What to Look for When Buying or Selling an Older Home

Who wants to buy a home with a wet basement or foundation issues? Nobody! It’s difficult enough to find a buyer who wants your house, and heartbreaking when they walk away after looking at the basement. In North Carolina, there is a disclosure form which asks the seller a whole range of questions about their knowledge of defects of the property. One of the questions asks if you ever had any water in the basement. Another asks if there is any problem with the dwelling’s foundation. Issues like stair-step foundation cracks, buckling walls, sinking, and sagging floors and slab cracks can be devastating to your home’s value and make it difficult to sell. Also, home inspectors have a keen eye for water problems and structural issues because that is what they are hired to look for.

There is simply no hiding your basement issues when you sell your home. And if you do disclose these issues, either nobody will buy, or they will make a low offer. In fact, buyers will discount the price of a home by 10-15% because of basement or foundation issues.

Here are 5 Fixes before Buying or Selling a Home:

1)   An Effective Waterproofing System

If your basement has ever experienced any groundwater seepage at all, then it needs a quality basement waterproofing system. The idea is that basement water problems never get better, they only get worse as the house ages; the exterior drains and coatings that once protected the house fail. Therefore, even if water seepage is a once-a-year occurrence, it needs to be fixed before the basement is finished, as flooding is likely to be more frequent afterward. Some cautious homeowners put in a system even if they have not had seepage, just to be safe. It is also highly recommended that this system be installed around the entire interior perimeter of the basement. This system should have a reliable sump pump with a battery back-up.

2)   Install a Vapor Barrier (if your home is built over a crawl space)

A crawl space encapsulation completely isolates your home from the earth. This dramatically reduces the humidity level in the air, which will reduce, or in most cases, eliminate mold growth, rot, and critters from your crawl space. The result is an attractive, bright, tough, impervious liner – and a healthy (smell-free) home above it. It is recommended to install a liner that is at least 10-mil thick to truly isolate the home from the dirt floor. A heavy 20-mil liner is the absolute best option for sealing and preventing excessive moisture in a crawl space.

3)   Dehumidify the Space.

When searching for a crawl space or basement dehumidifier, make sure it is powerful and effective– big enough to do the job. It should dry the air and automatically drain the water, so you never have to empty it. A quality commercial-grade dehumidifier should have a powerful blower to draw musty air in and move the dry, clean air back out into the basement. Choosing the right dehumidifier ensures you won’t have high humidity and musty smells in your basement or crawl space. It’s also important to make sure you choose a unit that is Energy Star® rated!

4)   Exterior Maintenance

You should have your downspouts checked and, if necessary, extended to channel roof water away from the foundation. You should also grade the soil away from the house wherever possible, keep gutters clean, and clear window wells of leaves and debris.

5)   Permanently Stabilize Foundation

If you are noticing horizontal or stair-step cracking in the basement walls, this is a sign of foundation failure. Hiding the problem by caulking or sealing mortar cracks is only a Band-Aid fix. The real problem still exists, cracks will re-appear, and more repairs will need to be made. You need a solution from a trustworthy and insured contractor who will solve your problem…permanently. Unfortunately, the wide variety of options can create confusion so contact a trained foundation expert to come out to your home for a complete inspection and consultation.