Did you know that in 2017, the average age of a home was 37 years old? As Americans continue to occupy aging homes, new problems will arise.
Some of these prove to be structural in nature. From sagging roofs to cracked foundations, angled floors to pest and water damage, these issues all require a structural inspection.
And even if the structure in question is far younger than the national average, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Sloppy construction work and cutting corners can lead to structural problems, too.
Although the incidence of significant structural issues proves low, it still makes sense for both buyers and sellers to seek a structural inspection.
In most cases, it provides peace of mind for buyers and helps sellers make a firm case when it comes to their asking price. Here’s what you need to know.
Do You Need a Structural Inspection?
Before escrow closes and a house switches hands, a home inspection must be performed. This involves a visual assessment of the home’s basic systems. These include the:
- Electrical system
If the home inspector notices any red flags when it comes to the home’s overall structural integrity, they’ll recommend that a separate structural inspector come in for an evaluation.
Which kinds of issues alert a home inspector that more specialized expertise is needed? They include issues such as sticking windows and doors or non-functioning locks.
Diagonal cracks around doorways, uneven floors, and windows and doorways that don’t line up could also indicate potential problems.
When this happens, a home inspector often provides a referral to a structural engineer. While this event may sound scary to a homeowner, there’s no reason to panic.
Structural engineering inspections prove to be commonplace. What’s more, unless you opt to hire your own engineer, the buyer will pay these additional expenses.
What Does a Structural Engineer Do?
Structural engineers are registered in the state where they practice. They have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering and at least four years of experience under the guidance of a registered professional engineer.
They specialize in structural systems and ensure that the loads buildings must bare fit the structure’s design. They inspect homes to ensure that they are properly constructed and are able to withstand wind, snow, and earthquakes.
As a result, if you’re a homeowner who has received a referral for a structural engineer, you most likely have little to worry about. The vast majority of homes are built to proper specifications and prove structurally sound.
What’s more, some of today’s top real estate agents are recommending that buyers hire a structural engineer even before they’ve heard back from the inspector. The money that it costs for an inspection proves well worth it.
In fact, a structural inspection often helps a homeowner make a firmer case for their asking price. For example, a structural engineer can assure potential buyers that hairline cracks in the foundation are nothing to worry about.
Of course, if actual structural deficits exist in the home, this discovery will lead to added expenses for the homeowner before escrow closes. We’ll explore this scenario and your options a little later.
What Happens During a Structural Home Inspection?
During an inspection, a structural engineer will take a look at a number of crucial areas in your home.
These include a property’s:
- Crawl space or basement
- Exterior walls (including all concrete and stucco)
- Interior walls
- Masonry and brickwork (including chimneys)
By inspecting these key areas, a structural engineer can determine if the home was properly engineered and constructed to handle the weight of anticipated loads. They’ll also look for signs that the home has been properly maintained.
The goal? To make sure that the home will safely perform its structural duties into the foreseeable future.
Following the inspection, the engineer will send you a post-inspection report. This report will explain their findings as well as offer their expert opinion.
How to Prepare for a Structural Inspection?
Homeowners should prepare for a structural inspection by making sure that the home proves accessible to the inspector. This means removing any dirt or debris that could obscure the foundation.
It also means cutting back plant growth near the home, cleaning out gutters, repairing cosmetic issues, and clearing brush and debris from the roof. Homeowners should also repair all minor plumbing leaks and clear out the crawl space and attic.
The idea proves simple. Make your home as easy to navigate as possible for the engineer. In the process, you’ll also demonstrate that the residence has been well-maintained.
What Are the Most Common Problems Found by Structural Engineers?
Among the most common and concerning problems identified by structural engineers are:
- Roof problems
- A damaged or faulty foundation
- Pest damage
- Masonry problems
Obvious roof problems include visible sagging. This can occur either in the center of the roof or at the ends. Sagging indicates a compromise of the home’s structural integrity as a result of settling or shifting.
A strong foundation proves essential to a stable structure. If a structural engineer finds indications of weakness beyond normal settling, they’ll make note of this. They’ll also look for potential drainage issues such as a leaky basement.
Damage sustained from years of pest infestation, such as termites, can wreak havoc on the integrity of a building, too. The engineer will identify which measures need to take place to repair the damage and remove the pest threat.
Masonry issues such as water damage can spell serious trouble for a house, too. This proves especially true in colder climates.
A structural engineer will assess whether or not the elements, age, or water have compromised your home’s walls or chimney.
In each of these cases, a homeowner faces costly repairs. Let’s explore some of the options available to those who receive this bad news.
What Happens When the News Is Bad?
For homeowners who receive a less than glowing structural inspection report, worry can quickly ensue. You may wonder how you’re going to pay upfront for the costs of the necessary repairs. Or, you may question what other recourse you have.
Few buyers will purchase a home with serious structural damage. They generally expect to see warrantied repairs done followed by a clear inspection report.
You also have the option of negotiating a credit to cover the repairs. This works well, particularly if you’re under a time crunch to close.
If neither of these choices proves feasible to you, then you’ll need to list your home “as is.” To do this, you’ll have to disclose the bad inspection report and look for cash buyers.
Although you’ll end up with a price below fair market value, it may prove your best option under the circumstances.
We Can Help
For most homeowners and potential buyers, a structural inspection provides yet one more layer of assurance when it comes to finalizing a home sale.
Ready for a structural inspection? Contact us today to get started.