Looking to buy 2 houses with potential structural work

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So I have an East Tennessee property under contract that has 2 small houses on it (500 and 800 square feet). The area is prime for airBNB, other similar houses in the neighborhood are getting great rates and renting very consistently.

The trouble is the houses need some work. Besides all the cosmetic stuff. The inspector said there was likely some structural work that needs to be done in both as the floors are very uneven. Everyone gets nervous when anyone says structural work.

Is it really that bad? What would it likely cost me to repair in a home that small?

I’m getting a great price for the houses, and If they were fixed up, the cash flow would be great. Should I run?

Hi @Addison Ricci , I know plenty of investors in the Nashville area who have tackled foundation problems without incurring a huge expense at all. It sounds like you've got a great deal and a great money-making opportunity. I would tell you to go with it! 

I was able to get a contractor out there today and he said the work was very manageable and his quotes were really reasonable.  I'm gonna try to ask the seller for some cash at closing.  But I definitely think I'm gonna go ahead with this deal!  Thanks for the encouragement!

@Addison Ricci

Depends, it can get very expensive. 

Foundational piers run about 900-1300 per pier. Depending on the company and the strenght of the pier.

They need to be i believe at most 7ft apart. Can't remember the exact number. So figure anywhere you see foundation cracking, drywall cracking, etc that you need to have piers in that general area.

If you're on a slab, add some cost for slab jacking. 

This is all super rough estimates. Only way you will know the extent of it is to get an engineer. Get an actual engineer to take a look and not foundation companies as they will not give you an actual objective opinion. 

@Addison Ricci  There is more to foundation repairs than just the foundation. Here is what I collected as "warnings" or lessons (from various sources and some experienced myself) about foundation problems and/or repairs:

1. If you have brick on the exterior, you might have to do tuckpointing. $$$

2. If you have tiles inside, the tiles will crack. And if they have to drill holes for interior piers, you pretty much will have to replace the entire flooring. $$$$

3. You'll have drywall cracks, so you should factor in drywall repairs and repainting. $$$

4. If the doors were adjusted to a crooked foundation, you might need to readjust or even buy new doors. $$$

5. A hydrostatic plumbing test is recommended to be performed by a licensed plumber post Foundation work. Plumbing leaks may void warranty. Old houses have cast iron pipers that will disintegrate (because of age and/or foundation shift). You'll have to replace all plumbing at that point. $$$$

6. Depending on how bad is the foundation state (how many inches you have to correct), is very possible the sewer line will disconnect/break in the horizontal portions. Repairing that requires tunneling, a repair that could be very expensive. $$$$

7. If the driveway- garage differential is big (for example, the driveway slab is sunken and you need to raise the house, you'll end up with an even bigger gap after repair) you might need to replace the driveway. $$$$

8. If you are dealing with an addition built on 12" beams (or if the original foundation is old and not built to current standards), the repair company might not be able to push the piers down to refusal depth or psi due to the beam not taking the load, thus leveling it, but not guaranteeing it will not continue to move in the future, thus not providing warranty.

9. The owner may be required to provide a structural engineers evaluation prior to warranty work.

10. Damages to the property, interior and exterior as a result of the foundation movement are not covered, during and after works completion. This usually includes but is not limited to PLUMBING, flooring, landscape, utility lines and masonry. The foundation repair does not cover any repairs that may be needed to the home during and after works completion. And you'll have new cracks in unexpected places, old cracks that will not close, but instead enlarge. My suggestion is to add at least 25% to the cost of the foundation repair as mitigation to the problems that will come from the foundation repair.

If anyone has more experience with any of these, please correct me if mistaken.

A rule of thumb for a "quick and dirty" foundation estimate without engaging a foundation contractor...yet.

Take the floor area and divide by 49. Generally piers need to be set 7' apart, so 7x7= 49sf.

Let's say the house is one story @ 1,400sf. 1400/49 = 28.6 or total of 29 Piers.

Now multiply the number if piers by $250. 29x250 = $7,250.

Now add $200 for permit & $400 for Engineer's letter (yes, both of these are required by the City). 200+400 = $600

Total foundation price = $7,850.

In the above scenario, this assumes all piers need to be replaced (this is usually not the case). It does not account for new beams. I do not have a rule of thumb for beam replacement cost, but it's usually another line item on the foundation bid. It should also be noted price per pier cost can vary different from contractor to contractor, from around $200/pier on the low end, to $600/pier on the Retail end.