Can I sell a house that is damaged by foundation movement?
I am asked this question at least once a month. I used to find this perplexing. Why would anyone believe they could not sell a house that shows visible damage due foundation movement? After all, such homes are bought and sold every day.
Many times what they mean is not that they can not sell the house, but that they cannot get the price they want. But this does not really wash either when you think about it. Almost all Houston area homes are sold for less than the asking price. Fully 50% take more than the average time to sell. And the large majority of these have little or no visible damage from foundation movement.
I would never buy a house with this!
The “this” in the heading above is typically a drywall crack, sometimes severe, sometimes very minor.
This is a common response when I point out to homeowners that houses with foundation related damage sell houses every day. They are bought by people who are willing to tolerate some degree of damage and distress that is due to foundation movement.
Every house has some issues that are unacceptable to some buyers
There are many reasons why a specific house might be unacceptable for a particular person to buy.
Engineers and real estate inspectors are in the business of informing potential buyers as to the condition of the house, not its marketability. However, there are a couple of points that bear on this question that can best be made by an engineer or inspector:
It is unreasonable to not expect some degree of damage due to foundation movement in resale houses in the Greater Houston Area. The combination of expansive soils, thin flexible slab-on-ground foundations and wooded lots virtually guarantees that many houses will experience some damage due to seasonal foundation movement. This type of movement rarely affects the structural stability of the frame structure of the house.
There is a wide range of opinions concerning how much cosmetic damage is acceptable or not acceptable. Some people find even hairline cracks unacceptable; others find almost any crack width acceptable so long as there are no structural safety or stability issues. If the degree-of-damage shown by a house you are considering buying makes you uncomfortable, you should probably not buy the house.