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Foundation Sinking, Need Help. Please throw life perserver!!

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Gary L. Martin ...

Thread Starter
Freshman Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Hello Everyone,

I have been real busy lately and haven't been around, but that is likely to change. I need your help on an appraisal I am doing.

In my location we are generally blessed with pretty stable soil. Very rarely would this type of problem occur.

However, I was contacted by an attorney to appraise an 11 year old dwelling that has settlement problems. It seems a small rear portion of the home and the garage was built over an old silage pit about 40" wide by 100' long.

Prior to the development of that section of the subdivision it was filled with construction scrap, trash, and back filled before leveling. The construction was started as a semi-custom residence and the first settlement was noticed prior to completion. The slab & footings were excavated raised and pillar support added to the affected part of the dwelling per an engineer's specifications. The problem was supposed to be corrected 5/91 and the sale closed 9/91.

There are again obvious settlement problems with visable sink holes. Per another engineer the garage and driveway should be torn out, the entire affected area including 2' under the heated area, and the site excavated to a depth of at least 8'. Backfill and compact new soil to 95% of dry density. Then reconstruct the garage and driveway. Then repair interior damage as a result of the settlement.

I do not have a new estimated cost to cure the problem, but the cost for the failing piers was about $15,000. I think we might easily double that.

My question is this property has had these problems not only once, but twice. In resale, how can you measure the value of a stigma might be attached? (There is nothing in this market to support this type of loss with our stable soil.) Will this translate into a lower value in spite of being repaired in a workmanship like manner? I think the answer is yes, but I need additional support or opinions in this area.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Gary ...
 

Tim Hicks (Texas)

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
You must consider that most lenders consider foundation problems as a required repair. Therefore, any appraisal done on a home with foundation problems should be done "subject to" completion of foundation repairs. I would then appraise the home as compared to typical homes of its size and quality and give them an "as repaired value". If they want an "as is" value, put the ball in their court. Have them give you estimates from licensed contactors to do the repairs and don't forget the interior repairs either. Then I would deduct the "total cost to cure" from my "subject to repairs" total. Just make sure they get reputable bids and estimates for repairs. Also, I would not finish the appraisal with an "as is" value until you are given sufficient estimates for sufficient repairs. Once again, just my opinion.
 

Farm Gal

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Nebraska
Gary, You do have an interesting problem...
Are you valueing 'as is' or 'subject to'? or for litigation purposes?

The slab & footings were excavated raised and pillar support added to the affected part of the dwelling per an engineer's specifications.
Unless they used a stable footed pillar and a big BEAM (the kind that holds parking garages) they have probabaly exacerbated the problem, rather than effected a cure.

The probability of either excentric or point loading a footing (originally designed as a spread load) tends to create not only discrete pressure points but also usually results in additional breaks in the non load areas. Also, having disturbed the earth in order to get at the pillar points, they have also probably set up a disturbed laminar water flows compounding the error.

Typically the type of fill you describe has hydraulic problems, which create the sinkholes and settles unevenly for decades. If you are in an area which is also suceptable to frost heave you can really compound the matter.

I have some experience in this problem: regular second hand post repair reviews of similar problems in the SF Bay Marina district, and (deep sigh) the series of repairs done on my Mother-in-law's house here in Kansas...

First I would suggest that you attempt to find out if there have been deep core samples taken of the area around the house and if a 'qualified' soils engineer (Not a structural) looked at those samples... there is no way to tell original elevations and level of stable (?) earth, with our such samples.

If the soils are at all expansive (despite it's loamy charicter described) disturbance and recompaction over unstable ground will generaly result in the same problem reoccurring under the house.

The proposed cure also sounds pretty expensive depending on your local labor rates: what is the availability of alternative sites? Is there a possibility of just moving the house? Base lot values vs. cost ot cure immediate adn prospective continued subsidence? Are we talking a few bags of dirt from K-mart every few years or a bulldozer.

...how can you measure the value of a stigma might be attached?
Looks like the area was (?) fairly stable for at least a few years, and took 12+/- years to re-emerge as a serious enough problem for some one to want to "do" something. {5/91 and the sale closed 9/91}. MOST markets usually 'assume' that the last repair by 'experts' will do the trick. You *may* not have a stigma problem.

Are there any other small wonder properties (inclusive of dead body or murder, notorious person lived ther, etc.) houses in the area? The sort of stories which alleviated the guys at the local donut shop's boredom for a while then resold? Don't discount the breakfast counter as one of the better resources! Chat up your older realtors: preferably a heavy semi-retired hitter, and find out where some of the local fix-it big boy contractors hang out for a beer after work...

Now all the above assumes you are on a pretty unlimited retainer... :roll:

I would take this one slowly though, and put in some pretty strongly worded hypotheticals and disclaimers: completed, consulted with experts, I is not an enginer, assumed fully functional etc...

Also if you are in an area where Earthquakes are even a remote possibility OR there is suffcient road/highway rumble to cause any 'feel' at all EVER the site will likely continue with this problem for many many years to come.

Sorry for rambling on: if you have any further questions I may have some answers...

Good luck!
 

Austin

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Virginia
Lee Ann: Have you been taking steriods? That was some heavy stuff you just threw out. Very impressive. What odds do you give on California sinking into the sea? Are you into tutonic plate theory?
 

Farm Gal

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Nebraska
Austin: I izn't no eggspurt...
(tectonic) yup, I buy the plates thing in part, but there are better comprehensive theories.

Had a WONDERFUL Geologist father-in-Law, learned a lot... Have a insatiable curiosity, learned a lot, AND got to read a whole bunch of engineering reports after the Loma Prieta Earthquake: wherein I learned a incredible huge lot. I spent two years leaving a clipboard and dust hanging in mid-air when aftershocks hit: being inside a partially destroyed house under further siege is not MY deathplan.

My folks live south of SF, CA.

I advised EQ insurance cause it will pay to put the pieces of thier 1 story back on the foundation. THIER part of the dirt prob'ly won't fall in for a long long time... But I might have to screw it back together someday.

Wish mom would move the colored glass in the guest room: gives me shivers: better than slivers...

Friday Night and the fun has jus begun...
 

jtrotta

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
LeeAnn
In no way do I want to steal your thunder or create havoc here, BUT - if Gary L.Marten does not hold any type of Degree, I would not recomend he get into any pi***ng contest with an engineer and I would not provoke them or you may wind up in a very akward situation.

Secondly, he has already brought up several problems in the initial paragraph; "Prior to the development of that section of the sub-division it was filled with construction; scrap; trash; and back filled before leveling".

Enough said right there, it would appear they never set the footings on "virgin ground", therefore, the problem will continue until it is properly corrected.

*LeeAnn; just a question, do you hold an engineering degree :?:

Check 8)
 

wyecoyote

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Gvmt Agency, FNMA, HUD, VA etc.
State
Washington
Gary,

So the problem is sinking of the soil due to poor soil conditions. First I would ask as others stated get bids by reputable individuals with cost to cure the structure and a geological survey of the soil to find the extent of the problem. Provided and paid for by the client of course. After the geological survey was completed get bids for the cost to do the neccessary work provided by the enginer.

The large problem is there any stigima for a property like this? That could take some time. Finding properties like this is very difficult. Possible slide condition properties and/or any others in say flood lands. They may have similar impact on value and/or marketability.

I just finished a class on Valuation of Detremential Conditions through the AI. I am not advocating anyone join the AI or take this class. However, this class was extremely helpfull to me in regards to these types of properties and it also provided many case studies. If you want I can email you some information or links to a website that may be of help to you on this one.

Ryan
 

Mike Garrett RAA

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
I think you should "run like the wind...Gary" This is well beyond the realm of expertise of the average appraiser. I would call for an engineer's report and go from there.

Lets go fishing...that is if youse guys in New Mexico have any water left!
 

Gary L. Martin ...

Thread Starter
Freshman Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Need to go fishing. The boat won't be out of the shop till the week of 3/25/02. (Parts on order). Oh Well, deep subject!!!

Guess I am pretty well stuck with this appraisal. Yes, I have a double major bachlors (Industrial & Electrical Engineering). Yes, I have 2 structural engineers reports. Yes, I hold a NM general contractors license and real construction experience. I can talk the talk and walk the walk.

I have all the bells and whistles, but 2 questions remain. From a technical standpoint what the new engineer says may work. However, given the properties past history. Is 8' enough?? Is there a foolproof way to tell? Is time the only way? Hence, the question about stigma.

Will this disclosure affect the ultimate price a buyer is willing to pay and likewise affect the marketability? How will past history affect, say a sale 2 years away following the latest repair?

I personally think it might, but have no way of supporting that opinion.

Thanks
Gary ...
 

Farm Gal

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Nebraska
Jtrotta:
Nope - no egring degree, never sayed I did had one.

Problem with foundation problems is that ususally the structural guys never get a full soils investigation, nor an expert in that area to tell them whats under the surface... most of them read a few reports about the general area and say "I know what's best".

Most of my ed-u-me-cation was acquired by reading post game reviews: Engineers ripping original engineer's conclusions apart after foundation failures under stress. (We think appriaser's have professional courtesy issues...) Of course in these cases there was a measurable failure to be observed (not USPAP grey areas) and armchair quarterbacking beats being on the field...

I still stand by the essence of my overlong post:

There is USUALLY not much stigma if repairs have been made according to some engineers recomendations and that all important top 32nd of an inch paint layer looks good...

And somewhere along the line a soils engineer should take core samples to establish if this 8 foot depth is pulled 18 inches from the structural engineers ear!

Should the hosue fail again after the 'final' set of repairs: there will be a BIG stigma/value problem.

Regards!

Lee Ann
 
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