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When home inspections go bad: what to do with a fail

Posted on: January 5, 2022

Listen: nobody likes a “bad” home inspection report. You don’t like getting them, and – believe it or not – we don’t like writing them.

When you get back a report with a long list of problems, it doesn’t feel good. But you also shouldn’t give up hope.

If your report isn’t what you were hoping for, take a deep breath and then follow these tips.

First Thing’s First: Home Inspections Can’t Fail

“But Brian, the TITLE of this blog is all about failed inspections!” Yes, I know. But that’s what people usually say when they get a bad report, so I’m trying to speak your language.

The truth is, home inspections aren’t a pass/fail. Instead, they’re a list of observations about the status of a home.

Its not really a fail either vs just another notation on a report. Every house has issues, even new ones. It just matters what you are paying for. ie – Are you paying a premium, paying market rate or getting it at a discount? Each one has a different approach and the key is relying on your seasoned agent and seasoned inspector to shoot the straights at you so you know what you’re buying and how to move forward after an inspection.

Many people consider a long report with a list of costly problems to be a “fail,” but technically speaking there’s no pass/fail metric. A house with a mile-long problem report can still sell as-is…to the right buyer.

What Causes a “Failed” Inspection

Your house is more or less like the human body – a lot less squishy, but still made up of a bunch of important systems that all have to work together. If your nervous system isn’t working right, then that spells a problem for your overall health. The same is true for houses.

So when a house “fails” an inspection, it’s usually because one or more of the following has a problem that requires more than duct tape to fix:

  • Rundown or missing roofing – Pretty self explanatory, but if the roof is in bad condition this can lead to some other serious problems.
  • Foundation problems – This includes things like cracks, missing reinforcement, damage, or sloped floors.
  • Plumbing – Some major plumbing problems include a backed-up line, leaky pipes, and mold.
  • Pest infestation – Not a pleasant thing to consider, but if the home is overrun with unwelcome critters that’s going in the report.
  • Code violations – Things like your electrical system, decks, fences, and bedrooms all have to meet certain code requirements for the city you live in.
  • HVAC or heating problems – Depending on how your home is heated, the problems are going to look different. But it all boils down to this: does the thing that’s supposed to heat your home actually work?

Most other problems within a home are quick fixes, but these are all issues that can make or break a sale because they can be quite costly to address.

What To Do With a “Fail”

If You’re the Potential Buyer:

If you’re the buyer and get a less-than-ideal report, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I live with? (Both literally – safety-wise – and also problems you can tolerate)
  • For larger problems, do I have the budget, desire, and time to fix them?
  • Is the homeowner willing to take a lower offer?

There’s no easy answer. It’s important to remember that no home is “perfect” but at the same time you don’t want to jump into a home that’s going to be a money suck.

Honest advice: talk to your realtor. If they’re someone you can trust (and they should be, otherwise you need a new realtor) they can offer professional insight on the quality of the house.

Good agents are great to discuss stuff with They know the market conditions and are versed in what is accepted and not accepted in a given house and know lots of trades and or inspectors that can give you a realistic point of view on a home. They also are solution-oriented.

If You’re the Homeowner:

What to do depends on the problems your report turns up, but generally speaking: fix what you can, plan for the rest.

Look, there are just certain problems that most buyers are not going to be able to overlook – like plumbing, electrical, or roofing. But there are other problems that you can apply some fixes to that will appease the right buyer. For example, if your foundation has cracks you can fill some of those in.

My advice? Talk to the home inspector. We can’t cover every possibility, but we’ve seen a lot of houses and can give you some pointers about where to start.

Good inspectors know what stuff costs, know if its “a have to” or something you can do over time, or something that no biggy. They also know people and they know the marketplace too and they can help with how to navigate specific issues on a house vs just defaulting to the most expensive, cover their butt approach to things.

I’m just sayin’

Titan Home Inspections 

If you’re looking for a fun and efficient home inspection with inspectors who care about your specific needs, give us a call. We know that every house has a story and when your inspector can identify the clues to the story through experience and a healthy curiosity, you can help the owners/buyers make better decisions with their home.

If you or anyone you know needs a fun and experienced home inspector that can do sewer scopes as well, give us a call. We offer $350 Flat Rate inspections and to date have earner over 900 5 STAR ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reviews.

Give us a call at 206-451-1120 or feel free to schedule directly on our website.

If you can’t find a spot that works for you, give us a call and we’ll try to find a way to fit you in. 😉


Brian Dodds is licensed home inspector & owner of Titan Inspection Services with over 20 years’ experience in construction trade building and house renovation. Titan Inspection services is based in Washington state and serves Seattle, Olympia, North Bend, Kitsnap County and everything in between.

Every house has a story. What’s your home’s story?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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