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Sanborn – Always look for a good foundation

There were 1,103 residential homes for sale on November 1, 2013 in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. That total is down from 1,200 last month and about the same as the 1,103 last November. Due to the increased sales activity over the past few months the inventory has dropped to a 13 month supply of homes on the market compared to 14.6 months last November and that's pretty good if it the trend continues!

So you have decided to buy a home and you've gone through the pre-approval process, you know how much you want to spend on a house, you have found an experienced realtor to work with, and you are ready to go out looking at property. What should you be concerned about when you are looking at property? Well, there's an awful lot to consider especially if you are a first time buyer. Your realtor should be able to guide you, but just remember realtors are not home inspectors. However, most of us have seen a lot of homes, have gone through many home inspections, and worked through many issues and repairs on properties as a result.

Having a home inspection performed on the property you are purchasing is pretty much mandatory in my book and it is money wisely spent. At the very least, an inspection will reveal minor defects in the property so that you can ask for them to be corrected before you purchase it or be compensated to do it later. An inspection will also educate you about the home that you're purchasing. On the other end of the spectrum, it can save you from buying a money pit. But there are basic, common sense things that any home buyer can look for before making an offer and spending money on a home inspection.

Let's start at ground level. As with most anything in life, if you don't have a good foundation you don't have much to build on. You know, it's kinda like learning your multiplication tables or how to do simple math equations. It's the basics. You can't have a good house on a bad foundation or a successful career in accounting or finance if you can't do basic math.

Some older homes have good solid foundations whether they are stone, granite, or brick while others may be leaning or crumbling due to the forces of nature. It is also not uncommon to have shrinkage cracks in concrete walls of floors, but substantial cracks, especially horizontal ones in walls should be a concern to any buyer. Shrinkage cracks in concrete floors are pretty common, but large cracks and floors that have heaved or settled indicate problems with the site preparation or the materials used below the floor.

If you dig a hole in the ground it usually tends to fill with water and this is true for the hole that you dig for a house foundation as well. While having an indoor pool is a desirable amenity, having it in the basement is not. While modern construction techniques for newer homes obviate most wet basements through the use of perimeter drains and/or sump pumps, always be on the lookout for signs of past water infiltration damage. You know, like stains on the basement walls, discolored sheetrock walls, or lally columns that are rusted up an inch or two from the floor. If you want to use your basement as a man cave you don't want to have to play darts or cards while wearing waders; it's just not as much fun. Water in the basement can also cause mold which another whole subject. It's a good thing to avoid.

Many older homes with stone or brick foundations and dirt floors will get some water seepage in the spring. These houses were built without any perimeter drain system so groundwater takes the path of least resistance: right into the basement. That's New England, but probably not ideal. Your basement will be relegated to always being just a storage area as you won't be putting your pool table down there.

In some older homes that have concrete floors, you'll see a channel cut into the floor all the way around the inside perimeter of the foundation to collect and channel any seepage to a sump pump. Homes with a sump pump generally, but not always, mean that there could be a water issue in the basement. I've seen homes with a sump which always appears to be bone dry and others that run constantly in the spring. Some foundations were built with a sump as a precaution because the lot the house was built on was a little wet. Better safe than sorry.

Today, even a wet basement can be made to be bone dry. There are companies that specialize in correcting and preventing water from seeping through the foundation or up from the basement floor. They will even guarantee it in writing. It does work. But, they also specialize in seeping money out of your wallet which could have been used to buy that flat screen for the man cave if you had bought a house with a dry basement to begin with. My vote is for the flat screen...

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 11/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

 
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