Water in the basement is always a red flag.
Potential water damage and the extent of the damage make buyers jittery because they never know what they might discover after they purchase the house. What looks like a small leak may end up revealing significant foundation damage.
It’s not the home inspector’s job to give a property a passing or failing grade. Their job is to go through the house with a fine-toothed comb to look for signs of damage, things that aren’t up to code, aging, and other wear and tear. Buyers pay inspectors to list everything they should know before finalizing the purchase.
Will a wet basement fail an inspection?
While finding water in the basement is a concern, it’s not always a reason to walk away from your dream home. Like roof damage, problems with siding, and anything else your home inspection turns up, the water damage needs a look to know whether it’s a bigger problem.
At the very least, it should lead to further discussions between both sides of the transaction. The seller will want to know about the damage and should work with you on a fair resolution if you still want the home.
Here are some things to know about what you should do if you find a wet basement and how it can affect the sale of a house.
Damp vs. Wet Basements
Basements should stay dry to protect the home’s foundation and keep moisture from seeping inside, which can cause mold growth and other issues. Of course, any water is a concern, but how much your inspector finds should also consider whether you walk away from a deal.
Damp basements often indicate that water intrusion happens during wet seasons or other times of the year. Wet basements, or the presence of more water, usually indicate a bigger problem.
In either case, you should raise the issue with the seller’s side. Once the inspection reveals water in the basement, the seller will be very incentivized to work with you to fix the problem.
In addition, they’ll need to disclose the issue to any future buyers or risk liability when something goes wrong, so they’ll want to take care of it as soon as possible.
Is a Damp Basement a Deal Breaker?
Not necessarily. However, the extent to which your seller is willing to work with you may cause you to walk away from the deal.
It would help if you considered whether you want to pay to fix the basement when an inspector discovers water damage. Sometimes, sellers won’t be as eager to take on all the costs of repairing water damage, particularly in a hot real estate market. You and your agent will need to negotiate on terms to move things forward.
Of course, the seller will ideally pay for water damage because it is a serious concern and could threaten the home’s structural integrity.
However, they’re selling the home, so they’re not necessarily going to the root cause of the water issues. Instead, they’ll fix surface issues required to get the house ready for sale.
You’ll need to advocate for getting expert opinions on the extent of the damage and what’s required to fix it fully. If you can’t agree, then you may need to walk.
How Much Does It Cost to Dry Out a Basement?
On average, drying out a basement will cost between $2,000 and $7,000. The price will vary based on the home’s size, the basement’s location, local conditions, and labor rates.
Most contractors will give you a range over the phone or send someone to the house to look before giving you an estimate.
The problem with drying out a basement is that sometimes the technicians will encounter unseen problems once they start. It’s impossible to see what’s underground until you pick up a shovel.
The first thing that must happen is identifying the source of water. It can come from problems in pipes, leaks, foundation cracks, window wells, or just doing too many laundries. Of course, some of those problems are more severe than others.
For example, it’s a relief if you find out the water in the basement is coming from a washing machine that runs wet or there is a poor connection with the dryer vent. On the other hand, foundation cracks can be very significant.
A good company will remove the water in the basement and waterproof the basement from future water intrusions. The simplest solution is applying water-resistant paint to the basement walls, but there are outdoor waterproofing solutions that will cost more because they involve excavations.
Signs of Water Damage in the Basement
Not every drop of water in the basement should kill your deal or stop you from buying your dream home. However, as mentioned, water in the basement is a red flag, and you should bring up anything the inspection finds with the seller’s agent.
A wet basement doesn’t pass or fail an inspection. Instead, the inspection is designed to help you know what you’re getting into whenever you buy a property.
There are signs of water damage, however, that you should be worried about. Here are some of the most common issues to look for.
Standing Water – Standing water in the basement signifies water coming up through the foundation. This is a serious concern because foundation repairs are complex and very expensive.
Flaking Paint – Flaking paint indicates moisture is seeping in through the concrete from outside.
Mold – Obvious mold or musty smells in the basement point to moisture intrusions, but they are also a problem in and of themselves because mold can be a health hazard.
Cracks – Cracks in floors or walls are a problem that indicates water intrusion has been going on for a long time and is affecting the structural integrity of the home.
Uneven Floors – Water damage in conjunction with uneven floors could mean the water is affecting the soil underneath the house. Soil erosion can impact how your house sits and whether it’s safe to be inside.
New homebuyers typically stress out whenever the inspection comes back. Remember, the inspector’s job is to highlight any damage, so you know exactly what you’re walking into when you buy a house.
Not every problem is a deal killer. Hopefully, you’re working with a trusted agent who can advise you on what to do and how a wet basement should influence price negotiations going forward.