Research a home’s history
In a matter of minutes, you can have your hands on records that give you good insight into that house.
I’ll never forget the home I visited that was literally cracking apart. We could roll a pool ball from one end of the floor to the other and it would pick up speed. That’s because the house was sloping as it split apart.
This caused the homeowner significant costs ($60,000+) to pier the foundation and fix the problem. It was not only a cosmetic issue with cracks on walls throughout the home and doors that didn’t close properly, but a structural issue. The home was splitting apart, and if left unkept it was unknown what would happen. An engineer who evaluated the property worried a sewer line might break with the constant shifting.
This homeowner’s massive problem could have been avoided if he looked at the surface maps of his home before buying it. It’s common for counties to post land maps online. Sometimes they’re called Geographic Information Systems, GIS mapping, or as simple as online mapping system.
Cleveland Metro: (in Ohio they tend to call it GIS but I’m calling it online mapping for simplicity sake)
Cuyahoga County Online Mapping
Lake County Online Mapping
Geauga County Online Mapping
Medina County GIS
Summit County Online Mapping
Lorain County Online Mapping
That’s one of the first places an engineer is going to look when you find a problem and hire him to get to the bottom of it.
The online mapping systems often contain aerial photos of the land before construction. In this story, the photo showed a dark mark through the center of the property. The engineer believed that mark represented a creek bed or creek.
When a lot is excavated, a lot of backfill is brought in. Over time, that fill settles. Just look around your house and you’ll see the soil settlement around your house. In fact, many builder warranties for new homes suggest you fill the foundation once a year.
The engineer believes that it took several years of settling before problems surfaced because of where the home was built.
Zoning of nearby lots
Also, look at the surrounding area. Ask how it’s zoned, so a pig farm can’t move in next door. Of course zoning can change, but before that happens there is typically a public comment period.
You should also check with your City Planner and ask for the permits and building inspections for your home. In this case, city records revealed concerns about the foundation footings during construction.
Pull all City records to get an idea of the events that happened during construction. You can see what parts of construction were approved immediately, and if there were any hangups during construction. It will give you a better idea of potential problems with your property.
So many new home buyers think their home is perfectly fit for occupancy and up to code because the city approved it. This is not the case.
I’ve seen many homeowners buy a home that doesn’t still has temporary occupancy permits. This means there were outstanding issues with the builder and the city, so an occupancy permit was never issued. It’s not a big deal. Usually the homeowner can get it corrected with another city inspection, but technically you’re living in the home illegally.
Just like you’ll likely hire an inspector, I hope, you want to inspect city records to see what happened during the City’s inspection of the builder.