I Can Help You If You Have a Sinkhole House in Florida
A sinkhole is a major problem to property owners in Central Florida. It means safety issues, damage to your home, problems with insurance companies and difficulty getting the right type of repairs paid for and implemented. It means stress and financial loss.
I am a buyer of unrepaired Florida sinkhole homes. I have helped many property owners get out from under the burden of a sinkhole home.
I want to help you. First off, I want to educate you about the problems surround sinkholes in Florida. Here is a look at what a sinkhole is, how it affects your home and what you can do about it. And I tell you exactly how I can help you.
What Is a Florida Sinkhole Home?
First off, you might be wondering what a sinkhole is. The fact is, geologists and engineers, insurance companies, lawyers and homeowners canít quite agree on one, clear definition. But here is a general look at how each group defines a sinkhole.
Geologists and engineers.
According to geologists, here is the best description of a sinkhole. It is a hollow or depression that collects drainage and moisture. According to engineers, it indicates a geological problems like:
- a void in the bedrock.
- a collapsed area on the surface of the earth.
- a mix of half-filled voids, fissures and soil problems.
Insurers and lawyers.
According to insurance companies and lawyers, it is defined by Florida law. This is a brief summary of what the law said before 2005: the settlement or collapse of earth that supported a property caused by subterranean voids due to actions of water on limestone or other rock formations.
This law has now been updated. Now it says that sinkholes are made when soil, sediment or rock subsides and the underlying strata dissolves due to groundwater.
Basically, that means that the law requires that a geologist or engineer needs to determine if a sinkhole exists.
According to the homeowner, a sinkhole is best defined as trouble. They mean you lose value, and equity, in your home and are looking at huge repair bills.
Signs of a Sinkhole Home
There are numerous indicators both inside and out that you are dealing with a sinkhole. Here is an overview.
Inside your home:
- walls are separating from the floor and ceiling.
- cracks appear in the floor, ceiling and walls.
- doors and windows are sticking or jamming shut.
- floors are buckling, sloping or generally becoming uneven.
- plumbing problems are constant.
Outside your home:
- cracks in the exterior walls, often called stair-step cracking because of the jagged appearance.
- depressions or cavities in the streets or neighborsí yards.
- holes or depressions in your yard.
- cracks in your driveway.
- pool decks and pools showing signs of cracks.
- cracks in your foundations.
- fence posts listing to the side.
- well water is dirty or has debris in it.
- you actually feel the house shifting or cracking as you walk on the floors.
- your neighbor has a sinkhole.
Here is closer look at some of these common problems that show up when sinkholes develop.
Sinkholes can cause major problems for homes built on a slab. But you will notice the problems in homes with foundations. The sinkhole causes the slab or foundation to move slightly. This results in cracks forming in your ceilings, floors and walls
When you have a sinkhole, you will probably notice that the soil starts dropping in certain areas, forming a cavity. When you fill the holes, they just come back.
One of the problems that appears quickly when a sinkhole is present are noticeably changes in the surface of interior structures. The floor starts slanting so doors donít shut tight. Cracks appear on walls, ceilings and floors. When you repair them, they simply show up again in a new spot.
Why Are There So Many Sinkhole Homes in Florida?
The state of Florida is blessed with many natural wonders, from the Everglades to the Keys. The state also has a huge number of sinkholes, which are also natural, but more horrors than wonders
Sadly, Central Florida is especially favored with an abundance of sinkhole homes. There are more in this region than in any other part of the country. For example, many of the ones I work with are in Holiday, Spring Hill and Port Richey. They also appear regularly throughout the counties of Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough.
Sinkholes are naturally occurring geological phenomena common to the soil and substrate in Florida. Rock and soil disintegrates and disappears, causing a hole to form.
Some are very slow to develop. These have a gradually expanding bowl shape. Others appear overnight, due to a sudden cave in underground.
When this happens under a home, a road or other installation, it causes major structural damage. Buildings, bridges and roads are no longer stable.
The geology of Florida is karst terrain. Technically, this means a surface that is produced after rock is dissolved by water. In most of the state, the top layer of earth is soil. Just beneath that is carbonate rock like limestone or clay. Below that layer is ground water.
When acid rain or other type erosion carves channels through the limestone and then dissolves, sinkholes appear. The channels keep getting larger and larger,, causing cavities. Then the weight of the ground overhead causes the surface to collapse into the cavity. Alternately, sometimes the roof of the spaces erupts outward and upward, causing a sinkhole
There are three types of sinkholes
These occur gradually.
The sinkhole eventually fills with water.
The most common, they happen quickly, swallowing up homes into gaping holes.
Ignoring signs of sinkhole damage wonít protect you. You canít be an ostrich. To keep you and your family safe, regularly check for cracks and other signs of sinkholes on your property and in your neighborhood.
What Happens If You Have a Sinkhole Home?
Because the home is unstable, in most cases you will need to vacate it. It is dangerous for people and pets. This is a major disruption to family life and finances, but it is the only safe thing to do.
Your next step is to call your insurance company. Because they can balk at paying the high cost of repairs, you might also need to hire a lawyer to help you make a successful claim.
Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company
In the past, Florida law required insurers to give homeowners sinkhole coverage. Many homeowners were able to get there homes repaired or have the insurance company pay off the limits of the insurance policy. Insurance companies are never happy about paying off claims. They lobbied to change the laws covering sinkhole homes. As a result, the governor and the Florida Legislature changed the laws, allowing the insurers to either to offer extremely limited sinkhole coverage or to make it so expensive that people canít afford it. In addition, if you do make a claim, it is much harder to prove your case. If your house is not falling into a sinkhole and being condemned you are out of luck.
After you make a claim and you have sinkhole coverage, your insurer will collect information about the extent of the damage. They may send a geologist or a geotechnical engineer to do a survey and confirm the existence of a sinkhole. They will conduct tests that look for abnormalities under the subsurface.
If tests confirm that a sinkhole does exist, the insurance company will then decide if they want to do repairs or if they simply want to pay you off for the amount of your policy.
Repairs should be done in accordance with the recommendations of the engineer. Repairs are based on what type of soil is below the house. However, it is common for contractors and subcontractors not to follow the expert recommendations of the engineer, but to make other types of repairs. This simply makes the situation worse. (I have seen this happen many times.)
If your insurance company decides to do repairs, it will get estimates from up to three contractors who specialize in sinkhole repair. Some homes need compaction grouting, others need pinning. Often they need both.
Many insurance companies will pay you the full amount of your policy, with some additional nudging on the part of a lawyer. This actually works to the benefit of the insurer because in the long run it is cheaper for them. All too often they pay for the repairs, then the problems recurs. This is an all-too-common scenario in central Florida. Stability issues are often ongoing with sinkhole homes. The land and foundation will continue to shift, even after repairs have been done.
A Look at Two Types of Repairs
Homeowners in Florida use three major options for repairing sinkhole homes:
Compaction grouting and pinning both have adherents. You need to do your research and hire a competent contractor to help you decide which will work best for your circumstances. The contractor should follow the recommendations of the engineer who inspected the sinkhole on your property.
What you need to do is reestablish the stability underneath your home after you discover you have a sinkhole. The cost is high, but it does save your home. The expense runs over a hundreds thousands of dollars to repair the home because workers need to prevent future instability.
The most common repair is called compaction grouting, also called mud jacking, slab jacking and pressure grouting. The contractor will drill holes in and around the slab and fill the existing voids with ecologically friendly grout. As the void is filled, pressure builds, which fills up the void under the slab. It is like having finger of concrete pointing down under your housse.
This type of repair can save your home. You can prevent further sinking and more cracks from forming.
Under pinning involves putting a metal clamp on the outside of the house, then jamming a pipe down until it puts a certain amount of pressure on the pipe. This is used to level the house. The pipe is then attached to the house, which levels it and keeps it stable.
After the Insurance Money, Then What?
If your insurance company pays you for the full amount of the policy, what is your next step? Do you repair it? Do you put it on the market as is and try to get a decent price for it?
One thing that many homeowners donít realize is that they will probably have difficulty getting new insurance coverage for your home after the insurer has paid you off in full and after you have had it repaired.
Repairing your home and trying to sell it on the open market can cost you time, effort, money and peace of mind. If you oversee the repairs, you can only cross your fingers that it solves the problem permanently. Many sinkhole homes have the problem recur over and over again.
Every homeowner is required by law to tell prospective buyers that a sinkhole exists on the property. That makes it very hard to get homebuyers interested. Some will consider buying after the seller has filled in the sinkhole and the job is certified, test or verified by professionals. But most likely you will need to reduce the price considerably, as well as do the repairs, which are expensive.
If you decide to put it on the market, you will get less than you thought it was worth. You will need to drop the price by 10% to 20%. Thatís a major chunk of your asset. In addition, it will take much longer to sell than a home without sinkhole problems. Are you willing to go through the angst, the time and money to repair or to sell your home on the open market?
I Can Help with your unrepaired sinkhole home.
I buy unrepaired sinkhole homes in Florida. As a fellow resident of the state, I have seen the damage that sinkholes can do to homes. I have seen the value of homes wiped out. The human toll is staggering because for most of us, our home is our biggest investment.
If you have a sinkhole on your property, if your home has been affected, I know that you are in a very stressful situation. You need to take action, but what is the best thing to do?
After getting your insurance settlement, your first thought will probably be to use it to fix the problem. Wait! Not yet. First call me, weíll set up an appointment and I will take a look at your home before you take action.
You might end up simply throwing that insurance money down the sinkhole. Let me give you a better choice. I buy unrepaired sinkhole houses in Florida.
What I do for a living is buying and reconstructing sinkhole homes in Florida. I can pay you top dollar for your home, freeing you from the ongoing nightmare you are caught in. Let me take it off your hands. I can use my expertise, and my money, to fix the house. You wonít have to worry about it any longer.