What I'm Seeing Now


So, You Tell Me. Was This Northern Virginia Crawl Space Ever Wet?

In addition to the features list of this house the seller decided to add that the crawl space was bone dry and had never gotten wet.

So, crawling into the crawl space, through an opening 18" wide and a space a hefty 4' high, I saw this.

There is a mud stain on the wall, all around the space, 10" high.

There was squishy mud under the plastic, visible in this photo.

Tell me - was this crawl space ever wet?

I am not sure that a comment along with a features list saying that it has always been dry is something the seller should put out there.

The house is 35 years old and the seller is the second owner, there many years.

Previous standing water as high as that stain, and mud under the plastic, is a pretty good indicator of wetness!

But that is just me.

My recommendation:  features lists and comments like the above should always be taken with a grain of salt.  It might be that things on the list are correct and that the seller really believes what he says about the crawl space moisture, but no matter what is or isn't, you should always call a home inspector!




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 55 commentsJay Markanich • November 08 2013 05:35AM


Jay, Clearly this seller has not been in his crawl space recently or he has no idea of what the evidence of water looks like.
Posted by Bill and MaryAnn Wagner, Jersey Shore and South Jersey Real Estate (Wagner Real Estate Group) almost 6 years ago


Anytime I see a newly painted basement concrete floor and newly whitewashed basement walls, I look carefully for the HIGH WATER MARK they've tried to conceal.

With a crawl space with water intrusion?  THAT IS A REAL CHALLENGE. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

This is a perfect example as to why you always get a home inspection. Maybe this is why there is a disclaimer on all MLS listings.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) almost 6 years ago

Trust but verify.

Posted by Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR, Phoenix Scottsdale. Sellers, Buyers & Relocations (West USA Realty) almost 6 years ago

Bill - maybe he is trying to encourage a paradigm shift?

Lenn - fresh paint gets my antenna tingling.  Or my Spidey sense.  Whichever...

Bill R. - the MLS information is only as accurate as the interview!

Richard - where did you get that drawing of me in a crawl space?  Oh, looking more closely that isn't me.  The guy in that drawing is not wearing knee pads.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

After seeing that marketing comment, the first thing I'd want you to inspect would be the crawl space.

Posted by Geoff ONeill (John L. Scott Medford) almost 6 years ago

A featured post!  Will it survive?  Will it survive?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Geoff - there are very few crawl spaces that I don't go in.  The ones all full of water would represent a part of that group!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Water graffiti which is the "mark" tells quite a bit every time...good post here

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 6 years ago

Jay, you just have to love "obviousness."  At least you did not need your boat on that day.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

It's hard to dispute Richie.  That wasn't created with a paint brush!

Charlie - there have been a few times when the crawl was so soaked (or deep) that I could not go in (or chickened out!).  I'm not up for typhoid or cholera typically...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Maybe her perception was because she had never seen water gushing out of the door it was dry. This is why all buyers must, just must have inspections. The fearless inspectors will tread, maybe where no other ever has.

Posted by Corinne Guest, Barrington Lifestyles (Corinne Guest, REALTOR® | Barrington Realty Company) almost 6 years ago

Home inspectors are worth their weight in gold!

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) almost 6 years ago

NEVER is a very difficult time frame to prove! I would have a hard time believing that statement even without your informative post.

Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) almost 6 years ago

Well when the homeowner never goes down in the crawlspace, of course it's always been bone dry!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) almost 6 years ago

Well, isn't the mud a benefit somehow?  

They could make pottery or something.......

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) almost 6 years ago

Squishy mud - what a fun way to spend your day!

This is why inspections are needed. Just because the listing boasts certain features does not mean the structure is sound or that the features have been updated with the age of the property.

Posted by Atlanta's Home Inspector, David Lelak IHI Home Inspections, Experience the IHI Difference (IHI Home Inspections 404-788-2581) almost 6 years ago
Funny how frequently sellers are shocked to find out their crawl space has evidence of water - or actual current water standing. Just isn't a place most homeowners check out often.....if ever! But buyers do kind of care about that kind of thing, so hurray for home inspectors venturing into dark & dismal places!!
Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA almost 6 years ago

I am reminded of a similar seller declaration of having a dry crawlspace several years back.  However, when the Home Inspector emerged, he came with a picture of a foundation that had chalky white calcium deposits at the "high water" mark beneath!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) almost 6 years ago

Jay, at least it was 4 foot high instead of 2 feet! They don't call it a "crawl space" by accident.

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) almost 6 years ago

Jay, for this reason and many more I would never buy a home without an inspection first. Thanks, good blog.

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) almost 6 years ago

Great advice, a home inspection is always a must!  Even on new construction.

Posted by Catherine Ulrey, Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist (Keller Williams Capital City) almost 6 years ago

Well, that certainly doesn't sound or look good. It pays to have our inspectons. Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by John Buetergerds, The Buetergerds Team (Buetergerds Team at Keller Williams Realty Select) almost 6 years ago

Seems like a strange remark for seller and/or agent to make in writing. Maybe they only looked under there during droughts?

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 6 years ago

I think this proves that old saying true... "never say never".  

Posted by Jim Patton, Realtor - Stanislaus ,Merced, San Joaquin Counties ( Aspire Home Real Estate 209-404-0816) almost 6 years ago

Yeah I think this just may be a good ol fashioned case of earth climbing the walls not water??? lmao

Posted by David Shamansky, Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg (US Mortgages - David Shamansky) almost 6 years ago

Shocking that an agent (assuming there was one in the transaction) would let that be printed in a flyer for public consumption. Talk about liability!

I always tell my buyers that there is no circumstance under which it is okay not to have a home inspection.


Posted by Michael Layton, Michael Layton 7604085300 (nook real estate) almost 6 years ago

Ah yes the famous words "always" and "never" are not good in real estate or marriage.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 6 years ago

Hello Jay,

Looks like a good spot to start a mushroom farm (LOL)...if only it was currently wet enough to float a rubby ducky.  I just know that one of these days you will have the perfect opportunity to write a rubber ducky blog!  

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) almost 6 years ago

I suppose having dirt and being under the house will have a certain amount of moisture, but if I see large mud stains up the block walls that look like it is a recurring cronic problem and not just an issue that happened one really rainy day, then I worry.

Posted by Jay & Michelle Lieberman, Creating Calm in the Buying and Selling Chaos (Keller Williams World Class) almost 6 years ago

Jay where is my Tuesday Free Enterprise Quote.  I know it is Friday, but I am trying to catch up.  Wouldn't the plastic hold in minor amounts of moisture?

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

That is a very unusual statement to even be coming from a Seller.  Tells me it HAS been wet because of the statement.

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Jay, this is exactly why I insist my Buyers get a home inspection!  How many Sellers actually go into their crawl spaces?

Posted by Bette Gottwald, "Bet"on Central PA Real Estate! (UNITED REAL ESTATE | Central PA) almost 6 years ago

We really can't argue the facts Jay, it sure looks like there has been considerable moisture under this house.

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) almost 6 years ago


I don't believe anyone can get water stains without water and I've never seen mud formed from bone dry dirt.  A seller that would state this when it's obviously not the truth is one that a buyer should carefull examine all other statements about the house and definitely hire a home inspector.

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 6 years ago
I surprised the listing agent never got in there to check before listing
Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) almost 6 years ago

looks really scary. 

Posted by Barry Kessler, Barry Kessler (CENTURY 21 Troop Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Is there a YUCK trend tonight? Keep your head high though. ;)


Love and light,


Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) almost 6 years ago
The seller may say one thing, but it's always important to get an inspector's opinion. It carries more weight.
Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) almost 6 years ago

 Good morning, Jay. Thankfully, yours was 4 foot high. I have had to do the GI bit through some of them. Not a whole lot of fun!

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Corinne - the door was metal and screwed on!  No water could have gushed out of there!

W&J - would that THAT was true!  Wow!  I'm thinking Caribbean island right about now...

Of course it can't be proved Gerard.  The opening was screwed shut and very small and I expect he didn't think anyone would go there.

Suzanne - of course you bring logic to the situation!

Now you're thinking Than!  Why not get entrepreneurial!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

David - you have to admit that that mud feels better on the knees than gravel!  It was actually quite soothing.  And the facials are really beneficial too.

You're right Nancy, or the dripping from pipes under the bathroom or kitchen!

Myrl - the photos tell the story better than the inspector!  Which is why we take them!

That's right Tom.  I've been in them crawling like I was doing the barbed wire test at boot camp.

You're welcome Ralph!  I wouldn't either.

Catherine - I recommend new construction inspections (two) to everyone building a house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

John - it just means that things fill up!  Including the crawl space!

Jeff - metal door, screwed shut.  I wonder how often anyone has been under there.

Good thinking Jim - always try to never say never.     ;>)

David - Virginia clay is famous for that.

Michael - it was hand written along with some features.  It shouldn't have been out there though, as you say.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Cindy - as always you never give bad real estate advice.

I could put one in my tool bag for use during that perfect opportunity Lisa!

J&M - due to rising damp I am sure such dryness would be rare.  But clay doesn't typically crawl up the walls!

Gene - I am having a tift with AR and my free enterprise blogs appear on my other blog site.  Google "Jay's Free Enterprise Blog" and it will pop up.

Last week's entry:  http://jaysfreeenterpriseblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-opposite-of-free-enterprise.html

If you think the "health" care website "disaster" is a mistake, think again.

That would be a home inspector's conclusion too Evelyn and the antenna go up.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Bette - I don't have a percentage, but, um, less than 10%?

Pay no attention to the mud behind the curtain Tom.

Judi - now you're thinking like I do!  If one statement is wrong or a mistake, what of the rest?

Mike - not easy - small hole, metal door, screwed shut.

Not really Barry.  That's where I like to take my breaks and naps.


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Laura - it was a crawl space, so I could only keep it so high...

I try to buttress my "opinion," Rosie, with photos.

Michael - as you know, been there, done that, looked critters in the face!


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Be careful of what you say it may no it will come back to bite you in the future.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 6 years ago

Jay, I'm sure the seller hasn't been in the crawl space since it was bone dry or ever. Who would have though an inspector could squeeze throught that 18 inch opening.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 6 years ago

Jay: A seller and his real estate agent should ALWAYS stay away from ABSOLUTES like "never" and, yes, "always". Maybe the owner really believes that, but in this instance even if he did not actually see it in the crawlspace, there must have been standing water OUTSIDE. And the agent should NEVER parrot what the seller says, but verify for herself.


Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) almost 6 years ago

If I see serious interest in a buyer and the house is on a crawl space, we always head to that access door!

Posted by Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate, Certified Residential Specialist (ProStead Realty Charlotte, NC CRS SRES mitch@prostead.com) almost 6 years ago

James - I have heard that boomerangs work!

Mike - who would have thought that THIS inspector could squeeze through that opening.

Hella - always heeding that advice should never be missed!  And the agent was not a her!

Mitch - great practice!  And getcha a big-boy light so you can see to the other side!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Jay, always, always ALWAYS use a home inspector! I cannot stress this enough to my buyers.
And, why would the agent suggest putting this in the features, unless he or she had actually been down there to SEE? Oops!

Nice to see you got a gold star.

Posted by Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate, "Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905 (John L Scott Market Center) almost 6 years ago

I would be like "Uhhhh, Mr Seller, you might wanna come over here and look at this.... and bring your snorkel"

Just because they say it, doesn't make it so. Get your purchase inspected!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 6 years ago

Crawl spaces here are usually under additions and besides are full basement under the rest of the house. It wouldn't surprise me that homeowners would not know at least here...if there was moisture...it is rarely used except in some cases for storage. Ignorance is bliss...soggy bliss.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 6 years ago

Gayle - the list seemed to come from the seller, who apparently thought it was true!  I give the benefit of the doubt.

Fred - I am sure they saw the photo.  On the upper side there was extra tar added to the foundation wall, so that was a tip for me too.  The metal access door was pretty rusty and the screws stiff.  They had not been in there in a while.  It was only my super strength and unintimidated nature that got me through the door.  (play Superman music now ... and see the twinkle in my eye)

S&D - in this case I think you're right - ignorance is bliss and apparently pride!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

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