Finding Structural Problems During Escrow – Upscale Home Example
When buying and selling homes, the property purchase is often subject to a satisfactory home inspection being done. Now and then, a home inspection uncovers severe structural problems. Here’s an example of a situation in an upscale neighborhood.
Severe Structural Problems
Does the buyer walk away when there are serious structural problems? Yes, but not always. A lot depends on the constraints facing the buyer (are they relocating to start a new job, or just “moving up” in the same general area?) and on how much the buyer likes the property. The attitude, maturity level, communication skills, and flexibility of both buyer and seller also make a huge difference.
It’s easy to see a deal blowing up in this situation. Let me tell you about a situation I saw that actually worked out.
Structural Problems – Upscale Neighborhood
The first involved two professional couples and a house one couple wanted to sell and the other wanted to buy in an established, up-scale neighborhood. The house was a colonial style, all brick, very traditional house built about 15 years ago using top of the line materials. The kitchen and bathrooms had been modernized and upgraded within the past 3 years. Top of the line materials (marble, ceramic tile, and granite) were again used.
The house was located on an acre lot that sloped gently down to the street in the front. About 10 feet from the right side of the house, the lot sloped steeply away to a pretty stream. The lot backed to a treed area of a beautifully maintained, historic estate owned by a university and open to the public on a fee-paying basis.
The home inspector noticed that the chimney on the right end of the house was pulling away from the house. It was about 2 inches away at the top, but the bottom was still attached. In the basement, there was some cracking along the wall the chimney was on. The home inspector would not certify the house as structurally sound, but recommended that an engineering firm take a look at it.
The buyer asked the seller to have an engineering study done. The seller was upset but didn’t go to pieces. Something was causing the chimney to pull away, so they called in an engineer. For legal reasons, the sellers also needed to understand what the problem was.
The engineer determined that shrink-swell soil was causing serious foundation problems. They recommended digging down a lot further than the original footers and constructing an elaborate new support system. The sellers agreed to do it and the buyers agreed to delay closing until the work was completed. Thirty thousand dollars later (out of the sellers’ pocket), the transaction closed.
When considering the above example, what is the moral? If you keep a cool head and look for solutions, structural problems need not be a deal killer.