The Top 3 Home Inspection Issues Why Buyers Don’t Buy


Ahhh – the dreaded home inspection. I say this because I know how much stress and anxiety the home inspection brings to you as sellers. After my years of numerous home inspections, however, I’m hoping I can help lessen the stress a bit by sharing my thoughts on the subject, specifically about the consistencies in some of the issues that make buyers not want to buy….

  • First, the issues are usually “hidden.” This means that the buyers couldn’t necessarily see that these issues existed during their previous visits to the property. On the other hand, items like the condition of the roof, age of the windows and amount of wood rot can usually be visually inspected by the buyers, and so they generally factor the associated costs into their offers. Similarly a high level of radon doesn’t tend to railroad their decision to purchase. Even though radon is considered hidden, installing a radon mitigation system is simple and inexpensive. It’s an easily fixable problem (see below).

  • Second, the issues present uncertainty about the extent of the damage. And for the most part, that damage can’t be fully understood without opening up walls and floors which is problematic at this point in the offer process – before the buyers technically own the home.

  • Third and related to the uncertainty factor, the issues are potentially not fixable. Or more accurately, because really almost everything is fixable, to remedy the issues would cost an arm and a leg. In other words, the costs become too much for buyers to reasonably assume and undertake. They would rather walk from the deal.


So without further ado, based on the consistencies above, here are my thoughts* on the top three home inspection issues why buyers don’t buy:

  • Water in the basement – This is probably the most frequently-asked question from buyers. And even if the answer is “yes, on occasion water gets into the house,” the extent of the issue is often unknown until an inspector inspects the property. And perhaps the answer is no, and an inspection proves otherwise. Whatever the scenario, people are generally not comfortable with water penetration into the house. Part of the discomfort may stem from the fact that it might not be fixable. As noted above, this can be lethal to the deal and often causes the buyers to back out of the purchase. And part two to water in the basement is the often ensuing presence of mold, which can be a double duty deal killer. But as you know (though I am certainly not a mold expert), mold is everywhere and can usually be mitigated from the property. Water penetration is the real issue and the culprit that can sour the buyer’s purchase.

  • Structural issues – First and foremost, structural issues are often quite hard to detect prior to a home inspection. There might be dips in rooms or sloping floors, but if this is an old house, that phenomenon is easily explainable – chalk that up to the settling of an older home. But it may still have structural issues as can newer homes. And if the inspector identifies structural issues or the potential for them and suggests that a structural engineer be called in to assess the situation, this can be unnerving to the buyer. Most times when hearing this, the buyer will call in “the expert” and won’t run from the deal immediately. That being said, it’s not a great case scenario for you as the seller because more times than not, the cost and process to remedy the structural issues can be overwhelming, thus causing the buyer not to move forward with the deal.

  • Termite activity – If undetected, termites can do significant wood damage throughout your home and this ultimately becomes more of a structural issue. It’s that uncertainty about the extent and cost of the potential damage that is overwhelming to the buyers. And the buyer won’t know the extent of the damage until floors and walls are ripped open, which you would not likely allow the buyer to do while you still own the home. There are some buyers who hear the word termite – even if the house is under a treatment plan – and turn on their heels and leave the house never to return. But this is more likely the case if the house has never been treated and evidence of termite activity is found. On a positive note, if the property has been treated, the chances of the buyer moving forward are greater – especially if you agree to continue treating the house until the property closes.

When selling your home, it’s prudent to be mindful of the magnitude of these buyer issues and to do as much as you can to remedy them – assuming that you know about them. For example, if you wrestle with water penetration on an ongoing basis, it’s worth having a basement expert come in for a consultation and install some sort of water management system. Or if you’ve had a termite treatment plan in the past but have let it lapse, call the pest company and have them come out to assess the house and leave you with a detailed report of their evaluation. If treatment is warranted, then treat away. These are great preventative measures before you put your house on the market, and it’s money well spent – especially since the issues will no longer arise thus keeping the buyer happily moving down the path of purchasing your home. All good!What are your thoughts on the subject? When you were selling your house, did you have a home inspection issue that made a buyer walk away from the deal? If so, what was it and were you able to remedy it before the same thing happened with a subsequent buyer? And/or did you take preventative steps to remedy some of these issues prior to listing your home, and did that help in the long run? I can’t wait to hear…..

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (, 781-267-2844 or, to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

* These are just my thoughts on this subject. There are other home inspection issues that could make a buyer decide not to buy.