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My wife and I are shopping for a house and have come upon one we really like. We're preparing to put in an offer, but have learned that a previous deal didn't go through because a home inspector found "moderate cracks (1/8-3/4")" in the foundation, as well as "damaged and/or loose foundation bricks".

I don't have much more info beyond that, but I noticed a few other potential trouble signs during our visit (cracks in drywall around doorways etc.).

The previous buyers backed out before bringing in a structural engineer to evaluate the problem and recommend repairs. Of course, if we moved forward with an offer, it would be contingent upon inspection by both a normal home inspector and a structural engineer. However, I'm wondering whether it's even worth it?

I know that I need an engineer to tell me whether these are signs of a major problem or whether they are easy fixes. I'm just wondering whether I want to gamble ~$700 in home inspections when I already know there is a good chance they could find major problems. Then again, I don't want to pass on what could be great house.

Quick background: The house is a two story dutch colonial on a fairly level lot. It was built in 1976 and I'm pretty sure the hardboard siding is original, so I wouldn't be shocked if there were moisture issues.

We are factoring in the cost of replacing the siding off the bat, but definitely do not want to buy a home with major structural problems.

Any insight or tips would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Master General ReEngineer
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but definitely do not want to buy a home with major structural problems.
Ayuh,.... With the tiny bit of info you've provided, I guess I'd recommend that ya just move on, 'n keep lookin',.....

Such a young house with 3/4" foundation cracks, sounds like it needs major work,....
 

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Civil Engineer
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Do you have access to the previous home inspection report that located the cracks? If so, you certainly should be able to find the cracks, and you can then form a better opinion about whether you want to go forward or not.

Bear in mind that a typical home inspector is not qualified to offer an opinion as to whether a crack is structurally significant. Inspectors who adhere to ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) guidelines would simply note the location and size of the cracks, but would not offer any opinion as to whether they are structurally significant. Any inspector who lacks structural qualifications, and does offer a structural opinion, would be opening themselves up to a lawsuit, which could be major trouble.

Most house problems can be solved by application of sufficient funds. If you like the house, you may want to go forward with your own structural inspection by a qualified professional, and get bids from local contractors to repair the problem if your inspection reveals that the house needs repairs. You can then value the house as to what you would pay if the house needed no repairs, less the cost of repairs and the your personal cost to get the repairs done. If the seller will not take the offer, you can always walk away.
 

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A 3/4" is NOT a moderate crack in my opinion as non engineer unless you are talking length instead of width. It would indicate something has move significantly.
If you really like the house you can make the an offer based on what repairs need to be done. You would of course need some sort of estimate of what needs to be done.
 

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Did the seller disclose the foundation issues on the required seller disclosure form? If not, that is an issue in and of itself.

You could make an offer subject to your review of a structural inspection and have the seller pay for it. You could then renegotiate your offer price based on the results, or just walk away.
 

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Licensed Engineer
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There are companies who specialize in structural foundation repairs and who offer free quotations. If this potentially great house is priced $20K less than comparable properties it might be worth the trouble of getting an estimate. Perhaps you can arrange an appointment with a sales person from such a company, your self, and your Real Estate agent at the home.
 
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