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Beware of Foundation Problems When Getting Your Home Ready for the Market

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RISMEDIA, August 14, 2010—Selling a house isn’t easy these days. There are a huge number of homes on the market, and buyers are easily scared off if they encounter problems that may negatively impact resale value. Among the many issues that need to be addressed in order to make a house more marketable, foundation problems rank near the top of the list, according to Walter Molony, an expert in statistics and research at the National Association of Realtors.

“Before a house is listed for sale, the real estate agent will work with the homeowners to make sure that the property is competitive with similar properties in the area,” Molony explains. “A little dampness in the basement or a small drywall crack are flaws that a potential buyer may be willing to overlook,” says Molony, “but a cracked or bowed foundation wall will be a major red flag. Since most home sales are contingent on a satisfactory home inspection, foundation problems are very likely to stop a home sale dead in its tracks.”

Home improvements vs. home repairs
In today’s tight economy, it’s understandable for homeowners to put off home improvements until they feel more financially secure. But it’s important to make a distinction between basic “feel-good” improvements (like painting a room or installing shelving) and repairs that correct safety issues or prevent a problem from getting worse. Fixing a damaged foundation definitely falls into this latter “must-do” category.

“It’s risky to put off fixing a damaged foundation,” says Dave Thrasher, of Nebraska-based Foundation Supportworks. “If a crack starts to enlarge or a wall starts to buckle, you’re seeing a failure that is probably going to get worse,” Thrasher continues. “The longer you wait, the more extensive the problem becomes and the more expensive the repair is going to be.”

Foundation problems follow the building boom
Some foundation problems are obvious—cracks, tilting chimneys and bowing basement walls, for example. But there are other symptoms that may signal a settling or shifting foundation. For example, windows or doors can be racked by a shifting foundation and become difficult to open and close. Drywall cracks that extend from the corners of windows and doors are another telltale sign.

As surprising as it seems, a newer home may be just as likely to have foundation problems as an older one. A Wall Street Journal article (8/13/2009) reported on an entire housing development in California with numerous foundation problems.

According to journalist M.P. McQueen, the decade-long building boom that began in the late 1990s “caused shortages of both skilled construction workers and quality materials. Many municipalities also fell behind inspecting and certifying new homes.” This perfect storm of poor quality control definitely took its toll. Research conducted by Criterium Engineers, a national building-inspection company, confirmed an uptick in the percentage of new homes with major construction defects.

Specialty foundation repair contractors have the right solutions
The good news about foundation problems is that most of them can be corrected, as long as the contractor has the training, tools and materials to do so. “We certainly get our share of calls from panicked homeowners,” says Thrasher. “By the time people call us, they’ve probably realized that local remodeling contractors can only temporarily fix cosmetic problems, but are unable to permanently solve the problem.

For more information, visit www.foundationsupportworks.com.

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