What Home Inspection Problems Can Halt a Home Sale?

There are only a few guarantees in life. Death, taxes… and problems on home inspections. But if you’re a seller, how worried should you be over specific items? And if you’re a home buyer, when should you walk away from a sale? I’ll walk you through the generic inspection process, and give you the lowdown on what home inspection issues should be considered “dealbreakers” by either party.

The Inspection Process

Before you let an inspection get you biting your nails or sweating with anxiety, the home inspection process is fairly straightforward. Like a physical exam for your house, a seasoned, trained, certified professional comes in and evaluates everything in the hme, from the foundation, plumbing, electrical system, framing, walls, floors, ceilings, attic, basement, doors, windows, drainage, chimneys, pavement, stairs, patios, built-ins, and more.

Whatever they find MUST be disclosed, and most home owners should count on them finding some issues… and that they’ll typically find more, the older your home is. Homeowners and their agents can attend the inspection, and when it’s done, the inspector will give a full verbal explanation of the report, which allows you to ask questions.

Just as most people wouldn’t buy a used car ‘as-is’ without first getting a mechanic’s opinion, many feel the same way about a home. Having a full inspection report in-hand before completing a transaction is just how business is done these days! Even new homes typically should be inspected, just in case, and believe it or not some mortgage lenders won’t sign off on a loan until they have a copy of the inspection report.

Laws in some areas may require that sellers take care of some specific kinds of issues before a sale. And if significant items are found, sellers should expect to make some concessions: usually either lowering the price, or paying for repairs.

Negotiating After a Home Inspection

It’s important to remember that when a home inspection comes back with many flaws, neither party winds up doing all of the work. It’s not a ‘repair list’ to simply give to the buyer or seller. Instead, there are usually four different outcomes:

  1. The buyer declines to purchase the home
  2. The buyer asks the seller to reduce the home’s price
  3. The buyer asks the seller to repair most of the issues
  4. The buyer asks the seller to repair some of the issues

Of course, home sellers can negotiate as well, and it’s not uncommon for there to be some back-and-forth negotiations at this stage.

Common Home Inspection Issues

These are some of the most common issues which can crop up in home inspections.

  • Roofing problems – It could be anything from an aging roof which needs replacing to a poor roofing installation job. Most commonly, homes just need some maintenance on their roofs.
  • Ceiling stains – Sometimes these are just the result of old leaks that have been fixed. More commonly, they’re the sign of other issues which need addressing.
  • Water issues – Usually water seeping into basements or other parts of a home due to poor drainage. Can be simple or costly to fix depending on location and severity.
  • Electrical hazards – Often in older homes, they can be anything from ungrounded outlets to hazardous wiring conditions.
  • Rotten wood – Often found in areas where wood is exposed to too much water.
  • Code violations – It’s virtually impossible for someone to know all of the building codes for an area, and these issues aren’t uncommon.
  • Unsafe chimneys and fireplaces – When’s the last time you hired a chimney sweep? For most homeownrs, the answer isn’t soon enough! There are also often code issues.
  • Water heater problems – Nationally, approximately only 5% of water heaters are installed in compliance to plumbing code. Also, modern water heaters are designed for short lifespans, and can develop leaks after only 5 years.
  • Plumbing problems – Loose toilets, dripping faucets, slow drains… all of these issues are problems at home inspections, and if possible, should be fixed before a home inspector arrives.
  • Poorly sealed windows – Do your windows have a good seal? You can bet that an inspector’s standards are higher than yours!

Again, the list of the above are just the most common issues! Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, having a few of these on the inspection isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker: take into account the severity, the cost to fix, and other circumstances.

The Home Sale Dealbreakers

These issues are not just expensive to correct, but actively dangerous, and should be considered possible dealbreakers for a home sale!


This carcinogen is common in homes built before 1975, and can be found in roof sealers, roofing felt, seal ducts, cement siding, tiling, and other places. While in some cases instances of asbestos can be remediated, it can be an expensive or extensive proposition depending on where the asbestos was found and what condition it’s in.


Radon is, believe it or not, a cacinogenic gas which is radioactive, and occurs naturally in some areas. Many Nashville homes have radon issues in the basements… but it can filer up from the basement. The state of Tennessee provides free radon test kits if you’d like to test your home, whether you’re selling or not!

Termite Damage

Termites are a bad sign for a home sale, and fixing termite damage can be impressively expensive, especially if they have damaged the integrity of the framing. Some lenders won’t finance a home with a termite problem unless there has been a written statement from a pest company to assure them that the issue can be readily resolved, and that the home has received a special termite warranty.

Mold Problems

There’s almost no quicker way to have a home lender back out of a sale than to have ‘mold’ on an inspection report. And black mold is the worst of them all! While there are mold remediation companies, they often run at a rather high cost, and the home for sale would need to pass inspection again after the professional has done their work.

Search for Historic Homes

If all this talk about inspections hasn’t scared you of, then why not consider buying and preserving some of Nashville’s historic homes?

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