Do you think this is an empty house settling or something worse?

Hello all!

Husband and I fell in love with a house, but as we’ve progressed with the process we’ve found more and more issues. The house has been empty for years (roughly 4-5) and we can’t tell if these cracks are damage from the house being left to the elements for so long or something worse. Our inspection is tomorrow, but just to be on the safe side I thought we would ask for some extra opinions. (Thankfully, we can still get out of it but I truly LOVE this house and it would take a fair bit for me to back out. If it’s something we can live with for a year or two while we work on fixing it up, I can do that.)

Do you think these cracks could mostly be a combination of the house settling and being left to the elements (no residents for years, everything was let go) or signs of a bigger issue? I did not measure any of these cracks but some are fairly significant. My realtor was thinking the plugs in the concrete were from termite treatments but now that I’m reading more I wonder if it could be something with addressing possible foundation issues. We’re in southern New Jersey if it helps.
You can see pictures of pretty much all the cracks we’ve found here.

EDITED TO ADD: The home was built in 1977, so aged 40 years. It has been empty since possibly as early as 2012/2013.

Thanks so much for ANY insight you can give!

It’s impossible to give any definitive opinions based on internet photos, but I will say this…

At a minimum, the exterior parging on the foundation needs to be repaired asap to prevent (further) water infiltration. The foundation itself needs a good looking at by an onsite inspector. Much appears to be typical settling, but ???

Note: you didn’t give the age of the home, which could be relavent.

All of the damaged drywall shown in the photos, is about what I would expect to see in a northern climate home that’s been vacant (without operating HVAC) for 5+ years. Lack of climate control between the seasons will play hell with a home.

Remember… all things can be repaired… you just need to decide how much $$$$ you want to throw at the problem to make it right again.

Be sure to talk with your inspector about your concerns at the beginning of the inspection. Even though he/she will already be observing these areas, a heads-up of your concerns are always appreciated, and eliminates the many potential phonecalls with questions from you after the inspection when he/she has left the home. Be sure to read the entire Inspection Report, and follow-up on any recommendations for further evaluations by specialists he/she may make, such as a foundation contractor and/or Structural Engineer.

Good luck.

Thanks so much for the fast response! Sorry I didn’t include the age- I realized after it was posted, but I had to wait for it to be approved so I could find it again. The house is 40 years old, built in 1977.

Thanks for your insight! We’re writing a list of questions/focuses for the inspector.

I would be concerned enough to recommend a structural engineer look it over.

Each of your photos show evidence of structural movement/settlement. This is beyond the scope of a general home inspection. Hiring a structural engineer to perform an evaluation of the home and its foundation is strongly recommended before closing.

Been my experience that vertical/horizontal cracks that follow drywall taping are typically compression cracking caused by changing from a lightweight roof covering material to a heavier one, like concrete tile.
Foundation movement cracks tend to run diagonally.
But like everyone says, it’s severe enough to have it looked at by an engineer.