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Real Estate Inspection Fail? How to Get Through Escrow

When Jennifer Billock was buying her first house, everything seemed too good to be true- at least in the beginning of the process. Found a home within a couple of weeks, priced fabulously low, was in a great community with a style she loved, and the funding came through quickly and easily. First-time home buyer's bonus for tax time and not much of a down payment required. SCORE!

But, it turned too good to be true when that smooth path to homeownership suddenly became rocky when the inspection report came back with a big fat F(ailure) on it. PANIC TIME! What did it mean? Could she still be able to buy the house? Was the whole deal off?

A few calls with her therapist, aka Real Estate Agent, she learned that a bad inspection isn't that rare. And the new home wasn't in as bad of shape as initially feared. The agent was able to negotiate some repairs and, after a second inspection, the house was appraised and that listing turned to #SOLD!

During the process, a lot was learned. It's often times overwhelming when you get that first inspection report. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a repeat home buyer, here's Jennifer's advice for getting the house you want after a not-so-good home inspection: (retrieved from an article written by Jennifer Billock for on Dec 29th 2020)


Houses don't really pass or fail

Though my home inspection appeared to be a failure, homes aren't actually graded on a pass/fail system.

“There is no such thing as a failed inspection,” said Karen Kostiw, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York. “The inspection just points out small and potentially larger issues that you may not be aware of.”

Sure, some houses can sail through the process and others may fare poorly, but it’s not a “You can never buy this” situation if there are problems with the property.

For me, my mortgage hinged on a solid inspection—so the initial results meant I wouldn’t get the loan unless things were fixed. That being said, if I had enough cash on hand or wanted to try a different mortgage lender, I could have continued with the purchase even with a negative inspection report.

So if the house you're set on buying ends up having issues, don’t panic. You still have options.

Most inspection issues are small

It’s important to remember every home inspection report will come back with something, according to Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston. My inspection report had noted about 40 fixes. But a lot of times, the problems aren’t as bad as you think.

Keep in mind that the inspector's job is to call out any trouble spot. Also, all issues noted in the report aren't equal: Some problems flagged by an inspector can wait.

“The inspector will find defects—sometimes many defects—but that does not mean buyers are not purchasing a good home,” Kostiw says. “The small leak might mean a bolt needs to be tightened, or the dishwasher is not working because the waterline was switched off by accident. These are easy fixes. However, when buyers see a laundry list of items, it can seem as if the home is falling down. This is most often not the case.”

Red flags do exist

Ziegler and Kostiw agree that though most repairs are easy fixes, some items should give you pause if you see them on your report.

Structural problems, antique electrical systems, old windows, unexplained water damage, evidence of termites or wood rot, a bad roof, asbestos, mold, radon, and lead paint are all red flags that can show up during a home inspection. If fixing these problems is impossible or way beyond the means your budget, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

“Whether or not inspection items warrant backing out entirely depends quite a bit on any individual buyer's experience and bandwidth, as well as personal risk tolerances and financial situation,” Ziegler says. “It's true that houses don't stay in good repair on their own. They require maintenance and care, just like your houseplants and your sourdough starter!”

Don’t try to fix things yourself

Unless a repair is something truly minor like caulking a bathroom tub or putting a cabinet door back on its hinges, don’t try to fix anything on your own. You could make things worse or even injure yourself. Hire licensed contractors that you’ve vetted to handle any problems. And try not to leave it all up to the seller—they're not going to be living in the home. You will be.

“Motivations in this case are not aligned,” Ziegler says. “The seller wants to spend as little as possible to meet their contractual obligations, but [a] buyer should be more concerned with the quality of the repair.”

Work the costs into the sale

At first I worried I would have to pay to fix everything that was wrong with my house. But it’s important to know you can work the cost of repairs—and how long it should take to make them—into the sale.

Say you can't afford to fix the busted water heater but the seller can. You can raise the offer price by that cost, or you can trade off: The seller fixes one thing, and you fix another. In my case, I only had to add a banister to one stairwell. The sellers were particularly motivated to unload the home so they handled everything else.

Hopefully by the end of this process, every issue will be fixed and you’ll be ready to purchase your home. And you’ll be able to move in with a clear head, knowing everything is really as good as it seems.


When working with a Starr Real Estate Agent, you will never have to navigate this process alone. We will help you out every step of the way-- and we'll both walk away from the closing table with a lot more pep in our step!

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