Common Mistakes Homeowners Make in Northern Virginia

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

Our real estate market can be pretty intense most of the year, especially on the buyer side in recent years.

We see multiple offers and bidding wars as a common practice, along with people waiving inspections and contingencies in the contract to “win.” You do what you gotta do, right? Well here’s what I see as the problem with that.

Once you “win,” people often forget some of the basics they should be doing now that they’ve bought a house either because you’re so excited (which I totally understand!), or because nobody was there to tell you to do some of these things. Besides a basic home inspection, here are some common issues we see all the time in our area that homeowners should be aware of.


Northern Virginia is home to many subterranean termites. They lives in the soil beneath and around homes and enter through wood that touches the ground. They can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage if left undetected. Our real estate contract has the opportunity to conduct a wood destroying insect (termites, carpenter bees, beetles, etc) inspection.

But here’s where people go wrong: just because none were found at that time, doesn’t mean you’ll never have them! I highly encourage people to make sure they specify a termite contract with an insect company. Most of them only do pests — spiders, ants, crickets — but you have to ask for termites as well. In my own personal home, we’ve never had termites, but I did a preventative treatment on my house so I wouldn’t have to worry or even think about it. Treatments are good for 5 years. Termites can be found in single family homes, townhomes and condos under the 4th floor (per lender guidelines).


Radon is an odorless, tasteless, colorless natural element that emits from the ground. It can cause lung cancer. Virginia as a state has high levels of radon naturally occurring. If you see this EPA map, Fairfax County as a whole, falls between highest and moderate potential for radon levels around the EPA safe limit of 4 pC/L. Just like termites, just because you test it once, doesn’t mean you won’t have high levels of radon.

It’s a naturally occurring element and can change day to day. The way to test for radon is through a 48 hour air sample. They take on average over 2 days to see where your levels fall. If the reading is above 4.0 pC/L, they recommend installing a radon abatement system, which is basically a fan system to pull the air out and dispense it above the roofline. The approximate cost for this system runs about $1,000 depending on your personal home and where it’ll go. Many times, with remediation, you can get below 1 pC/L.

Level 2 Chimney Inspections

Older homes in our area have masonry chimneys and if left unkept, can deteriorate over time. The masonry inside can crack and break down, water can get in the chimneys and flues can leak smoke through the chamber.

I highly recommend a level 2 chimney inspection, where a chimney company actually sends a camera with a light into the chimney. The fix recommended lately is a stainless steel chimney liner, which costs about $3,000 depending on the height of the flue. They usually come with a lifetime warranty.

These are common issues I’ve been finding lately that people don’t think about because they’re not easily visible or everyday issues.

It’s hard to see past a leaking toilet, but it’s very easy to never see these 3 issues.

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