After inspecting hundreds of homes, I have a strong idea of what will ‘fail’ a home inspection for a buyer.
Sometimes it is very expensive problems that have to do with the roof, HVAC system, or even attic insulation. But other times small issues like rotted wood, peeling paint, and signs of poor maintenance can cause a buyer to walk.
To learn more about serious issues that can ‘fail’ a home inspection, I invite you to read my guide on foundation defects that I found during home inspections.
In this guide, I will go over…
- My top list of home inspection fails
- How to prevent these issues
- Prepping your home for the inspection
Table of contents
- What Things Will Fail A Home Inspection?
- 1. Defective Roofing
- 2. Rotted Exterior Wood
- 3. Old, Dirty, And Moldy HVAC Systems
- 4. Interior Water Leaks
- 5. Deteriorated Attic Insulation
- 6. Poor Water Pressure
- 7. Poor Windows
- Final Thoughts
What Things Will Fail A Home Inspection?
Technically, a home inspection can’t fail. Home inspectors aren’t allowed to pass or fail a house — there is no such thing. Only a government official can condemn a house as being unsafe or unlivable. And there are also seasoned investors that buy dilapidated houses all the time.
But every buyer has there own failure or tipping point where they will walk away from the purchase. A home inspection ‘fail’ will be different for every buyer, and first time buyers are usually the most sensitive to repairs or undisclosed problems.
The most common home inspection fails will be for big items such as a needed roof replacement, HVAC system failure, foundation problems, defective plumbing, and other issues. But small items can also make a big difference such as rotted exterior wood, uneven floors, and even mice in the attic.
To learn about my detailed list of things that can fail a home inspection, keep reading…
1. Defective Roofing
Defective roofing can definitely fail a home inspection in a buyer’s mind.
Inspecting the roof is one of the first things I do, and I walk around the home with binoculars or sometimes use a ladder to walk it. And frequently, the buyer is with me, walking around the home, as I take pictures of the roof. So when there are missing shingles, curling shingles, crumbling shingles, it will stick in the buyer’s head throughout the entire inspection.
Depending on the size of the roof, it can cost $5,000 on the low side, but as high as $30,000+ for larger roofs with architectural shingles.
Missing shingles is one thing if the whole roof is still in good shape, but if the entire roof looks like it needs to be replaced, or if it is 20+ years in age, I usually recommend that the buyer “budgets for a new roof in the near future”.
3-tab asphalt shingle roof covering. Seller stated at inspection that it is 15 years or older. Due to age, buyer should budget for a new roof covering in the near future. I also noticed one damaged shingle on the left side of home. I also observed an area of missing shingles on the front left, and some uneven and damaged shingles on rear left. Evaluation of roof covering by a qualified roofer is recommended.
Walk around your home and note any missing shingles, curling shingles, roof deterioration, or other problems. Having a licensed roofer fix any roof defects and certify on the physical receipt that the issues have been repaired.
Having an older roof usually isn’t a deal killer as long as it is in good condition.
Read Also: How To Inspect A Home For Asbestos?
2. Rotted Exterior Wood
Rotted exterior wood is usually cheap to fix, but it can really freak out first time homebuyers.
As I walk around the exterior of the home, I carry a small tool called an awl. An awl is basically just a thin and sharp piece of metal that I use to probe for deteriorated wood. Whether it is window sills, door trim, garage door trim, posts, decks, or other areas — I thoroughly check for rotted wood.
Any time wood isn’t painted, sealed, or otherwise covered — it can deteriorate in the presence of water.
And don’t confuse the common term of “rotted wood” with actual wood fungus — they aren’t the same thing — I am referring to deterioration which may or may not have fungus.
Thoroughly walk the exterior of the home, probing for rotted wood, especially at the corners of windows, doors, and the bottom of wood posts.
Have a contractor excavate the wood deterioration, and fill it with new wood or with wood putty. Smaller holes can be filled with exterior caulking. Never paint over rotted wood because home inspectors can find it.
Read Also: How To Inspect Home Foundations?
3. Old, Dirty, And Moldy HVAC Systems
If there is one thing that can scare a new home buyer, it is a disgusting HVAC system. I am talking about HVAC systems that are filled with dust, mold, and rusted parts.
Most Sellers don’t realize that home inspectors usually take off the front cover of the furnace or heat pump. And quite often, the buyer is standing right next to us when we do it.
In my area, the north east U.S., we get a lot of mold in our HVAC because our air can get very humid. And if the evaporator coil is covered in rust, that can also make eyes roll. If you want to learn more about how I inspect houses for mold, you can read my guide on mold inspections here.
Look, if a seller has an older HVAC system, let’s say 15-years or older, it isn’t a deal killer. But you can at least make sure it is well-maintained, clean, and can show a receipt that it was recently serviced.
Unfortunately, most HVAC companies don’t really ‘clean’ anything, so you will likely have to hire an air duct cleaning company to thoroughly clean the furnace and possibly the air ducts. According to the EPA, the HVAC system should be turned off when it is cleaned so it doesn’t spread mold spores throughout the home.
It would be a good idea for any home seller to remove their HVAC cover, and take a look inside for any surprises.
4. Interior Water Leaks
Similar to finding rotted wood on the outside, interior water leaks or staining usually isn’t a big deal in the money sense — but it can seriously turn off a buyer.
When I am inspecting a home, I am shining a high powered flashlight in every nook and cranny of the house.
And anytime I see some type of stain on a wall or a ceiling, I investigate it. I take my moisture meter, and I put it up against the stain. If there is any residual moisture in that area, I will find it.
I can’t make any holes in the wall, but I can recommend that the area is further investigated by a contractor. And even if there is no moisture, just a stain, I will at minimum put in the report to “ask the seller for more information”.
If your home has several plus water stains on the ceilings, it can make a buyer doubt the purchase and about the quality of the plumbing.
If you have any water stains on the ceiling or wall, don’t just leave it there.
First make sure that the leak was actually fixed, and then you can paint the area as long as there isn’t any wall damage.
Read Also: How To Inspect Homes For Mold?
5. Deteriorated Attic Insulation
Home inspectors always check the attic — it is frequently the last thing I do in a home.
If the attic doesn’t have a drop down ladder, I will grab my adjustable ladder from my car trunk, and carry it to the attic hatch.
The first thing I look for is anything out of the ordinary such as signs of a roof leak. But I always closely inspect the insulation. Especially with older homes, the insulation is commonly in a poor condition.
Attics really should have 12+ inches of insulation, but many times older houses just a have a few inches. As stated by EnergyStar.gov, if the insulation is level with or below your floor joists — you simply don’t have enough. And there may be numerous areas where there is no insulation at all because I can see the ceiling drywall.
Besides poor or missing attic insulation, I sometimes find mice infestations in attics. The most obvious sign are these small circular tunnels in the fiberglass insulation. Mice tunnels, urine, and feces can ruin insulation. And if the mouse infestation is really bad, I can even smell urine in the attic, and it is pretty disgusting.
Adding or replacing attic insulation can get costly, but so can fixing a mice infestation — two things that can fail an inspection for a buyer.
It is a rare thing for homeowners to go into an attic, but if you are about to put your house on the market, it would be a good idea to see the condition for yourself.
- Is there enough insulation?
- Are there signs of rodents?
- Is there anything that will turn off a buyer?
6. Poor Water Pressure
One of the most common complaints that new buyers make is about poor water pressure. And if the buyer is walking around with me, it is one of the first things they notice. If your sinks, showers or tubs have low water pressure, water is barely coming out, then you should fix it prior to the home inspection.
Poor water pressure is on the list of low cost fixes, but anytime you can decrease the things wrong during a home inspection, the better the outcome.
Poor water pressure may be caused by some type of system problem such as low diameter piping, in which case a water pressure booster pump may solve the problem.
But with sinks, it usually is a simple thing such as a clogged aerator. The aerator (also known as the ‘screen) is a device that mixes air with the water to lower the amount of water used but making it seem like there is a higher water pressure.
Turn on all of your plumbing fixtures one by one, and check for low water pressure. Anything with low water pressure, such as sinks, replacing the aerator is recommended.
To remove an aerator, you will need unscrew it by using pliers, a plumbing wrench, or sometimes even by hand.
Other fixtures such as shower heads may need to be cleaned or replaced. You also just may have old corroded pipes that need to be addressed. Again, a water pressure booster pump may solve these low pressure problems. Plumber evaluation may be required.
7. Poor Windows
Having really bad windows or malfunctioning windows can also tip the scales for a buyer to back out of a home purchase. Replacing all the windows in a home can be a costly endeavor for a home buyer.
When I do a home inspection, I don’t normally open all of the windows but I always try to open at least 50% of them. And if the windows aren’t opening or closing properly, then it can become an issue for a buyer. Things like…
- Difficult to open or close
- Window falls down when opened
- Makes squeaks or noises
- Loose or not installed properly
And when I find several plus windows with issues, I will recommend having a window contractor fix these windows but to also evaluate all of the windows for additional problems. As a home inspector, I am not required to find every single problem. I am hired to look for indications that an entire system (such as windows) needs to be further evaluated by a contractor or engineer.
Also, if the windows are old single-paned wooden windows, they may operate flawlessly, but I always let my buyer know that they offer very little insulation and the buyer should consider upgrading.
Even if you have old windows, it may not be an issue in the sale as long as they are operating good and can be smoothly opened/closed.
If your windows aren’t working properly, I recommend having a window contractor service and lubricate all of the windows.
Even though a home inspection can’t truly ‘fail’, it can fail in the minds of your home buyer — and they will walk from the sale.
One hidden advantage a seller can gain is to actually hire a home inspector before it is put on the market. These are called pre-sale home inspections, and they can be highly valuable to a seller as long as your ego doesn’t get in the way.
If you expect the home inspector to sugarcoat the inspection report, that shouldn’t be the goal. The home inspector may literally find hundreds of items with the home, but that doesn’t mean you have to fix everything — just the important stuff.