What I'm Seeing Now


A Tale Of Two Ceilings. When A Seller Tries To Hide A Serious Leak.

A tale of two ceilings.  When a seller tries to hide a serious leak.

It was the best of ceilings, it was the worst of ceilings.  It was the age of freshly repaired and painted, it was the age of foolishness.  It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

Being able to reach 8' high, I always put my flashlight at a severe angle against ceilings to see if there have been drywall repairs.

Often I find them.

Virginia is a non-disclosure state - the seller does not have to say anything as regards the condition or the history of a house.  So the home inspection is a crucial part of the buying process.

In this house the ceiling showed a couple of repairs, and one that looked very suspiciously like a homeowner had done it.  The repair was what you see, very sloppy, and the ceiling was freshly painted.  But there were other repaired spots.

Obviously the seller wanted to either hide a serious problem, or make a buyer think the problem had been fixed.  There was "the epoch of belief , it was the epoch of incredulity."

Putting a moisture meter against the spot you see in the photo it registered 100%.

And looking at the area with an itchy and excited Mighty Mo the spot in the photo above was visible as a small blue area near the lower left.

But much more revealed itself!

Moving the moisture meter around to those other areas it registered moisture here and there, but nothing 100%.

It was time for the water test!

This dining room was under the master bathroom, so I went upstairs, turned on the sink and shower, and flushed the toilet twice, kept the water running, and returned to the dining room.

Getting there the thermal camera revealed that moisture had already started moving onto the ceiling.  After about three minutes the ceiling looked like the image on the right.  There was an active leak from the bathroom above! 

Immediately turning off the water, we could safely say that there was a problem with the bathroom!

It was "the age of freshly repaired and painted, it was the age of foolishness."

Had no thermal camera been available it is likely that this leaking may never have been found!  And later, after moving into the house, the sellers could have said they didn't know it was leaking, and the home inspector would have looked incompetent.


That is not nice.  I have discovered and disabled many booby traps before they blew up in my face.

My recommendation:  this is why home inspectors in Virginia are required to carry Errors and Omissions insurance!   And this is why THIS home inspector does not do inspections if the buyers and/or agent are not present.  The booby traps are out there!  Home inspections are serious business, and home inspectors need to fill their quivers with great tools.  My thermal camera is the sharpest arrow in my tool quiver.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 11 commentsJay Markanich • May 15 2017 11:00AM


Mighty Mo to the rescue again. Good thing those buyers called YOU.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) about 3 years ago

Good morning Jay. Mighty Mo is always in the know! No doubt about it. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 3 years ago

Jay, your blogs are always interesting to read. You are a true detective and know how to find what us normal people would pass right over. I would have thought it was an old issue that had been repaired. Great blog!

Posted by Nathan Gesner, Broker / Property Manager (American West Realty and Management) about 3 years ago

That is why I never got electronic access. They will send you out there alone to "get it done"! Not this inspector... I know they're busy but I will not be there alone! Nope!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 3 years ago

Jay Markanich Wonderful to have an honest man in the world. And WOW, that a state government could be so I-won't-use-the-words-in-polite-company as to consider it legal to allow sellers to hide issues from buyers.  ARRRRGH.

Posted by Lauren Williams, CPO, CVO, Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes (Casual Uncluttering LLC) about 3 years ago

Jay, It must be plumbing leak month. I have had several over the last few weeks.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

I'm always fascinated by what your thermal imagining camera finds - what a powerful tool!

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) about 3 years ago

Kat - I've been saying for years that people should not call anyone else.  But I might be a tad biased...

Wayne - you should see him shiver and hum when he wants to get started.

Nathan - most people would never put a flashlight up against a ceiling to show previous repairs.  That was what kicked all this off!

Fred - yep!  Once a washing machine knob came off in my hand, and everyone there saw it.  I later got a "repair" invoice from a "repair" company, sent to me by the seller who said I broke the washing machine and that was the bill to fix it!  Really??  The agent who was present was able to squash that one easily, but had I been alone what would have happened?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

Lauren - I don't know how many states are caveat emptor, but we are.  So home inspectors are important people!

I bet it was, Don.  And it leaked last week, and certainly on Saturday!  That ceiling was so freshly painted I could smell it!

Marte -  long-time Washington DC people understand where the words "Mighty Mo" came from.   In the 50s the Marriott Family first got into business with the Hot Shoppe Restaurant.  It was a drive-up, eat in the car service, with food delivered by waitresses on roller skates.  The signature hamburger was called a Mighty Mo, long before the Big Mac.  My favorite!  I always had a chocolate milk shake with it!  The Mighty Mo is a wonderful childhood memory.

And Mighty Mo is really the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

That mighty mo looks like a good sandwich, sure it inspired the big mac. I always find inspections interesting, to see and hear what inspectors recommend and how they look at and find stuff.

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) about 3 years ago

Well, N&T, Mighty Mo found the stuff of a leak this time!

Had I not used this thermal camera that leak likely would not have been found.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

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