crooked floors and which house to buy

I’m looking to buy a house and have narrowed it down to three.
It was only two but one dropped in price by $10,000, now I think it is worth what they are asking for it so I threw it back into the mix.

The best house of the bunch, as in best location, best street, best yard, best parking options, best looking neighborhood, best in safety is the one I like the least.
It’s pretty much move in ready although some of the decor is fugly to say the least but fugly can be fixed. One thing that does disturb me though is that the floors are crooked. The house is 137 years old and as you walk through it you can feel the floors are not even. This house also has the highest taxes, $500 year more than the other two, and I’d have to find a different insurance company because of its age. It has only two bedrooms but it has a third open room that could be an office or sitting room. Outside is siding.

How hard/expensive is it to fix crooked floors?
Unfortunately the house I like the best is in the worse location. It’s not a bad neighborhood but the street is tighter, the houses are closer together, it’s not as pretty, although the neighbors seem friendly enough to wave as I drive though. The yard is smaller and the parking is tighter. I’d have two off street spots but they are a tiny two spots. I could take part of the yard to add more. It at least has a full basement and a full attic, as opposed to house number one that
has a sort of half attic and to get to the cellar you have to walk outside. It has only 1 bathroom but it has a nice pantry off the kitchen. And beautiful dark wood mouldings, and beautiful dark hard wood floors (need finishing), and beautiful big old windows - that probably leak like hell but they sure are pretty and a beautiful big wide staircase with a nice old dark hardwood bannister. Outside is brick.
The middle one is in the middle. I like it better than house number one but not as much as house number 2. The neighborhood isn’t as pretty as neighborhood number one but it is prettier than neighborhood number two. It needs a tremendous amount of work (HomePath Home). Off street parking is tight but it is there. It has th smallest yard and is a duplex. Having work done myself I could get what I want but the house may need more work than the $35000 allowed by HomePath, new furnace, new hot water heater, new windows and possibly new roof as well as electrical and plumbing. Outside is formstone.

House number one has the highest asking price, the highest taxes and probably the highest insurance.

The middle house even with $35,000 is slight less than house number 1. It needs all apliances.

The house I like the best is $15,000 less than house number 1. It needs a little work, new kitchen floor and all appliances. I can probably get a HomeStyle Loan on it and finance all the appliances or put a smaller amount down and buy my own.
My head is spinning from making a decision.
Just need some other opinions.

I’ve been looking for over a year. I lost out on one house because the mortgage company made a mistake when qualifying me. I’ve been outbid on two others. I missed out on several I really wanted to see because they sold in under 4 days - I knew they would. I’ve really learned the shorthand of the ads and am getting really good at knowing which houses are going to go quick. I know the HomePath one is going to go fast, not so fast on the other two.

It seems to me that you can fix floors but you can’t fix a poor location. So I’d look seriously at the first house. In particular, have an inspector or contractor give you an estimate for repairing the floors properly.

I bought a 70YO house 12 years ago with crooked floors. The perimeter foundation had remained at a fixed elevation, but over the years the post in the center of the basement had sunk about 1.5 inches, letting the main wooden beam that supported all of the floor joists sag.

I fixed it myself. Not being an expert, I ripped out the old hardwood planks, surveyed/shimmed the joist tops to a common level, then laid down 3/4" plywood subfloor, topped with 3/4" oak planks, then sanded/stained/varnished. Took me a couple of months, using most of my spare time. The cost was pretty much the cost of materials, i.e. plywood subfloor and oak planks, so less than $2000 for about 350 square feet of hardwood flooring.

The downside:

-In the spots that had sunk the most (near the center of the house), my shim job plus the addition of 3/4" subfloor ate up 2.25" of headroom; I had to trim the bottoms of some doors.

-This did nothing to address the same sagging problem on the second floor.

Looking back it would have been wise to bring in a contractor for a quote and a brief description of how he’d approach the job. In my case, I mostly would have been interested in his approach. My guess is that the professional way would be to jack the main beam back up to correct height.

Dewey Finn’s got it: call a pro in for a quote.

By ‘crooked’ you mean that the floor is out of level; sagging in places correct?

This is the result of movement in the foundation and/or deformation of structure; such as sagging beams. Probably both are taking place in old homes. The latter is easy and cheap to fix.

With an undeveloped basement, fixing of sagging beams is very simple and relatively quick. It is a matter of jacking up the beam with a modern telepost and shimming it where necessary. Old homes are often under built and may need additional teleposts or replacement of existing posts with modern teleposts. When renovating this is one of my first steps and I can usually get a floor back to level in less than an hour. I use a laser level offset and tape measure or stick for reference. An offset stringline works fine too. Reinforcing the existing beam with

Mitigating for sunken foundation can get a little more involved and will require installation of a temporary beam to jack up joists so they can be shimmed at foundation bearing. Depending on construction style getting to and shimming up a rim joist can be difficult to nearly impossible with out knocking out some foundation for a jack.

To summarize it can be anywhere from cheap and quick to pretty involved to fix.

Thanks for the replies.

I forgot one of the other things in house 1 is the stairs coming down from the second floor bedrooms to the first floor, when you get near the bottom the ceiling is low. Low enough that I at 5’3’ felt like I had to duck to keep from hitting my head. Tall people would have to duck.
I’ve seen lots of basement stairs that way, first time when it’s from one living space to another.

I know realistically it is the best one to buy but …

Machine Elf, I am sorry to say you wasted a lot of time and effort fixing a simple problem the wrong way.

The head clearance issue at the bottom of stairs is pretty common in older homes, and in my experience is often the result of renovations trading upper floor space for headroom. The fix involves tearing out drywall/plaster and re-framing a bigger opening. Depending what that upper floor space is dedicated to it may or may not be practical to fix.

I think that space is where the bathroom sink sits.

I’d immediately give up on house number 3. If you think the repairs may go over the $35k renovation budget, it’s fairly safe to assume it will go over, and possibly by a lot.

On house number 2, you should probably factor in the cost of all new windows. Ask to see the utility bills to see if it leaks as much as you suspect.

No no no on house #1. Needs too much work (and you have to duck?) and you don’t even like it. Listen to your gut.

If the “middle” house is the one you are now considering again because they lowered the price $10,000.00, no no no. Still sounds like a lot of work.

The house you like is the one I would buy. It sounds fantastic! And you didn’t say it’s in a bad neighborhood, just that the yards are smaller and parking is tighter compared to the other two.

This is just my humble opinion—I’d rather come “home” every day than pull up to my investment.

A 137 year old house with an uneven foundation is not for the faint of heart. You might consider leaving it for someone who loves it as much as you do, much could take better care of it. Think of it as a large dog or a feral cat.

Or, you could be the person to rescue this house. Acknowledge that the floor will not level itself, and proceed from there.

Why is the floor crooked?

I looked at a Victorian, with two fireplaces and 12’ ceilings (I HATE low (8’) ceilings).

The foundation had split into 4 pieces, the entire 2-story monstrosity was built on 2x8’s spanning 16’ with a single doubled 2x8 as a mid-point support. Nothing was supporting the “mid-point support”.

Another winner was a DIY house, and the floors would spring under your weight. I didn’t bother looking at the dry rot which causes that.

Get someone with knowledge of foundations and framing to look at the place. If you can accurately determine the top of the foundation, a long vinyl tube with colored water is a water level - check on point vs another - if the foundation is off, walk away - unless the houses around it are worth 500K more than it is priced. Putting a new foundation under an existing house is possible, but it is not cheap.

The second house is the one that just came down $10,000. It is the one I like the best. It needs all appliances and the self stick tiles on the kitchen floor are popping up - need replacing. I think though it may need new windows.

The third on is the HHomePath which needs a lot of work but the cost of the work can be financed into the mortgage and I am NOT allowed to do the work myself.
None of the streets are bad so to speak.
The one I like the least is on a wide tree lined street with ample parking because most people park in the back off the alley. They are big older houses in nice sized lots.

The one I like best is closer to town, the houses are closer together (as in maybe a few feet between them) and parking is tight as most do not have off street parking.
The middle one that needs all the work is in a little area near the rail road tracks. Crime wise it’s good but the street is tight and practically a dead end. Parking is tight but I would have off street parking through a tiny alley that runs beside the house to a small (what they call a garage and I would call a shed) in the backyard.

The houses are all pretty close anyway, all within a mile of each other. None of the neighborhoods are bad.

Do the crooked floors really bother you that much? As long as the house is structurally sound, I’d just think of them as a period feature. I’ve stayed in old pubs and houses where you could practically slide down some of the floors!

As someone who has just bought a house after looking for more than a year, I feel I can relate! You don’t mention if you are planning on (or have had) a structural survey done on any of the properties. In the UK, this is something you normally do after having your offer accepted (i.e. you make an offer “subject to survey”, if this is accepted but the survey then shows the entire foundation of the building needs extensive work (for example) you would then be entitled to reduce your offer accordingly to cover the expected costs of the work - though the seller may, of course, reject your revised offer). We had this done and although it only pointed out a couple of serious flaws (which we were able to fix cheaply), we are still finding things about the house we hadn’t really noticed in our several visits prior to buying it. So I guess what I am saying is, definitely get a survey done by an independent professional surveyor, and then be prepared to budget for unforeseen problems as well. The crooked floors in house #1 could be nothing serious that doesn’t even need fixing, or an indication of serious structural problems/subsidence. I don’t know if the US system works the same way as above, or whether (like in Scotland, for example) an offer is binding once made and accepted.

I agree with those who have intimated you can change everything about a house except its location. I know that’s a cliche, but it is true and very important. What we found when buying our house is that due to our budget, we had to compromise by choosing 2 out of 3 from location, space, and style. The house we have bought is in a great location and has the space but is a bit more old-fashioned in style than we would have had ideally (though the interior fixtures, in particular the kitchen, are excellent). We have only been there a couple of weeks but I am so glad we chose not to compromise on location. I think that’s what makes the biggest difference to overall lifestyle (YMMV, of course).

You haven’t really said why you don’t like house #1, apart from the floors (the cause and seriousness of which needs to be established as mentioned above) and the low ceiling, and the decor (which can be easily changed provided you have the time and money). And the practical problem of it costing more to tax and insure. If these are the only issues, they are all manageable in my view. But there may be other reasons for you not liking the house that you have not mentioned. If you can’t see it as your home, even after a year or two of work redecorating it, then maybe it just isn’t right. But if you can, and you have the funds and/or time, and there is no serious structural problem, it sounds like the one to go for.

I am no expert in any of this, but hope some of it is of use. Don’t lose hope even if all three end up slipping away - we felt like that at times, but it all came right in the end!

They make me feel a little off.
I used to pet sit in a really old house The house had originally been the slave house on a large farm but had since been renovated. I always felt dizzy when I got to the top of the stairs. One day I took the dogs ball and laid it on the steps and found that they leaned to the right. When you got to the top the landing tilted away from you and I think that is why I got the dizzy like I was falling forward feeling.
I like a house that feels solid under my feet. Bouncy, springy, uneven floors will bother me. Years ago I lived in a old farmhouse in the city. It was so old nobody was sure when it was built and it had lots of quirks that I could live with. Uneven floors wasn’t one of them.

Parking can’t be fixed. If one of the options means that you’re going to be struggling for a spot every day when you come home from work, and after every errand, you might find it to be a constant source of stress.

One bathroom can be a real logjam (as it were) if there are multiple people living there.

A really old house may have other problems: knob-and-tube wiring, leaky windows, a crumbling sewer outflow, vermin.

As someone who just sold a house with crooked floors (well, uneven is probably the best description), let me offer some advice.

Get an estimate, maybe two. Find out exactly what needs to be done, and how much it’s going to cost. If the owner didn’t disclose the issue, you can negotiate for them to pay for it, or at least a portion of it. It was VERY difficult selling my house because of it - in an otherwise-good condition (80 year old) home. We had over 120 showings over 8 months - so just be careful.

Hey, it wasn’t a total waste: I ended up with a level floor covered with beautiful brand new new hardwood. :smiley: But you’re right, if I had done more research and maybe gotten a quote from a contractor, I would have understood that there were better solutions. That’s why my final advice to the OP was to seek a professional quote; even if you end up doing the work yourself, it’s helpful to know how the pros would choose to tackle the job.

Sahirrnee, The sticky tiles coming up on the 2nd? house could be an indication that the sub-flooring is sub-par. IE, it moves too much. To fix this it may require you to either shore up the floor joists, or install a better sub-floor, or both. Get a home inspector or a structural engineer to look at this. It could be that the glue is bad, or that they were installed incorrectly, but getting a qualified person to look into this would be cheap insurance. This is what I would do.

IHTH, 48.