Things That Fail a Home Inspection

If you’re selling a home, the odds are high that your buyer will have a home inspection done as a contingency of the sale. One reason is many banks push people into a home inspection as a term for receiving loans and because home inspections are security checks for such large purchases. Another reason is peace of mind when purchasing or selling a property. If you’re selling your home or looking to buy, you may wonder, “what do home inspectors look for?”

A home inspector will come to your home and examine it from top to bottom, inside and out. This inspection does not pass or fail, nor is it intended to scrutinize your home. It’s an outside, unbiased assessment of the property. A home inspector’s job is to report on the home’s condition, for better or worse. They may note whether a roof is on the older side yet still in good condition. They may find traces of termite damage and advise that the home receive treatment for pests.

While there’s no actual pass or fail in a home inspection, large red flags may sway your buyer away from a purchase. These red flags are the things that fail a home inspection, so to speak, as they are costly and time-consuming to fix. If significant problems are found with your home during an inspection, your buyer will use potential repair costs to lower your asking price or walk away from the sale altogether.

What do home inspectors look for?

So what does a home inspector look for? A home inspector looks at a home’s condition and notes potential repairs that are needed or may be needed in the near future. They’re looking for safety and financial concerns. They will examine all home areas for these concerns, including the roof, the attic, the walls – outside and in, the lawn, and the foundation. They will examine the windows’ structures, the electrical systems, the water pressure, and the driveway.

What do they look for in a home inspection? The home inspector is looking for flaws, hazards, and concerns. If a home has evidence of a termite infestation, a home inspector wants to make a note of it. If the roof needs replacing in the next year, the home inspector will state this and explain their reasoning. They will create a thorough report on the condition of the home to educate their clients on the property. A home inspector doesn’t offer opinions on a property’s value nor advise clients on whether they should buy. A home inspector may be able to advise contractors to call for specific issues if asked.

Top 10 things that “fail” a home inspection

These top 10 things “fail” a home inspection or produce a negative outcome. This list provides a good idea of what the home inspector looks at overall.

1. Foundation

The home inspector will look for foundation issues, which show themselves through several clues. A sloping floor and large cracks in the walls, ceiling, or exterior, can all point to foundational issues. Damp basements, moldy crawl spaces, and poor lawn drainage can also indicate problems. If water can’t flow away from the home, it may flow inside it instead.

If they find issues, you’ll want a foundation specialist to come in and create a report which outlines repairs. If you discover the foundation issue early, the needed repairs may be relatively small in scope and cost. Foundational issues tend to get worse exponentially. They attract termites and other pests and may even indicate radon – a radioactive gas – within the home. These problems require immediate attention.

2. Roofing

Roofing is expensive, which is why it’s one of the biggest reasons home inspections can produce a negative outcome. The home may need a new roof if the shingles are in bad condition. Replacing one missing shingle is a small task, but home inspectors are more concerned with whether the roof leaks, sags, or has rotting wood.

If a roof is rotting, sagging, or leaking, this can lead to mold and mildew within the attic. Moisture attracts pests such as termites, which only cause further problems. Roofs are expensive to fix, but they protect your home from many problems.

3. Plumbing

The plumbing can be a costly renovation if it needs replacing. Your home inspector isn’t so concerned about a slow drain – though they’ll note it down – they’re more concerned with evidence that points to more significant issues. The big plumbing concerns are leaking pipes, water stains, sewer odor, low water pressure, and mildew. Water damage causes several problems, most of which “fail” a home inspection on their own, such as wood rot, mold, or structural damage.

4. Electrical

Compared to other concerns on this list, most electrical problems aren’t crazy expensive to fix. These problems can be a significant fire hazard, so electrical systems and wiring are a primary concern to home inspectors. Flickering lights are a sign of electrical issues. If you have an old home, and your wiring is aluminum, an advisor will recommend you replace the wires immediately because they are a fire hazard.

5. Mold

Mold results from water entering your home and can become a big problem. It stinks, causes health issues, and can be costly to remove and prevent. Mold is a problem by itself, but it couldn’t exist without water, so you may also have a problem with the pipes, the foundation, or the roof.

6. Termites

A home inspector will look through a home as thoroughly as possible. They keep a sharp eye out for classic signs of termites, such as droppings or indicators of pest damage. If your inspector discovers these, they will recommend a pest inspector – someone who specializes in pests and the damage they cause – to take a closer look. A pest inspector will help you with your next steps in dealing with these unwanted intruders.


If your heating system smells of gas or produces carbon monoxide within the home, that’s bad news. A home inspector will check for faulty wiring, cracks within your ductwork, and refrigerant leaks. An HVAC appliance with installation can cost $10,000 or higher.

8. Hazardous materials 

General home inspections don’t test for hazardous materials. Still, if there are signs of them, the inspector will note it and even recommend you complete a specialized inspection. If a home is built before the 1980s, an inspector may advise the home to be specially checked for lead paint or asbestos. An inspector may advise the home to be checked for radon if there is a cracked foundation. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (smoking is the first) and is silent and odorless. It seeps up through the soil as a natural process of breaking down in nature. 

9. Safety features

Safety features do play a part in a home inspection. While you don’t need a state-of-the-art security system to impress a home inspector, you need locks on the doors and smoke detectors in each room. Any additions or add-ons also need to be up to safety codes.

10. Overall condition 

Most homes are not perfect. The average home has some areas that need upgrading but aren’t hazardous to the home or its residents. Your inspector will note a few weathered areas of the home without concern, but if there are a lot of weathered areas, it shows the home isn’t well maintained. A home inspector will point that out to any potential buyer and that they may have some renovation bills incoming.

Tips to pass a home inspection

By now, you can answer the big question, “what do home inspectors look for?” The trick to ensuring your home inspection has a favorable outcome is to do your due diligence and perform an inspection of your own. There’s no secret way to hide significant issues – they simply need to be fixed. If you can’t, or won’t, fix large issues, your buyer will want to offset their repair costs against the home’s asking price.

You can create a solid first impression by clearing the home of clutter and giving the walls a coat of fresh paint. If you’re aware of potential problems, you’ll need to declare them when selling the home, so it’s best to get in front of them rather than avoid them.

As you know, home inspectors look for significant issues in the home that will require financial attention. A home inspection doesn’t pass or fail a home; it just reports on the home as it is. If the home is in bad shape or requires major repairs, most buyers stay away from it or negotiate the price down. These are the issues that people associate with a failing home inspection.

The things that “fail” a home inspection are expensive and can escalate into further expensive problems. If you own a home, and the inspector has concerns, they aren’t doing it to hurt you. These concerns are unbiased and worth directing your attention toward. Ultimately, a home inspection provides clarity and information. What a person does with that information is ultimately up to them.