Bristow, VA Real Estate News

By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Can composite decking rot?If you go to the composite manufacturer websites will tell you their products do not rot.If you search on line and find home repair websites, or forum websites, you will read that there are complaints all over the country.Personally I had never seen composite decking rot in any way, until this inspection.  The listing information indicated that this was a Trex deck, but there are many imitators so we could not be certain.  Still, it was composite material.Walking under the deck and looking up I found that every board had some form of rot or fungus growing on it.One problem I noticed immediately was that there was little to no separation between the decking boards.Again, if you go to any of the  websites, and to the installation guides, it says there must be spa...
Comments 12
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
"All our houses are built strictly to code..."  Part 2.That was the focus of the previous post which considered the idea that we have been conditioned to accept a minimum standard in so many things.  And we have been conditioned to replace!Our computers, phones, most electronics, software, fashions, cars, and on an on, are superseded in a couple of years by the next, best, very special version.  And we seem to need to have the newer whatever!But if houses are built "strictly" to anything it probably should not be a minimum standard.But what if the minimum standard was this:  "Would I want my family to live here?"For example, if houses are really built "strictly" to code, how come in the last year or so I have found only one, ONLY ONE, garage access door hinge that properly closed the do...
Comments 23
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
"All our houses are built strictly to code..."That's what the young supervisor said to me and my clients when he showed up at the end of our pre-drywall inspection.Me - "Are you sure you want to say that?"Supervisor, smiling proudly - "Yes! We are very careful and the county checks us."Me - "Well, that's not very impressive.  The code is a minimum standard.  Do you have ads which say, 'All our houses are built to the minimum standard!  Buy our homes!'?"The code is the minimum REQUIRED standard.  It is not necessarily very impressive.And often there is confusion about what the code says! So who interprets the code?  The local jurisdiction authority.  And it seems to me that sometimes they make things up on the fly!You will never see the ad I proposed above.  Why would a minimum standard ...
Comments 25
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
This was a highly-touted, and new, hardwood floor.And it looked great everywhere!  It was a very professional job.Except in the powder room.The toilet wobbled.  And there was a hefty and dark stain behind and beside the base of the toilet.Since the floor was newly installed I had to think the toilet was poorly installed!Looking at the moisture meter the tale is told.A moisture content of 22% indicates active moisture migration from the toilet into the flooring.If the hardwood flooring is that wet, imagine how wet, and probably rotting, the sub flooring is!  And as the sub floor rots it gets weaker, and the connection of the toilet to the floor is weakened as well.Wood is considered saturated at 28%, so this wood is approaching saturation and it has not been there for a long time.My reco...
Comments 14
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
This is a beautiful light fixture!  But don't forget the insulation!This is new construction.  The entry way featured an open ceiling with a circular, wrapping staircase leading to an upper level hallway that serviced all the bedrooms.A very attractive, hand-painted globe was in the ceiling.And the light fixture lit up in such a way that enhanced itself beautifully.This chandelier was very high and heavy and came with another feature.  A lift.  That device has the ability to lift and lower 300 pounds.   The chain above the light fixture was very long.  The lift device makes it easy to lower and clean the chandelier and replace the light bulbs.But looking at the photo above one might think the insulation looks a bit weak.And it was!  Peeking into a couple of gaps I could see that above t...
Comments 14
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
This is the most attractive clean out port cover I have ever seen!A local builder who designs and sells only a couple of houses a year hires me to do inspections when the houses near completion.  He considers it to be another layer of protection for him, and peace of mind for his buyers.In a basement room I found this.Obviously pride in workmanship is the order of the day.It certainly beats having the tip of the pipe sticking out of the wall!My recommendation:  many builders take pride in their work.  When that happens they should be recognized!  I have known this builder for a long time and have done inspections for him.  There are always a couple of things.  But pride in workmanship and showing a little style is the thing that has always stood out for me in his houses.  And it's a joy...
Comments 15
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
This is the clogged peek-a-boo dryer exhaust vent opening - and dangerous!I had to search for it.  Knowing it was behind the house it took a minute to locate it.But there it was, the clogged peek-a-boo dryer exhaust vent.The underside of the deck was covered with a plastic lattice work material.Which is fine if you want to have a little visual appeal.But not so good if there is the need to get under there to do something.In this case the dryer vent was on the outside of the house, about 14' high, and under the deck.And quite covered by the plastic lattice work!You can see how clogged it is!I have written before about the dryer being the most dangerous appliance in the home.  You can read one post here.It is NEVER recommended to cover the dryer vent location with a grilled cover.  The dr...
Comments 7
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
The addendum list of requested repairs said, "Insulation to be evaluated and improved by a licensed contractor."In the previous years this homeowner had done many home improvements with less-than-stellar results.  At the inspection I said it was my opinion that the homeowners really thought they had been left with work that was well done.  During our home inspection one of the problems was the insulation, which was missing in some areas and insufficient in many others.For example, this was the area seen over the remodeled bathroom.  It was devoid of insulation.Some insulation previously there was piled to the side.And the rest was simply swept away, removed in favor of doing work in the ceiling.Nothing had been replaced.For a contractor to leave an area like this is unconscionable, but ...
Comments 9
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
New construction inspection - would you like to take a bath here?I do a lot of pre-drywall and then final inspections on new construction.  And it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  We never know what we will find.On every inspection I do a sweep with my thermal camera.  Mighty Mo is great at finding missing insulation, weak or poorly-placed insulation, unknown leaks, HVAC ducts that aren't working properly (or where HVAC registers are missing! - click here), and even predictive electrical issues.In this house Mighty Mo found an interesting circumstance.  This is in the second bedroom bath.  This would be used by the older of two young girls in this family.  After my sweep I asked her to sit in the tub and tell everyone what she felt.  Here's what I knew:Sitting down she screeched and stood up q...
Comments 12
By Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
(Long and Foster Real Estate)
Buyers with Agents, But No RepresentationWhen someone is looking to buy or sell a home, usually the first person they go to is an agent that helped them previously.  If they have never bought or sold before, maybe they reach out to friends and family for a recommendation.  Or, they can look to their own circle of friends and find somebody that went to real estate school, got licensed and figure, "Why not?"  Here's just one example why not.Earlier this year I met a couple who we'll call John and Judy.  They said they had no agent, though they had one recently sell their existing home in another locale.  They were moving back into the area and seeing my name a lot.  In fact, I had two listings coming up that fit their needs.  After making sure I was not stepping on another agents toes, I ...
Comments 58
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Do you have mice in the house?These folks do.  And they don't know why.It's a bit of an unusual request to get me to try to determine why there are mice in the house.  Usually that would be left to some pest company, and responding to some ad coupon received in the mail.So I asked why they called me."We asked around our neighborhood, and you have been here many times.Our neighbors all said the same thing - to call you because you would be fair and not try to sell us something."Wow!  They get it!I have been called before to investigate this or that pest problem.  And they are right, I do not try to sell some prevention package.  I do not "find" problems that don't exist.So, can you see the mouse highway into the house?Look again.  It's there!  Around that tubing are biggie gaps!My recomm...
Comments 16
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
A very important thing is what home inspectors call Whirlpool Access.This is the case of Whirlpool Access - when access is not access.Every whirlpool tub has a motor and wiring.  All that needs access.That is in case there is a need to get to the motor to repair or replace it.Inspectors also like to make sure there is a GFI receptacle that the unit is plugged into, if there is not a GFI circuit breaker in the panel box.On this remodel I noticed that there was indeed an access panel.  But look!  It's so close to the sink cabinet that if work needed to be done one would have to take apart the sink plumbing and remove the cabinet beside the opening!The key concept of the word ACCESS is indeed that, access.Importantly, the unit is at least plugged into a GFI receptacle!How did I get that ph...
Comments 10
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
This photo might say something about less-than-professional work.Like they say, pictures say lots, perhaps a thousand words!These bottles were seen all over the house.  One might think that the supervisor would have the place cleaned up a bit before his buyers (and their home inspector) walk through the place.Perhaps appearances are not that important to him.It's never a good sign when a house, supposedly prepared for a pre-drywall inspection, is full of trash, beer bottles, boards with nails sticking out, and other dangerous debris that is thrown about.My clients found it disconcerting.  I suggested they ask the supervisor about the "professionalism" of the "professionals" "professionally" hired to do "professional" work.Yes, those quotation marks show my sarcasm coming through.My reco...
Comments 9
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Sometimes a photo isn't descriptive enough.It happens.  What you want to show up on the photo doesn't show up.  What more could a home inspector do?For instance, in new construction I always spray the shower water onto the sides of the shower surround to see if it leaks anywhere. It is surprising how often they leak, and from how many places!But leaking water doesn't always show up well in photos.  I try to manipulate the photo so the water might show up.  I even use the arrow or circle feature to help.   But even with that it often isn't as successful as I want in showing how much leaking is happening.So what to do?                 Call Mighty Mo!  Thermal imaging adds a whole new layer of information.  And pick a thermal image color palette that makes the water show up where it is, an...
Comments 14
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Would you want to see labels on your new house features?This is a brand new house, not lived in, and my client and I were conducting the final inspection prior to the final walk through.When facing the house one interesting feature is a thin, horizontal trellis over the garage door.It is beautiful.But when you look at it, staring right back is a label on the end of the beam!Wouldn't you think that labels like this would be removed?The beam still has the factory finish because the weather does not permit painting.  The builder has a county waiver to complete the painting in the spring when weather temperatures are more suitable.But still, why not remove the label?  It seems to me that doing so would be a Best Practice!At least the beam was MADE IN THE USA!My recommendation:  this is not ...
Comments 32
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Where's the HVAC floor register in the closet?This is new construction!  Walking into the spacious master bedroom closet (almost 300 square feet) which had a wall on the exterior of the house, I looked for and did not see the floor register.There has to be at least one.So how can we find out if one is actually there? I don't have X-ray vision, so how would that be possible?Mighty Mo would know!A quick scan of the room showed EXACTLY where the register should have been.  I don't need no stinkin' X-ray vision.  I have Mighty Mo!The intended duct underneath was servicing the room, blowing hot air against the underside of the hardwood flooring.  The duct runs vertically up to the wall on the right, and turns into the closet.  Its path can be clearly seen in this thermal image.The flooring c...
Comments 17
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
Did my thermal camera catch a ghost outside?Well, did it?  Is that possible? *Thermal cameras can do a lot of things.  Images can be manipulated, or can indicate things that may seem to be something else.As I walk around with Mighty Mo doing a thermal image sweep of a house I sometimes click the trigger accidentally and snap a thermal image.  Sometimes I don't realize I did that until later when I review the images on the camera.The camera takes two photos at the same time - a digital one, and a thermal image one.In this house I was in an upstairs hall and accidentally shot this photo of a palladium window looking toward the wooded area out behind the house.Processing the images later this one popped up!Clearly this is a thermal image of a ghost!His legs must be floating behind him and ...
Comments 17
By Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
(Long and Foster Real Estate)
Kingsbrooke Townhouse Year in Review 2016With 2016 squarely behind us, let's take the opportunity to look back at the Kingsbrooke townhouse market last year.  Just analyzing 2016 by itself doesn't give us much context, so we'll also look at the same date for 2015.   HOMES SOLD 35 townhouses sold in 2016  (3 Short Sales, 2 Foreclosures)35 townhouses sold in 2015  (2 Short Sales, 1 Foreclosure)That's quite a coincidence.  The same number of townhomes sold in 2016 and in 2015.  And looking at the number of Short Sales and Foreclosure Sales, it seems that these sales aren't going away.  Let's break this out by quarter and see when the most sales activity took place for Kingsbrooke townhouses1st Quarter:  4 townhouses sold in 2016, 6 townhouses sold in 20152nd Quarter:  11 townhouses sold in...
Comments 9
By Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
(Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC)
You have to see everything because a thermal image alone can fool you.It wasn't a cold day out, about 45F.  And it was cloudy.Breaking out Mighty Mo to do the thermal image sweep of the insulation in the house, this is what the ceilings looked like on the upper level.The roof rafter joists are visible as the purple lines, with the insulation filling the gap between.The temperature difference between the insulated areas and the wood joist rafters is not very different.Does this appear to be a well-insulated space?To know for sure you have to look into the attic space!Does that look like a good amount of insulation?It is not.This house was built in 1954 and the original insulation was a thin layer of mineral wool typical of the era.While mineral wool is a very good insulator, this thin la...
Comments 7
By Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
(Long and Foster Real Estate)
Dunbarton Duplex Year in Review 2016Last year (2016) I decided to start providing online reports tracking average market value for Dunbarton Duplexes.  Turns out, my sampling period of every two months, didn't provide enough data.  So let's take a look back at the entire year and compare it to what happened in 2015.HOMES SOLD10 duplexes sold in 2016, 4 with basements  7 duplexes sold in 2015, 3 with basementsUnlike the Dunbarton Single Family Home Year in Review for 2016, duplexes actually saw more sales in 2016 than the previous year.  Let's see how the sales break down by quarter. 1st Quarter:  2 sales in 2016; 0 sales in 20152nd Quarter:  4 sales in 2016; 3 sales in 20153rd Quarter:  2 sales in 2016; 1 sale in 20154th Quarter:  2 sales in 2016; 3 sales in 2015The second quarter seems...
Comments 4