Are houses bought and sold with major structural problems? All the time. In more than a few cases, unscrupulous sellers hide the available symptoms and clues while the unsuspecting buyer takes a beating.

Always look for cracks in foundations and everywhere else in houses. Walk all floors to feel for unevenness, sags and tilting. Don't buy any house without having a competent and ethical home inspector check it. Spend the time going through the house with the inspector, because the really good ones want you there to help make sure you understand what you need to.

For more information and helpful tips scroll down and check out our selection of articles. And if you have a question that you can't find an answer to, head on over to our Ask Us section and let us know about it.

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Here we have something that homeowners with cracked foundations hope never to see. The yard alongside the foundation has pushed the block foundation inward into a complete structural failure.

This particular house (with a full basement) had a history of water seepage into the basement, to the point where the owners avoided venturing down there. Some portions of the block foundation walls had long horizontal cracks approximately one foot below the outside grade line. Such cracks are indicative of an already-occurred failure, though a complete collapse like this is relatively rare. The real lesson from this failure is to take foundation cracks seriously. Under the worse case scenario, the cracks continue to widen and eventually the walls collapse inward.

There are potential insurance issues with a failure like this. Insurance companies will usually pay for repair only if the problem is a sudden occurrence. In this case, given the history of the cracks and the water seepage, it had been an ongoing situation and the insurance company refused to pay. The homeowner failed to prop up the brick veneer siding in time, such that much of it collapsed into the caved-in area.

The homeowner opted to have a replacement foundation wall made of poured concrete. When two major foundation wall sections caved in, they smashed through the two heat pumps in the basement, necessitating their replacement. The homeowner had to come out of pocket for around $35,000.

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