Home Buying in 20817>Question Details

Patricia, Home Buyer in 20852

How can I be sure that a wet basement problem has been fixed in a home I am thinking of buying?

Asked by Patricia, 20852 Tue Apr 28, 2009

I am interested in buying a house on Fernwood Rd. I realize that its a busy location. My concern is that there's evidence of water damage in the basement. Theres also evidence that the owner has attempted to fix the problem by grading the landscape. I am uncertain that a home inspector can tell me with certainty that the problem has been fixed. Any advice would be appreciated.

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You can't. It is that simple. This may not be what you want to hear, but who is going to know the answer. The owner themselves, may believe that the issue was resolved, but hasn't.

Grading is the first suggestion I make when trying to keep water out of a basement. Then you need to make sure that your gutters are not leaking and your downspouts are led far away from the foundation, where the water will move away from the house.

If you've already purchased this proeprty, or found that you purchased another home and have a wet basement, go outside in a heavy rain and watch the flow of water.

I've seem homeowners unknowingly take on their neighbor's water.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 15, 2009
A good home inspector will find the problem and the cause and be able to tell the potential buyer the solution. Regrading is the first and easiest solution and usually will help to alleviate the problem. If water is getting in, then in order to fully keep the water out in the future you would have to dig down around the foundation walls and reparge and retar or put a membrane on the exterior walls to divert water away from the inside. If you need a good agent or a good inspector, you can call me on my cell at 202 439 4500 Mac Mccord Remax in Bethesda
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 25, 2009
Hi Patricia,

I can't comment on this home of course, but all the inspectors that I use say that proper grading and keeping gutters and downspouts clean and in working order is often all that's needed to keep a basement dry. Still, that's not to say that grading will fix this home.

Your problem is difficult on a couple of different levels. Ideally, you would like to have an inspector or water-proofing specialist inspect and give you some kind of warranty at purchase. Unfortunately, I don't know of any company that provides this. Also, if grading doesn't solve the problem, then it could be rather expensive to fix. And, the only way to test the fix is to see how the basement does during a long, hard rain. When's that going to be?

Here's what I would do.

#1. You definitely want a professional inspector's opinion on the basement. You are correct -- the inspector is very unlikely to give you a diagnosis with the certainty that you would like. And, he's definitely not going to give you any warranty. It's just the opinion of a professional, but you need it (you can always get other opinions as well)

#2. Make sure the seller documents the issues with the basement and all repairs made in the disclosure package that would be part of the contract. If later you discover that the seller knew that the issues were more extensive than documented, then you have a legal path to get damages.

#3. Contact your home insurance provider and get rates for this property. If the current owners have had several water damage claims, then *your* insurance company will know. Properties with extensive claims become stigmatized (don't know if that's the right word) and are more expensive to insure based on past claims.

#4. Lastly, if you want to move forward with a contract but are still unsatisfied that the basement is really dry, then you could request that escrow funds be held back from the seller proceeds of $10,000 to $15,000 or more (you'll need to get some quotes to help justify this figure) for 12 months . This money would be used to fix any water penetration in the basement in the first year. The balance would be returned to the seller if all/part is unused. The seller won't like this, but I don't know of any other way to give you some level of real financial protection.

This is a tricky problem with no easy answers. Your concern is on target - this is a risk that you need to mitigate before you make the purchase. I hope this helps - good luck.
Web Reference: http://mocorealestate.com/
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 28, 2009
You are right to question this concern and the inspector's ability to provide the information you are seeking. Basement moisture is extremely difficult to eliminate and leaves owners periodically dealing with the issue that has a way of reappearing.

If the cause of the problem was do to water not being directed away from the home through slopping, gutters, trenching etc. you may have solved the problem. However, there are many other sources for water intrusing that should be considered in order to find the comfort you are looking for.

Good luck
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 28, 2009
You can also request a visit to the home with a contractor that specializes in water damage. As Carolyn said, there is no sure fire way to know that the water damage has been remedied. That said, as a buyer, you're entitled to a specialist giving you their opinion. Ask for a visit!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 5, 2011
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