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Home Inspection Red Flags

A home inspection conducted by a professional is a typical part of the process of buying a home. It’s an opportunity to evaluate the property and understand any issues that may need to be addressed. Sometimes the inspection uncovers problems that can be repaired. But how do you know which problems are minor issues and which ones are deal breakers? Below are potential home inspection red flags that you will want to consider seriously.

Electrical problems

If your inspector alerts you to some electrical problems in the house, you should pay attention. Faulty wiring is a common cause for residential fires. While some issues, like reverse polarity, are relatively easy to fix, some may not be. How many electrical outlets are there? Is the wiring up to code? Find out if the issues you’ve encountered will be costly to repair or dangerous if left as-is.


During the inspection ask how old the roof is and whether or not there are any known issues. It can cost thousands of dollars to replace a roof, so it’s important to know if this is a cost you’ll likely incur in the near future.

Lead paint

If you’re buying an older home, it could contain lead paint. This can be especially concerning for families with young children as lead paint can cause serious developmental problems if ingested. It can also be expensive to have lead paint removed. Homes built prior to 1978 are require a disclosure from the seller to the buyer for potential lead based paint.


Along with lead paint, if the home was built before 1989 it may contain asbestos. Asbestos must be removed by a professional and can also be a costly repair.

Oil tank

If you are buying a home that is heated with gas, you’ll want to find out if there is an old oil tank on the property (in some cases there may even be more than one). If you do find one, it will either be filled in with sand and gravel or empty. Depending on where the home is located, any oil tanks left on the property may need to be removed. You’ll also want to check to see if the tank has leaked, which could be an expensive clean up.

Old HVAC system

A standard part of the home inspection process will include the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. The inspector should be able to tell you how long the condenser should last based on the serial number. Most condensers last up to 15 years. Anything older than that will require replacement in the near future.

Water damage

Be sure you get information from the inspector about any water damage found on the property and find out what the potential causes may be. Is it possible the basement could flood, or are there rusty pipes that need to be replaced? Is the surrounding land properly graded so that water flows away from the house and not to it? Any water pooling near the foundation can cause cracks over time, which could lead to expensive repairs.

Foundation or Structural issues

If the inspector discovers any foundation or structural issues, this could not only be a serious defect in the home, it may make it ineligible for financing

Health and Safety issues

When these are called out in the inspection report, listen up.  Some may be minor such as getting the water heater earthquake straps tightened or re-done, others may need attention prior to moving in.

If you’re in the process of buying a home, be sure to carefully consider any issues that come up during the inspection. If you encounter any of the red flags listed above, you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to take on the headache and expense of what could turn into costly repairs down the line. You will also need to decide, with the help of your real estate professional what repairs you want to ask the seller to address and what you are willing to forgive.

For more information on home inspections, or help with buying or selling please contact me. 

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Elizabeth Field

CalBRE Lic#00605940 Mobile: (714) 914-8100

Allison James of California Inc (CalBRE # 01885684)

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