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So, Was There EVER Basement Water Or Was There Not?

So, was there EVER basement water or was there not?

My clients have had a history of floods in their house.  Some people seem to attract lightening.  These people seem to attract basement water!

This house is occupied since 1976 by the same people, who are retiring and moving elsewhere.  During their first visit my clients asked if there was ever a flood or other water in the basement.  They have sensitivities and just don't want to deal with it.

They were told no.

Entering the basement "rec room," I noticed minute mud stains in the seams of what looked to be original floor tiles.

And I noticed shiny new floor molding around what looked like new and newly-painted wainscotting on the walls.

Lifting up the floor molding, for some reason not attached, a new edge with fresh paint could be seen all around the walls.

In the closet under the staircase to the basement, the opening to which was blocked by lots of belongings, I saw, and photographed stains on the floor, sill plate and stair structure.

The drywall was damaged.

Under that drywall there is new paneling on the walls.  That is the coat closet in the entry way.

Besides that there was standing water in the crawl space, with previous staining toward the rec room side of the house.  The continual water had eroded a pit all the way to the bottom the foundation wall there.

So, was there EVER basement water or was there not?

My recommendation:  on home inspections it pays to look for clues.  When it seems like things are piled abnormally against one wall, or against a closet door, there might be a reason for that!  Be sure to look around!  Most homes have a history, and people are buying whatever that history is!

 

 

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 61 commentsJay Markanich • July 11 2012 04:46AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

Obviously these Seller's did not take the saying "disclose, disclose, disclose" to heart - it's a good thing your Buyer's have you on the job!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 8 years ago

The act of asking in Virginia shows a degree of lack of knowledge of Virginia real estate law.

"Water in the basement?"

Whom did they ask???  The seller has no responsibility to disclose, answer or even answer truthfully.

Don't any of your clients have agents?????  Someone needs to give buyers a clue.  Caveat Emptor ain't a French dessert.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay,

"Water issues" in the basement. I'd say so. Look at the crawl space. Looks like something from the medieval times.

Looks like there would be a lot of "fixin' to do".

Have a great day and very good find. Always look everywhere.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 8 years ago

In PA the seller DOES have the obligation to disclose truthfully.  That doesn't reduce the value of inspections.

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 8 years ago

Gosh, I never thought about paneling as a way to cover up water damage...I guess that's just one more thing to look out for.

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

Lisa - there is no disclosure in VA.  I think the agent may be required to say something if he/she knows, but I'm not sure about that.

Lenn - they asked directly because of bad history and the sellers were there!  Getting to the stair closet and crawl space was made a bit extra difficult too...

And I love flaming caveat emptor for dessert!

Clint - yeah, it's been there a while!  Difficult to get to though!

Dale - the clues added up!  They didn't bring it up to me until AFTER I had found the clues and mentioned it.

Brian - different strokes for different states!  Or something like that.

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

Debbie - I love wainscotting.  It is very colonial and I think adds a nice touch.  But sometimes it is installed with a purpose.

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

Jay, I showed a house in Hillsborough, NJ last year after our last flooding hurricane, The basement hadjust  been completely repainted(???). We asked the owners (who were at the showing) if the house had recently flooded and they said no. After further inspection we saw the water meter dial (2+ feet above basement floor) filled with water. No water in the basement?, I think not!

Posted by Carol Faaland-Kronmaier, PhD, e-PRO, Manville, Hillsborough, Somerset NJ (Weichert, Realtors; Hillsborough) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay.  As always, nothing gets past you!  Thanks for writing another interesting post.

Posted by Linda Blumenthal, NYS Licenced Real Estate Salesperson, CBR (Hampton Crossing - Licensed Real Estate Salesperson - 631-466-4087) over 8 years ago

Jay - Was there ever water in the basement? I guess that depends upon the definition of "was."

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

Even though Florida requires full disclosure, you better look closely because not every seller is exactly straight up... if you know what I mean. Fresh paint or wood trim, or even caulking can say alot about what is or has gone on in the home. Good catch Jay!

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

Carol - maybe there had been a hint of water!  Maybe.

Thanks Linda.  I arrived at that conclusion BEFORE they told me about the water question.

John - thank you Mr. Clinton.

Fred - things just added up!  And when there is a multiplicity of screws over the crawl space opening that might just be another indicator.

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

Jay, I listed a house a long time ago where I saw water stains on the cinder block walls. I asked if the basement floods and they said, "No, only when it rains." Another reason to hire a home inspector.

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

Corinne - I agree with that.  Disclosure may or may not be a help.  But an inspector can be!

Mike - good answer!  Apparently the word "flood" conjured up images that didn't fit the word "sporadic."

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

That scenario is an example of why sellers shouldn't be home during home inspections. Maybe they told the truth and there wasn't a flood, just a sump pump that overflowed during a storm where the power went out? Or maybe they mopped the floor heavy for several years splashing water on the walls? But if they know the basement floods somwtimes, and then lie about it when asked along with making the effort to hide the fact that it floods by painting and remodeling, caveat emptor always can't always be relied on as a defense.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 8 years ago

They weren't home Jeff.  They met the buyers when the buyers first toured the house.  No sump pump - the house is too old.  How often do you mop under the staircase?  I agree with you, I think caveat emptor is a poor way to do anything.  I believe in the golden rule.

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

Looks like it to me---but then again it is a basement after all.  Isn't that just a really tall crawl space? :)

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

I didn't measure Charlie.  The crawl is about 4' high.  Not bad to get around in, IF you can avoid the water!  These buyers are really sensitive to water, so that was the issue.

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

Jay, I was referring to a basement being nothing more than a REALLY tall crawl space.  Conversely a crawl space can be a really short basement :)

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

I always insist on inspections by my clients.  Even with new builds.  Here's a good example.  Great post.

Posted by Ken Spencer, for Verrado, Buckeye, Sundance over 8 years ago

Very good advice.  Always ask that shelving placed against a basement wall be removed.  Surprise, surprise, a buckled wall?  What some people think they can get away with and no body will know? 

Posted by Chris and Dick Dovorany, Broker/Associate at Premiere Plus Realty ( Homes for Sale in Naples, Bonita Springs and Estero, Florida) over 8 years ago

Fascinating blog, Jay!  I once sold a home, which was flooding had not been disclosured.  In fact when the question was asked, they denied it.   Sure enough, the following winter Sacramento had heavy rains.  The water in the crawl space (no basement), kept putting out the furnace.  Yep, the furnace actually dipped down quite a bit into the crawl space.  The seller had outright lied about flooding on the disclosure, but a neighbor disclosed to the buyer there had been a continual problem, and the seller had used a sump pump to clear water out of there.  The buyer took the seller to small claims court, and prevailed!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 8 years ago

Got it Shadow.  You are right, the basement wall against that crawl is 8'.  The crawl wall against the house, WITHOUT all the erosion, would be about 4'.  So, ab=ba!  Back to that math surety!

Thanks Ken.  And especially on new builds!  My last three posts was about a new build!

C&D - the legal cases here call that "artful concealment."  And those concealing do not win in court.

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

Jay, always love your stories.  Good detective work on this one.  Where I reside in CA, we do not have basements for the most part, but I understand they can be a problem.  We have wine cellers!  (just kidding).

Posted by Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI, REALTOR and Broker (Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates) over 8 years ago

Myrl - I would think complaining about that would prevail in court!  To sell that to somebody else before correcting it is very disconcerting.

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

Thanks Gary.  So, don't those cellars ever flood?

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

Since when do we need laws that encourage or support us to tell the truth...?. Furthermore, pretend the sellers are now buyers of something. QUESTION TO THEM: Would you like to be lied to? No amount of money will replace spiritual poverty

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

I agree Richie.  I blogged about the Golden Rule and how much I would love to see it.  Unfortunately, as you know, we don't see it much.  Great point.

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

Good morning Jay. Love it when the Seller's disclosures say never water in basement yet there is water staining arould the walls. Especially when the wooden support posts are rotted 6" up. lol

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

Randy - maybe there, but here there are no disclosure laws!  It really is caveat emptor!  To my chagrin.

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

Jay,

The deception was caught in this case. I wonder how many home purchases where this goes unnoticed? The longer we are involved in this business, the more of the seller tricks we learn.

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Whenever I see shiny and new in older construction, I look a bit further Richard!

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

It is amazing what people try to get away with. Seems pretty obvious to me from looking at the understair well picture. (Other than being updated I can't tell from the other pictures.)

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 8 years ago

The crawl space is full of water Than.  And apparently has been, probably continuously, for years.  In the rec room everything is shiny and new.

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

It appears the sellers didn't want to tell the truth. Lenn is right when she says someone needs to give the buyers a clue as to how things work in Virginia. Nice post today!

Posted by David Burrows, No Pressure, Just Seriously Devoted to Real Estate (Classic Realty) over 8 years ago

I agree David.  This was actually my second inspection with these buyers!  I think they know how I work!  But as to disclosure, they should know that too.

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

Even if a seller has no legal duty to disclose in VA, one would think that a certain moral duty exists. 

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

My feeling too Charlie, but I think we are in the vast minority in that regard.

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

Your buyers are fortunate to have a good agent to help them. It amazes me the way people can so conveniently forget what has happed in the home they live in.

Betty

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 8 years ago

I tell my sellers not to lie on the property condition disclosure and reveal any past problems and remedy they made.

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) over 8 years ago

Dishonest sellers. If only people would be truthful- what a wonderful world we'd have! Good job, Jay!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) over 8 years ago

Jay, lots of tell tale signs left behind. In Washington State we need to disclose if it's an ongoing problem that has been corrected. Thanks for the photos. 

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 AdrianWillanger-broker.com) over 8 years ago

Jay- You come across some serious problems! I hope your clients agents are keeping their eyes open as they are showing homes. May save their buyers from even offering on a place that has issues. They're lucky they have you to do your detective work.

 

Posted by Amanda S. Davidson, Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale (Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group Brokered By eXp Realty) over 8 years ago

Thanks for sharing this story and pics, I always get amazed at what home inspectrs find that we don't always see.

Posted by Diane Daley (Caron's Gateway Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Thanks for sharing yet another amazing story Jay. You sure have seen your share of interesting problems with these homes.

Posted by Adam Brett, The Adam and Eric Group, Fullerton's Finest (The Adam and Eric Group) over 8 years ago

Houses with rust half way up the furnace and mineral deposits like lime look on the cement floor and wall make you know there has been water. At some time, lots of it.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 8 years ago

Betty - memory is an inconvenient or convenient thing, depending!

Mike - no disclosure in VA, but that does not mean people cannot ask questions.

Steve - it would be nice if the Golden Rule was in effect!

Adrian - correcting a problem is one thing.  You are right, ongoing is another.

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

Amanda - sometimes it is true detective work!

Caron's Gateway - that is why we are there!  We inspectors have a different perspective.

Adam - I run across interesting stuff nearly every day!  It does make things fun.

Andrew - those are pretty good signs, and hard to hide!

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

I think someone tried to fix the damage Erica, but unsure if the problem is solved!

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

Jay, we looked at a house last night that had obvious waterproofing done to the basement. Looking at the disclosures this morning, they said there was no evidence of water. They've only been in the house since '03, so maybe the waterproofing was done before they bought it, and worked perfect. But, is this the right way to answer this question?

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) over 8 years ago

They had to have asked what was up with the basement when they bought it Eric.  If, that is, it was like that then.  If it was not, they know perfectly well what is up!

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

I always think it is best to have a home inspector like yourself look for clues.  Too many times, the seller is going to forget to disclose or minimize a water in the basement problem.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 8 years ago

To guys like you Jay, the cover up is probably more revealing than the damage itself.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 8 years ago

Morning Jay I see you have another ho-hum feature but I'll still send you my congrats on it.  Standing water is not good I wonder if the sale will proceed or is it dead in the water sorta speak

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

I think so too Joan.  And maybe sellers do minimize things because they have been living there and don't realize.

Tom - that is true.  I especially like ceilings under bathrooms repaired, sealed with Kilz and painted (one coat), which makes the Kilz very revealed.  People don't understand how many tricks I am familiar with!

Thanks James.  This is my second inspection for these folks.  The first house fell through - a disaster!  We'll see what happens here!

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

The old try and hide it trick. I also love when sellers are present and they stand in just the right spots to limit access.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 8 years ago

I hear you Rob.  Once on an inspection the lady was "working" in her office and sitting at her desk.  She got up briefly to go upstairs and I quickly moved boxes she just happened to have piled there and found a huge gap between wall and floor, all the way to the outside!  Hmmm....  Going back outside I found mulch and "decorative" rocks in the way of that gap.  Hmmm....

Busted.

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

Busted is right. That's a good one.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 8 years ago

She did not know I had made that discovery and was, um, surprised when she saw my report!

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

Jay, Lenn is right "Caveat Emptor" is not a desert. That is why every purchase of any home new or existing needs a good inspection.

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) over 8 years ago

Thanks Tom.  She was right!  We try in the good inspection department, we really try.

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

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