There are 3 things that are never good to see when you view a house. Since I have a drafting/building material/architectural/construction background, I tend to always be in mini-home inspection mode when I look at houses with my clients.
I absolutely hate to see cracks in the brick that have been repaired multiple times. I don’t know if you have ever seen this, but it also can happen to a concrete block wall. It is where somebody filled in the crack, it came back, then it was filled again……….maybe over and over again. You can tell because often the colors of the caulk or mortar are different. The bottom line is that the house has movement. That isn’t going to go away and can’t really be fixed totally. Yeah, there are expensive things that can be done, but not of them can make it all good again.
Another thing I hate to see is when the seller has gone to great lengths to direct water away from the house. Sure I appreciate the effort, but that tells you that the house has a big annoying problem. You know this when you see big black corrugated drain pipe running all around the house. Maybe if the driveway is right beside the house there will be globs of caulk at the joint. To me, that just tells me there has been water in that corner of the basement before, which always means mold if it is finished space.
I have a house that fit this bill, but I did some permanent fixes. I say permanent because running drain pipe all over doesn’t really change the way surface water runs to the house. It just deals with the water running off the roof. After trying all these cheap fixes and still getting water in the basement, I went into overdrive. I had the basement water proofed. That kept water out of the inside of the house, but didn’t keep the water from eroding the soil under and around my foundation. So, I hired a dude with a Bobcat and a dumptruck to regrade the backyard so surface water ran around my house instead of through it. I also installed the one piece gutters that don’t clog, buried the downspouts and ran them where they wouldn’t be anywhere near the house. Since I had one corner that I couldn’t really create positive drainage, I made a valley so that water would run parallel to the house. Now my neighbor’s basement leaks instead of mine. I hate that for him, but the reality is that if my house had been graded properly when built, he’d have gotten a lot of it anyway.
You may ask why I tell people to run when this happens if I fixed it in my own home. The reason is because I think people should feel a sense of peace while they are in their home. I did all this, but every time it rained hard or the ground was saturated, I was a nervous wreck. See, the sump pumps could fail or we could have that one time where all my engineering can’t handle the amount of water. I rent this house out now, but I still worry about it. That isn’t the homeownership experience I want for my folks!
The next thing that can tell you a lot about the history of a house, even if the seller said in the disclosure that the basement is dry, is when you go down there and they have everything up on pallets. Or maybe the washer and dryer are sitting on bricks. People always do that when there has been water in the basement. See, some sellers feel like if the basement only has a little water, or it only happens every once in a while, that you won’t mind when it happens to you!
These are the 3 things that always make me give a house a thumbs down. I’d rather see a roof past it’s expiration date, or a furnace that is an antique than any of these. Water and soil stability issues usually end with nature winning in its battle with man.