Home buyers

Structural engineering foundation reports for home buyers

Making reports for home buyers is something we do several times every week. I understand that buyers have an option period to contend with and that buyers have a very different perspective of the risk in buying a house that has potential foundation issues as compared to a homeowner. A homeowner already owns the problem or potential problem; a home buyer knows, or should know, that once the house is sold, the risk that comes with ownership is his and his, or hers as the case may be, alone. The risk of foundation issues cannot be transferred to someone else, such as an insurance company.

The risk of a poorly performing foundation must be borne by the owner, so is understandable that a potential owner will want to understand as much as he or she reasonably can a about the risk of future foundation problems

Most buyers and most homes do not need the services of a Professional Structural Engineer, but many do. The following are answers to common questions home buyers have regarding structural engineering foundation performance evaluations.

When do buyers need a structural engineering foundation performance report?

1. If the foundation has been underpinned in the past.

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.

3. If the owner disclosed on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice that structural repairs or modifications have made to the house.

4. When you walked the home, did you use a small flashlight to detect signs of drywall repair? If you did and if you found such evidence, you should seriously consider retaining a structural engineer for a report.

5. If the house was built before 1980 or, especially before 1970. Many of these homes, especially so-called starter homes, were constructed with foundations that were not engineered for expansive soil movement.

6. If the original home burned down and a new home was built on the old 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.

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