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Historic drought destroying foundations – know the warning signs

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Cracked foundation photo by WayTru.

The worst drought in over 50 years

Currently, Texas and several surrounding states are experiencing record temperatures and one of the worst droughts in a generation which has gone on for over a year.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor Index map, almost all of the state is under the severest of drought conditions and driving through the state, it is common to see signs posted reminding residents that there is a burn ban disallowing any open fire, fireworks, or anything that risks wildfires, of which there have been many in Texas this summer, especially in residential areas.

Drought causing massive foundation failure

Many parts of Texas and even New Mexico are experiencing drought conditions so bad that home foundations are failing at an accelerated pace. Houston is among the worst hit with foundation repair companies reporting a backlog of inspection requests having nearly tripled their business in recent months.

Some inspectors are unable to meet demand until October or November at their current pace and are hiring temporary help from neighboring states.

Homeowners and Realtors should be equipped to spot problem cracks

Homeowners should know the warning signs of foundation problems during this natural disaster, but Realtors should be able to spot them not only when representing a buyer, but in the event a homeowner vacates their home, a listing agent should be able to recognize the signs of impending foundation failure.

Foundation problems typically begin along the exterior edges of a home and cracks can begin appearing above doors and windows in a home interior. Sloping floors is also a sign of shifted foundation and potentially of failing soil beneath the foundation which is common in clay soils which expand and contrast more drastically than many other soil types.

Preventing foundation failure is a catch 22

Watering a slab is the best way to minimize the impact of dry conditions and can be done via soaker hose for 15 minutes twice per day, but most drought stricken areas have extremely strict restrictions on watering lawns and hefty fines are levied against anyone who violates the rules. Some areas in Texas allow for soaker hoses even on no-watering days, but most do not, so homeowners (and listing agents hoping to help a homeowner) are in a catch-22 in that can really only prevent foundation damage if they risk violating watering restrictions and paying a fine, or they can risk a dry foundation that could cost thousands to repair.

There is no doubt that the drought is no longer simply punishing farmers and ranchers, it is also putting home foundations at risk.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Brian

    August 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Good post! You are exactly right, subsidence is a huge problem right now. There is a lot of good information out there on how to water your foundation, but soaker hoses are really hard to find. You can find a link to them here:

    houstonfoundationguy.blogspot.com/

    Good luck to all the homeowners and home buyers out there there this summer!

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Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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