How to Look for Signs of a Shifting Foundation Before You Purchase a Property

Foundational issues are either a good sign or a bad sign, depending on what you’re interested in as a property investment. If you know how to fix foundational damage on a budget, then getting a private loan for a home most major lenders wouldn’t trust can be a gold mine. If you prefer a solid foundation for your investment properties, knowing the signs can help you walk away from a bad deal. Either way, it’s better to know the signs before you sign.

Signs of a Shifting Foundation

  1. Pay attention to the doors. A shifting foundation moves the house sitting on it, and this is particularly noticeable around door frames. If you notice that any of the doors are hard to open and close, this is a general indication of foundation problems starting to crop up. If the house has a wooden door or frames, this might also just be swelling due to the heat (especially if it has rained recently), so use this marker in conjunction with other signs of foundation problems.
  2. Look for cracks. Houses sometimes develop cracks due to age or previous foundation problems, and sometimes they’re just cracks. Start keeping a record of the minor cracks you find both inside and outside your home: take pictures, record their length and width, and write the date each time you measure them. If the property is on the market for a while, you might not see them start to grow, but if the measurements are creeping up over time, especially in terms of their width and depth, you need to schedule an appraisal for the home’s structure before taking any steps toward a purchase. These cracks can appear along the foundation, in a zigzag pattern along the mortar between bricks, between the windows and walls (both interior and exterior) as a sign of separation, along door frames, or in the corners of the walls. Some homes will also have cracks start to form along the lines of drywall pieces, but those cracks aren’t necessarily a sign of foundation instability.
  3. Look behind the flower beds. Sometimes the first sign of the foundation shifting won’t be damage to the house; instead, the garden might have started to change shape. Flower beds along the foundation of the home should leave three to four inches of slab visible above the ground, and the surface should slope away so rainfall doesn’t pool around the home. If you don’t see signs of adequate care, or the soil is pulling away from the foundation, add it to your list of warning signs.
  4. The floors are becoming uneven or buckling. This indication of foundation problem can be difficult to notice if there is carpet or laminate flooring because it will move with the ground. However, if your feet start to notice uneven patches or you hear squeaks as you walk, that’s a strong sign that something has gone wrong, even if it’s not the foundation. This sign of foundation problems is a great test if you’re about to buy a home: wallpaper, paint, or epoxy can cover interior cracks, and soil can be shored back up to fill in gaps along the foundation. But whenever you’re in the market, walk across rooms in the four corners of the house and feel for elevated spots; if you think you found one, place a marble on the floor. If it starts to roll, the floor is uneven, and the faster it rolls the worse the problem is. This can be a little difficult with carpeted floors, so always test the kitchen, utility room, and garage.

Knowing exactly what you’re buying is important in real estate investing, and not noticing a foundation problem can be a costly mistake. But if you’re in the business of finding homes with foundation problems you can solve but other investors and banks won’t touch, private lending is the perfect solution. Go to Center Street Lending here to get started.