Foundation Problems Stall Home Sale
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM #LAW 717
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A reader's family home is on the
market and can not be sold because of problems found by an inspector. Unfortunately,
they have no recourse with the builder or city inspector. Ilyce suggests getting
estimates on fixing all the major problems.
Q: I am attempting to sell my parents home. They have been the only owners
since it was built in 1973 and there has never been reason to have an inspection
of the home.
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I had a contract to sell the house and the buyer hired an inspector, only to
discover a multitude of sins. The most critical problem had to do with the structural
integrity of the home. The piers under the house are placed improperly and are
not supporting load bearing walls.
The inspection found that there has been extreme settling in the house with
unlevel floors, out of plumb doors, etc.
When the house was built, should there have been an inspection procedure either
from the city or county? Would I have any recourse against them to collect for
repairs? The builder has long since deceased. My mother is now a widow.
A: The short answer to your question is that the city or county may have conducted
some inspections of the home when it was built, but a homeowner can’t
rely on these inspections to give himself or herself any comfort that the home
has actually been built correctly.
Municipal building inspectors can do a wonderful job making sure that things
go smoothly in the construction of homes, however the time they spend at a site
is so brief that they can’t find everything wrong with a house, even if
the things are major items.
The home inspector who performed the recent inspection on your mom’s
house may have spent two or three hours looking over the house. In 1973, and
even today, a municipal building inspector may have a few hours to look at dozens
of homes. If the building inspector sees something wrong, he will certainly
cite the builder and force the builder to fix it. But for the things he misses,
it’s caveat emptor – buyer beware.
If the homeowner finds out that there is something seriously wrong with the
house once he buys it, he can go after the builder to fix it. In your situation,
even if the builder was still around, it’s unlikely that the builder would
have any responsibility for the issue 33 years after the home was built.
Your best bet is to seek the help of a competent contractor and a structural
engineer who can give you an estimate of what it would cost to correct these
In some situations, homes can be lifted and to a limited degree they can be
leveled. Additional support can be added to the home.
Some of these solutions may be expensive, but others might not be. You may
find that some of the solutions may not be too expensive.
Once you know what the cost will be, you can make a better decision as to how
to sell your mom’s home. Here’s something to consider: Now that
you and your mom know of this problem, your mom may have to disclose it to potential
buyers of the home under her state’s seller disclosure laws. In addition,
disclosing this information may be necessary to avoid being sued by the buyer
of the home. You don’t want to sell the home only to find out that the
buyer is suing you for the problem.
Finally, disclosing this information and costs associated with fixing these
issues will allow the buyer to bid on the home on the basis of this problem
and factor it into the price they are willing to pay for the home.
If the price is good enough, you may decide to sell the home without making
the repairs. However, please know that your mom will not get top dollar for
her property unless these problems are addressed.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com