Picture this: you’re pumped to be under contract on your new home — until the inspector hands over their report. The printout is thicker than your college thesis. Your heart drops. Maybe your dream home isn’t quite the dream after all.
But before you rip up the contract and walk away, take a deep breath. This may not be the crisis it appears to be — some home inspector notes might not actually be a big deal.
“Most clients expect their inspector to make a detailed list of every defect in the home, no matter how insignificant. If inspectors only wrote down what they thought were critical issues that needed immediate attention, inspection reports would usually be a single page,” says Mike Leggett, owner of a multi-inspector company in Athens, Georgia.
Mike Morgan, owner of Morgan Inspection Services in Abilene, Texas, echoes this sentiment. He says there are many items that inspectors are required to write up but, in reality, you may not even need to to fix, much less worry about. This even passes the, ‘I’d recommend it to my mom’ test. “I would feel completely comfortable with one of my loved ones purchasing an average home that I inspect while putting off repairing 75 percent of the deficiencies I find,” he says.
So, which issues can you breeze by in your inspection report? I asked the experts to find out. (And, if you’re wondering which ones should send you running, we’ve got you covered there, too.)
Peeling Paint or Minor Cracks in the Walls
A zigzagging crack reaching from a door frame all the way to the ceiling sets off an alarm bell for most potential homebuyers. It must mean there are severe structural issues, right? Is the house falling apart?
And what about peeling paint? That’s always water damage, right? There must be a leak lurking behind the wall!
Not so fast, say most inspectors, including Morgan. He explains minor cracks in walls, ceilings, and even floor tiles may be simply cosmetic issues and nothing to worry about.
An HVAC System in Need of Service
The thought of life without AC, particularly when you’re buying a place with central AC, doesn’t sound like smooth sailing. So, when an HVAC service issue turns up on an inspection report, it seems like a red flag.
Luckily, Leggett says to skip a beat before backing out of the contract. “HVAC performance issues are frequently due to a lack of maintenance and a service call might be all that is needed.”
Mark Harris, owner of HouseMaster of Dallas says, “A lot of clients get hung up on a lack of GFCI protection (ground fault circuit interrupters) in the proper location. This is a simple repair that usually requires removing the old outlet and installing the new GFCI outlet.”
The same can be said of outlets or switches that don’t work. Most of these are easy for an electrician to fix, so don’t grow concerned. But also don’t try to fix it yourself — a botched DIY job could be the culprit behind the malfunctioning outlet in the first place.
A Too-High Soil Height Around the Foundation
Anything that says ‘foundation’ can cause a panic for prospective homebuyers, but sometimes these are simply easy fixes caused by a lackadaisical approach to home maintenance from the previous owner. That can include soil or plants that are too high or too close to the foundation itself.
“Flower beds tend to be replanted frequently with new soil added. Homeowners should know that if you add soil, at some point you will need to remove some,” advises Harris.
While walking across a floor with dips and dents is disconcerting, Morgan says as long as no signs of significant structural issues are found, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Crooked floors can be caused by the settling of an older foundation, but they don’t always mean there’s a bigger cause for worry. It could, however, mean ordering an additional inspection to ensure there are not serious issues under the floorboards.
Morgan adds that while this should be negotiated with the seller for repair, insufficient attic insulation isn’t necessarily a sign of anything nefarious. This could be due to when the home was built and subsequent evolving building codes and standards.
“Homes are built to be lived in, and to last. It is normal to receive a lengthy report with issues about foundation, structure, and dampness. It’s impossible to buy a pre-loved home that’s perfect,” says Don Adams, general manager at Regional Foundation Repair.
For that reason, not every issue of water in a basement or dampness around a foundation is going to be a glaring red flag. Of course, it could be, but it’s something that’s worth looking into further before turning away completely.