Basements – Things to Watch for When Buying or Selling

Basements can be amazing bonus spaces, but they can also harbor cracks, leaks, mold, and other issues since they are in constant contact with the ground. Since not all homes have basements, there can be concerns and uncertainty about what it takes to buy a home with one and maintain it. Buyers should have a basement thoroughly inspected before purchase. Sellers, it behooves you to do as much cleanup as possible to allow for a detailed inspection and consider fixing any challenges that your basement poses such as leaks and drainage issues before putting your home on the market.

Because basements often house a home’s main systems including the furnace and hot water heater, preventing disaster through preventative repairs and maintenance is extremely important since challenges with these units can affect the rest of the home.  Cracks in the foundation that are not repaired can also cause major damage to the home over time. Furthermore, mold can cause major health issues. Here are some red flags to look for whether buying, selling, or maintaining:

  • Standing water outside of the home and around the basement exterior – If there is standing water, this could be a sign of poor drainage which could make its way into the basement. One fix is making sure gutters and downspouts that divert water away from the house are clear and in good working order. Gravel and french drains may also be utilized to improve drainage. Standing water will have a tendency to seep through the walls, cause cracks, and the basement will have a moisture problem.
  • Damp musty smell – If a basement smells musty, it is usually due to excess water and humidity. Whether that has turned into mold, is left over from a flood, or is due to moisture hiding in cracks in the foundation and walls, this is something to investigate. If you are buying, keep your eyes open for dehumidifiers, ozone machines, or deodorizers – this could be a sign of a lingering moisture problem. Also check any carpet for dampness.
  • Recent remodeling – A recent remodel may be an improvement to the space, but it also might have been done to fix an issue that might come up again. One thing you can do is check closets and around the furnace or water heater for signs of water damage in the wood framing. Also make sure permits were issued for any work completed and the improvements are noted in the tax records.
  • Previous flooding claims – When you apply for homeowners insurance, previous claims should be tied to the property address. You can learn about problems severe enough to have caused a claim.

Don’t let this list scare you if you have been coveting an extra space or will be selling a home with a basement. Use this list as a great starting point for a discussion with your inspector if you are buying and a list of things to address before selling. Questions? Give me a call or text: (206) 790-0081 or email: jamie@jamieflaxman.com.

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