Should a home inspector fail a house?

Roof with Multiple Problems


I’ve learned over time that some buyers and real estate agents are expecting a grade of either “pass” or “fail” after a home inspection is over.  Maybe in years past this is something that home inspectors near Buffalo actually did, but in the year 2020 is it helpful for anyone to do this?  Let’s think through this for a few minutes.

What’s the purpose of a home inspection?

I started Alto Home Inspection, LLC to help buyers and homeowners better understand the condition of their home. People who call us are usually excited about the fact that their offer to buy a house was just accepted by the seller, and they are awaiting attorney approval of the purchase contract.  

I think most home buyers are unsure of what a home inspection actually includes, and are probably expecting that if there’s a big problem then they will walk away from the purchase.  This is a good mindset, because I don’t think anyone would want to buy a house that has a crumbling foundation or a house that’s pulling apart because structural materials in the attic were removed.  

The purpose of a home inspection depends on the buyer.  For someone who is in love with the neighborhood, the floorplan and other attributes of the house, a home inspection might be a good way to maybe negotiate down the price.  For a single buyer who wants a move-in ready house with zero issues, the home inspection might help them answer a yes/no question.  

What should be covered during a home inspection?

Since our service area includes all towns near Buffalo, including Hamburg, Amherst, West Seneca, Orchard Park and Springville, we inspect a wide variety of homes that each have their unique differences.  We adjust our process to take these differences into account, but our home inspection checklist remains mostly the same.

In order of potential repair cost, we inspect the home’s foundation, floor structure, roof, attic, plumbing and electrical systems.  Alto Home Inspection, LLC also assesses the other exterior areas of the home, including the surrounding grounds and garage and interior spaces. Take a look at our Buffalo home inspection checklist for more detail, if you like. 

What will the buyer learn from the home inspector?

At the end of the home inspection, the client buyer and real estate agent should have a good feel for the overall condition of the property, especially regarding any problems with the foundation or other big-money areas.  

The home inspector should discuss his or her findings with the buyer, and should allow plenty of time for questions to be asked and answered.  If there are any specific concerns that you have with the home, be sure not to hold back.  

After the inspector leaves the home, they will work to complete the home inspection report.  This might require research to find answers to specific concerns regarding uncommon building materials or questionable construction methods.  

Alto Home Inspection, LLC makes it a point to send our home inspection reports out on the same day as the inspection whenever possible.  If your inspection ended late in the day or in the evening then we might send the report the following morning.  

So, will the home inspector pass or fail the house?

We don’t do this and don’t think that any home inspector should.  We’ve actually been accused of doing this in the past by a real estate agent, and we’ve been asked if the house was “a fail” by another agent.  

Why isn’t this a good thing to do?

As a rule, our general feeling of the home doesn’t matter to our clients.  The fact is that every single house has problems.  It’s our job to find problems or concerning conditions.  It would be irresponsible to assign a binary value of “pass” or “fail”.  After all, the thought process behind choosing a house to purchase is complicated.  Even if a house has $50k worth of problems, if it’s right next door to a parent’s home then it might be worth it to the buyer.  

What do we do instead?

We present to you as a home buyer a report that lists the problems as we see them, how to fix them, and the type of tradesperson who typically makes those repairs.  We consider it our responsibility to present a list of problems to you so that you can assess for yourself, or with your agent, if it makes sense to move forward with the home.  

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About the Author:

Bradley Beck

Bradley is owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC.  He lives just south of Orchard Park, in Western New York’s Southtowns, and inspects homes throughout the Buffalo area, and is NY Licensed Home Inspector #16000086029, NY Certified Mold Assessor #MA01313.