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ryanclemson 01-30-2011 06:35 PM

Porch has shifted on a house I am considering buying. Need advice
Hello all,

This is my first post here, please be gentle. :)

I am considering buying a home in Saint Paul MN that was built in 1907. We have already made an offer which has been accepted and we have completed inspection, but we are considering backing out because the inspection brought to light some issues with the front porch/living room on the front of the house.

Here is the deal. Our inspector noted that the front porch has shifted, but he was unable to determine if was because of decay to the front porch framing or if it was due to shifting (I'm guessing it was shifting). I'm having second thoughts because the shifting has caused unsightly gaps between the stone columns and the half wall of the porch. We also noticed that the room on the inside of the house closest to the porch is sagging in one corner (not sure how far exactly, but you can see the sag visually, and the floorboards in that room have gaps between them now from the sag.

As for the porch, it seems to me that the stone columns have shifted down and away from the house over time. Maybe two inches down, and maybe an inch away from the front of the house (the wood half walls were cut to match the grooves in the stone, so you can visually see the shift). Besides being an eyesore, I know it will be a major project to either jack up the porch columns and repair the half walls and flooring, or to demolish the porch completely and build a new one.

Any advice? We really like this house and we are getting it at a great price, but I'm wondering if this porch problem will just turn into a giant can of worms. Sorry I don't have pictures or I would've posted them here.

Thanks for the advice.

Daniel Holzman 01-30-2011 06:44 PM

If you are serious about pursuing the house, you may wish to hire a structural engineer to perform a detailed survey of the house, to determine the cause of the problem. Your inspector quite properly brought the issue to your attention, however inspectors are normally not trained to determine the cause of structural issues, whereas a structural engineer is. Of course, this will cost you several hundred dollars, but if you purchase the house and discover that you need many thousands of dollars to make the repairs, you may regret not hiring the engineer first.

Gulledge 01-30-2011 06:57 PM


I would NOT buy any house that you can't determine what is causing a problem, especially possible foundation problems. Insurance is very limited on foundation problems, if you could get coverage for the house at all. Ask yourself, Why have the sellers not fixed the problem over the years they have owned the home?

To me, there is just too much risk with going forward without knowing. This is not cosmetic, which all homes might have an issue or two. Do I need to refer you to this old movie?

ryanclemson 01-31-2011 07:39 PM

Thanks guys for your responses. We decided not buy the house. :)

Gulledge 01-31-2011 08:30 PM


You probably made a wise move. You are very lucky to be able to be a buyer in todays market. Although I am not upside down (been in my house for 10 years) I would love to be a buyer. These is no need to settle. I would try not to become emotionally attached because most housing markets are still over supplied, and you can have pick of alot of houses.

I would try to look for quality built houses in areas in which the city is growing. In other words, when the rebound hits, what area is going to see the greatest gains.

Keep this mind, you are the buyer and right now this is your market. I would take my time, and find exactly what I wanted. Everything is negotiable and I wouldn't let anyone create a sense of urgency in me. I remember when I was younger, I would actually get "car fever" and I just had to have "that car" at a dealer. Later, I regreted buying the car. (payment to high, not what I wanted / needed etc.) Brother, there's 100's of dream houses out there for you.

Take your time (within reason considering interest rates) and make a smart logical decision. A good decision will pay handsomely in the years to come when you sell.

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