Could this be soil settlement?

Looking at possibly buying this house, but something about it bothered me.
In the back yard there is a 15' wood deck all the way across only when it gets to the last 15' that section "caved in" (as in the pressure treated wood are broken, rotten and sunk down a foot or two from the rest of the decking. The caved section has a big oak tree in the middle. Not sure if it is the oak tree pulling it down or not but something does not look right. At the same corner of this house, there is a horizontal crack on the externior wall. Not a big crack but may be 1mm crack. Should I assume the crack is caused by the sunken deck? How do I know if this house is still structurally sound?
O
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orangetrader wrote:

The wood deck collapse could be anything from rotted out footings to a sinkhole.
A 1 mm crack isn't an indication of a structural problem. However, the best way to be sure is to hire a structural engineer and have him or her take core samples under the areas in question.
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orangetrader wrote:

Have it inspected by a qualified home inspector or structural engineer and make sure there's an inspection contingency in the purchase contract.
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I have some images that shows the situation but not sure where to post them. If it is a serious issue I am not sure I want the hassle and that is why I don't want to just rely on the final inspection report that occurs AFTER the deal is sealed and done. At that point I would have been too emotionally drained and attached and more likely to give consessions. I rather know this going in, if possible. Of course no one is going to make a judgement based on some vague descriptions and a couple of still shots but I still wouldn't mind some educated guesses.
Location is Miami, Florida. The property is a dry lot but two one lot over is waterfront lot (lake front).
O

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I have posted the images to a group called alt.binaries.images with a post titled "Caved in deck". If someone can take a look would really appreciate it. I will see if I can post a link later via Google that will not require the subscription to the binaries group.
Thanks,
O

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On Sun, 5 Dec 2004 11:11:12 -0500, "orangetrader"

Well, it looks horrible and should have a very substantial effect on the final selling price.
I'd guess that you also need a thorough termite inspection and guarantee in your contract. Your framework could easily look just like that sunken deck.
The previous owner obviously didn't properly take care of the place and that should give you a better bargaining position.
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orangetrader wrote:

Although there's often good advice offered here, and no offense intended to anyone, would you really trust blind Usenet advice in a case like this? If you decide you want the house enough to make a purchase offer, you're going to have to have it inspected, and a qualified inspection is the *only* way to know what's going on for sure.
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No I will not just blindly trust advise offered over the internet. Just raising a question to try to get as many angles as I can on this issue. Even if no clear solution is offered, usually I learned by finding out all the questions. I do not want to have this be part of the inspection contingency AFTER the sale agreement, when there is a closing date deadline and I be more emotionally attached to the property to the point I lose leverage. I rather know this going in as it affects my offering numbers (should I decide to go forward). The owner is hesitant to get pre-inspection I think it is because they are concerned this will be something they will be forced to disclose to other buyers should I move on. I got the floor plans from the city's building department and they have done a bunch of work on this house without permit, don't know if they did something bad to cause this.
O

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Pay a structural engineer or forensic engineer or architect to look at the details of the condition. There is no way the problem can be understood over the internet. The fee should be relatively small and will be cheap insurance when compared to the cost of the house. TB
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On Sun, 5 Dec 2004 02:01:05 -0500, "orangetrader"

Move on, I'd skip this house and look for another one. If the current owners neglected to find out the cause, there are probably many other things that were neglected as well.
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is there a gutter downspout dumping water (disproportionately) in that area, causing the sinking?

assume?
you don't, but maybe an expert or two or 3 can give their opinions, hopefully they would be consistent?
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There is a downspout there at that corner. That downspout I think collects about 1/3 of the water to the roof. It is a 3800SF house, so that makes it collecting 1200 SF more or less of rain water. But I have downspouts in my yard too is it significant enough to have caused a sink hole?
O

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it seems water concentrated in one area over time makes it lower than surrounding areas = sinkhole effect
indeed, companies like this one http://micro-flo.com / are built on keeping a somewhat constant moisture level all the way around a house as a means to re-level the slab, stop windows froms ticking, and stop walls from cracking
some say runoff from downspouts should be properly dispersed, some distance away from the house
maybe an expert can answer your question, noting experts may not agree

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Here in florida lots of problems with low water table, sink holes, areas that flood everytime it rains hard., and even structual damage from termites.
Get yourself a good certified building inspector or structural engineer before you make an offer on your dream home. The small price you pay will be worth every penny.
PJ.
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