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Foundation Problems to Avoid

7 Fixes to Avoid Major Foundation Problems

Water can damage a foundation in countless ways, so homeowners should look to experts for the dos and don’ts.

September 24, 2021


Water is not always our friend. Sure, we drink it, swim in it, and need it to survive, but when it comes to homes, it can destroy the foundation, says home inspector Thomas Dabb of Immaculate Home Inspections in South Orange, N.J.

Water can enter a home from the exterior and interior, so buyers and homeowners need to keep their eyes open for signs of its presence—or worse—its damage.

The good news is that there are many experts available to spot and diagnose a problem and suggest the best fix. Water expert Steve Barckley with Exceptional Stone Products in Livingston, N.J., believes that homeowners should start by doing everything possible on the outside of the homes to correct problems and divert water away from a foundation.

Share these seven solutions with clients to help them minimize a foundation’s damage in various scenarios.

1. Improve grading. The slope of a property may direct water toward the base of a single-family house or multifamily dwelling rather than away. Cracks or openings in the foundation then allow it to enter, as well as through higher-level walls, the roof, and other entry points. Fix: “Be sure the grade slopes away from the house,” says Bill Coulbourne, a structural engineer whose eponymous company is near Annapolis, Md. A berm of soil or a swale with planting can prevent water from making its way to a foundation, says Cary Jozefiak, a home inspector with HomeTeam Inspection in Chicago. Caveats: This approach requires periodic maintenance to be sure the berm doesn’t erode. “It also needs to be directed so water doesn’t move toward a neighbor’s property,” Coulbourne says. Using a French drain to allow water to dissipate slowly from near the foundation into the landscape is more environmentally friendly than introducing it into the street to wash away, says Barckley. French drains also require some preventive maintenance to avoid clogging, Jozefiak says.

2. Waterproof a foundation. Keeping the foundation dry will prevent moisture from accumulating on the outside or entering inside. Fix: If wet, the best fix is to waterproof the exterior perimeter and interior walls of a basement or crawl space to prevent capillary action from building up, says New York City architect Victor Body-Lawson of Body Lawson Associates. “What we try to do is create an envelope around a building so water can’t enter through its skin, sometimes with a rain screen that drains water down and out to a storm drainage system,” he says. A sump pump will help if there’s moisture and water inside. It must drain far enough from a house, so water doesn’t recycle back inside if the property slopes or there’s an opening. Home inspector David Rose of Astute Home Inspections in Plainfield, N.J., suggests the drain be at least 5 feet from a house. A backup battery will prove useful if power fails.

3. Install gutters and downspouts. Water flowing off a roof will land near a house and possibly cause damage over time. Fix: A good line of defense is to have both gutters and downspouts installed around a home or building’s perimeter. The downspouts should extend far enough to carry away the water rather than have it sit near a foundation. Jozefiak recommends six feet away from a house. To keep gutters and downspouts functioning, they must be cleaned. How often to do so may depend on the trees near a house, Coulbourne says.

4. Keep large trees and bushes away from a house. Tree roots and other plant materials try to grow toward water, which can destabilize a structure and penetrate foundations, says Rose. Fix: If large trees already grow near a house, check that plumbing lines are free, and confirm there aren’t foundation cracks. If problems arise, the tree may need to be taken down or bushes transplanted, Body-Lawson says. Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman suggests consulting a licensed arborist to check roots, stability, and if the tree should be removed. “The best time to remove trees is in winter when they are dormant,” Glassman says.

5. Don’t ignore diagonal cracks. Movement, temperature changes, and time may cause foundation cracks to develop. But large diagonal ones require attention from a structural engineer to avoid bigger issues. “Visual clues appear before structural inadequacies do,” says Madison, Conn.-based architect Duo Dickinson. Among the problems are moisture and salt destroying anything made of steel and non-pressure-treated wood, which may rot, Dickinson says. Fix: Cracks suggest settlement and send a red flag that something might be wrong with a foundation, says Body-Lawson. “It might have sagged but it may not deteriorate further. However, if it continues to do so, the foundation needs underpinning.” Cracks that appear in foundation walls due to settlement may be visible in a first floor’s interior, too, says Coulbourne. Hairline cracks are common, but when it’s a quarter-inch in width and V-shaped, it may indicate pressure on an exterior wall.

6. Check for significant leaks and stains, especially efflorescence in a basement. “An unfinished basement is the best basement because it’s easier to see problems,” says Rose. Fix: When a basement is finished, experts recommend looking for clues. For example, a rust color that shows through paint can be a sign of moisture, says Barckley. Efflorescence—white powder left behind from minerals in water—may also appear. Coulbourne says that mold is another indicator, most likely visible at the base of a wall where moisture accumulates. Use your nose, too, he says. “If you walk into a damp basement, you can smell that,” he says. Sometimes areas covered over need to be checked. For example, Rose may pop open ceiling tiles to examine what’s behind them.

7. Learn why interior or patio floors may slant. It could be that a house is settling, which happens over time, says Body-Lawson. “Old houses may sag a little and then stop,” he says. But if the floor or patio was level and now slants, it might be time to hire a structural engineer, says Jason Chang of Jersey Inspections in Verona, N.J. Fix: Floorboards, tiles, and carpet can be picked up, joists shimmed, and a new layer installed, says Body-Lawson. If water gets under pavers outdoors, they may need to be taken up, the pitch of the patio checked, a membrane or drainage system installed, then pavers put back, Jozefiak says.

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August 2021 Housing Report

By MNR News posted 09-14-2021

Lack of inventory stalls transactions in a competitive market

In a sign that the heated summer sales season is cooling, closed sales of residential homes in Minnesota declined 3.0% compared to August 2020. New listings dropped 3.8% over last year. Despite shrinking inventory, buyers scrambled to purchase homes, competing with multiple offers that drove the median sales price up 11.3% to $316,000. Consequently, available properties were quickly purchased, with days on the market plunging by 38.1% to just 26 days. The number of homes for sale declined 25.0%, leaving a 1.5-month supply of properties for sale. Sellers profited from the high demand, averaging 101.7% of their asking price on a typical transaction. That marks a 3.4% increase over August 2020.

“As we head into fall, buyer demand is still far outpacing supply. Despite the ideal environment for selling a home, a lot of potential sellers are sitting on the fence. They’re worried about their ability to find an affordable property after they sell,” said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota Realtors. “With school starting again, many sellers will wait until spring before they think about putting their homes on the market. It’s a cycle that’s likely to repeat until market forces increase inventory or rising interest rates put the brakes on purchasing power.”

August year-over-year summary of key market indicators:

  • Closed sales decreased 3.0% to 9,688
  • Median sales price increased 11.3% to $316,000
  • Average sales price increased 13.4% to $367,407
  • New listings decreased 3.8% to 11,499
  • Pending sales decreased12.0% to 9,261
  • Days on the market decreased 38.1% to 26 days
  • Homes for sale decreased 25.0% to 11,956

Closed Home Sales Across Minnesota by Region
Closed sales were down across the state with 10 regions reporting declines compared to August 2020. The exceptions were Southwest, which marked a 5.0% rise in closed sales, and Central which was up 1.8%. Three regions saw double-digit declines: West Central at -25.3%, Headwaters at -11.1%, and Arrowhead at -10.7%. See the chart below for more details comparing closed home sales for August 2021 to August 2020.

chart of housing statistics

The seven-county Twin Cities region comprises Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The official Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area recognized by the Census Bureau consists of 16 counties, on which MAR & SPAAR local associations report.

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Tips to Keeping your Home Safe



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When getting your home ready to sell, safety should be in the forefront of your mind. Here are some items to consider before listing your home for sale:

Door and Window Locks

Prior to selling your home, be sure all door and window looks are in working order. Make sure that there are spare keys that work, in case the buyer’s argent has issues with entering your property. Check the locks when you arrive home after the showing to make sure no uninvited house guest left a window unlocked to enter at a later time. .

Clear Your Desk.

If you work from home, you know the importance of securing sensitive information. Other items you may not have thought about are your bills, your calendar, and any other personal information about your or your family. Be sure to lock up any information you don’t want on display while your house is being shown.

Secure Personal Items.

Before any buyers enter your home, be sure to remove any personal items that need to be secured. Be sure to lock up any weapons, medication, and valuables. Also, take along your medication, or lock up the medication that you don’t use often.  You want to make sure that no one has access to these items.

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July 2021 Housing Report

By MNR News posted 08-12-2021

New listings and closed sales fall

Demand continued to outpace the available housing supply in July as new listings declined -0.2% and closed sales fell -8.7% compared to 2020. As buyers chased scarce inventory with multiple offers, the median sales price rose +12.5% to $315,000, setting another historic high. The intense activity meant homes spent less time on the market, down to just 25 days—an unprecedented low. On average, sellers were receiving 102.7% of their asking price. The overall supply of homes for sale was down -29.7% to 11,854 and month’s supply sank -34.8% to 1.5 month’s worth of inventory on the market.

“Buyers were still out in full force, and many of them hoped to close on homes before the new school year. Unfortunately, the market could not meet their demand. Even though potential sellers were almost guaranteed to get their asking price, they were reluctant to list their homes because they didn’t want to become buyers in this hyper competitive environment,” said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota Realtors. “Although there’s no easy way out of this situation, part of the solution lies in local and state governments easing restrictions, and helping developers build higher density, more affordable housing throughout the state.”

July year-over-year summary:

  • Closed sales: -8.7% to 9,615
  • Median sales price: +12.5% to $315,00
  • Average sales price: +12.9% to $359,700
  • New listings: -0.2% to 11,499
  • Pending sales: -14.2% to 8,923
  • Days on the market: -43.2% to 25 days
  • Homes for sale: -29.7% to 11,854

 Closed Home Sales Across Minnesota by Region

As the housing supply remained low, eight of the state’s 13 regions reported declines in closed sales compared to July 2020. This included the seven-county Twin Cities region, which was down -3.2%. Closed sales were up in three regions, with double-digit growth in the Upper MN Valley, 36.8%, and Northwest, 20.0%. See the chart below for more details comparing closed home sales for July 2021 to July 2020.

July housing numbers

The seven-county Twin Cities region comprises Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The official Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area recognized by the Census Bureau consists of 16 counties, on which MAR & SPAAR local associations report.

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Home Warranty Pros and Cons


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Should you include a home warranty with your new home? Home warranties have changed over the years, and there is not a one size fits all for all homeowners. It’s best to compare the pros and cons prior to purchasing one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when comparing home warranties:

Home warranties are designed to give the homeowner peace of mind in the event of something breaking down or damaged in your home. This is great option for those homeowners that are not not familiar with household repairs. A plus for home warranties is the flat cost for the repair. You are aware of the cost up front, rather than having sticker shock when an appliance breaks down. This could also be very handy in the event of buying a home with older appliances with limited life. This avoids having to purchase a new appliance, and just repairing the appliance you have.

One issue with home warranties are that an an item may not be covered for repair. You need to read the fine print as to what types of repairs are covered for certain appliances. Another issue is that the home warranty company controls who does the repairs, or that the repair personnel may have several other repairs before they can get your your item needing service.

When looking at home warranties, the bottom line is making sure you find the right plan for your home and your situation.

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June 2021 Housing Report

By MNR News posted 07-13-2021
As closed sales rise and inventory shrinks, new listings can’t keep pace

Competition for scarce housing stock defined Minnesota’s real estate market in June, pushing the median sales price to $325,000, up 18.9% above June 2020, according to Minnesota Realtors® (MNR), the membership organization supporting all 22,000 Realtors in the state. Closed sales rose 12.9% over last year, and a surge of new listings brought 11,908 properties to the market, a 6.5% increase. In a key indicator of the frenzied sales activity, days on the market sank 45.7% to just 25 days—a historic low. Overall, the state’s number of homes for sale were down 40.8% compared to last June, with only 1.2 months of supply available. On average, sellers were getting 103.2% of the asking price, pushing the average sales price to $367,753, +9.3% above 2020. This is an unprecedented milestone.

“The market continues to be highly dynamic but it’s constrained by the number of affordable—and desirable—homes for sale,” said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota Realtors. “Rising home prices, competitive bidding, and cash offers are squeezing out many first-time homebuyers. Unfortunately, our ability to create more housing is limited by a complex interplay of factors, from construction costs to government regulations. Based on the numbers, it’s a trend that will continue playing out for the foreseeable future in Minnesota.”

June year-over-year summary:

  • Closed sales: +12.9% to 10,386
  • Median sales price: +18.9% to $325,00
  • Average sales price: +19.3% to $367,753
  • New listings: +6.5% to 11,908
  • Pending sales: -7.0% to 9,620
  • Days on the market: -45.7% to 25 days
  • Homes for sale: -40.8% to 10,227

Closed Home Sales Across Minnesota by Region

Eight of the state’s 13 regions reported increases in closed sales compared to June 2020, with four regions seeing double-digit growth, including an increase of 20.6%  in the seven-county Twin Cities. There were declines in five regions, with double-digit drops in the Upper MN Valley, 11.6%; West Central, 13.1%; and North Central, 15.0%. See the chart below for more details comparing closed home sales for June 2021 to June 2020.

June 2021 Housing Stats by Region

The seven-county Twin Cities region comprises Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The official Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area recognized by the Census Bureau consists of 16 counties, on which MAR & SPAAR local associations report.

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Summer Homeowner Checklist

By MNR News posted 07-06-2021

Staying Cool and Helping the Planet 💦☀️🌍


Summertime is officially here! And while the summer months are great for ice cream and time at the lake, it’s also an important season to keep up with home maintenance.


Here are some tips for keeping your home cool, helping the planet, and saving money.


Staying Cool


Maintain the air conditioner

Just as you maintain your heater in the winter, make sure your air conditioner is in tip-top shape for hot weather. Always remember to:


  • Change the filter in the air-to-air converter
  • Change furnace filter for air conditioning
  • Wash out the air conditioner condenser
  • Vacuum any debris blocking the air filter


Cool ways to conserve energy

There are many ways to keep your home cool in the summer that are not only great for your pocketbook, but also super helpful for conserving energy and helping the environment.


  • Keep your blinds closed to create a cave-like effect. This will make your rooms naturally cooler
  • Make sure your vents are not blocked by furniture or rugs
  • Though it can be tempting to crank the air to max cold, having the thermostat set 5-8 degrees warmer will help you save money and conserve energy, with 78 being the most energy efficient temperature
  • Get an energy audit to assess where cool air is escaping and letting hot air in


Water, Water Everywhere



Our lawns and gardens need water to grow and thrive, but there are many ways to keep your gardens happy while saving on water.


  • Water your garden with a hose rather than a sprinkler system – that way you can spend some one-on-one time with your garden while making sure you’re not overwatering. Or, if you have a sprinkler system, minimize the watering time for each zone of your yard, and adjust the sprinkler heads to ensure they water grass—not pavement (or pedestrians!). Also, attach a rain sensor to automatically turn off your sprinklers when it is raining.
  • Set up a rain barrel to catch water from your gutters to water your plants and flowers
  • Water your gardens & lawns in the mornings or afternoons



Saving water inside the home is easy with a bit of awareness and a few adjustments. Here are some tips for water conservation in the home:


  • Take shorter showers
  • Don’t leave your water running while doing dishes or brushing your teeth
  • Install water-saving sink and shower heads
  • Only run your dishwasher when it’s full and limit how often you run it
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Mortgage Points



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You could save thousands of dollars, over the life of your mortgage with mortgage points. They are not always the correct option for everyone, so there are some considerations to think of when applying for a mortgage.

What Are Mortgage Points?

Paying your lender in exchange for a lower interest rate is what defines mortgage points. This expense is paid at closing, and is included as an addition to your closing costs.

The Benefit of Mortgage Points

Mortgage points help lower your interest rate, and the primary benefit is that they have the potential to save you a decent amount of money over the life of your mortgage. If you are planning to keep your house long enough to recoup this cost, then this would be a good investment. This is also a good benefit is your are refinancing and plan on staying in your house to get get the value of your investment.

When Not to Buy Mortgage Points

Although mortgage points and a low interest rate are important items to consider when purchasing a home, you should determine the potential time frame you will live in that home. If you are buying with the intent of selling within the next few years, the out-of-pocket investment may not be worth the return.

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May 2021 Housing Report

By MNR News posted 06-14-2021
New listings falling short of market demand

The Minnesota real estate market stayed strong with closed sales up +14.5% over last May, and pending sales increasing by +9.4%. However, demand continued to squeeze available inventory as new listings only inched above last May’s levels at +0.2%. The median price rose to $310,000, up +15.7% from 2020, an all-time high for sales price and a high-water mark for the year over year percentage increase. Days on market dropped by -37% to just 29 days, a historic low. Buyers are feeling the pressure and pursuing homes with multiple offers while houses come on and off the market very quickly. Properties were receiving an average of 4.5% over the original asking price. The statewide inventory of homes shrank to 8,953, down -50.5% compared to June 2020. Total months supply remained historically low at 1.1, down -57.7% from last year.

“As we anticipated, buyers are very active but there simply isn’t the inventory to meet their demand,” said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota Realtors. “This has created a competitive environment where multiple offers are the norm. Although you’d think that would be an incentive for more sellers to list their homes, many are hesitating because they worry about becoming home buyers in this environment. It’s a cycle that will only be broken by increased inventory or higher interest rates that slow demand.”

May year-over-year summary:

  • Closed sales: +14.5% to 7,982
  • Median sales price: +15.7% to $310,00
  • Average sales price: +20.6% to $361,325
  • New listings: +0.2% to 10,814
  • Pending sales: +9.4% to 9,642
  • Days on the market: -37.0% to 29 days
  • Homes for sale: -50.5% to 8,953

Closed Home Sales Across Minnesota by Region
9 of the state’s 13 regions reported increases in closed sales compared to May 2020, with six of them seeing double-digit growth. Three regions marketed declines, with North Central down -1.5%, South Central at -6.3%, and Northwest falling -14.3%. See the chart below for more details comparing May 2021 to May 2020.

graph of housing data

The seven-county Twin Cities region comprises Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The official Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area recognized by the Census Bureau consists of 16 counties, on which MAR & SPAAR local associations report.