How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

Should a home inspection scare you?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sometimes, yes. There are definitely homes that you should be scared of: ones with major structural problems, mold infestation, or that require multiple big-ticket repairs. But most of the time a home inspection gives you a laundry list of things that need to be fixed or replaced—many of them minor—for which an approximate dollar cost can be totaled up. Nothing to fear, but maybe some further negotiation or budget adjustment to do. 

   So when does an inspection report scare away a homebuyer unnecessarily? Here’s a few scenarios:

  • PERFECT HOME SYNDROME - When you find that wonderful home you hoped for, there is a tendency to think of it as near perfect. In fact, many first-time homebuyers tell us some variation of “This is the ideal home for me. Please don’t find anything wrong with it!” But we always find a few defects that yank away the halo; and it is unfortunate when the homebuyer cancels the contract on a very acceptable house because it wasn’t quite as perfect as they thought.
  • TECH TALK OVERLOAD - Home inspection reports are loaded with technical jargon that can make defects appear more onerous than they are. Take, for example, the common defect “reversed polarity at wall receptacle.” Sounds serious, but means that two wires were installed backwards, and takes just a couple of minutes for an electrician to fix. If the report doesn’t offer a clear explanation of the significance of a defect, ask the inspector for clarification. And if you get even more obtuse words, say you want to get an explanation in simple English.
  • LONG LIST OF MINOR STUFF - Sometimes we issue a report with a list of thirty defects, which covers two pages in the summary and looks a bit overwhelming. But, on further examination, twenty-eight of them are simple things like a missing cover plate at an electric receptacle or leaves backing up the gutter. Sort through your report and focus on the big items when making a decision.

   Then again, here are two reasons to walk away and start looking for another home:

  • EXPENSIVE REPAIR, BUT EXACT COST UNKNOWN - If the repair required is a big deal, but the exact cost can’t be determined until after further exploration inside the walls or underground after you own the home, you have to decide how much risk you are willing to accept. It becomes a gamble. Most repairs end up costing about ten to twenty percent more than the original ball-park estimate anyway, but an open-ended repair cost is a good reason to be scared.
  • COST OF HOUSE + REPAIRS = MORE THAN COST OF COMPARABLE HOUSE IN GOOD CONDITION. A fixer-upper with a low price tag can be alluring, but do your math carefully. Buying a house for $120,000 when comparable houses in good condition nearby are selling for $160,000 is not a good deal if the home requires $50,000 worth of repairs and can’t be occupied for two months while being remodeled.

   Probably most important of all, give yourself enough time after the home inspection to reflect on the issues uncovered and maybe get a few contractor estimates. Try to avoid having the inspection on the ninth day of a ten-day inspection period, for example.

    Also, see our blog posts What makes a house fail the home inspection? and The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure? 

What should I look for when buying a former rental house?  

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller? 

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

Water Heaters

Water Heater Age

"What Are The

Signs Of..."

Septic Tank Systems

Structure and Rooms

Plumbing Pipes

Termites, Wood Rot

& Pests



When It First

Became Code

"Should I Buy A..."

Park Model Homes


Shingle Roofs




Wind Mitigation

Roof and Attic

"Does A Home


Pool and Spa

"What Is The Difference Between..."




Concrete and

Concrete Block

Metal Roofs


Modular Homes

Rain Gutters

Mold, Lead & Other Contaminants


Older and

Historic Houses

Crawl Spaces

Mobile-Manufactured Homes

Building Permits

Life Expectancy

Clay Soil





Exterior Walls

& Structures


Common Problems

HUD-Code for

Mobile Homes

Garages and Carports

Flat (Low Slope) Roofs

Electrical Panels

Sprinkler Systems

Electrical Receptacle Outlets

4-Point Inspections

Hurricane Resistance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Home Inspection

Heating and Air Conditioning

Building Codes

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Inspector Licensing

& Standards

Energy Efficiency

Washers and Dryers



Doors and Windows



Electrical Wiring

Click Below  

for Links

to Collections

of Blog Posts

by Subject

Plumbing Drains

and Traps


Smoke & CO Alarms

Aging in Place

Top 5 results given instantly.

Click on magnifying glass

for all search results.






Air Conditioner & Furnace Age/Size


Electrical Switches





Water Intrusion

Electrical - Old

and Obsolete


Foundation Certifications

Tiny Houses

About McGarry and Madsen



Buying a home in North/Central Florida? Check our price for a  team inspection by two FL-licensed contractors and inspectors. Over 8,500 inspections completed in 20+ years. In a hurry? We will get it done for you.

Moisture Problems

Crawl Spaces