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How sound is your stucco? First in a series

Cracks. Leaking around windows, doors or lintels. “Stucco tears,” a discolored bleeding stain, may indicate water has seeped between inner layers and the exterior surface on a home.

When it comes to stucco issues out of sight should never mean out of mind - especially for home and property owners with stucco exteriors built after 1990.

“Sellers don’t know its happening before it is too late,” said Todd McCarty, broker of record and owner partner at Class-Harlan Real Estate in Doylestown.

McCarty said stucco applied incorrectly over wood framing “is where we find most of the problems.”

Homes with stucco over masonry like block or brick don’t have the same issues, and typically homes 40 years old and older, don’t have these issues.

Heather Walton, owner partner with McCarty of Class-Harlan Real Estate said stucco itself is not a bad product, but improperly applied stucco is where the trouble lies.

“It’s the applications and materials underneath it. Improperly installed flashing around windows, doors and trim work,” that sets the table for damage.

That means buying or selling a stucco home has become challenging on both ends of the settlement table.

Significant long-standing damage could cause a seller to invest money to identify and remediate problems, or dramatically price discount a home in order to attract buyers, or close a deal.

McCarty said the ideal time to address stucco problems is well in advance of the real estate listing, and education is crucial to understanding the impact on a home’s value.

A proactive homeowner could arrange for a stucco inspection early in the process and contact licensed restoration or remediation experts should there be problems that need to be addressed. A year in advance of selling isn’t too soon, McCarty said.

“To show to a buyer that you had the stucco tested with favorable results,” or a clean bill of health for the materials, goes a long way toward a smooth transaction, McCarty and Walton agreed.

But stucco testing is an invasive procedure, and it can take up to 10 days to receive results.

During testing, suspicious spots are inspected and core samples are drilled to collect evidence. These are taken in various locations around any areas of concern.

“You could just have one side, or you could have all four sides of the home,” that need evaluation. The amount of surface area impacts the price of the inspection, McCarty explained.

The samples check the underlying wood framing, take moisture level readings and sample for evidence of rot.

Walton estimated costs could range from $1,000 to $2,000, or more, depending upon the amount of stucco to be tested.

Included among the pros for stucco testing and inspection before listing a home for sale are:

• A clean report: a recent inspection report, within 12 months, opens the property to more prospective buyers.

• A strong marketing position: favorable stucco inspection results can be a big selling point in marketing a home.

• Transparency: proactively providing possible scenarios for the buyer, as well as identification of problems, shows the seller is open about the property and its challenges.

And if a poor or negative report comes back, there’s still time to have remediation addressed, or determine if asking price adjustments should be considered.

Remediation can be costly. McCarty estimates remediation for a single side, front or back, of a typical, single-family home sized from 2,800 to 4,000 square feet, could cost from $20,000 to $40,000 for professional stucco remediation services.

“For all four sides of a home, it could be as much as $100,000, or more. Even if it’s a $50,000 repair, it’s a lot of equity pulled from your home,” McCarty said.

Walton said if time and money are remediation factors, other options to sell the home include:

• Reducing the asking price, while disclosing a stucco inspection was done.

• Providing estimates from stucco remediation companies to inform buyers and offer options.

• Marketing the home with full disclosures as an “as is” sale.

• Placing money in an escrow account for stucco remediation once the sale is complete, so the buyer can take care of issues after settlement.

“I’ve seen flat-out reduction of prices, and I’ve seen a mixture of both. The most important thing is to secure a buyer and move the sale forward,” McCarty said.

For some home buyers taking over the problem themselves can offer a silver lining, after all.

“Sometimes a buyer wants to put their own finishing touches, get a reduced price, and then turn it into their own dream home,” Walton said.

Submitted by
The Greater Philadelphia Stucco
Remediation Forum
Read part two of this five part series by clicking HERE