How to protect yourself when buying a home in Florida.
First time home buyers in Florida are often nervous about purchasing a home that sits on top of a sinkhole. Given the fact that sinkholes are a predominant feature in Florida, it’s a valid concern. While it is rare for a home to be swallowed up by a sinkhole, foundation issues, structural cracks and pool damage are common. Almost every week, one of our Geologists or Engineers fields a call from a real estate professional or potential home buyer to answer their questions and help ease those concerns. Here is our short list to help you feel more confident about the home you are buying.
#1 Visible Surface Depressions
The first thing you’ll want to look for is the most obvious: surface depressions. These might look like a low area of land that is not consistent with the rest of the land or even a visible depression that appears concave at the surface. If you find one don’t panic. These might be natural and have nothing to do with sinkholes or perhaps years ago a homeowner removed a pool and didn’t backfill the area properly. Whether this area is indicative of a sinkhole or not, get an expert site visit to assess the root cause of the depression and also give you options to remediate the area, if indeed, your dream home has sinkhole activity.
#2 Get a C.L.U.E.
This is an easy, yet commonly overlooked security measure before purchasing a home in Florida. Ask the seller if the home has ever had an insurance claim or investigation. The seller is legally obligated to disclose all information regarding previous investigations. It’s an even safer bet to ask for a C.L.U.E. Personal Property Report. The C.L.U.E. Personal Property report provides a seven year history of losses associated with an individual and his/her personal property. The following data will be identified for each loss: date of loss, loss type, and amount paid along with general information such as policy number, claim number and insurance company name. You can’t access someone else’s C.L.U.E. report. Instead, you’ll have to ask the seller up-front to supply you a copy.
#3 Interpret Insurance Reports Correctly
We get calls all the time from real estate agents and home buyers who have received a copy of an insurance report from the home seller, yet don’t understand what it means. If that’s true, get the report evaluated! Some home buyers skim through the report and if they don’t see the word “sinkhole” think things are just dandy. Conversely, if you do see something in the report that concerns you, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. For a couple hundred bucks, get the report professionally evaluated and understand what you may be missing. We evaluate engineering and insurance reports all the time. It doesn’t take long and within a few hours you’ll have peace of mind.
Perhaps the house you’ve got your heart set on was already remediated and the sinkhole issue was addressed. Most likely, the home received underpinning or compact grouting program was completed. If so, take the extra time to make sure the work was done correctly. Years ago, sinkhole remediation was a fast growing business in Florida and not everyone involved was concerned with accuracy. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a remediated home, but you’ll want to make sure the work your home received fixed the issue for good. We can review any certification reports and explain to you the work that was performed and make sure that it was done satisfactorily.
#5 Conduct a Proper Records Search
Make sure to perform a records search to see what type of repair or remodeling work has been completed at the property. Your Florida County Property Appraiser and Florida Clerks Of Court websites have a lot of information concerning permits and repair work completed at a given property. If you see any activity that is of concern, give us a shout. We can also perform a search of our sinkhole database to determine how many confirmed sinkhole properties are in the neighborhood.