Home Buyers Say Some Sellers May Be Hiding Foundation Issues

"Buyers Beware" is the message some home buyers are sharing after they claim some sellers are hiding crumbling foundation issues.

Kristen Cole thought she'd found the perfect place for her family in South Windsor. But 18 months after buying her home, she noticed a growing crack in her basement wall.

After hiring a structural engineer to take a look, she found that she had a crumbling foundation like, she soon realized, many of her neighbors on the cul-de-sac.

"When I got the report, it was devastating," Cole recalled. "It was devastating."

Some of her South Windsor neighbors had already replaced their basement walls.

Cole provided NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters with the state-mandated seller's disclosure form for her home. In the "foundation" section, the previous owner indicated they had, "some cracks sealed and waterproofing done," as a "preventive measure".

"I had no reason to believe there was an issue with my foundation," Cole said.

Cole hired a neighbor to dig out the foundation and found an enormous crack just a few inches below grade.

General contractor, Don Childree, said any water barrier needs to protect the foundation from groundwater.

"Who would waterproof just above grade? It's not where your waterproofing goes. If you're building a house, your waterproofing goes below ground, not above grade," Childree said.

Vernon attorney Michael Kopsick does not represent Cole, but has represented several homeowners with crumbling foundations. Kopsick believes information about the concrete issue has been widely discussed in real estate circles in towns like South Windsor for at least a decade.

"If a broker has a understanding of an area-wide problem, or more specifically, a neighborhood problem, based on prior transactions and experience, I think they have a responsibility to probe the response they get from their seller," Kopsicksaid.

For the past two years, the Connecticut Association of Realtors website has included a "foundation advisory" because of the growing concrete crisis.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters spoke with the association's president, Michael Barbaro, about whether real estate agents have a duty to share what they know about foundation issues in a particular town or neighborhood.

"All we can do is advise people, urge them of their obligation to disclose. We certainly can't force them," Barbaro said.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters asked Kopsick who bears the ultimate responsibility for disclosing relevant information to a potential buyer.

"I think that's presently being litigated in a number of matters across the state," the attorney said.

Cole has filed a lawsuit against the seller of her house, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, who represented her and the seller, as well as, her specific agent and the home inspector individually.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reached out to the South Windsor ColdwellBanker office and the agent named in the complaint. They referred our inquiry to the corporate office in Boston, which provided a statement:

"We operate with integrity and strive to uphold the highest of ethical standards. We are defending ourselves in this matter. We will not comment further on pending litigation."

Cole said she just hopes to be able to recover the money to replace her foundation because she does not want to move her daughters again.

"A home cannot be bought, it must be made. We've made our home here, and I just want to make sure we can remain here," Cole said.

Kopsick said the adage "buyer beware" is more relevant now than it's ever been.

The attorney recommends a home buyer should:

  • • ask a lot of questions of the real estate agents and home inspector.
  • • verify the home inspector is qualified and carries insurance.
  • • get a copy of the inspection report, especially if there is a photo or any content that suggests there may be an issue with the foundation.
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