement

In the Houston area, almost all foundations are slab on grade, which simply means, the slab is poured directly on top of the ground.

Some sort of foundation settlement is common to almost 100% of the houses in the Houston area. Post-tension slabs are used to help alleviate some of the problems that result from a settling foundation. A post-tension slab has cables that are put under very high tension which helps to hold the slab together. With a post-tension slab, the whole slab moves or tilts as a solid piece. Concrete slabs that are not post-tension slabs will have a portion of the foundation settle resulting in a cracked foundation. Repairs to correct a cracked foundation is very costly.

What To Look For

Look at the foundation for all four sides of the house. The cables are often exposed at the foundation. They should be covered with a concrete mud from rusting out. Either the cables or the mud covering the cables should be evident for a tension slab. If these are absent, then the slab may not be a tension slab. Older homes will not have tension slabs.

Post-Tension Slab

This is a post-tension slab. Note the round tension cable ends.

Post-Tension Slab with Tension Cables Covered With Plaster For Protection

This is also a post-tension slap with the tension cables covered with plaster or concrete to protect them from moisture which would cause the cables to rust. As they rust, the cables will expand and cause the foundation to crack.

Foundation Cracks

Look for cracks in the foundation wall and the exterior walls. Small hairline cracks are typically not a problem, but should be monitored for future growth. If they grow upwards at angle or get larger than ¼ inch wide, then a foundation company should be consulted.

Next, examine the exterior and interior walls for cracks. Watch for cracks that a) move up at an angle; b) cracks that are over ¼ inch wide; and c) cracks where part of the wall is protruding outward. These cracks are evidence that the foundation has settled.

If the cracks are vertical or less than ¼ inch wide, they should be monitored for future grown.

Large Foundation Cracks

TIP: If the crack is less than ¼ inch wide, hammer a small nail at the end of the crack in the mortar (not the brick). Check the crack a few months later to determine if the crack has moved beyond the nail or has widened. If so, the house is still settling.

The foundation may have completed settling or more settling may be in the future. The settling process may leave the foundation at a tilt. We will discuss that in the inside inspection.

Corner Foundation Crack

This type of crack is very common to foundations. It appears at the corners of the foundation. The foundation, as a whole, is intact; however, the corner portion that is cracked could fall away. It supports the brick and the sheathing located at the corner.

To fix apply hypoxy sealant to seal the crack and monitor. If the crack reappears or continues to widen, call a foundation company.

Continue the examination on the inside of the home.

Look for

  1. Cracks in the walls that move up at an angle.
  2. Cracks above windows and doors.
  3. Doors that swing open or close by themselves.
  4. Doors that seem to be hung crooked and will not shut properly.
  5. Place a round marble or ball bearing on the floor and see if it rolls or place a level on the floor to determine if the floor is level.

HVAC Furnance

What To Do?

In most cases, the seller will need to repair the foundation before it is sold. This is negotiable; however, the seller is competing with other homes on the market that have good foundations. If the buyer is expected to pay for repairs, get estimates on the cost of repair before closing on the house.

Your professional home inspector has been trained to inspect foundations, roofs, and HVAC units. If they detect issues, they may recommend further assessment by a specialist.

Call us today for a free home inspection quote.