Things That Fail a Home Inspection

A home inspection isn’t mandatory for the sale of a home, but everyone will strongly advise a buyer to go through with one. This is because homes can have unseen issues that the seller may not even know about. A buyer will want to see the extent of the home’s physical condition and what needs repairs or may need repairs in the future. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, a home inspection can occasionally kick up some unfriendly surprises that must be dealt with before a sale can be closed. Some buyers may not care about a home’s damage, but most will. Home inspections will analyze the home from top to bottom, inside and out. You should know the top reasons a home inspection will fail and ensure your house doesn’t contain any of them.

What do home inspectors look for?

Home inspectors aren’t looking for reasons you shouldn’t buy or sell a house. They’re analyzing the house’s condition and noting potential problems. They’re going to examine the roof, the attic, the inside walls and outlets, the structures of the windows, the electrical, the water pressure and pipes, the driveway, the exterior and foundation, the lawn, the drainage, and everything they can generally get to. This list is exhaustive. Home inspectors are expert generalists when it comes to a home, and their inspection will create a full accounting of the property.

Top 10 things that fail a home inspection

1. Foundation

There are a few ways to uncover foundation issues within a home. If the floor slopes, or if there are large cracks in the walls, ceiling, or exterior, those can all point to foundational issues. Damp basements or moldy crawl spaces can indicate problems as well. Foundation issues require foundation specialists to come in and create a report to outline repairs. Depending on the size and scope of these repairs, it can be costly if it wasn’t caught early. Poor drainage in the lawn can also indicate foundation repairs. If water can’t run away from the home, it will flow into it instead. These foundational issues can also lead to termites or other pests (see below). Finally, a cracked foundation could also indicate radon (a radioactive gas) within the home, which would need immediate mitigation. 

2. Roofing

The roof is expensive and, therefore, one of the biggest reasons homes fail inspections. If the shingles are in bad condition or are generally worn down, the home may need a new roof. While a missing shingle is easy to replace, one with rotting wood or a roof that leaks or sags are a major repair. If water does leak into the attic, this can cause mold and mildew, which again can lead to pests, such as termites.  

3. Plumbing

When pipes aren’t working correctly, this can become a costly renovation. While an inspector may note a slow drain (time to buy some Drano), they’re concerned with leaking pipes, water stains, a sewer odor, low water pressure, and mildew. Water damage can cause mold, mildew, wood rot, and damage to the structure, which can fit into many of the categories on this list. 

4. Electrical

Most electrical problems aren’t crazy expensive to fix, but they can be an extreme fire hazard. A home inspector will look at the wiring and ensure there’s no cause for concern. If you have flickering lights in the home, this may be a sign that you have an electrical issue. Old aluminum wiring is prone to fires and would need to be replaced entirely. 

5. Mold

Mold is a sign that water is somewhere in the home. Not only can mold stink, but it can cause health problems and be costly to remove. The odds are high that if you found mold, you’re also now looking for a water problem, either with the pipes (number three on our list) or within the foundation (number one on our list).

6. Termites

Termites and other pests are an issue nobody wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to inherit. If a home inspection reveals any signs of pests, such as droppings, or signs of pest damage, the inspector will refer you to a pest inspector. They’ll do a thorough search and plan how to deal with the pests.


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

8. Hazardous materials 

If asbestos, radon, or other toxic materials are found within the home, they will need to be removed. Signs of lead paint on older homes can also lead to a failed home inspection. Radon is usually a result of a cracked foundation and is the second lead cause of lung cancer (smoking is the first). It’s silent, odorless, and seeps up through the soil as a natural process of how it breaks down in nature. 

9. Safety features

You don’t need a security system to pass a home inspection, but you do need locks on the doors and smoke alarms in the various rooms. A home inspection also ensures buildings are up to code if renovations or additions occur.

10. Overall condition 

A few weathered areas of the home won’t fail an inspection, but a lot of them will. If the home shows that it hasn’t been maintained to a certain degree, a home inspection that doesn’t pass on a number of the little things may fail.

Tricks to pass home inspection

The best way to pass a home inspection honestly is to understand what the inspector is looking for. Do your own inspection, and see what you find. There’s no secret way to hide major issues; they simply need to be fixed. That, or a buyer will use them to negotiate the cost of the fix off their sales price. Ensure your home is free of clutter, and a fresh coat of paint never hurts. A seller must state problem areas of the home that they are aware of. It’s better to get in front of these rather than avoid them.

Home inspections fail because the home’s condition is a problem for the potential buyer. It’s important to note that while we say ‘fail,’ there’s not really a passing grade. Inspectors will indicate that these are major factors that should be dealt with before purchasing the home. If the home you wish to buy fails an inspection, perhaps your seller will take the cost of repairs and renovations off the price. If not, you may want to walk away. These issues are not small trifles. They’re expensive and can escalate into more expensive problems down the line. Your home inspector is there to provide honesty and clarity. If a home fails an inspection, that’s a good time to really pay attention, even if it looks like your dream home.