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acroBios said:   meriyaki said:   I just got back from the inspection appointment. Engineer was brought in by our realtor, unexpectedly seller agent was already there that masked my overall experience with the engineer. I felt like engineer will only answer what i will ask. But to be honest, I don't know what questions to ask. Engineer even had moments alone with seller agent in the corner. While I was supposed to pay for the inspection. I told my concern to realtor and informed her that we will bring out another engineer for second opinion. She did not let me pay for the engineer as she thought I didn't trust him. She paid for him even though I wrote the check and insisted. I was uncomfortable that our realtor was putting words in his mouth by saying that we live in valley and it moves, so all the houses have cracks. It is difficult to find a house without crack etc. I didn't appreciate that engineer spoke less and listened more and only answered the questions I asked.

So, it goes like this. Our realtor, seller agent and engineer were in the backyard, looking at what looks like a horizontal crack in the visible slab foundation all around the circumference of the master bedroom. We had a look at it before, with our contractor who said it is not a crack but cold pour join in slab. So, today engineer said that it is a structural failure and it requires fixing. He mentioned that metal bars if corroded can be busted by expansion of concrete. Similar crack/cold joint are all around the circumference of house. When he was told about the possibility of these crack being the cold joints he said he will have to drill some holes to figure out if it is structural failure or pour joints. It will cost $500/holes.


So, the initial crack I was talking about, was not discussed much. He said this crack is bigger than hairline but it is not really significant to be concerned right now. He did not rule out the possibility of it growing it bigger over the years. He said the crack in the middle of room are not considered structural failure, it is only structural if it is on the perimeter of the wall that has thicker slab. I reminded him that this crack is on the threshold of the door, so it can be defined as structural. He said yes it can be.

Backyard is slopped towards the house. I reminded him to check the water valve on our way out to see if anything is leaking. Well, we forgot to check that on our way out. But I really wanted him to mention that. He wanted to answer my questions but I didn't know what question to ask. So, I am not satisfied. We are meeting another engineer tomorrow morning 'without' seller agent.


Get your own engineer, spend time directly with him or her and don't involve the realtors, they hate a deal worth commissions of tens of thousands of dollars blowing up, their interests are not aligned with yours.


Yeah, this just isn't sitting right. You need to pressure the realtors and seller. Even losing their commission and a sale over list price is not worth the seller keeping is 3% earnest. You should at least feel like your realtor is your champion and someone that you can trust, which it seems isn't the case based on your description of how he/she interacted with the seller and recommended a familiar structural engineer. Stand up for yourself here. You're the one with all the money, buying the house, causing everyone else to get paid...realize that and act like it. Respect will follow.

In assuming the home you're buying is over $600k, maybe over $800k

Yet let me guess , you didnt bother to consult a RE attorney when making your offer or negotiating resolution of these issues ?

Structural engineers don't cost much more than home inspectors but can correctly tell you if a crack is seriously or not.

meriyaki said:   seller provided us with inspection report. Our realtor said that your home inspection would not bring any new information ... She also mentioned that seller may be upset that we pulled away the carpet to have a look ... Is that a concern?What would be a concern for me is that the realtor is inept -- @best! Good realtors may be as rare as competent home inspectors.

You've been given some good advice so far (dcwilbur, et.al.). Currently, my only concern would be radon (as hfzeus pointed out) -- in this region (DC Metro) radon is an additional $50 test (they leave a box there overnight & send it out for testing). As for foundations/concrete concerns, I've seen old homes that didn't even have concrete foundations -- the cinder-block was laid on the ground ... I've seen/repaired foundation problems (usually a situation where brick veneer was peeling off a building because the brick missed the footing) ... I've worked on homes where we used engineer-approved cold joints, worked on homes where we tied into a home's foundation (for building additions) ... a crack is cause for closer inspection -- no reason to worry (yet). There are various tests to check the concrete's integrity, the Schmidt/Swiss Hammer Test is the one our engineers used/recommended (back in the 80s). Numerous cracks would have me wondering if the builder "lost the pour" -- an error made by the concrete contractor (whether in application or in accepting bad concrete -- "hot" pours are often replaced later).

As to Home Inspectors, I've likely had more experience than most because many of my friends ask my input when purchasing (I have a varied construction experience). Perhaps the 1st 20 inspectors that I had experience w/ were idiots (1/3 were college students on summer break, most inspected roofs w/ binoculars -- 1 guy from his car parked in front of the house!) but in ~40 instances I've found 10 that were adequate and 2 that would rate as "great". In the 2 "great" cases, the home inspectors helped the buyers get roughly $10K (on $150K condo/townhomes) due to evidence of leaks (water stains). In both cases my friends never fixed any leaks (they didn't notice the problems getting worse) and didn't have to adjust their selling price because the next home inspectors didn't note the stains! All said & done, the inspector saved them double because they bought @less & expected to have to drop their price by the same (but didn't).

Keep us updated please, I hope that this turns out to be a good experience -- buying a home can be the most stressful event in someone's life.

EDIT: check w/ your loan institution, many loans require a home inspection. As as many people you know in the area for recommendations & have the home inspectors prove that they have some experience/skills that qualify them.

atikovi said:   dmlavigne1 said:   Why would you write a non-contingent offer without a home inspection?

A home inspection is usually a waste of money. Inspectors only check accessable areas which you can do yourself just fine. It's the hidden stuff behind walls or in ceilings that will cost you. When they do do find a potential problem, they alway say to consult a professional for advice. Well, isn't THAT what you hire an inspector for?


not sure why you are getting all red - I second to this, home inspections are total waste of money and nothing but placebo.

acroBios said:   meriyaki said:   I just got back from the inspection appointment. Engineer was brought in by our realtor, unexpectedly seller agent was already there that masked my overall experience with the engineer. I felt like engineer will only answer what i will ask. But to be honest, I don't know what questions to ask. Engineer even had moments alone with seller agent in the corner. While I was supposed to pay for the inspection. I told my concern to realtor and informed her that we will bring out another engineer for second opinion. She did not let me pay for the engineer as she thought I didn't trust him. She paid for him even though I wrote the check and insisted. I was uncomfortable that our realtor was putting words in his mouth by saying that we live in valley and it moves, so all the houses have cracks. It is difficult to find a house without crack etc. I didn't appreciate that engineer spoke less and listened more and only answered the questions I asked.

So, it goes like this. Our realtor, seller agent and engineer were in the backyard, looking at what looks like a horizontal crack in the visible slab foundation all around the circumference of the master bedroom. We had a look at it before, with our contractor who said it is not a crack but cold pour join in slab. So, today engineer said that it is a structural failure and it requires fixing. He mentioned that metal bars if corroded can be busted by expansion of concrete. Similar crack/cold joint are all around the circumference of house. When he was told about the possibility of these crack being the cold joints he said he will have to drill some holes to figure out if it is structural failure or pour joints. It will cost $500/holes.

So, the initial crack I was talking about, was not discussed much. He said this crack is bigger than hairline but it is not really significant to be concerned right now. He did not rule out the possibility of it growing it bigger over the years. He said the crack in the middle of room are not considered structural failure, it is only structural if it is on the perimeter of the wall that has thicker slab. I reminded him that this crack is on the threshold of the door, so it can be defined as structural. He said yes it can be.

Backyard is slopped towards the house. I reminded him to check the water valve on our way out to see if anything is leaking. Well, we forgot to check that on our way out. But I really wanted him to mention that. He wanted to answer my questions but I didn't know what question to ask. So, I am not satisfied. We are meeting another engineer tomorrow morning 'without' seller agent.


Get your own engineer, spend time directly with him or her and don't involve the realtors, they hate a deal worth commissions of tens of thousands of dollars blowing up, their interests are not aligned with yours.


This. Don't involve EITHER realtor. You should have no expectation that YOUR realtor is working for you either. Hate to break it to you, but they probably see you as another rich bich and an easy $25,000 payday (lol comission).
Find another engineer, tell your realtor to let you in the house and sit down in the car and wait.
Both realtors want this deal done BAD; there is alot of money on the line for them.

And cutting down a large fruit tree for a playpen? Build a tree-house. Thats just sad...

OP- don't let the market frenzy force you to buy a money pit. There are other fish in the sea.

BayAreaGuy said:   atikovi said:   dmlavigne1 said:   Why would you write a non-contingent offer without a home inspection?

A home inspection is usually a waste of money. Inspectors only check accessable areas which you can do yourself just fine. It's the hidden stuff behind walls or in ceilings that will cost you. When they do do find a potential problem, they alway say to consult a professional for advice. Well, isn't THAT what you hire an inspector for?


not sure why you are getting all red - I second to this, home inspections are total waste of money and nothing but placebo.
I've never had an experience with a good inspection either on the buyer side or seller side. They only looked at obvious stuff, and in a couple of cases the stuff that they did find was bogus and just injected noise into the transaction.

But I just assumed that I still haven't found a good inspector.


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Second engineer came in and he instantly said that it is a cold joint, and no way it can be a crack. He suggested sealing it up with caulk so that no water gets inside the foundation. He looked at the crack in the door which initially started all this and said, it is not a cause of concern anyway. He said this house is structurally sound and does not have cracks on places where the cracks are common like on the wall that supports two stories. He mentioned that stucko walls outside the house matches exactly as neighbors, so he does not suspect that stucko was applied to cover cracks. There are no cracks in the wall all around the house other than the one at bedroom door. He checked the level of ground on the floor at the door and also on door frame, it had zero gradient. Also, the crack on the side of the door is not visible from other side. He said at some point there was minor grade that caused the crack but now it is leveled again. maybe a earth quake? I am attaching pictures of wall/door crack and cold joint.

Green for pics. Wait for the official reports. Read over them and if they're clean you're good to go.

Lesson for next time: have an RE attorney and inspector that you hire and who represent your interests.


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Second engineer came in today. He quickly ruled out the possibility of structural failure. He said that the seemingly horizontal crack in foundation from outside of the home is just cold joint. He said there are absolutely no cracks in the walls, even the one which is adjacent to two story wall. He mentioned that stucko on outside walls is same as neighbors, so he does not think that any crack may have been covered with new stucko. As far as the crack on the floor inside the room was concerned, he thought it is benign and not a problem. The room was perfectly leveled also, the door which has crack had zero grade on the door frame as well as ground. So, he thought it may be caused by an earthquake but the wall came back exactly where it was supposed to be, without causing any grade. He suggested drilling holes in the crack inside the room and fill with pressure epoxy. He also suggested caulking the cold joints around the house so that it does not get water inside the foundation. He said the house is structurally sound, and in very good condition. We walked around the house, and didn't see even common cracks.

We are going ahead with the contract. I am attaching the pictures of inside the house crack, wall crack and cold joint. I hope we are making a right decision. We believe if house is structurally sound then we have paid 10K more than this house is worth but not a lot as we previously thought. Please feel free to chime in your opinion on pictures.

Budget for new carpeting.

woowoo2 said:   Budget for new carpeting.

Somehow I don't think that will be a problem for them.

Seller realtor again dropped by today but our realtor took her to the side while I spent time with engineer, asking all sort of (naive) questions. She asked my husband, will you go ahead with the deal if it is structurally sound? Our realtor interrupted her and told her that she can not ask this question. At the end she asked her to leave so that we could discuss. So, we are satisfied with our realtor performance today.

Although structural engineer from yesterday said the same thing but I was not satisfied because he was careful and mostly silent. Today's engineer was very confident, outspoken, genuine old guy. He even gave us a tutorial about soils in different area of the valley. Good to know that soil in this area is pretty good. He mentioned how almaden valley and north willow glen have regular foundation issues because of the soil. So, it is good to know that we are in good area.

meriyaki said:   We believe if house is structurally sound then we have paid 10K more than this house is worth but not a lot as we previously thought.Why would you pay more than you think the house is worth? Or are you saying that because this is a hot market, that you are paying more than the house should be worth? If the market is so hot that housing prices are rising, then the house is worth exactly what you are paying for it.

exactly. You are right. In last 21 days, may be this house is already worth 10K more than it was 21 days ago. seller agent said there were 11 offers and there was one 20K more than ours but with contingencies.

We get cracks like that here in Florida in pretty much every house slab. I wouldn't be too concerned, especially if the engineer is okay with it.

okashiraaa said:   
And cutting down a large fruit tree for a playpen? Build a tree-house. Thats just sad...


I don't know what to do with trees. There are kumquat, parsimon, apricot, two lemons, two oranges, two apples, grape fruit and a fig tree. And there are couple others. I have no idea how to take care of trees. Apple trees roots are out of the soil and look ugly. We are buying house with a big lot for kids to play, a line of trees in the middle of yard is hindrance. We may grow to love them, you never know. We will see what we will do with trees. But I have a feeling that we won't be able to care for them. Neighbor came over and gave us a tutorial about how to care for them. Apparently, he had been caring for all the trees as original owner was very old, lived alone and had health issues. Maybe we will hire our neighbor to continue caring for them.

I thought I would add in some info for the OP that might or might not be helpful, I don't know. Personally some of the replies didn't give me a lot of confidence that you were receiving good information.

First, how old is this house?

I've lived in a 3000 sq. ft. home built on a slab foundation for the past 15 years. My house sits on a hill with a backyard sloping down toward the house, and then the front yard sloping downward also, and has had prior foundation work performed, including multiple piers installed, tree removal, sewer leaks...maybe some others I'm forgetting. I feel what gives me a bit of qualification to provide input is that my slab does indeed have a crack in because one of the trees on my lot that was close to the house had a root grow up under the slab. Over time, this root grew and exerted pressure on the slab, likely because of a water leak, which led to the crack. So that tree got ground down to a fine pulp.

I've developed a good relationship with my civil engineer over the years so that every time I call, usually once every 2-3 years, they know what I want. I've had the same crew out 5 or 6 times since I've been here for complete foundation assessments because in the first years I was very concerned about the trees and suspected leaks which turned out to be correct. The crack that developed on my slab is right on a corner and from the outside it is easily observable from below the ground all the way up to the masonry. The reason it doesn't give me much concern right now even after all I've been through is because of the simply fact it's on the corner, therefore not a great deal of weight will be placed on that section such that if it does completely fail (as in, the concrete section from that crack just breaks right off) it shouldn't cause much damage, if any at all.

You need to determine the size of the crack, which based on the picture and engineers you've already done, but also how far does the crack extend. I don't just mean length-wise either, such as from one door across the room. Depth of the crack is probably a more critical factor because you need to determine how far through the slab itself the crack extends. On the surface with your carpet exposed, yes, it's relatively easy to seal that with some silicone or some other equivalent caulk or compound to keep water out, but how do you know water won't come up through the slab at some point in the future?

That brings me to a larger issue my engineer pointed out to me in the first years was that drainage on an entire side and part of another of my house was completely inadequate because during rains the water would pool against the foundation. It wouldn't be obvious mind you with puddles and such, but the ground would be saturated because there was no place for the water to go...remember it was on a hill with a slope? Have you established that there is proper drainage all around this house? Are you confident there is no leak? If the house in on a municipal water supply, then it's easy to see if there is a leak on the supply side by simply making sure no water is running in the house and observing the water meter. Detecting a sewer leak on the other hand is a little more involved as a crew would need to use cameras to pinpoint the area. There is however a way you yourself are able to perform this in a rather quick and dirty fashion. Purchase a (for lack of better words, since I don't know the proper name for it) thick rubber inflatable balloon. This can either be inflated with compressed air or water, doesn't really matter. Make sure it inflates to the diameter of the sewer line, which is typically 3 or 4 inches. Once a proper seal is made let the water in the house down the drains and observe the sewer clean out to ensure no water is passing down the line. Continue running water to fill the sewer lines and once it begins backing up in the drains in the showers or bath tubs then stop. Let the water sit for maybe 10 minutes and see if the water level drops. Continue observing the sewer cleanout to make sure no water is passing into the sewer. If the water level continues to drop and there is no observable water passing through the cleanout, there is a leak in the sewer line somewhere.


Remember: the slab has cracked for a reason. You need to find out what that reason is. Could be excessive shifting soils, bad drainage, trees, water leaks, etc.
You've had 2 engineers out so far. Have either of them shot elevations? I know you probably don't know what that is, but they will. They should if they are worth anything. It takes a while to perform depending on the size of the home but it will tell if the foundation has shifted and if so what direction and by how much.

meriyaki said:   okashiraaa said:   
And cutting down a large fruit tree for a playpen? Build a tree-house. Thats just sad...


I don't know what to do with trees. There are kumquat, parsimon, apricot, two lemons, two oranges, two apples, grape fruit and a fig tree. And there are couple others. I have no idea how to take care of trees. Apple trees roots are out of the soil and look ugly. We are buying house with a big lot for kids to play, a line of trees in the middle of yard is hindrance. We may grow to love them, you never know. We will see what we will do with trees. But I have a feeling that we won't be able to care for them. Neighbor came over and gave us a tutorial about how to care for them. Apparently, he had been caring for all the trees as original owner was very old, lived alone and had health issues. Maybe we will hire our neighbor to continue caring for them.


You're right. When I was a kid, trees always hindered my play. To this day, I resent my parents for not tearing them down and replacing them with superior, manufactured toys.


meriyaki said:   exactly. You are right. In last 21 days, may be this house is already worth 10K more than it was 21 days ago. seller agent said there were 11 offers and there was one 20K more than ours but with contingencies.
Still drinking that realtor cool-aid, huh.
Seriously though, I just finshing buying my first house, and while mine was, uh, on the south side of half a mil, I was never fed so much BS in my life throughout the process by realtors.

Enjoy the house!

That crack is typical of every slab here in earthquake country

As far as caring for trees , water them once a week and that's about it

okashiraaa said:   meriyaki said:   okashiraaa said:   
And cutting down a large fruit tree for a playpen? Build a tree-house. Thats just sad...


I don't know what to do with trees. There are kumquat, parsimon, apricot, two lemons, two oranges, two apples, grape fruit and a fig tree. And there are couple others. I have no idea how to take care of trees. Apple trees roots are out of the soil and look ugly. We are buying house with a big lot for kids to play, a line of trees in the middle of yard is hindrance. We may grow to love them, you never know. We will see what we will do with trees. But I have a feeling that we won't be able to care for them. Neighbor came over and gave us a tutorial about how to care for them. Apparently, he had been caring for all the trees as original owner was very old, lived alone and had health issues. Maybe we will hire our neighbor to continue caring for them.


You're right. When I was a kid, trees always hindered my play. To this day, I resent my parents for not tearing them down and replacing them with superior, manufactured toys.


meriyaki said:   exactly. You are right. In last 21 days, may be this house is already worth 10K more than it was 21 days ago. seller agent said there were 11 offers and there was one 20K more than ours but with contingencies.
Still drinking that realtor cool-aid, huh.
Seriously though, I just finshing buying my first house, and while mine was, uh, on the south side of half a mil, I was never fed so much BS in my life throughout the process by realtors.

Enjoy the house!


I guess real estate in this area is completely different dynamics. I am sure house will be worth much more in next 4 years but I also know that this bubble will burst in 6-9 years. It is very typical of this area to hit peak very quickly and then a crash. Prices are determined on basis of how much people are willing to pay for it. This area is saturated of millionaires and their ability to pay with such a low inventory drives the prices.

Well, we will try to keep the trees if we can. thanks for your input.

FrankDooley, Thanks for insight. Your suggestions are really valuable. There is a patio adjacent to the house which has no signs of it being raised. It also slopes away from house, although the backyard slopes towards the patio. We plan to install fench gutters at the end of the patio for drainage. Both engineers pointed out that there is no water/root damage visible to the patio so far. But we plan to remove the tree which is very close the patio and another one which is close to the foundation (sorry okashiraaa). They checked the grade inside the house and it had zero grade everywhere in the room where crack is present. There was some grade on the other side of the house, but there were no cracks in walls or anything there. Engineer thought that it was the way it was built at that time. Both of the engineer mentioned that this house is a surprisingly good condition with not even minors cracks anywhere on outside walls. It was a 45 years old home.

We checked the water meter and it was not moving at all. It was moving last month when a sprinkler was leaking. Since then leakage had been fixed, so no movement today. I have taken the picture of meter and I will go back check again if that needled has been displaced from its position. We will do balloon test. thanks for your suggestions.

The cracks in the pics don't look bad, the fact that 2 engineers gave you the OK should ease your worries.

As for the trees, here on the East Coast we have problems w/ Silver Maple Tree roots growing out of the ground but keeping them fed w/ extra fertilizer seems to get them back underground.

Hopefully you can be happy w/ your decision, whatever it ends up being.

SUCKISSTAPLES said:   As far as caring for trees , water them once a week and that's about itNot if you actually want fruit

meriyaki said:   exactly. You are right. In last 21 days, may be this house is already worth 10K more than it was 21 days ago. seller agent said there were 11 offers and there was one 20K more than ours but with contingencies.I guess the bubble is reinflating. meriyaki, you should have no concerns. You can never lose money on real estate.

boards5503 said:   meriyaki said:   exactly. You are right. In last 21 days, may be this house is already worth 10K more than it was 21 days ago. seller agent said there were 11 offers and there was one 20K more than ours but with contingencies.I guess the bubble is reinflating. meriyaki, you should have no concerns. You can never lose money on real estate.

Thanks for your input. We are going ahead with the house. Now expect a lot of questions related to remodeling We have paid the downpayment for the house. The guy next to me in bank was making a cashier check to buy 2.7 Million house. He was paying 1.7 Mil down payment and was complaining about all cash buyers. Even the multimillionaires have the same problems as us, just on different level.

meriyaki said:   okashiraaa said:   




I guess real estate in this area is completely different dynamics. I am sure house will be worth much more in next 4 years but I also know that this bubble will burst in 6-9 years. It is very typical of this area to hit peak very quickly and then a crash.

.

Wow if you know that's the timing of when things will happen you should be able to make millions off that knowledge

To me it seems you are just pulling numbers out of your crack...in your slab




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