GQ/IMHO I don't know...but that's not the point.Buying a house with problems, dumb?

I am almost or right at middle class in describing mine and my husbands financial status together. Just barely. I think. We rent, and it is awful in just about every way possible. Just call us “Big family needs house desperately or mom may lose all touch with sanity!” We have an idea of what amount we will be granted for our First Homebuyer Loan, if they even approve that, and it is not much. But the space (and location!) that I need for my three boys, 2 of which are just about teenagers and will be attending public high school, ends up being much more expensive than what we are able to purchase. So I keep looking and looking for a decent school district with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths (One female and 4 males…2 full baths required!!!), and they are just too high priced. My 2 realtors can’t seem to help me. But then, this medium sized blue house in a nearby well known and trusted neighborhood came onto the market in June. The price is right, (lower than what I was looking for and could not find), it is nearly everything I need for now in a home, UNTIL you enter the basement. It has a very dingy dirty stone possibly crumbling foundation and the walls seep during rain and wet seasons. The amount of wetness is not severe, mostly just around the edges, but there is black and white mold on the floors and the walls. The whole basement needs to be completely waterproofed and possibly renovated 100%, except for the brand new replacement windows. I have no idea as of yet if this is even possible to correct a porblem of this sort and how much money we are talking about. But the owners have offered a 10 thousand dollar decrease in price because of this issue. That makes it possible for me and occupancy is immediate. I want this house badly, am I just plain dumb or ignoramous? Please offer educated advice, not just opinion needed here!!! Thanks!!

Sorry, I’m not educated, but…

I’m going to guess a complete basement renovation is going to cost $10,000 or more, so you’re not really gaining anything. And buying a house with a crumbling foundation just seems like a horrible idea.

Try a three bedroom, one less room you will have to clean. Mold kills people, and is extremely difficult to get rid of.

If the basement is wet, obviously something needs to be done to it. You can’t just move in and let it go. You will have to address it, and soon. So, you probably won’t save much money, if any. And GMRyujin is correct, replacing a bum foundation would easily cost way more than $10k. Foundation work is expensive.

However, if you’re seriously considering this house anyway, get a professional opinion from a contractor with experience with your type of foundation. I can’t stress this enough. If you do, be sure to check your professional’s bona fides. Get references if possible and call them, check for complaints with the builder’s board, etc.

I’d probably walk away from this one.

There’s nothing stupid about buying a house with problems…as long as you know what they are and have a plan for dealing with them.

I purchased a 140 year old home in 1997 that needed a new roof, railings, flooring…hell…a LOT of stuff.

I’ve been going through the items one at a time as time and money allow. I went into it wide-eyed and prepared.

So just ask yourself if you’re really aware of the problems (a little research should do it for you) and have a good engineer take a look at the place.

Just in case you miss it, this is the one exactly correct answer, if you really want this house. Get numerous estimates, in writing. Show these to the sellers, and tell them that is how much you want the price reduced. When (or rather, if) you take out the mortgage, make sure it covers those costs. A $100,000 home that needs $25,000 worth of foundation repair is really a $125,000 home.

Also, reducing the price by only a fraction of the true cost of repairs is no favor on the sellers part. Any decent appraiser will most likely value it as though it were fine, then deduct the total cost of repairing it (we call this “deferred maintenance”) to arrive at the market value of the home. Smart sellers will take care of these problems before they sell the house.

Personally, foundation problems are things that scare the living bejeezus out of me. If it’s still a great bargain, despite a very pessimistic estimate of foundation repair costs, go for it. Make sure you have a comprehensive inspection of the entire property as well, because there may be other problems (possibly related to the foundation problem) that will need rectifying.

Check with your loan representative as to if they would even finance a home with a poor foundation. When we were looking at one once, the loan inspector declined based on the crumbling foundation of the house we’d been looking at. Also, the mold may pose a health hazard. I would check with a local company to see if Spor Klenz or some other form of disinfecting is doable.

You can make an offer, but it must have the contingency that it passes inspection. Your realtor (or lender?) can recommend a professional inspector, who will look the whole house over: structural matters, foundation, also plumbing, electrical, roofing, termite-and-rot, etc. You and/or husband walk around with him because that is totally educational, and is the point where the decision is made. Cost, about $300. (This is all California-based info.)

If he recommends it or you want to, get an engineer to look at the foundations and basement. You may find that not-too-pricey methods may fix the dampness (sump pump; French drain around the drip line if it’s surface water but not if it’s water-table water; who-knows-what).

Use the information to talk price, as suggested. And your lender may be satisfied if the money for the repairs be put into an escrow account, to be paid to the contractors upon completion.

Most molds do not kill.

Yeah, but if there is mold in the basement there could be mold in the other parts like walls & ceilings. It has to do with the person who constructed the house, of course, if they didn’t waterproof the basement they probably didnt the rest of the place.

Before you start panicking, this could just be a drainage issue. If the land surrounding the house is graded incorrectly (i.e. towards the house as opposed to away from it), it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to get seepage, and quite possibly a lot of it. If the downspouts from the roof aren’t draining away from the house, that’s more water that you can expect to see downstairs. Until recently, waterproofing wasn’t really done that thorougly (and even now, it’s usually something you have to add on when building); just a layer of tar over the outside of the foundation. It’s generally not a good idea to waterproof a basement from the inside, since then you have the water trapped inside the concrete. Better to fix the problem by either adding outside drains, regrading, or letting the water in and then taking care of it there, either by (as mentioned before) french drains, or even dehumidifiers. Of course, if the problem is a high water table (unlikely since you said the problem occurs during rain), run away as fast as possible.

I’d be more concerned about the possibly crumbling foundation. If they’ve let this drainage issue go for years (and it sounds like they have) it’s quite possible it’s irreparably damaged the concrete. What it comes down to is what everyone else has already instead: get several professionals to look at it. The mold isn’t that much of a big deal as that can be removed fairly easily, as long as it hasn’t spread to the rest of the house (if it’s gotten inside the walls, forget it). Here’s something to think about: when you inspected the house, did they have all the windows open? Air fresheners or cookies or bread baking (to hide a moldy smell)? Check inside closets for any hint of mold or mildew.

Cookies or bread-baking is common real estate advice, Running with Scissors, not neccesarily a sign of any shenanigans afoot.

You really really want to think hard about a house with mold. Because of the huge liability of toxic mold problems you might not be able to get a house with any sort of mold problem insured.

The whole thing hinges on whether any problems are excessive.

A competent inspector can take a look, and give you reliable information on that.

Professional inspection is essential. The thing is that in most jurisdictions almost anybody can call himself a home inspector. And if you ask your real estate broker to recommend somebody he may send you to a guy that he knows won’t jinx a sale.

Here is the link to the American Society of Home Inspectors, an organization that tests and certifies professional home inspectors. You could still get a dud, but your odds are better if you hire a certified professional that you have found for yourself.

Also, if you are thinking of buying a house that you know will need major repairs, that suggests an alternative solution: why not buy a smaller house in sound condition, and plan to add on to it when you can? Do you really think a family of five can’t live in three bedrooms with one bath? A lot of people get by with less. And adding a bath or a half-bath might be a lot cheaper than than major foundation repairs.

If you are a handyman type of person, with some time on your hands, and a bit of regular cashflow, buying a distressed property can be an investment of great value.

BUT: That doesn’t sound like you.

AND: Living in a construction site is a delight of limited appeal.

But you can be Mr. Fixit himself, and if you have an incipient spring in your basement, you can’t do much to change this lemon into a home.

Get inspections, get signed estimates, which include finish dates and penalty clauses. Do the math.

Remember, if it needs work in the basement, that doesn’t mean the roof is sure to be in good shape, or that the rest of the house won’t need normal maintenance. Budget those too.

If the foundation is iffy, you are talking about major work, and a probable loss of occupancy permit, during rebuild.


This house could be a good deal, or a money pit. I would hire a structural engineer, and get an estimate of what repairs would be needed to fix the foundation and relieve the dampness. It might be something as simple as french drains–this couldcost as little as $5,000.00
On the other hand, major foundation work could be extremely expensive…as much as $30,000.00
Don’t sign anything without getting expert advice! I myself have an old house with a fieldstone foundation…we had some minor crubling, but a stonemason fixed it for $500.00…so you might have a real bargain house here…or you might not!

Where is this house? What part of the country specifically.

It sounds like an old farm- house type foundation. These types of foundations last forever yet still leak like a sive. Is the floor poured concrete or just dirt? Is there a sump pump in the basement (I doubt it)?
I have lots of experience in these types of homes…

Answering these questions would make a big difference in my opinion.

Get a professional home inspector’s opinion. Ask your lender about programs like 203K, which will lend money to buy the house and make the repairs. You might have to go that route if the appraisal is bad and the lender refuses the mortgage based on it.

Whuckfistle: The house is in Southwest Ohio in a town called Cheviot. The foundation is “stone”…(looks like rocks with dirt and concrete-very crumbly). No sump pump.

I have not given up just yet I guess. I am going to get a professional, known and well reputable company(-ies) to do estimates on the total basement repairs (mold removal and all). If that is outrageous beyond my capabilities, then I know to stop there. If not, then I could proceed with the inspector.

Is this the right order?? What should I expect an estimate to cost me?

I will also inquire about the 203K program.
Thanks to all replies!!

Whuckfistle: The house is in Southwest Ohio in a town called Cheviot. The foundation is “stone”…(looks like rocks with dirt and concrete-very crumbly). No sump pump.

I have not given up just yet I guess. I am going to get a professional, known and well reputable company(-ies) to do estimates on the total basement repairs (mold removal and all). If that is outrageous beyond my capabilities, then I know to stop there. If not, then I could proceed with the inspector.

Is this the right order?? What should I expect an estimate to cost me?

I will also inquire about the 203K program.
Thanks to all replies!!