8 Home Inspection Deal Breakers That Should Make You Think Twice

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated March 1, 2022
Woman reviewing paperwork in new home
Photo: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images


  • Always hire a home inspector to evaluate the home before you close on it.

  • Electric, plumbing, and structural issues are dangerous and costly.

  • Negotiate with the seller to see if they’ll fix the problems or lower the asking price.

  • You may need to walk away from a home that has deal-breaker issues.

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A home buyer’s worst nightmare is receiving a home inspection report on their potential new home that’s filled with dangerous and costly issues. But how do you know what kind of issues are worth walking away from the sale?

Before you buy a home, it’s crucial to hire a local home inspector to look it over from top to bottom. They’re bound to discover a few small issues, but buyers shouldn’t have to fix larger problems with structure, plumbing, and electrical systems. Read on for eight home inspection deal breakers that should make you consider walking away from a purchase.

1. Electrical Issues

One of the biggest potential hazards and expenses your inspector might uncover is a faulty or outdated electrical system. If left unfixed, such a system may not support your major appliances and could cause serious harm. However, repair costs can range anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. Deal-breaker issues may include:

  • Old or defective wiring: Outdated wiring, especially knob and tube or aluminum wiring, needs to be brought up to code.

  • Wiring that goes nowhere: Wiring with an unclear purpose can be a sign of poor electrical installation and maintenance.

  • Outdated electrical panels: These panels may have circuit breakers that don’t work and could be a fire hazard.

  • Dimming lights: If the home’s lights dim when certain appliances are running, it’s a sign of excessive stress on the electrical system.

2. Plumbing Problems

Plumbing issues are often hidden out of sight and strike without warning, so it’s wise to be proactive about any minor problems your inspector uncovers. Major repair or replacement of bad plumbing and piping can range from $5,000 to $50,000.  Be wary of any of the following potential deal breakers:

  • Weak water pressure: Little to no water pressure is a sign of piping issues or a lack of water volume.

  • Leakage: If there’s a leak, you should hear alarms going off. Signs of leaks include stains under sinks, on the ceiling, the soft flooring around toilets, dishwashers, or ice makers.

  • Outdated pipes: Polybutylene (PB) pipes tend to fail without warning and cause major damage, while lead or rusted cast iron pipes can contaminate your water supply.

  • Slow drainage: Drainage issues or water backup in sinks are signs of issues with the home’s sewer line.

3. Past or Present Pests

Aside from making some homeowners uncomfortable, many unwelcome pests can damage your home and cause safety concerns, too. Rodents can chew through electrical wires, ductwork, HVAC systems, and insulation looking for nesting, while termites or carpenter ants feed on wood and can leave the structure of your house unsteady.

If pests are caught early enough, you can hire a local pest control specialist to treat the home and issue a termite bond, which acts as a warranty to protect you against future damages. However, if a pest problem has been ignored for too long, the home may already have severe termite damage that would be costly to repair.

4. Damaged Roofing

Your home inspector will look at the quality of the roof shingles, checking for pieces that are curled, broken, or missing entirely. They’ll also look for uneven or sunken areas and water damage on interior ceilings and windows. These are signs of serious damage that may lead to water leakage, mold, and rotting structural wood.

This type of damage may require repairs or replacement, which can cost $3,000 to $15,000 or more. The typical roof lasts about 30 years, so find out if it’s nearing or exceeding its lifespan. If you’re planning to stay in the home long-term, buying a home that needs such expensive repairs may not be worthwhile.

5. Structural Issues

Home inspector checking the windows of a home
Photo: Warchi / E+ / Getty Images

A home’s foundation and framing support everything else so major structural damage can be a deal-breaker. The following are all signs of major problems:

  • Excessive cracking, flaking, and crumbling stone

  • Bulging cement or concrete blocks

  • Sagging floors or roofing

  • Dampness or musty odors in the basement

  • Windows or doors that stick

These problems can arise from poor water drainage around the outside of the home, roots from large trees pushing up from below, and natural deterioration over time. The damage may require a structural engineer to repair and can cost $1,000 to $20,000 or more.

6. Environmental Hazards

Inspector checking basement walls
Photo: Valmedia / Adobe Stock

Older homes may be hiding a variety of hazards. Some environmental hazards come in the form of outdated building materials, including laid paint or pipes. Black mold is also common in homes affected by flooding or leakage. This musty-smelling fungus is typically found in damp sheetrock or plasterboard and basement walls or floors. Removal can cost $500 to $10,000 or more.

Radon is another issue found in some homes. This carcinogenic gas can leak through cracks in basement walls and floors and harm people who inhale it. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends radon mitigation in homes with levels over a certain limit, costing $800 to $2,000 to perform.

7. Potential for Flooding

If the home sits at the bottom of a hill, near a river, pond, or lake, or has a yard that sits lower than its neighbors, it may be prone to flooding during heavy storms. Even if none of these factors apply, it may still be in a flood plain. Flood-prone properties can come with more expensive mortgage loans and flood insurance, plus they’re difficult to resell when you’re ready to move.

Ask your real estate agent, the neighbors, or local city management about flooding patterns in the area. You can also research the home’s address in the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to better understand its flood risks.

8. DIY Renovations and Shoddy Contract Work

If the current or previous owner performed any type of DIY work on the home, you’ll need to verify the quality of that work. Poorly executed DIY jobs can cause dangerous issues and may make it harder to get a loan or homeowners insurance. You can check with the local government to find out if permits were obtained for specific projects and ensure that everything is up to code.

Did You Get a Bad Home Inspection Report? Follow These Next Steps

When the inspection is complete, you’ll be able to read the home inspection report, which may reveal some of the deal-breaker issues above. If you don’t want to pass up on a property you’ve already pictured yourself living in, try negotiating with the seller to see if they’ll pay for any of the repairs.

If not, weigh the pros and cons of dealing with the defects your home inspector reveals. You may be comfortable with the amount of work and willing to pay the costs. However, these issues are considered deal breakers for a reason, and you may be better off reopening your home search to find a different house with fewer issues.

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