What I'm Seeing Now

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Jay's School of Inspectology - We Investigate Completely!

This is a 42 year old house with a clue outside that would lead a home inspector to think things before he goes inside!  And, as with so many things, in Jay's School of Inspectology - we investigate completely!

What's the teensy clue outside?  A four foot wide window well.

And just what is so exciting about that?  This is a 42 year old house.  In those days window wells were not connected to drains or sump pumps, as they are now.

And this is uncovered, meaning it has been a conduit for water flow against the foundation wall.  The wall is concrete block.  Over time, water pressure weakens and soaks concrete block.

Inside however, the wall looked great!

TOO GOOD IN FACT.

This is an estate sale.  An elderly woman lived here since 1969.  She was the first and only owner.

There is no damage whatever to this wall.  And only a very slight musty smell.  And the whole house was freshly painted.

EVERYTHING IS JUST TOO CLEAN.  HOW DOES AN INSPECTOR GO ABOUT INVESTIGATING THIS?

A little difficult to convey in these photos, but this inspector starts with his flashlight.  It's a really bright flashlight.  I hold it flat against the wall.

Why?  To see if there have been any recent drywall repairs, covered over with primer and paint!  I found better than that.  I found an entire new wall!  There were four new sections of 4' drywall, with very visible seams.  The seam on the left photo is in the corner, and the right photo just to the left of the window.  I could SMELL the new joint compound!

Looking more closely, the floor molding, which looks exactly like the rest of the room, was new, unlike the rest of the room!

So class - WHY WOULD AN ENTIRE WALL NEED TO BE REPLACED?

Because the previous wall was a mess! 

Putting my moisture meter on the wall the needle LEAPED to >30%.  That means it could be as high as 100%.  It also means active moisture intrusion.  Feeling the new carpet at the floor molding it was wet!

My clients watched my whole, deliberate exercise, wide eyed and  dead silent. I think they were afraid to interrupt!  The whole time I was describing my procedure and what I concluded after each stage.  The buyer said, "This is like watching a CSI guy!"

Another clue was in the laundry room to the rear of these photos.  In it was a brand new dehumidifier, draining into a floor drain.  It did not turn off the whole time we were there.  That constant drying of the air would help to eliminate any moldy odor.

Would an elderly woman replace an entire basement wall (only the one under a window well), put in new carpeting and hook up a brand new dehumidifier just prior to passing away?  Likely not.  Would the kid(s) trying to sell the house cover up a bad circumstance?  Unfortunately you already know the answer to that.

What is being covered up?  Certainly a really wet wall, probably microbial growth, possible foundation cracking and rotten studs.

This set me off into Sherlock mode and I began finding MANY other things in the newly-renovated house.  The buyers were shocked, truly.  The selling agent was shocked, and upset.  I received an email from her that night saying the listing agent was shocked at what we found and was removing herself from the listing for fear of the liability.  Good for her.

The house was a disaster.

My recommendation:  sometimes home inspections are a bit of hide and seek, a little CSI and some detective sleuthing.  But all that is necessary.  I have clients to protect!  Not to mention my reputation.  But things like this must, must, must be investigated completely! 

At Jay's School of Inspectology, we expect the best and assume the worst.  Works every time!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 55 commentsJay Markanich • August 21 2011 05:58AM

Comments

Fixes that look tooo good to be true....oh yicks...and shame on the sellers....here we have a condition report...had there been problems, she would have been required to report them and what was done and when to alleviate them.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 8 years ago

There is no disclosure required in Virginia, S&D.  It is optional.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

You're better than a CSI agent.  Wow that the listing agent would take those steps.  Very impressive.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 8 years ago

That's what I heard Debbie.  And if so I would feel a lot better about this circumstance.  The roof was a mess, rotting and moldy, and they tried to glue the hatch down with caulking so I couldn't go up there!  I did...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay, This is a scary story. I am glad you found the second dry wall. Buyers should get a good home inspector.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Unfortunately, Gita, it is not uncommon.  And yes, an experienced inspector is essential.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Good morning, Jay. And yet another gold star on the forehead. Someone likes you. Congrats on the feature...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Michael.  Didn't know it was featured, again.  But, I'll take it and keep on keeping on!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Kudos to the listing for walking away from this listing> Shame on the children!

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Excellent work Mr. Inspector.  May I have permission to re-print this in its entirety for my newsletter?

Giving you credit of course.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay,

That was a fascinating and worthwhile read.

Our present approach to selling is disclose, disclose, disclose.

Apparently the sellers are back in the 1960's

Thanks for sharing

Phil

Posted by Phil Leng, Phil Leng - Retired (Retired) almost 8 years ago

Because it was an estate sale - no Disclosures would have been required here in CT - wow! That would have been terrible had those clients of yours not had you and purchased that house.  I always recommend a home inspection and a home warranty!

Posted by Linda Edelwich, Glasotnbury Office's #1 Top Producing Agent-not on (William Raveis Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay - This is great work on your part to help protect the potential buyer from major expenses and headaches.

Posted by FN LN almost 8 years ago

You should post your report comment on this one...I can only imagine

Posted by Mike Gillingham (Eastern Iowa Inspection Services LLC) almost 8 years ago

It is always great to hear from an expereince dinspector who takes the time to point out the real structural problems. So many times inspectiosn are rushed or not enough times structural issues are not given enough time, it is what you cant see with the naked eye that is usually the costliest

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) almost 8 years ago

I have found estates can be as bad as flips. And the sellers worse still. New stuff always sets off my radar.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Good eye Sherlock! I am lucky, no basements here! But it always makes me smile when I find the sellers best efforts to hide a defect. Although here in Florida there is a mandatory disclosure law... it still happens!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 8 years ago

Jay, another case of where cosmetic repairs were made to cover up a serious problem.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 8 years ago

Great detective work, Jay. I'm sure the buyers were horrified.  Did they pass on this one?  Thanks for the great info!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 8 years ago

Wow, poor seller.  What a nightmare to know you own a house that has such a serious problem.  I would also love to know if they passed.

Posted by Heather Littrell, ABR,GRI,SRES Cabarrus County NC (Keller Williams) almost 8 years ago

Having Jay show up at your inspection is like 60 minutes knocking on your door....Whatever is going on inside that home is going to come out...like it or not

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 8 years ago

Jay , another great post not only telling but showing the importance for all buyers to hire a proffesional such as yourself.

The time and money spent was peanuts compared to what they would have occurred down the road.

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor-Homes for Sale- Easton Mass (New England Real Estate Center Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Jay, CMU foundations are a "conducive condition" in my opinion---sooner or later they will leak.  I hate seeing them covered up on the inside.  They are very rare around these parts---mostly poured concrete.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Jay< I have never considered this issue.  Thank you for sharing this information ver valuable to my clients and myself in the area I work in.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

I would like to re-blog this.

It certainly shows and explains very well what a lot of people are prepared to do.

Often both agents are in the dark. It's someone acting for the estate doing the cover up.

I have lots of these types of cases from a liability perspective. And, they all turn out badly. Repairs and renovations even for a small house can runb as high as $100,000.

Brian

Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 8 years ago

Jay - Perhaps the heirs are innocent--Perhaps they hired "flipper" to do the work.  Some think that new drywall and paint hide a problem; actually they scream, "Something was wrong here."

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 8 years ago

Say it isn’t so Jay!?  People wouldn’t try to cover something up just to try and sell a house would they?  When I see fresh paint my first reaction is what is it covering up?  Great catch on this!  And just curious, hopefully there is another way for egress out of that basement? On the other hand, if a fire were to break out the wall is probably so wet that it would put itself out!

Great post!

 

Posted by Toby Karlquist, Home Inspector in Mesa, Arizona almost 8 years ago

Amazing work, Jay!  Thanks for the insight on how you do what you do...so well!

Posted by Ed Gillespie almost 8 years ago
Wow - another great example of why an inspection is SO worth every penny of the cost!
Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA almost 8 years ago

Anne - I was impressed when I heard this.  Apparently the listing agent was impressed by the report!

If you are very, very nice Ken.  Of course!

Phil - disclosure is not required here.  Caveat emptor...

Good policy Linda.  I can see why no disclosure would be required.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

Your well-honed sleuthing skills sure saved the buyers' bacon!  Shameful that the heirs would try to deceive...

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 8 years ago

Marc - protection is the name of the game!

Mike - the report commented on what I found and ended kindly, "The reason for so many repairs is unknown.  The sellers might be consulted as to what was done and why."  I can't editorialize really.

Scott - what inspectors CAN'T see is the most concerning!  Necessarily.

Jim - I think so too.  And it doesn't take much to get the dish spinning.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Fred - creative concealment.  Disclosure, what disclosure?

Michael - there was a lot done all around the house.  This was cosmetic though!

Mike - while up in the attic I reported to them through the hole in the ceiling.  There were lots of problems up there, LOTS.  By the time I packed up and came back downstairs, they were all in the kitchen on the computer!

They did Heather!  See my comment just above to Mike!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Thank you again, Richie, for your kind words.  But really, I have all kinds of tools to give me information!

I agree Don.  We inspectors are cheap at twice the price!

Not rare here Charlie, until about the late 80s.  But, as you know, these foundations don't make very good boats.

Chris - unfortunately it is a frequent issue here!  Not the hiding so much, as the foundation moisture I mean.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Brian - costs are indeterminate at this point, but certainly the cost and aggravation is worth big bucks.

That's true John.  That's why I was polite and kind on the report.  See my comment to Mike in #33.

Toby - the whole house was painted, so that wasn't the clue.  But a really untouched wall was!

Ed - at our School of Inspectology we try to be instructive!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Great Job as always, Jay!  Thanks again for sharing why what you do, AND how you do it, are so important!
Bruce

Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) almost 8 years ago

Thanks, Nancy, and they are!

And thank you too Irene, but we aren't sure the heirs were involved!  Was somebody else, with permission?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

That's what our school is all about Bruce!  Come to class any time you want.  Thank you.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Im sure the buyer's were very grateful to have you as a part of their team when looking at that house.  Sounds like the wall was going to be a huge problem unless they made some very large repairs.

Posted by Eileen Hsu, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

It would have been Eileen, and that wall wasn't the only problem!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay, We need to see your picture with a pipe and a magnifying glass ala Sherlock. Great job! No disclosure in your state? Seriously?

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) almost 8 years ago

Another good catch Jay!  A question for you Jay, what percentage of the homes you inspect these days have serious problems?

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 8 years ago

Sandy - Ha!  Aren't you thinking of Michael Thornton, who has one of those photos?  Disclosure here is "optional."

Justin - I don't know how to define "serious."  A lot of little things added together could be 1.75 regular size problem, and many medium ones 2 or 3 big ones!  This house had a bunch of big problems though.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

Thank you for sharing 'clues' from the 'crime scene'.  To the untrained eye, that would only appear as a 'nice basement'...yet as you adeptly pointed out, it was anything but.  I enjoyed the 'trail of clues' you shared.

Sincerely,

Michael Hobbs, PahRoo Appraisal & Consultancy

Posted by Michael Hobbs, SRA, LEED GA, RAA (PahRoo Appraisal & Consultancy) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Michael.  It was the old trail of tears...

Sometimes what you suspect isn't, and what you don't suspect is!  It involves investigation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Nice find, Jay.  One of the 'senior' inspectors in my company taught me that flashlight trick when I was first training with him, and it's a trick I've used many times to find similar stuff.  Maybe none as dramatic as this one though :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

I do it on new construction too Reuben, and the supervisors get really hacked off!  One guy threatened to throw me out.  I told him to call the company president, for whom I did an inspection, and tell him I was there and that he wanted to throw me off the site.  He backed off!

I got an email from that client last night.  He is a senior State Department official returning back from overseas to work in DC for a while.  He thanked me for helping them to "dodge that bullet."  Interesting wording from a gubment official...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Good call Jay and featured too. Renovations in estate sale properties is a red flag for me, especially in a basement. 

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 8 years ago

I think so too Robert.  But the kicker was that huge window well.  Conduit!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Wow Jay that is scary that anyone would go to such great lengths to hide major flaws!  Talk about a potential lawsuit.  Kudos to the listing agent for walking away on this one.  Your posts are always so interesting! 

Posted by Sherri Berry, Murfreesboro TN Homes & Real Estate (Reliant Realty, Murfreesboro) almost 8 years ago

I enjoyed reading your blog post and I thank you for sharing it!

Posted by John Michailidis, Real Property Management of Sarasota & M (Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee) almost 8 years ago

Jay, Sellers Disclosures in our state would speak of potential problems or would most likely become a lawsuit later on. Great work that may have have been missed by someone less experienced and unsleuthly (word?).

Posted by Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!, So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR (Prado Real Estate South) almost 8 years ago

Sherri  - to do well at the lawsuit, you would have to prove that the sellers knew about the problem and were proactive in trying to hide it.  That might be tough a few months down the way.  My finding it now pretty much proves that because it is so fresh.

SaraMana - you are welcome!  Stop by any time!

Wanda - I love the word unsleuthy!  Use it again!  And thanks.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Throw you out for what?  Looking too closely?  Methinks the GC doth protest too much.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

They "have a policy" that if the drywall looks good looking directly from the front and 5' away, then it is "acceptable."  It's silly really.  Once I took my flashlight and showed the "supervisor" a huge scab of drywall extending for 10' and never sanded, just painted, and I said, "Because with the sun shining from certain directions doesn't reveal this for what it is, you consider that acceptable?"  It looked like an eight year old applied the joint compound.  Get real.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

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