Chat Plus: Perils of a Damp Basement
Every other Friday I do the Real Estate Live web chat with readers. Here's one of the questions that couldn't be handled in last week's session. Next Chat day is scheduled for June 12.
Silver Spring: After nine months of looking, a house just came on the market in our dream location and in our price range, with newly remodeled kitchen and baths. Heaven, right? Well, apparently the basement is "damp," which is common along that street (most houses are built into a hill). Due to allergy issues, mold would be a nightmare to live with. So my question for you is: Do you think it's reasonable to ask the sellers to fix this? What is involved? I'd love to hear your take on this issue. Thanks!
E.R.: You're fortunate to be looking at homes during a rainy period, when dampness problems are more likely to reveal themselves. If I were genuinely interested in the house, I would make an offer, but with a home inspection contingency -- and with an extra contingency calling for a repair estimate from a good waterproofing contractor. Get your real estate agent or lawyer to make sure the contingency allows you out of the deal cleanly if you are unsatisfied with their reports. If there is a dampness problem, and the contractor gives you a reasonable waterproofing estimate, I would simply factor that into the price. Try to negotiate as low a price as possible, but insist on getting the repairs done yourself, after closing. That way you have more control over the quality of the job. It's also possible that extra ventilation or air conditioning could help control the situation.
What's involved with waterproofing? It can vary depending on soil conditions and other things. You might get away with re-grading the dirt so water drains away from the house, or with installing bigger rain gutters and piping the water away from the foundation. Or the fix could involve excavating around the foundation and applying sealant to the walls, and/or adding drains around the outside of the house. Sometimes, though, even these efforts can fail. You can find more info at the National Association of Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractors Web site.
If your family's allergies are severe you may need to look to another neighborhood. Any home can develop a damp basement, but your risks might be lower in a different area.
Anyone else want to chip in with their own experience in pursuit of a dry basement?
June 1, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Buying , Chat Plus , Remodeling and repair
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