Most homebuyers expect a mortgage when purchasing a home. What they probably don't expect is a sinking foundation.
Foundation issues are very common in North Texas and typically, people new to the area, have to learn the hard way.
Sticking doors and cracks in the ceiling, two red flags that quickly appeared in Lisa Belt's Wylie home.
The term sinking foundation was foreign to the Louisiana native.
But now, she knows it all too well.
“Just for the foundation, it's $14,000,” said Belt.
That $14,000 doesn't even scratch the surface.
The foundation has caused damage to her plumbing and flooring, costing her nearly $25,000 on top of a mortgage.
Before she closed on this house, she had it inspected and wasn't informed of any major problems.
But it's a different story now, three years later.
“They have dug five foot holes in every room of my house including the hallways,” she said.
The many holes throughout her home were made to fix the deep rooted problems in her foundation.
“I've had brick and exterior issues, mortar, fence damage. I’ve had erosion problems, floor damage and window damage,” said Wade Ross.
He lives next door to Belt. His problems are nearly identical to hers.
“To have somebody pull the wool over your eyes makes you feel kind duped,” Ross said.
"He's setting up these individual homes, selling them as a custom home builder and that's how he gets you in,” said Natasha Clark, another resident on the block.
Belt, Ross and Clark are all convinced their builder, Alex Cortesano, is to blame.
Cortesano, the owner of AEC Construction, has built several homes on this block, homes that according to some residents, are now sinking in Texas soil.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to Cortesano about Lisa Belt's home.
"It was used by me for three months and according to law, once a home is used it cannot be sold as new," Cortesano said. "That's why it was sold as used, but out of kindness, I gave her a one year (warranty). This is the same policy when you buy a home from a bank."
As for the foundation problems on the block, he says that's on someone else.
"The homes were all engineered by a company that is out of business due to the housing crash. Work was done correctly by us, as for the engineering. Design I cannot comment as I am not one. They have a lot of equity in those homes that would cover expenses if they're sold them, so are they willing to give money back to me is the question?"
“How can he not be responsible as a builder. You know, you have general liability. You're the one that subcontracted this person out. Why aren't you taking any responsibility for it,” Belt asked.
Robert Nicholas, a structural engineer, says it's up to the homebuyer to do their homework before closing on a home, and putting their trust in a builder.
"To see foundation problems in the first couple years is not uncommon to the Metroplex," Nicholas said. "We got some pretty nasty soils here. Most of the builders, though, are willing to take care of it and step right up and do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. Look for a builder who, not so much that they build the prettiest houses and everybody's happy with the sale, but see what happens after there is a problem. Will they step up and fix the problem?"
They're steps Belt will take in the future. But as for this home, she said the problems are endless.
“I keep thinking that I’m in a coma and somebody's going to wake me up,” said Belt.
There are many steps you need to take before buying a home, but here in Texas, remember these:
- When choosing a builder, find an existing neighborhood where that builder has done work and talk to the homeowners.
- Are they having foundation problems? How did the builder handle it?
- You can also look into hiring your own structural engineer or home inspector.
- Check to see if your home warranty covers your foundation.