What Will Fail A Home Inspection?

Date Published: May 20, 2021

What will “fail” a home inspection, i.e. what issue(s) will cause a buyer not to go forward with the purchase of a home? It is a question that is asked frequently by buyers that work with us, and also by many individuals on Google search!

It’s a good question and an important one. However, the answer is pretty simple. Ultimately, the person who decides if a home inspection “fails” is the buyer of the home.

Individuals have very different risk tolerances when it comes to issues that are identified in a home inspection, and which can result in big differences as to why some people will walk away from a deal or why some will move forward with the purchase.

As inspectors, our job is not to tell you whether or not a house “passes or fails” but rather to provide you with detailed information on the condition of the home, so that together with your real estate agent, you can weigh the facts and make an educated decision for yourself.

Let us explain further below with some examples, and we also will point out a few tools within our inspection reports that can help you make this very important decision.

Watch Joe from Scott Home Inspection talk more about this subject below.

A Tale of Two Buyers

Most home buyers purchasing a home for themselves are looking for the same thing: A great place to live!

But what does “great” mean? To Buyer A, that may mean an absolutely perfect, brand new home. For Buyer B, that might mean the fixer-upper of their dreams.

Both types of buyers and their preferences are valid and both come to us looking for information about the specific home we are inspecting for them.

Buyer A might want the inspection report to come back as short as possible. Just make sure everything works, sign the contract, done!

Buyer B, on the other hand, might want to just make sure that there is nothing significant and unforeseen that would make them nervous to fix, but are otherwise ready to roll up their sleeves. However, a major structural problem can turn your “fix it up” budget into a “fix the foundation only” budget. This might make even the handiest of weekend warriors think twice.

Even though two buyers are looking at very different houses, and have different expectations and risk levels, the important thing is that the inspection report stays consistent. That will allow each buyer to make his/her decision on whether to move forward with the purchase.

Setting Expectations

After working with your real estate agent on selecting the home that you would like to purchase, be sure to share your questions and concerns with the home inspector prior to the inspection. This will allow him or her to focus on those areas, along with performing the general inspection that is done on every inspection.

A good inspector is there to provide unbiased information. There are very few homes that we inspect that don’t have one issue or another, but we also try to put issues into perspective based on the individual home.

For example, if a home buyer is nervous or sensitive to mold and moisture issues, we might recommend some extra services that focus on water issues. If a home is older, we might pay particular attention to the roof or structure. However, the end result will always be the same.

While discussing concerns about a home may bring something up that makes a buyer nervous, it is better for all parties involved that they know about this problem and consider its impact before the deal is completed.

We would much rather the house “fail” the inspection than have us, as inspectors,  fail you.

How We Can Help Prioritize Issues

As stated before, the issues we call out will be uniform throughout all our inspectors’ reports and for all of the houses that we inspect. That being said, there is going to be a lot of information in the report.

Since the buyer, together with his or her agent, is the one ultimately evaluating and weighing the inspection results, they need to be equipped to read the report and take decisive (and sometimes rapid) action.

So how can we help? The number one way we help buyers with this is by organizing our reports in a logical way. Our report has 3 categories of defects:

  1. Maintenance Items
  2. Repair Items
  3. Immediate Action/Further Evaluation Items


Maintenance items are most common and pretty typical. Most maintenance items are simple fixes and come up frequently in inspection reports. These are noted in blue and likely can be done by the homeowner over time with minimal urgency. Some people call this their “move-in punch list.”

Repair items are orange. These are items we recommend be repaired. While the timeline on when these items need to be repair varies, they all need a repair in our opinion.

Immediate action items are typically items that represent a health and safety issue, or a large expense. These can potentially be an inspection “fail” for some individuals and for others it’s just something they will deal with in the contract negotiations.

The red items also include further evaluation items. We sometimes make a determination of a potential issue, but because we aren’t specialists, we will recommend you get it checked out further before you make the final decision. This is commonly related to roof and structure issues.

Our goal is to prioritize the issues, which will better enable buyers and their agents to make a more informed decision on a home. You can also create your own Repair Request List right from the report to share with the sellers of the home or a contractor!

At the end of the inspection, it all comes down to your tolerance of defects as the buyer. You should also understand what you are getting into when inspecting older homes versus newer homes.

If you have any questions about our home inspection process or have opinions on what will fail a home inspection, reach out to us, or add a comment below!


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About the Author: Chris Scott

Chris Scott is an ASHI certified home inspector with multiple years of experience in home inspections, blower door testing, duct leakage testing, and Boulder Rental License Inspections. Chris is also the Website Coordinator for Scott Home Inspection.

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