Photo: A 1 1/4 inch crack in the foundation is indicative of a major issue with the building structure.
Abstract: Buyers have to pause and ask themselves if this is an issue that they can live with and repair or if this item is beyond their risk tolerance.
Foundation cracks are not uncommon and many houses may have them. Most cracks are under 1/4 inch and may be ignored if there is no pest or water entry into the basement or crawlspace. If the crack is greater than 3/8 inch then more effort is needed to determine its severity of impact on the structure. Now, a crack over 1 inch is in a league of its own. It’s a red flag requiring serious deliberation.
As a preamble, let me say that I have never seen a property that I did not like… for the right price. In this case our brave Buyer has several options.
- Stop the inspection and walk away from the property. This is certainly acceptable to do. As an inspector, I am used to the Buyer changing their mind mid-inspection. There are many properties for sale and there will always be another one to consider. If the Buyer is risk averse, then this is the smart option.
- Sometimes the Buyer sees beyond the obvious and is more interested in the future land value. In that case, the structure should be discounted from the appraised value. Don’t forget to add demolition costs to the total equation.
- Finally we have the Buyer who likes the property for a variety of reasons and wants to proceed with the purchase, regardless of the cracked foundation. In that case, the minimum due diligence required would be to obtain further evaluations by experts (geotechnical engineer, civil engineer) for stability AND obtain a quote from a qualified contractor for the necessary repairs.
We always are delighted to have the Buyer accompany us on any inspection. When a major flaw is uncovered then we can have the frank discussion there and then. Should the Buyer stop the inspection at this juncture, we do not have any issues with that and will adjust our inspection fee accordingly.