It’s taken your real estate agent months to find you that perfect house, and in your excitement to put in an offer, you might not even think about things that fail a home inspection — why would you? No one wants to think for one second that the home they’ve fallen in love with could have some serious issues lurking!
Let’s shed some light on the most common things that fail a home inspection so you have an idea of what could put things on hold.
Why look for things that fail a home inspection?
The home inspection is a crucial step in the homebuying process because it could save you a lot of money in the long run. Although you may not want to shell out another $300 to $500 to have one, these inspections have saved homeowners an average of $14,000!
During the inspection, a licensed home inspector will come out to the property to look for any issues. They’ll check to make sure the home is structurally sound, that the electrical and plumbing work is safe, and more. As the inspector goes through the house, they may even recommend contacting specialized home inspectors for additional inspections.
15 things that fail a home inspection
One quick clarification: A home inspection isn’t necessarily a “pass” or “fail” test. It’s more about getting a description of the home’s physical condition and giving an assessment of what may need to be repaired or replaced in the home.
1. Ground sloping or draining toward the house.
In a perfect world, every lawn would have at least a 3% slope away from the home, which allows water to flow away from the home, preventing water damage. Even if the ground were graded correctly (for every 10 feet away from the foundation, the land should drop two to three inches), the house would settle, and the soil under the foundation may shift.
When there isn’t proper drainage, the home could suffer significant water damage. It could cause cracks in the settlement, create dampness in the crawlspace, and even make the foundation move. If water doesn’t drain away from the foundation, the moisture could be absorbed through the foundation and could also cause mold and rot.
Other factors that can lead to water intrusion include:
- Improperly built flashing systems behind the walls
- Significant changes to the landscaping (poorly laid patios, re-sloping the yard, etc.)
- Standing water
2. Problems with the foundation
Aside from water-wicking, the home inspector will look for other issues with the foundation. They’re going to look for cracks, too. 60% of homes in the US are built on land with some clay content (also known as expansive soil), which has the potential to shift up to two inches per season. A cracked foundation could mean there are framing problems, roofing issues, doors and windows that will not close, and leaks in the basement.
Other than drainage problems and settling soil, foundations could crack due to:
- Intrusive tree roots growing under the foundation
- Differential settlement (part of the foundation shifts but the rest does not)
- Missing or inadequate steel reinforcement (rebar) in the foundation
- A second story is added without properly reinforcing the original footing
- Natural occurrences, like earthquakes, sinkholes, landslide, or slope creep
3. Issues with plumbing and pipes
Plumbing problems and leaky pipes are common things that fail a home inspection. Sometimes these issues can be as simple as a leaking faucet or a slow drain, but they can also encompass larger problems, such as cross-connection issues (Where another water source is contaminating household water), or a need to replace the pipes. Plumbing is a big cause for concern because if there’s a hidden leak that’s left unrepaired, it could cause mold to spread throughout the home.
To find leaks, the home inspector will search throughout the home to find signs of mold or mildew, water damage, and cracks around pipes. They’ll also look at the ceiling for water spots or cracks.
“South Carolina is a very hot and humid, moisture-driven climate. If there are any leaks on wood, it’s going to start molding up pretty quickly,” Mary Riley, a successful real estate agent in Summerville, South Carolina, comments.
Typically when we think of harmful mold in a house, we automatically think of black mold, also known as Stachybotrys Chartarum. What a lot of people may not realize is that exposure to any kind of mold could lead to a variety of health concerns, such as respiratory problems, headaches, skin irritation, and more.
It’s worth noting that mold isn’t always in plain view and doesn’t always have that distinct, musty smell, which makes it harder to locate. This means that wherever there are water-soaked materials and signs of a leak, mold has the potential to grow.
6. Termite damage
Did you know that mold could also lead to termite infestation?
“If mold damage goes untreated — which many times it does because sometimes homeowners don’t know that there’s a leak — it can attract termites. Termites will go through the beams, through the walls, and sometimes where it’s not visible to the inspector,” Riley explains.
7. Rotting wood
As the inspector looks through the home, they’re going to check out any exposed wood. They’re going to look to make sure the wood hasn’t been affected by mold or termites. It’s important to note that inspectors are also going to be checking for wood rot caused by age and moisture, too. They’ll check around exterior door jambs, the windows, the roof, and wooden structures, such as a deck or stairs.
8. Electrical problems
Every year, approximately 51,000 home fires are started because of electrical problems, so it makes sense that home inspectors are critical of a home’s electrical system to make sure everything looks safe. Some of the common electrical issues inspectors will find include fraying insulation, DIY-wiring, mismatched wires, and overcurrent protection — also known as over-fusing.
9. Safety and security features
While it’s nice to have a security system to protect your home and family, this isn’t necessarily what home inspectors are checking. Instead, they are looking to make sure the windows and doors have working locks. They’re also checking to make sure there are enough smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home.
Keep in mind that the required number of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and their placement varies by state. You can check your state’s requirements here.
10. HVAC problems
Home inspectors will go through a home to make sure the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) system is working properly. They will make sure the heating and cooling work properly, and the wiring appears safe and can handle the HVAC system. They’ll check to make sure gas-fired furnaces have adequate ventilation so that there aren’t any gas leaks (the furnace room is also a place where you’ll want a smoke and carbon monoxide detector). Inspectors will also check the ductwork and flue pipes to make sure they were installed properly and don’t have any cracks in them.
11. Roofing materials and problems
Roofing problems are going to be one of the key points that a home inspector will look at because it’s an important component for the home. If the roof leaks, the home is going to be susceptible to a whole host of problems — most of which we already discussed!
Home inspectors are going to check to make sure the materials are still in good repair, they’re installed correctly, and there aren’t any evident signs of water damage. For many homebuyers, if the house has roofing issues, they are more likely to walk away from the deal because it’s one of the most costly repairs.
If you’re looking to buy a house that was built before 1981, the house may have been built with materials that contained asbestos. These materials include insulation around heaters, vinyl or asphalt flooring, or spray-on surfacing materials.
When it comes to asbestos, home inspectors are looking for evidence of disturbed asbestos, such as crumbling insulation, for example. They aren’t too concerned about siding or tiles that contain the carcinogen because they can be covered with other materials that will protect them from damage.
We bet you didn’t know that you come in contact with a radioactive gas called radon on a daily basis. Although radon is all around us, it’s only harmful if it reaches a certain level of concentration, which then can increase the risk of lung cancer. Home inspectors will check the basement or crawlspace with a radon detector, and if it is above a certain level, an active remediation system will have to be installed.
14. Lead paint
If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance that it was painted with lead-based paint. In most states, lead-based paint testing is not included in a home inspection because it is a specialty service, but there are some instances where it can be done for an additional cost.
15. Certain building code violations
Renovations and additions are a great way to increase a home’s value, but if the work isn’t done up to code, it could be a big problem when the house is put up for sale. Inspectors aren’t experts in codes, but certain violations — improper fastening of deck ledgers to the home, or creating a basement bedroom without an egress window, for example — are likely to fail a home inspection.
Home inspectors will also look out for bad DIY-electrical work, failing to follow fence height requirements, and installing a bathroom vent into the attic instead of directly outdoors.
The house has some things that fail a home inspection: Now what?
Learning the house you’re interested in has one or several of the issues on this list can be a bummer, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
Riley explains that after the home inspection, buyers can request for repairs to the property in a repair request addendum. “In this document, the buyers will list problem areas they want repaired or be offered monetary compensation for those repairs. However, before submitting the request, I recommend having licensed contractors give you estimates of what the repairs would cost so your requests are legitimized.”
Although you submit a repair request addendum, that doesn’t mean the seller has to comply. “If the sellers don’t want to do anything or don’t want to negotiate, the buyers are protected because then they can walk away from the contract and have their earnest money returned to them and just move on.”
Of course, if you are absolutely in love with the house and you’re willing to shell out the money for minor repairs, you can do that, too! Depending on what the inspection found, you’ll be able to determine which option is the best one for you. Best of luck with your home inspection!
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