What I'm Seeing Now


The House Is the House

Did I say that the house is the house?  Well, sorry, I meant to say that the house is the house.  Sound the same?  It is.  That is something that never changes.

At the end of my last inspection the other day, but before the thermal IR exam to follow, my client said to me, "So, tell me the truth.  My agent obviously has a vested interest in whether or not I buy this house.  He recommended you.  So far you have told me that the house is in good shape.  I smell a rat."  The agent had to leave and did not hear this.

I have to confess, I really hate it when this happens!

My response to such a statement is typically low key and with a soft voice.  It was, "Lulabell (not her real name), the house is the house.  It is irrelevant to me whether or not you buy it.  My job is to see what I can see and tell you about it.  Straight up.  I am not an alarmist, but I AM very frank.  This is my fourth foreclosure inspection in the last two days.  Two decided not to buy because of the problems found.  One is still on the fence.  YOU, and your agent, have found what appears to be a great house.  Whether you buy it or not matters nothing to me.  But, please understand, the house is the house."

What you don't know yet is that outside the sellers had previously tried to extend the downspouts from the house.  They were poorly done.  One in particular bothered me.  It was in the corner beside a stairwell and under a tree which was too close to the house.  I explained to her that it was not well done, the tree will hold moisture against the house, that foundations don't make effective boats, and so on.  I also didn't like the way two window wells were drained.  There was also some cracking in the stone facade around two windows.  INSIDE there was no evident problem with any of that.  She thought nothing of my musings outside.

Back to inside - "Do you still want to do the IR sweep of the house?"  (That tacks another $300 onto the home inspection fee.)  "Yes."

Well, Holy Water Batman!  I found evidence of moisture at each of those locations!  Not a lot, just the beginnings, but obvious moisture.  Hopefully it is corrected before it becomes a major problem.  She was fascinated!  She virtually watched over my shoulder the rest of the time with the camera as I snapped digital IR images of each spot.  Suddenly bubbly.  Gushing really.  The bank will do nothing about it you know.  But knowledge is power, and NOW SHE KNOWS!

Later the agent called to say how pleased she was with the inspection.  She said that he could not have picked a better home inspector.  Aw, shucks...

I think she liked me.

I don't hate it when that happens.

The house is the house...

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 10 commentsJay Markanich • December 07 2008 05:44AM


Hi Jay,

There's always going to be a conflict of interest that exist when a real estate
Agent recommends a home inspector such as yourself. There will always be liability issues and collusion, or the appearance of collusion between you and the Buyers (your clients). I'd rather not get involved in this fiasco. It could cause major problems down the road if an issue ever does arise from the home you are inspecting.

I enjoy inspecting in a regulated State with a Realtor Referal Law...


At the time of the signing of the first written contract to purchase, real estate brokers and salesmen, or the seller if no broker or salesperson is involved in the sale, shall distribute a brochure, published by the office of consumer affairs and business regulations, educating consumers about the home inspection process. Real estate brokers and salesmen shall not directly recommend a specific home inspection company or home inspector but may, upon request, provide a complete list of licensed home inspectors prepared by the board. This prohibition shall not apply if there is a written contractual agreement or a written agency disclosure between the buyer and the real estate broker specifying that the real estate broker is acting exclusively for the buyer as a buyer’s broker.

Posted by David Valley, Massachusetts Home Inspections (Massachusetts Home Inspections) about 12 years ago

Well now you have made me curious.

Why is "moisture" relative to the downspouts a part of a "thermal" inspection and not a part of a general inspection where moisture would surely be critical?

It appears when reading this that, if the buyer had not payed an additional $300 for the "termal" inspection, the moisture would not have been found and the buyer not alerted to a potential future moisture intrusion.


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 12 years ago

Hi David!  Good to hear from you!  Around here the agents recommend a minimum of three home inspectors.  Most provide a list.  And when people call me I always recommend to them that they interview a few inspectors before they decide.  This particular young lady spoke with me for 45 minutes a few days before the inspection.  I bet she did the same with the others.  She was very circumspect.  I don't know anything about her background obviously, so I did not judge her comment.  Just answered it the best I could!

Do you know my buddy Hank Vanderbeek?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago

Lenn - actually the buyer was alerted to the potential for future moisture problems in my report.  But you have just encountered the new wave in the home inspection industry!  Thermal imaging is the new inspection paradigm, though yet to catch on among all buyers.  The mindset is not there yet.  And not all home inspectors offer it as part of their service.  I do - it is another arrow in the quiver of my product.

I would like to do a thermal examination of every house.  Most people decline my offer.  As you know, moisture is not necessarily detected visually.  It does not always smell mildewy.  It often does not manifest itself until there is a real problem, associated staining, rot, etc.  The camera can "see" or detect problems that are just beginning, or before they become bigger ones.

Did you see one of my earlier blogs about how insulation slips inside the walls?  The IR camera is a great  way to detect that, unless you invade the wall, and cut open random, big holes all over the house.  When people call me for one-year warranty inspections, I ask them if there are rooms that are hot or cold.  Then I offer the service.  What better time to find insulation problems when the builder still has the house under warranty?

Why does it cost more?  Because the devices are very expensive (I bought mine in 2005 when they were much more expensive than now) and the training is ongoing, time consuming and also costs money.  And it is an additional service.

I think one day thermal imaging will become an expected part of all home inspections.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago


I've seen the thermal imaging technique used on TV programs like This Old House. They usually portray as a means to detect heat loss through windows, uninsulated switches and the like.

Does this also detect moisture, or is it something different?

Posted by Fred Pickard, Hershey, PA (Fred Pickard Innovations Realty Inc) about 12 years ago

Fred - super question!  What thermal infrared imaging detects best is a difference in temperature.  Moisture usually shows up as a different temperature than its surrounds.  Moisture in a ceiling under a bathroom, under a window, or in a basement wall, looks a different color.  The camera can be set on reds and blues (blue demonstrates a cooler temperature) or black and white (with black showing a cooler temperature), or any of various color templates.

For the best readings, it is important to try to gain a good temperature difference between inside and outside.  In a basement wall, often moisture will do that on its own.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago

Jay, clients can be so funny some times:)  The very notion that we as inspectors would be in "cahoots" with anyone involved in the transaction for a few hundred bucks I find hard to fathom.  I suppose though if that agent were using you a hundred times a year that would be another thing.  I would say that my best referring agents when times are good might refer me 10 times a year.  Even that total is a long ways away from the cost of a law suit.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 12 years ago

Your are so right Charles!  This particular client actually pushed the realtor away and did her own thing.  She did get a list of inspectors from him, which included me, but she went about interviewing and selecting.  She checked websites and so forth.  Good for her - in my opinion the more circumspect the better.  But that I would be somehow collusive with this agent (who I think referred me 3 times this whole year) is a stretch at best. 

He left just after letting us in and eft me a message today while I was at church saying that he was sorry to leave but did so on her orders.  I had wondered why he left - I assumed an appointment of some sort.  But...

All's well that ends well.  She knows what is up.  She was satisfied. The house is the house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago

Jay - great job and I like the phrase.  I guess it was a good thing the agent left so Lulubell would open up to you.  I personally love it when the client uses their own head instead of their agents.  This is also one of my major compliants about dual agency.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) about 12 years ago

Hey Jack!  Well, this was a very strong-willed woman and she had no problems opening up!  As to dual agency - that is not really my purview, but I do those now and then when the agent represents both sides and I think that has to be a hard place to be in.  To say the least...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago

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