What to Know If You're Buying a Sinkhole Home
By: Jeff Philbin, Helicon Marketing Director
Sinkholes and “sinkhole homes” (homes with repaired or active sinkholes on the property) are remarkably common in the state of Florida. This is due in part to the karst terrain in the state. Karst topography is formed from the breakdown of soluble rocks like limestone. Water erodes the limestone under the soil and washes it away until only a thin layer of ground is left. This thin layer easily collapses into a sinkhole. While the presence of karst terrain in Florida makes the area prone to sinkholes, there are certain conditions that trigger sinkholes to form. Heavy rainfall or drought, in particular, can trigger sinkholes to form. All of the tropical storms that Florida experiences can lead to sinkhole formation. In addition, certain kinds of human activity, like pumping of groundwater to irrigate oranges and other crops, can make sinkholes appear.
This means that if you are buying a home in Florida, there is a good chance that you are buying a home with a repaired sinkhole. If this is the case for you, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
BUYING “SINKHOLE HOMES” IN FLORIDA
There is nothing inherently wrong with buying a home with a repaired sinkhole. However, buying such a home does require a level of caution and diligence and requires various documentation. In fact, buying a home with a repaired sinkhole may turn out to be in your favor, as these homes can be more affordable than homes with no known sinkhole activity. Whenever you are buying a home in Florida, it is wise to examine the surrounding area as well. Check for homes with similar problems/repairs to get an idea of how to value the property and what a good offer would look like. Even if your prospective new home does not have a history of sinkholes, others around it may. This is a good thing to be aware of no matter what the state of your new home is.
When it comes to homes with unrepaired sinkholes, these should be avoided. These homes are usually priced very low, but an unaddressed sinkhole is not only dangerous but can cause serious structural issues in the home. The longer the sinkhole is left unrepaired, the worse these issues might become.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING A SINKHOLE HOME
However, in order to protect yourself and ensure that your future home is safe for you and your family, there are a few key things to remember about buying a home with a repaired sinkhole.
1. Visible Signs: check the property for visible surface depressions – concave areas, low spots, etc. While these may be natural, it is a good idea to have them looked at by an expert to ensure that they are not indicative of sinkhole.
2. Investigation History: be sure to ask the seller if the home has had an insurance claim or investigation in the past. If any information about previous investigations exists, the seller is legally obligated to disclose it.
3. Correct Interpretation: Once you receive a copy of the insurance report from the seller, you need to understand it fully. If any part of this report seems confusing to you, be sure to have it evaluated rather than just skim through it.
4. Remediation Inspection: Sinkholes are incredibly common in Florida. Because of this, there are a lot of companies that capitalize on sinkholes and claim to be able to fix them. Some of these companies do not complete quality remediation. That is why it is important to make sure that the repair was done by a reputable company like Foundation Professionals of Florida and to examine the actual remediation site to check the quality.
5. Records Search: Be sure to conduct a thorough records search to find out what sort of repairs have been done to the home. Check your Florida County Property Appraiser and Florida Clerks of Court websites for information on various permits and repairs to homes.
6. Check Insurability: Make sure that the home you are planning on buying can be insured. If any of the previous owners took out a large insurance claim and did not use it to repair the sinkhole, or if they only used part of it for repairs, it could create complications.
7. Interior Damage: When doing your inspection of the home’s interior, keep track of cracks and other problems you find. Be sure to ask whether these were existing issues or whether they were caused by the sinkhole.
Specific reports that you should look for include the Engineer Findings Report – which would have been used to determine the actual sinkholes – and the Engineering Completion Report – which would have been used to document the repair work.
WHEN TO BRING IN THE BEST
Helicon is the premier geotech construction company in Florida. Based out of Tampa, FL. we are a licensed general contractor leading the industry in full-service geotech construction work.
We are experts in pre-construction, soil and structural stabilization, & sinkhole repair. As the premier provider of geotech construction services throughout the state of Florida for nearly 15 years, Helicon prides itself on providing high quality service, for both insurance companies and private customers with handling all repairs and pre-construction work for both residential and commercial projects. We strive to exceed everyone’s expectations.
Helicon has successfully completed thousands of projects in the state of Florida with a focus on the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, including the surrounding counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Citrus and Marion counties. Our professional Helicon Teams are trained and equipped with the tools and expertise needed to execute a flawless and professional experience using the latest technology to repair or prevent for your particular project.
We invest in our teams ensuring they remain up to date on the latest industry technology and training. Our Office Teams will answer all your questions, provide professional service, give knowledgeable advice, and execute a project that will fully satisfy our customers.