A big reason a lot of realtors won't look at a crawlspace is pretty simple. They know nothing about them and don't ever care to know anything more about them. They are realtors/brokers and focus on their area of expertise, which is marketing and selling homes. They are not builders or inspectors. When you have construction questions, there are very few agents who have the experience to offer an opinion. This is important because the next thing they will do is reccomend a professional inspection, just like they should reccomend having an attorney look over contracts, accounts tax advisors etc. In todays sue happy society, I need to reccomend that my clients seek outside independant professional counsel in every aspect of a transaction for fear of any mis representation, no matter how well meaning it was. Now does having some opinion on home construction give an agent an advantage. You bet it does. I look at crawl spaces all the time, I look at electrical issues, I check furnaces/air conditioners, roofs, etc. I will go on a limb and offer an opinion, always with the preface that they should always seak professional advice if they have concerns. Going back to your crawlspace issue. First and foremost you need to find out where the water is coming from. Is it a plumbing leak, is it a drainage issue with the lot/community, is it a drainage issue from roof or gutter run off? Get rid of the water and you get rid of the problem. Now if the whole community has problems, it is probably a drainage issue with the whole area and it collects water after rain. This has been caused in many areas where new development has come in and altered the draining of the crop fields when they developed it. What once drained perfectly well, now may hold water because there is no where for it to flow because the new development changed/blocked the drainage of the old community. There have been lawsuites and settlements with developers because of this. You can always put drainage tile in your crawl or around your home to get water away from the foundation. You can trench your crawl and put in a sump pump. You just need to make sure water is leaving the crawl and not draining back in.
Mold is another whole issue. I defer to mold abatement contractors reccomendations if there is ever a question. I'm not a mold expert and will never claim to be one for fear of being sued. Having said that I have been involved in professional remediation projects on some of the repo homes I represented. One had 4 foot of water in the basement for probably 4 years. All the professsional remediation companies will guarantee their work. So those are your fixes. It can get costly depending on the extent of the water/ mold damage.
"How can you find a real estate person that understands this problem?" Ask, ask and ask some more. There are many good agents and there are many good agents with construction experience. Water and mold issues are really simply at the root cause. Identifying and remedying water problems can have many different solutions and varrying costs. If the area you are considering has a history of problems, sometimes it's just better to move on to another home. Feel free to contact me direct with more specific questions.
I am a realtor and not an inspector and I have no real knowledge of the issue you have written about, so you would need to (of course) have a certified inspector (or other appropriate professional) check out the problem, but it sounds to me like a sump pump may have alleviated the problem with the crawl space. Many, if not most, crawl spaces need to have sump pumps so that the water will not collect in the crawl space area. Sometimes a thick layer of rocks can help to drain the water as it collects under your house, and many times a combination of things will be used to help with the problem. Water should never be allowed to collect around a home's foundation and always should be removed from the area in the crawl space of the residence or anywhere else close to the foundation. All water should be directed away from the foundation of the home.
As much as we would like to be all, end all to our clients, we are Realtors, not mold/damp basement experts, which I agree, can be a very serious problem. If you are interested in a home that has a problem, it might be advisable to pay up front for an inspection and get a report on the home prior to making an offer. If you do not want to incur that expense, then I would suggest making the resolution of any moisture problems be part of a contingency clause which, if the seller refuses to repair allows you to walk away from buying the property.
Century 21 Landmark Realty