What I'm Seeing Now


"Unseen Dangers"

I have a line on my inspection report that says:  " An 'unseen dangers' specialist should be able to find unseen dangers in this property.  However, the author of this report was not retained to do so and issues no opinion on these unseen dangers.' "

Yes, it's vague.  Yes, it's CYA.  It was suggested to me many years ago by an insurance agent and a lawyer affiliated with my home inspector association.  And because of that verbiage in my report, all of myself and both agents involved with any home that I inspect are covered by my policy.

Why?  Because, obviously, home inspectors have been sued, or the attempt was made to sue, over their not finding or mentioning theretofore unseen dangers in or around a home during the home inspection.  That's the litigious world we live in, right?

I don't know if all home inspectors have such insurance coverage, but I do.

But yesterday I got an interesting email from an agent for whom I had done an inspection recently.  She was forwarding a comment from the listing agent essentially asking where an "unseen dangers" specialist could be found.

While I originally thought the comment a bit flip, it probably was useful! 

It got me thinking.

Perhaps I could make a change to the report to reflect what the term "unseen dangers" might represent.

And, thinking about it, this is what I came up with.

What do you think?

" An “unseen dangers” specialist should be retained to determine if there are any unseen dangers in or around this property.  As odd as it sounds, unseen dangers can include many things – microbial contamination, chemical residues from something like a meth lab or other dangerous activity, bed bugs, lice, fleas or mites, environmental pollution or wastes, electro-magnetic proximity, etc.  This list is not inclusive of all such possible and unseen risks.  It represents suggestions as to the kinds of things that are not researched, inspected or included on the report.  If there is a fear that any such dangers might exist, Jay Markanich suggests that a specialist be retained to perform the desired inspection.  However, the author of this report is not a specialist in these regards, and issues no opinion on any such unseen dangers. "

Those are all things that clients have contacted me about following home inspections over the years.  I had a client once who angrily called to say that someone in his neighborhood told him it used to be a dumping site for nuclear waste and that I should have warned him!  He said that I have responsibility to investigate all neighborhoods for such things before I do the inspection!  There was no way nuclear waste would have ever been dumped in that neighborhood, but he was convinced by one comment!

I had another lady call me to say she "thought" the house they bought might have bed bugs and was very angry with me.


Yes, the list is not, and cannot be, exhaustive.  

So, should I include the verbiage in my report?  It is a bit more explanatory.   

My recommendation:  while it's impossible to CYA completely (!), if is it necessary to explain everything, or include whatever might protect in the event of a later finding, it might be circumspect to explain the reasons for some verbiage included in contracts or reports.  What do you think?           




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 37 commentsJay Markanich • August 21 2013 04:16AM


Jay -- this looks like a very helpful emendation to the current statement about "unseen dangers".  Out here it might include if the house is in a "lahar zone" (mud and debris from volcanic eruption).

BTW -- a great picture of some of those nasties!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 7 years ago

Thats actually not a bad idea.  I've never heard of that before and it made me think which is what it should make people do.

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) over 7 years ago

Since your attorney had suggested including verbiage about unseen dangers, your further developed paragraph seems like it would be a good idea.. BUT I'm not an expert on what language should be included to CYA in a home inspection report so you probably want to consult an expert in that area.  (Did I do a good CYA?) 

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 7 years ago

Great Post, Jay! And not a bad idea.

Posted by Tamra Lee Ulmer, NRBA ~FORCE~ Over 1000 REO Assets SOLD! (Arizona Resource Realty) over 7 years ago

Jay, how about the "signs" of the "unseen?" :)  It is amazing how the obvious gets by so many people.  We obviously cannot see what we cannot see--even with all the senses we do have.  I think inherent in the decision to hire someone for an opinion of the property is the admission that they themselves could not do as well.  We are trained--but we are not God--even the inspectors that think they are.  All that said there are still inspectors without enough training, experience or willingness to open their eyes, ears, nose, mouth--and most importantly have insatiable "curiosity."

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

It certainly is something to think about.  CYA is important to do, as much as possible!  Good post Jay!

Posted by Cheryl S . Glover, CIPS, CRS, Green, GRI, SFR, TRC, (Keller Williams Classic III Realty) over 7 years ago

It is impossible to cover everything with verbiage. Cause sure enough, no matter how many lawyers contribute to your report or agreement, somebody will come with something to make you throw up your hands...lol. I'm sure you have read the InterNACHI Agreement they provide, I have added a second page, altered it till the cows came home, then I read your blog. Bed bugs... page 3!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 7 years ago

I don't know if you are joking here or what but how can you hire an 'unseen dangers' expert? Sounds like someone who's a paranoid investigator that would be on the look out for everything.  Does your job cover 'everything' or structural, building components?  How can it be for everything?

Bed bugs are a good example - home inspector or pest control guy?  I say pest control.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 7 years ago

that's a tough call you want to do a good job but at the same time CYA

Posted by Goran Utvic, We Buy & Sell Chicago Houses Fast (606 Homes LLC | Chicagoland Brokers Inc, Chicago IL 60656) over 7 years ago

Never had a bed bug inspection before. May have to come up with a disclosure. This is why you always use a licensed and insured inspector.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) over 7 years ago

I don't like the use of the word "Danger" in the disclaimer.  Certain hazards or defects may not be visible, but that's covered in your contract.  In fact, it seems to me that this entire paragraph is redundant and can be eliminated entirely.

Sometimes saying too much is riskier than saying nothing at all.

By mentioning "unseen dangers" you open the Pandora's box of "what is an "unseen danger".   Sounds like UNSEEN  DANGERS lurk in homes and many are undetectable. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

CYA...That is what it is all about these days.

Litigation nearly runs the country.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) over 7 years ago

I think that what  William said is most appropriate.  This is a litigious society.  We must be careful and do what we know if right.  I do not like DANGER in the disclaimer is not an appropriate word.  None of us can see the inside of everything. It is covered  with walls and the like..


Posted by Ginger Harper, Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County! (Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team) over 7 years ago

Steven - obviously unseen dangers are real!

Marc - it made me think too!  Hence the post!

That was an excellent CYA Judi!  I bow, indeed!

Thanks Tamra, but I'm still conflicted as to verbiage!

Charlie - thanks and thanks for the suggestion.  It was nice to speak with you, as always.



Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Why am I suddenly saying Danger Will Robinson Danger?

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 7 years ago

Cheryl - it's too bad we have to think this way!  But we do.

I know Fred.  Things add up.  Can you believe that lady reamed me for bed bugs?

Again, Lyn, I know!  There are so many things out there, defects and dangers, that I suppose one might need a team of specialists!

Agreed Goran.  We can go overboard with this stuff.

Bill - I have heard stories, but don't know that I've ever seen one!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

That is my problem too Lenn.  I am leaning toward your suggestion.

It does William, which is why inspectors have to think this way!

This is verbiage also in my agreement Ginger, so this statement would be redundant.  Is that important too?

Cindy - bummer we never got to see the robot in color!  At least I never did...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Home inspector is there to point out the items that need fixing==unseen should be handled by experts like pest control

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 7 years ago

It is sad that the list has to be so extensive these days on a disclaimer.

Posted by Lisa Friedman, 30 Years of Real Estate Experience! (Great American Dream Realty) over 7 years ago


My past life experience of a Contract manager LOVES this little CYA suggested by your insurance guy!  Send him a nice Christmas gift... he's a valuable part of your business plan!



Posted by Elise Harron, Rural Vacant Land and Development Specialist (Dirt Road Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Jay, even I liked the terminology 'unseen danger finder' for home inspector. And for CYA...not sure what to say. I am sure some legal (lethal) language is available somewhere.....

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 7 years ago

Jay, I think you are very wise to have purchased extended insurance coverage for the line of work that you are in... it is indeed a very litigious society.

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) over 7 years ago

Harry - but, as you know, so many things are the fault of the home inspector!

Lisa - and then people will be people!

Thanks Elise.  This was years ago.  My only problem is the huge word "danger!"  It stands out.

Praful - it is, surely.  And inspectors are always tweaking their reports.

I always have Ralph.  It isn't that much more expensive and peace of mind is worth a million bucks.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Unseen dangers...hmmmm...that covers a whole lot of territory and I would think very different areas of expertise that could be anything from environmental or engineering concerns...lots to cover for one person without referring out to yet more "unseen experts."

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Unseen experts is a good term S&D!  And there could be an army of them depending on what a buyer wanted to investigate!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Unseen danger.........  ???????????????/



Posted by John T. Dowd, Integrity - Service - Experience (United Country Dowd & Forbes Realty) over 7 years ago

Interesting...unseen dangers..thank you

Posted by Drick Ward Property Management / Broker Assoc, "RealtorDrick" - Experienced Representation (NEPTUNE REALTY) over 7 years ago

Wait.... Are you saying the house has nuclear bed bugs on meth? You should have disclosed that one Jay Man.

And we wonder why the small print can get so exhaustive in the reports.  :)

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 7 years ago

Jay, I would go with your original statement. Since it was suggested by a lawyer in your association, it should have the right legal terminology in it. Although, it can bring up a lot of questions.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

I think it's best to ask the lawyer on this one! He should be able to find some better verbiage to CYA. Maybe "unforeseen issues" is a better term?

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 7 years ago

Jay, I would think the pest inspectors should be responsible for pests such as bed bugs.   But, alas they are only looking for wood destroying insects.   I agree with Lenn, and think that is perhaps it too foreboding.   I see many home inspectors forms say it is a visual inspection of the home - they can't see through walls or detect things that are not visible (e.g., lead paint).   I think it is a good idea to give examples, but really, can there ever be an complete list?

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 7 years ago

John - agreed.

Drick - again, agreed!  Things can go on forever sometimes.

Tom - woulda, coulda, shoulda.  And they fart carbon monoxide (after drinking dihydrogen monoxide that is).

Mike - so says my son, who is a lawyer.

Suzanne - lawyers are all over the map on this one.  But my agreement protects me as well.

Yvette - my agreement has all that, and obviously nobody can do some things.  Including knowing that there are infectious microbes and bed bugs!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I like it Jay. People have no idea that their house can kill them. Allot of code changes are done due to injury and death. Insurance companies often push for stronger codes because health and safety issues cost them money. Danger sums it up.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 7 years ago

I know Don, but it's such a dastardly word!  It invokes fear and foreboding.  But, as you say, houses can kill!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

It sounds like you have a good form. I don't blame you for trying to protect yourself. That is the wise thing to do.


Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 7 years ago

The Nuclear Waste one is laughable, Then build a neighbood over it, of course.

Posted by Christine Farkas, Awesome Customer Service Experience (Keller Williams Western Realty) over 7 years ago

Of course Betty, so long as I don't look like a scardy cat!

Christine - and it's a very established community, with houses there that pre-exist the nuclear era!  There are newer homes, but they would not have put a dump beside two other cities, only to build houses thereon later!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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