For home sellers

Structural engineering slab foundation reports for home sellers

Most home sellers believe there is nothing significantly wrong with their foundation and there is no need to spend money for an engineering report on the foundation. I do not disagree with that sentiment. However, it is important that you remember that your buyer sees your home as a risk writ large.

The following are answers to common questions sellers have regarding structural engineering foundation performance evaluations.

When do sellers need structural engineering foundation performance reports?

1. Regardless of the reason for the repair, if it has been underpinned in the past, you need to disclose that on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice. Once you fill out the disclosure notice, any agent worth their salt will not show your house to anyone who has told them they are not interested in a home that has had foundation repair. If you have a recent engineering report, you may be able to avoid this problem, at least to some degree.

2. If the house shows signs of structural movement typically caused by foundation movement, especially stair-stepped cracking in the brick veneer, movement joints in the brick veneer that has opened up, and drywall cracks at the corners of window and door openings, your home will probably be flagged by real estate agents, appraisers, and others as possible having foundation issues. The only effective way to counter this impression is to have a Professional Engineering report that states that the foundation is performing adequately and foundation repair is not required.

3. Home sellers should consider retaining a Professional Structural Engineer if they, or any previous owner, has repaired any drywall, brick veneer or any other permanent components of the house. Any roof repairs should be disclosed on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice. If you or your agent believe that those repairs might be a concern for a buyer, it would be a good idea to have a structural engineer review what was done. Roofers will normally guarantee their work, and that will be enough for many buyers if the warranty can be transferred.

4. If you modified the structure in any way, such as adding onto the foundation, using a patio as a foundation for an add-on area, adding a story to an existing house, opening up a wall, etc., you should probably get an engineering report.

5. Older homes may not fare well in the eyes of a home inspector. Houses built before 1980 were often constructed with foundations that were not engineered for expansive soil movement. I recommend any seller be proactive and retain a Professional Structural Engineer as early as practical.

6. If the original home burned down and a new home was built on the old foundation, a seller would be wise to retain a Professional Structural Engineer for a report on the foundation.

7. Check with the website for the Harris County Appraisal District to see if the foundation is described as “cracked slab” or “foundation repaired” or something similar. If so, you should get an engineering foundation report. Otherwise, a buyer may not be willing to accept the risk he attributes to the house.

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