You’ve probably heard the joke: Q: How do you know that a house has a foundation problem? A: It’s located in Texas. If you are starting out in real estate investing and know even a little about the terrors of faulty foundations, you may be worried about knowing when to avoid over-paying for a rehab property that needs a major foundation repair. The Brazos Valley’s soft soil, humid climate, tendency to erosion and varied building practices make it easy to find structures with foundation problems in this area. What are some quick tells that let you know not to finalize a purchase price without an expert foundation assessment – especially if you are just getting in to rehabbing? Look up! · Both inside and outside the house, visible cracks and separations wherever a ceiling or roof joins a wall · Long ceiling cracks, especially those that run across from one wall to another Long wall cracks · Interior walls: long vertical cracks, especially floor-to-ceiling · Exterior walls: long stairstep cracks, especially ground-to-roof (particularly in brick) · Learn to distinguish “normal” cracks in paint, brick and other coverings from those that signal a foundation issue. Is it level? · Sight along the foundation for straightness · Interior floors that slope - set a marble down, it will roll without a push · Long floor cracks · Separations in the foundation or floors · Bring a good level to confirm your observations Gaps · Widening gaps are a trouble sign – the wider, the more troublesome · Tops of walls, outside and inside · Bottom of walls at the join to the interior floor or the exterior foundation · Gaps in and around moldings and the framing of windows and doors · Floors: gap separations in linoleum, wood, tile Another quick problem-indicator are windows and doors that are difficult to open and close due to the frame having shifted. But is the foundation really the cause of what you’ve observed? Ask about the property’s history of water damage, and about other causes of cracks. A flood or a water pipe burst can create a localized problem not related to the foundation. But, some such misfortunes can also lead to foundation movement if the water reached the right (or wrong) areas in sufficient amounts, or stayed long enough. There are no locations safe from possible foundation issues – high ground, dry locations, etc. A heavy rain followed by a dry spell can create expansion and contraction in the soil below the foundation. Many, perhaps most, foundation issues can be repaired. Reclaiming a deteriorating foundation may be the key to a great investment property, and will also be a service to the neighborhood and even the community at large. So don’t let these issues scare you away from a good deal. Clearly you need to be well aware of foundation costs before finalizing the purchase price and closing on the deal. Being wise to the red flags will help you secure another profitable real estate investment project. Take a look at these linked photo examples, thanks to an excellent tutorial provided by a foundation repair company. Link to a soil map of Brazos County Link to a PDF Soil Survey of Brazos County, Texas from the USDA What is the single biggest red flag for foundation issues in a property you are considering for a project? Post your answers below, and watch to see what others have to say. Just below is the box “Write Your Reply”. Type in your answer and then click “Post Reply” to the lower right.