Foundation – The truth about what’s below

Whether you own a home, are looking to buy a house, or sell your property, know your stuff when it comes to the foundation. Your foundation is the base on which a home or building is built, so ultimately if there is an issue there, you want to know about it.


If you are buying a home – Foundation

Buying a home is a big undertaking. Yes, everyone is trying to help simplify the process, but generally, you have a lot of parties involved: you (buyers), sellers, lender, real estate agents, lawyers, title companies, inspectors, appraisers.

First off, if you have a preference on your foundation or basement, let your agent know so they can help you weed out properties don’t fit your needs and wants. If you don’t have a preference then once you find the home of your liking be sure to take into account the type of foundation and what types of issues tend to arise with it. (Such as, slabs can have issues with cracking, basements and crawl spaces have issues with moisture, mold, and pests.)

Alright, know the issues but don’t freak out. My advice is to hire a home inspector. A good one. If you aren’t sure, ask your REALTOR. They will likely have one they enjoy working with and that maintains a good reputation. Your inspector will check out the foundation, and probably even take photos of any potential issues. It’s not uncommon for the inspection to reveal problems, that is why you are having one.

Maybe pests are the issue, and you are buying a home in Virginia, VAR contracts have a clause in which the Sellers are responsible for Termite/Pest Inspection and treating any problem areas. If you aren’t sure, talk to your real estate agent, and make sure you know who will be responsible for those inspections and costs.

If there are other issues, say a settling foundation, or any other issues, you can contact a company that specializes in that, and get a price quote. Look, a lot of times if the buyer is requesting the quote the contractor will charge. Now, there are ways to get around paying as the purchaser, if you are concerned talk to your agent who can help you. If you are going to pay out of pocket, the estimate may come in handy as a negotiation tool, so it has value in and of itself. I had a crawl space waterproofing estimate come in over 10K and we were able to negotiate the price down by $10,000.

I cannot promise all sellers will be willing to negotiate, but either way, knowing the status of your foundation and/or basement will be useful whether you buy the house or if it’s enough to turn and run the other way.

Selling home foundation

If you are selling a home

Any potential buyers are going to be looking at your foundation, and every other aspect of your home. If you are interested in knowing what’s likely to come up on a home inspection, and even fix potential issues before a future buyer’s home inspection, get a pre-listing home inspection. If you do this you can fix/address issues of your choosing, price home accordingly, & lessen negotiations because everything is on the table. Often times I refer to the home inspections as the doomsday report. Everything is a bit dramatic, and little problems can seem bigger than they are. The biggest downside to the pre-listing inspection is that, depending on where the property is, you may have to disclose some of the issues that come up. Virginia doesn’t actually require the Seller to disclose very much, see the disclosure here.

Alright, back to the foundation. If you receive a pre-listing inspection and any foundation or basement issues come up you will then have the option of fixing/addressing the issues, or pricing your home with those issues taken into account. If your basement is a little wet, maybe you just need to throw a dehumidifier down there. It could reduce stress to know what you’re up against first.

If you don’t get an inspection, but know there are issues that will come up on the inspection, you may want to think about how much you will be willing to negotiate on these issues, if at all. Depending on the market in your area, if your home is in high demand it may not be necessary.

foundation new home

If you are building a home

Your builder (or your architect) is going to be your guide for your choice in the foundation. You will most likely have a preference before you start the process, if not they will be able to provide you with pro’s and cons and site-specific advice.

Foundation. There are three basic kinds of foundations. Reasons for choosing different types of foundations include climate, cost, ease, timeframe, & location.

  1. Basement
  2. Crawl Space
  3. Slab

(Here’s an article with the pro’s and con’s of Crawl Space versus a Slab Foundation!)

First, let’s look at different types of foundations.

  1. Shallow Foundations
    1. Individual Footings
    2. Raft/Mat Foundations
  2. Deep Foundations
    1. Pile Foundations
    2. Deep Footing
    3. Pier
    4. Cassions Well Foundations

Then there is the material that makes up the foundation

  • Rubble
  • Brick
  • Poured Concrete
  • Concrete Block

(Thinking about building? Check out these local land listings!)

So now you’ve got a hefty list of types of foundations, but what now?