DEAR BARRY: I found a house that I really like, but the home inspection report says there may be foundation problems. How can I determine the cost to fix the foundation, if in fact it does need to be fixed? –Norma

DEAR NORMA: The cost of foundation repairs depends entirely upon the kind of problem and the extent of the problem that was reported by the inspector. There are foundation repairs that cost $1,000, such as settled piers that need to be repositioned or cripple walls that are not braced. On the other extreme, there are foundation repairs that cost $100,000 and more, such as major building settlement or substandard construction.

You need to discuss this issue in detail with the home inspector. If foundation problems were found, what exactly did the inspector see? Were there large cracks in the concrete? Were there gaps between the foundations and the framing? Was there evidence of ground subsidence? Home inspectors sometimes fail to provide specifics, and such details are essential when reporting "foundation problems."

The home inspector should also provide some recommendations. Most inspectors, in such cases, advise further evaluation by a licensed structural engineer. The findings of a structural engineer will inform you of the full extent of the problem, the scope of proposed repairs, and a judgment regarding the necessity of those repairs. The engineer’s report can then be submitted to a licensed building contractor who can bid on the project. Then you will know the costs to make those repairs.

DEAR BARRY: When we purchased our home, the sellers did not disclose that the closet wall was wet. We discovered this when we painted the house. The wall had to be cut open to repair a plumbing leak and then had to be patched and painted. We think the sellers should have disclosed this and that they should now pay for the repairs. What do you recommend? –Sharon

DEAR SHARON: Problems of this kind are very common. People purchase homes, believing that all defects have been disclosed and then find unhappy surprises after they move in. In some cases, the problems they find were known by the sellers but were not disclosed, either because of deliberate avoidance or just plain forgetfulness.

In other cases, undisclosed defects are genuinely unknown to the sellers. Your case could actually be an example of this. When a plumbing leak causes a closet wall to be wet, that wetness can go unnoticed for a long time, concealed behind the many things that people keep in their closets. When the closet was finally emptied on moving day, the wetness might not have been plainly visible. Discovery might have depended upon actually touching the wall.

On the other hand, if that wetness had caused damage or stains that were plainly visible, you might have a claim of nondisclosure against the seller. Otherwise, the cost of repairs should be accepted as part of the expense of getting settled in your new home.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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