You’ve done all the necessary prep work. You’re pre-approved, searched online listings, and found a house you’re interested in viewing. Although there is a ton of information coming at you from both your real estate agent and online, this article is devoted to explaining why looking at the home’s dirt could be just as important as any of the other red flags.
Since you already know the basics, number of bedrooms, and bathrooms, we urge you to take time to go outside and look down—the home’s dirt is trying to tell you something.
Keep an eye on these five dirt-related red flags to help you decide if you’ve found your dream home or to keep looking.
- Soil Type
- Displaced Dirt & Mulch
- Missing Soil
- Wet, Saturated Soil
- Dirt on Exterior Concrete
We’ll dive deep into the why of each factor and discuss specifics to keep an eye out for– plus what it may mean for you as the future homeowner.
Being aware of the soil type at a home you are looking to purchase can tell you a lot about potential problems you may face in the future or any issues the current homeowner is trying to conceal from you. Although taking a shovel and digging may be poor etiquette, it is sometimes possible to notice the soil type in a garden or other landscaping. Regardless, a little online research should be able to inform you of the soil type if the real estate agent is not.
If the home has clay soil, keep an eye out for bowing or tilting basement or crawl space walls, cracks in the foundation, or water leaks. Clay soil absorbs water easily and expands when saturated. This expansion puts pressure on foundation walls causing them to crack, bow, and leak.
If the area has sandy soil, look for signs of foundation settlement. Red flags include uneven floors, a tilting chimney, sticking doors and windows, drywall cracks, or nail pops. Sandy soil is prone to erosion or washout and can leave your home unsupported.
Displaced Dirt & Mulch
Take a walk around the exterior of the home and look for piles of dirt or mulch that seem out of place. These could be signs of failing gutters or an improper drainage system. Both factors can lead to serious foundation problems like bowing walls and foundation settlement. Look up to see the condition of the gutters and ask when they were last serviced by a professional.
When outside, take a look at the foundation or where the home meets the ground and observe any missing or low areas where the soil seems to have washed out. Washout can occur because of poor drainage or soil erosion, and both are cause for concern and should be addressed.
Wet, Saturated Soil
In addition to looking at the foundation, take a look in the yard and look for any wet, saturated areas where water seems to have pooled. These may be areas where the grade of the yard dips or is unlevel. Wet areas in the yard could be both a sign of poor drainage or inadequate gutters. Both could have a detrimental effect on your foundation.
Dirt on Exterior Concrete
Since the exterior concrete slabs at any home are obviously much less heavy than the home itself, it’s important to look there for problem signs. Look for dirt or mulch on driveway, sidewalk, or walkway concrete slabs. This could indicate the soil is not strong enough to support the concrete and is washing out on top. If the soil beneath can’t support the much less heavy slab, be aware the home could also have foundation issues.
What Dirt Has to Say: The Bottom Line
If it sounds like we are adding additional work to the already large list of things to observe when at a showing or open house, you’re not wrong. However, taking a little extra time will help you be able to ask the right questions and get answers that really help you make an educated decision.
The inspectors at Groundworks have seen tens of thousands of homes and have identified these signs as important tools to assessing a home’s structural integrity. When in doubt, ask the seller if a foundation report has ever been conducted or ask if they are willing to have you schedule one. The Groundworks experts in your area understand both the soil conditions and the climate, which play a big role in foundation health and know what to look for. Schedule your inspection today.