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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default Purchase of Lot, Not Suitable for Basement

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Pennsylvania

    I have a friend who spent $160K on a lot to build. The surrounding lots all have basements and sold for the same basic price. As they broke ground for the basement, they found water at 4 feet. He was told no basement could be put in. The lot was initially owned by the area developer, and then was sold to a resident of the development area, then sold to my friend. He has contracts with the GC and already paid cash for the lot. He feels he is stuck building a $2 million dollar home without a basement in an area where all others have basements. The General Contractor, the developer and his real estate agent all say he has no legal recourse at all. He is not very litigious and seems to believe he has no legal options. Does he?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Default Re: Is There Any Legal Action with This Simple

    Why does the ground have water 4 feet down? Is it because the elevation is e.g. 5 feet lower than other lots? If so, that might be an unsurprising conclusion, that he is not allowed to build a basement.

    If it is the same elevation, maybe it is because a rainy winter raised the water level. In that case, maybe in late summer the water level would drop enough to allow building. The Journal of Light Construction had an article for contractors on how to construct a water-proof basement in such environments. The city/county might go for that possibility, if the water level dropped enough. Of course, building would be delayed.

    Another idea is to just build a split-level house, with one part sunk 3 or 4 feet into the ground, and possibly adding a basement later, not underneath the rest of the house.

    I recommend exploring these alternatives with the appropriate city/county building department.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Purchase of Lot, Not Suitable for Basement

    Did somebody promise him that he would be able to construct a home with a basement (without taking extraordinary measures due to the high water table) at this location?

    Presumably the other lots, for which basements are possible, are at a higher level of elevation.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Purchase of Lot, Not Suitable for Basement

    Get the professional opinion of a PA registered civil engineer. There will be a "PE" after the name.

    Shop around until you find someone conversant in subsoils engineering. Most of these problems can be engineered around, particulary in the price range mentioned.

    I am currently living in a home which was built on a supposedly "unbuildable" waterlogged lot. Still here after 17 years. I got a PE to solve my problem.

    And BTW a PE can and will override the local building inspector's opinion.

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