Buying a Home with Wall Cracks: Get an Expert Opinion
LESLIE: Thomas in Florida’s got a slab of his house that’s cracking up. What can we do for you?
THOMAS: I’m a first-time home buyer. Getting ready to close the deal on a land contract. Discovered some cracks in the foundation of my house that were not visible or accessible during the time of the home inspection.
THOMAS: Actually, underneath the carpeting because the house has …
THOMAS: … wall-to-wall carpeting throughout probably 90 percent of the house and the rest of it’s linoleum. I began to become worried that there was a problem when I noticed a vertical crack running up the wall – an interior wall – and decided to pull the carpet back and look down there and I discovered a crack that was moving laterally. And there was enough room down there to put at least a nickel or a quarter in almost all of it. And I’d say that crack probably spans about 20 feet and that’s just in one area.
Now my question is because I signed the contract and agreed to buy the house as is, what are my legal rights pertaining to the as-is clause of buying a house and getting my deposit back if I feel that the defect was not disclosed or a latent defect?
TOM: Well, those are certainly mitigating circumstances. Your question’s really a legal question, Tom, that we really can’t address directly because it’s a question for an attorney to review your contract and make those sorts of arguments. If there’s any evidence that the owner knew about the issue ahead of time, you know, that can also help your case.
But let’s first discuss how much concern you should have about these cracks. What I would certainly do right now is get the home inspector back in or get a structural engineer back in to be able to look at the whole picture now that the carpet is up and determine what the condition is of the building. I will say that cracks are very, very common. So the fact that you have a 20-foot-long crack in your slab does not necessarily in and of itself frighten me because I’ve seen them many times before. Usually they happen very early on in the home’s construction …
LESLIE: And then don’t change throughout the rest of the time.
TOM: … and then they just don’t change. Yeah. You also – and now the plot is sort of thickening because now you’ve got a crack that’s near – a crack in the floor going up a wall. You know, this could be evidence of active movement but you really need to get that opinion professionally so you know how much of a problem you have. And then that’s going to help you determine, you know, how much of a fight you want to put up with your prospective home seller over this issue.
But those are the issues you need to identify: how much of a problem is this – get professionals to tell you that; at the same time, get in touch with a lawyer to flush out what your rights are under the terms of that contract.
THOMAS: Right, that sounds like good advice. I think the one problem that I do think I keep running into is that anybody that’s actually responsible for the repairing basically dismissed it as cosmetic or inconsequential.
TOM: Well, that’s why you don’t want to talk to anybody that’s responsible to repair it. You want to actually talk with someone who is going to give you independent, expert advice.
THOMAS: OK, well that sounds good. I’ll follow up on that and I’ll definitely do that before I go to my attorney so I can prepare any evidence …
TOM: Yeah, he’s going to tell you to do the same thing anyway so you might as well get the information up front.
THOMAS: OK. Well, it sounds good, guys.
TOM: Tom, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.