Whether you’re buying or selling a house, a home inspection is a major part of the traditional process—and a daunting one. Home inspections account for one-third of all failed deals, making them the most common reason for one party to back out. The good news is that most of these fails are fixable or even avoidable if you’re willing to be proactive.
As a buyer, you should know what could cause your dream home to become unbuyable for you, and, if you’re a seller, you have to know what to take care of before you list your house.
While minor issues found during home inspections might not cause too much of a problem, major issues could bring high repair costs that no one can afford or even make the house unlivable.
In this article, we’ll discuss the common things that fail a home inspection, the importance of passing, and what to do if issues pop up.
The Importance of Passing a Home Inspection
While home inspections aren’t technically “pass or fail,” people use the term fail to describe a home inspection with results that might cause a buyer to back out. Once an inspector identifies such major issues, it can be almost impossible to sell your home without fixing them—unless you take a lowball offer.
Most sellers, understandably, don’t want to do this. Thus, checking these issues out before you list your house and taking the time to get them fixed (even if it involves saving money for a while) could prevent a lot of hassle in the long run.
You might be tempted to cover up those issues in an attempt to pass and sell your home, but home inspectors are good at sniffing things out—and even if they don’t, you can end up in legal trouble later if you knowingly sell a house with massive problems.
As a buyer, the idea of a failed home inspection on your dream house can be intimidating. And if you’re rushing the process or trying to make a competitive offer, you might even be tempted to skip the home inspection altogether—but don’t.
Your dream home won’t still be your dream home in a year if the roof is caving in, the sewer line is spitting sewage back into the house, or the mold is so strong you can smell it when you walk in the door. Even newly built homes require an inspection to ensure the construction was completed correctly.
Always take your time with your search, listen to the home inspector, and negotiate repairs when you need to.
13 Common Things That Come Up in a Home Inspection
As you head into your home inspection, you should bear in mind the most common home inspection issues. If you’re buying a house, make sure the inspector has reported on each of these issues and check out the results carefully before proceeding.
1. Cracked Foundation
While a cracked foundation may not seem like the end of the world, it’s an indicator of huge issues within the home and one of the most common home inspection problems. The problems that result from a cracked foundation include doors and windows that can’t close properly, framing problems, and leaks.
The most common causes of a cracked foundation are:
- Part of the foundation moving
- Tree roots growing under the house
- Steel reinforcement failing
- Earthquakes or a landslide
Cracks can be pretty inexpensive to fix if you catch them early and they are hairline fractures. The issue is that fixing cracks is usually a temporary solution, and the problems may come back to bite later, so think carefully about taking this on in a home.
2. Ground Sloping Towards the House
Ideally, the ground outside of your home should slope slightly downwards from the house to allow rainwater to flow away. However, sometimes when an owner has done intense yard work to the house, this can change, and water may not have the ability to flow away from the house anymore. This can lead to standing water and floods: a huge red flag.
A good home inspector will check the slope of the ground and might consider it a serious issue if the situation isn’t ideal.
3. Water Damage
Water damage is a broad issue that could mean several things within the home. Rotting wood, for example, is a significant problem that excess water can bring about. Moisture can get into the foundation and cause it to rot as well. And where there’s water, there’s often mold—a common issue in the southeast.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for water damage, but if you haven’t, make sure your home inspector checks for this thoroughly.
Pro Tip: If you’re a buyer, always find out if the homes you’re considering are in a flood zone. Homes in flood zones are at a higher risk for water damage.
4. Pest Damage
Pests are, unfortunately, a common problem in US homes. About 14.8 million houses reported seeing mice or rats within their walls in a given year.
It’s not just that pests are unsightly and unhygienic, but pests can also cause severe damage to the structure of your home, and they don’t have to be large to do it. Termites and ants can chew through wood and cause damage to the structure of the house. If you’ve ever heard scratching in the walls, get it checked out as soon as possible.
As a buyer, you don’t want to move into a home that has unaddressed pest damage, even if the pests have long since vacated the premises. When they come in droves, you’d be surprised at what tiny critters can do to the structural integrity of a large building.
5. HVAC Issues
If you live in a hot state like Florida or Arizona, you know how important the HVAC is. In the summer months, it’s practically a human right, so it’s one of the common home inspection fails that matters most.
A home inspector will do their due diligence to ensure the HVAC is working correctly—both on the heating and cooling side. They’ll also make sure the HVAC system was properly installed and doesn’t have any problems after you move in. If you’re lucky and a professional has replaced it recently, it may even come with a transferable warranty which you should ask the seller about.
6. Roofing Issues
The roof is a costly repair or replacement, and damage to the top of a house can open it up to many problems you don’t want to deal with (like water damage).
As a seller, you should check that it’s in good condition and that there are no leaks.
As a buyer, you should take note of anything the home inspector says about the roof. Even if it’s okay for now, you may need to replace it in the next few years. If this is the case, make sure you’ll have the thousands of dollars required for the job when the time comes.
7. Code Violations
Building codes are local standards set for the safety of homes, and occasionally, they get updated. Code violations are often discovered during a home inspection, whether it’s because they were recently updated or because the previous owner was a DIY-er without the right permits.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not be required to update the home as the seller. You can also get in trouble for knowingly selling a house with code violations.
As the buyer, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with the violation in question and work with your realtor to determine if it’s worth taking on or how much negotiating power it gives you.
8. Plumbing Problems
Unfortunately, your home inspector won’t be able to check everything when it comes to the plumbing, as it’s nearly impossible for them to get down to the sewer line. However, they will check all of the water is running properly and that there are no problems with exposed pipes.
If you suspect something may be amiss with your main sewer line before you sell your home, hire a plumber to run a camera through it. If you have trees in your yard, it’s a good idea to do this as a precautionary measure because tree roots can work their way through the pipes and cause things to slowly back up as those roots take hold.
9. Electrical Issues
You should take electrical issues seriously, as they not only cause problems with the house but can endanger its inhabitants. Home inspectors will mainly look for faulty or damaged wires and multiple wires on a single breaker.
However, most electrical issues are pretty easily fixed by a professional and may not be too expensive either, so although these can cause a home inspection to fail, they’re not always a troublemaker.
You might be able to detect mold by that tell-tale musty scent that has you wrinkling your nose or even by physically seeing it. It could be a sign that water damage has gone way too far, and, like electrical issues, it can be dangerous to the inhabitants—especially if someone has respiratory problems.
Don’t move into a home that has noticeable mold without resolving the issue; it’s not worth compromising your physical wellbeing.
11. The Presence of Toxic Substances
Toxic materials and gasses can be a real issue—and carbon monoxide is one of the most common. Very high levels can kill someone, but an alarm will detect it before it ever gets to that point. A home inspector will check to ensure the home has a working carbon monoxide alarm.
Other toxic substances in a home might include liquids and solids, such as lead. Lead may be present in paint or dust in an old building, and children under five are particularly sensitive to its poisonous qualities. Not all standard inspectors check for lead, so be sure to ask yours if they will.
12. Issues With Windows and Doors
It’s important for the windows and doors in your home to function properly for safety’s sake, including making sure that they all open, close, and lock properly. Foundation issues can cause doors and windows to become unstable and unreliable, but other issues might have a hand in this too, such as cracks in the wall or problems with the framework.
While it’s not always expensive to replace doors and windows, it becomes a much bigger job if the structure of the home causes the issue. Bear in mind that if a home inspector tells you there’s something wrong with them—you’re likely not seeing the root cause.
13. Broken Kitchen Appliances
If the house comes with kitchen appliances, your home inspector will check these out. As a buyer, it may not be the biggest deal in the world if you need a new microwave—but make sure you’re aware of which appliances are functional and which aren’t, as the cost can add up. It’s important to know how much you’ll have to spend to make the house livable and comfortable for you.
What Happens When a House Fails a Home Inspection
For the most part, it’s up to the buyer. There’s no grade given after a complete home inspection, and the inspector doesn’t mandate a ruling on what each party has to do next. If you’re buying a house, you’ll get the results of the report, and the seller will have to wait on your decision. Are the faults too much for you? Are you willing to go ahead right away, or are further conversations required?
If you as a buyer still want the home but aren’t happy with the issues present, there are two ways you can go about the negotiations:
- Asking the seller to complete repairs before closing on the house
- Asking for the seller for repair credit
This negotiation will lengthen the buying journey, but think about how long you’ll live in this home. The extra couple of weeks to get yourself the best deal and ensure you’ll be living in a safe home is likely very worth it.
Of course, if repairs come up that will be too long or costly, you also have the right to back out within the inspection contingency. The period varies between contracts, so make sure you’re aware of it and act before the time is up.
If you’re selling a house and the home inspection reveals issues, there’s nothing official you can do but wait and see what the buyer thinks—though you can be proactive and offer to foot some of the repairs if you don’t want to see the deal fall through.
Not All Things That Fail a Home Inspection Are Deal-Breakers
It’s important to know that not every issue brought up on a report means a failed home inspection or that the sale will fall through. Typical home inspection findings always include something less than perfect when the home has been lived in. It’s up to you to decide where you draw the line.
However, major issues are bound to make a buyer back out, and you should never take on a house that has more problems than you can afford.
As a seller, it’s your responsibility to get the house in the best shape you can to make sure the selling process goes smoothly and be a trustworthy person to do business with. As a buyer, you should consider everything on the report and advocate for yourself where you need to. Never be afraid to enter negotiations (with the advice of your realtor on what’s realistic) if something unaffordable pops up.