Home Inspector Checking Exterior Near Basement Window Wells

Things That Would Fail A Home Inspection, And How To Fix Them Before You Sell

Lauren Nowacki7 Minute Read
June 23, 2021

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The results of a home inspection can make or break a home sale. If the inspector finds something wrong with a major system or a hidden safety issue, you could be on the hook for fixing the problem or, worse, your deal could fall through. To make sure that doesn’t happen, prepare your house ahead of time by knowing the things that fail a home inspection and how to look for them on your property.

How Does A Home Inspection Work?

A home inspection requires a third-party home inspector to come out to the home and provide a professional assessment of various features, including the roof, heating system, foundation, electrical and plumbing systems and other interior and exterior structures. They’ll check to make sure systems and appliances work correctly, examine areas for damage and check for potential issues and safety hazards. They may take pictures, write down notes and use special equipment to help them detect things like moisture, electrical issues or poisonous materials. They’ll fill out a report that details what they find and determines whether the property passed or failed the home inspection.

A home inspection is often necessary in a real estate transaction because it helps the buyer – and lender – ensure they’re making a good investment. It also ensures the home is safe to live in. Typically, a contingent offer will require a home inspection to be done before a sale can happen because, if the inspection report shows any major problems, the buyer can back out of the real estate deal.

How To Look For Major Home Inspection Issues

If you want to sell a house, it may be wise to inspect it before listing to look for any potential issues before an official inspection. This can help eliminate any surprises and give you time to correct any home inspection deal-breakers before they mess with your sale. While you can also order a professional inspection, it does cost a few hundred dollars, so consider doing your own first.

To look for major home inspection issues, check the following areas of the home:

  • Any exposed pipes
  • Basement walls, corners and the place where the floor meets the wall
  • The attic
  • The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit
  • The roof and chimney
  • Windows and doors
  • The outdoor perimeter of the home

You won’t need any fancy equipment, just your eyes, ears and nose. When investigating these areas, here are the issues you’ll want to watch for. These are the things that fail a home inspection.

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Common Home Inspection Deal Breakers

These are the 12 most common things that fail a home inspection:

1. Foundation Problems

Foundation issues can affect a home’s value and safety. At best, they can allow moisture and pests into the home, cause floors to warp and at worst, foundation problems can cause walls to collapse and put the stability of your home at risk. Either way, foundation repair can be extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars, which is one of the reasons they can affect a home’s value.

What to look for:

  • Cracks on the exterior walls of the home
  • Leaning or tilting chimney
  • Sagging or uneven floors
  • Cabinets separating from the wall
  • Windows and doors that don’t open or shut properly
  • Cracks in interior walls and ceilings
  • Bowing walls

2. Roofing Issues

Along with the foundation, the roof is a major part of the home and is one of the costlier repairs you’ll have to make. It also protects homeowners and the interior of the home from the elements. Inspectors often check to see if the roofing materials are in good shape, need repair or have water damage.

What to look for:

  • Damage to the shingles
  • Missing shingles
  • Missing flashing
  • Signs of water damage on the roof and in the attic
  • Decay
  • Signs of sagging or weak spots

3. Plumbing Or Pipe Problems

Another major part of the home – and one that is expensive to repair – is your plumbing system. Pipe problems can cause water damage, cause your bill to increase and ruin your stuff. You’ll need to inspect your pipes for signs of trouble. Of course, some pipes reside behind the walls, which makes it harder to detect leaks, so you’ll have to get creative.

What to look for:

  • Visible leaks coming from exposed pipes
  • Signs of water, including stains and mildew
  • Sounds of running water or dripping
  • Low water pressure
  • A rise in your water bills, but not in your usage

4. Electrical Issues

Electrical issues can be a safety hazard and cause house fires and, thus, are taken seriously. Faulty wiring, outdated systems and multiple wires using a single breaker are just a few electrical–related things that fail a home inspection.

What to look for:

  • Faulty, damaged or exposed wiring
  • Outdated or damaged electrical panel
  • Overloaded breakers
  • Switches or outlets that don’t work

5. Building Code Violations

It may not feel like it, but building codes are typically in place to benefit current and future homeowners, and they’ll vary from one location to the next. If something in your home violates your city’s building codes – or lacks the necessary permit, it can be a major home inspection issue and safety concern. Not all violations will fail the inspection. In fact, many houses will have several violations and pass just fine. It’s best to review your city’s specific building codes and talk to your real estate agent.

What to look for:

  • Permits for any additions or other projects done on the home
  • Violations based on your specific city’s codes and ordinances

6. HVAC Problems

Certain HVAC issues can fail a home inspection due to a matter of safety. Your inspector will want to know your system is working properly, has proper ventilation and isn’t leaking carbon monoxide, refrigerant or any other harmful toxins.

What to look for:

  • Refrigerant leaks
  • Cracks in ductwork
  • Loose electrical connections
  • Squeaks, noises or bangs coming from your unit
  • The smell of gas
  • The presence of carbon monoxide (using a detector)

7. Mold

The discovery of mold can cause you to fail a home inspection because it often indicates a bigger problem – water. It also spreads and can be a health hazard for those that live in the house.

What to look for:

  • Standing water
  • Musty smells
  • Actual, physical mold

8. Termites And Other Pests

There’s a reason they call them pests. Termites, carpenter ants, rodents and other pests can be another reason a home inspection fails. Pests can make your living environment unsafe and also threaten the structural integrity of a home. Things like termite damage and signs of other pests can deter home buyers, so you’ll want to watch for these signs of infestations.

What to look for:

  • Rodent droppings
  • Scratching and rustling noises
  • Nest materials
  • Holes or gnaw marks in your wood
  • Swarming
  • Buckling wood
  • Swollen floors or ceilings
  • Visible tunnels in your wood
  • Mold or mildew smells

9. Windows And Doors Issues

Warped or broken windows and doors can hurt your home inspection because they are a safety and security issue. They can also be a sign of more serious issues, like foundation problems.

What to look for:

  • Difficulty opening or shutting doors and windows
  • Broken or malfunctioning locks
  • Large, uneven spacing at top of closed doors
  • Broken windows
  • Windows letting in outside air or water

10. Toxic Materials

Old homes were often built with materials that are now determined to be toxic, this may include asbestos and lead paint. Other times, toxic materials like carbon monoxide and radon can be leaked into the home through faulty appliances or cracks in the foundation. Toxic materials are harmful to those residing in the home and, often, must be removed before the home can pass inspection.

What to look for:

  • Presence of radon or carbon monoxide (using a test kit or detector)
  • Certain types of tiles, textured paints and insulation (asbestos in certain objects is not considered dangerous if it’s not disturbed or damaged)

11. Structural Issues

There are other structural issues besides the foundation – and they can be just as costly to repair. Structural issues are a safety concern and a big turn–off to potential homebuyers. If you notice structural issues in your home or think you may have some, it may be a good idea to consult a structural engineer.

What to look for:

  • Sagging floors, rafters or roof
  • Sloping floor
  • Cracks in exterior brick or mortar
  • Wood rot
  • Cracks on walls or around windows and door frames
  • Damp subfloors

12. Drainage Problems

Water can wreak havoc on a home. If your home has drainage problems and you’re not diverting water from the home, you’re inviting major problems.

What to look for:

  • Overflowing gutters
  • Flooding in your yard
  • Water pooling near the home
  • Water leaking into the basement
  • Musty smells
  • Mold and mildew
  • Efflorescence on your basement walls

What To Do After Your Home Fails An Inspection

Once the home inspector completes the home inspection, they’ll write up a report, listing any issues and safety risks. If the home inspection fails or there are more issues listed than the potential buyer is comfortable with, the buyers may back out of the sale. If they wish to continue with the sale, they may require you to fix some or all of the issues and foot the bill or they may negotiate the sale price down to cover the costs to fix the issues after they purchase the home.

If the buyers walk away or require you to address any problems the inspector finds, you may need to consider bringing in other professionals. Depending on the issue, you may need to get a pest inspection done, work with a structural engineer to fix the foundation or hire a team to remove mold or other toxic substances.

The Bottom Line: Prevent A Failed House Inspection

A home inspection is an important part of the home buying process and could cause a deal to fall through. To help prevent the shock and stress of a failed house inspection, try to do your own inspection ahead of time. Know the common things that fail a home inspection and look for the signs and symptoms of each. You can do this on your own or hire a professional. If you notice anything, it’s wise to get it fixed before the potential buyer has an inspection completed on the home. If you’re thinking about selling your house, read more home selling tips in the Rocket Homes® Seller’s Guide.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.