Building leans- structural?

I am looking at buying a building that is 80+ years old. It is brick. I was told the last buyer backed out because the building "leaned". Now I know a lot of older building have a lean to them and that is not abnormal. My question is is there anything I can do that would give me clues as to whether it is a structural problem. I obviously would have a professional inspector/engineer look at it if it came to that, but don't want to waste the time//money if there are telltale signs I could detect. Also, what would an engineer/inspector look at to determine if the lean was structural?
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"Mike C" wrote...

I'm new to this group, so pardon me if my reply is out of line. If the building is leaning it is a structural problem, but the cause may be something different. Look at the land/soil around the structure. If the soil slopes towards the structure or towards the side/area where the structure leans, then it's very likely that a drainage problem has caused the leaning. It could also be that the foundation is inadequate for the soil conditions or the load it's supporting. Take a good look at the foundation. Look for cracks, signs of water, signs of shifting, buckling, tree roots, etc. Then work your way up to the floor, walls, etc. If there are large cracks in the brick, or signs of attempts to repair, then that would be a clue.
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how much "lean" are you talking about an inch in 10 feet? an inch per foot? look for cracks in the foundation and plaster/ drywall.
small cracks would freak me out, houses settle. . its been there for 80 years, unless water is running into it or under it, it likely isn't going to move any more
JMO Rob
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I think we would all need a great deal more information.
What is the structure? Steel/Concrete/Load Bearing Masonry/Wood Frame/Metal Building
What is the foundation? Pier and grade beam/Spread/Monolithic
General conditions? Huge cracks/visible water damage/visible sink holes, depressions, ponding/obvious bowing of roof line or wall line.
How many stories? What is the exterior? What was the buildings last function?
Is this lean visible to you? Stand across the street with a plumb bob at arm's reach for a reference.
___________________________ Keep the whole world singing. . . . DanG

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DanG wrote:

The building is 3 story residential, brick with a limestone facade. The foundation is concrete. It is in a very urban area. The lean is not visibily noticable from the exterior to the untrained eye.
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If another buyer backed out, I would see if he just used leaning as an excuse to get his money back being broke or if he had it inspected. If he had it looked at and it was deemed bad, run like a wild deer.

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Glenn wrote:

I've lived in a couple old buildings here in Chicago. In one apartment, it was hard to keep my office chair (on wheels) at the desk the floor sloped so much. That doesn't mean the building is going to fall down, but obviously I want to be cautious.
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Mike C wrote:

Mike-
There is a reason you're thinking about buying the building....I assume you want to live in it or rent it? You'd like to get a bargain (don't we all) but you certainly don't want to buy a "money pit"!
It's hard for someone w/o engineering or construction experience to effectively evaluate the condition of a building.
It's hard for someone WITH engineering or construction experience to effectively evaluate the condition of a building w/o a site visit or VERY detailed pictures.
The fact that the lean is not very noticeable means it's "probably" nothing.
The best thing you could do personally would be to compare your building to similar building nearby. If you do not see gross differences, this is more data that you're probably ok.
If the all the numbers pencil out & you're more or less happy with the building (condition, location, price) I would suggest having an engineering take a look at it. The cost will be worth the peace of mind & you'll be able to make a much more informed decision. You might even be able to get the price reduced based on the eval...esp since the other buyer backed out.
The real estate market is slowing down & as a willing buyer you're in a pretty good position.
cheers Bob
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FWIW.... New Orleans... I saw a building 40' wide, three stories tall that was out of plumb 12" due to soft ground under its concrete foundation be lifted and straightened for $26,000.00 here about 2 years ago. The tell-tale signs will be if all the doors and windows open and close freely and there are no significant cracks in the interior sheetrock/plaster or exterior walls then the building has shifted as a complete unit with no foundation damage. Often a building that has settled in such a manner has very good integrity and very good construction. It is worth noting that if your building has settled without damage, no foundation company in the world will guarantee it will not be damaged by the tunneling and lifting required to get 'er back in plumb!

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