Settlement cracks concealed by sellers

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DEAR BARRY: Since purchasing our home, numerous cracks have appeared in the walls. Some are as wide as half an inch. We've also noticed that patching has been done at many of these cracks, indicating that the sellers of the home were aware of the problem but had attempted to hide it. None of this was reported by our home inspector when we were in escrow. How serious do you think this problem is, and what should we do about it? --Thomas DEAR THOMAS: Cracks as wide as half an inch indicate a major structural problem with the foundation system and/or instability of the soil. The fact that so much movement has occurred since the cracks were patched warrants immediate attention and concern. When symptoms such as these are intentionally masked in order to sell a property, some home inspectors are able to see through the concealment. But when cosmetic repairs are effectively done, it is sometimes possible to prevent discovery of building settlement by a home inspector. Your firs...