Can You Fail a Home Inspection?

Is it possible to fail a home inspection?

The short answer to this question is, “No, a home inspection cannot be failed.” Of course, the details are more nuanced. In the end, a home inspection is a tool utilized by home buyers, homeowners, and their financial partners (banks, credit unions, and other sources of private capital) to determine whether the risks associated with a  property are worth their investment. The client that orders the inspection is the only person who can make that value judgment.

However, taking the time to understand the scope and value of a home inspection, knowing for whom and why it has been commissioned, and the severe and potentially life-threatening issues that a competent assessment may unearth are well worth the investment.

Let’s begin with who a home inspector works for. They are either contracted through a real estate agent or directly by the prospective homeowner or buyer. The contents of an inspector’s report are only available to the individuals who commissioned it, who are free to do with it what they wish. It is essential to understand that a home inspector is not an agent of the state and serves in a different capacity than city or state code inspectors that ensure compliance with building codes on all permitted construction. Instead, their job is to issue a comprehensive report on the state of an existing home for the homeowner. This will allow for an informed decision regarding all current and future care and maintenance their new investment may need. They are restricted by ethical code from making aesthetic value judgments or declaring a house to be condemned. (Condemnation is, in itself, an exhaustive process that requires many levels of municipal government to be finalized)

The home inspector’s scope of work is the structures (excluding sheds and other outbuildings) on a property, interior and exterior. They conduct a prescribed visual survey of the home; their work is non-invasive, meaning they are not permitted to remove or deconstruct any of the home’s equipment. Standards do not compel the home inspector to access spaces that are not readily accessible without moving existing furniture and property, or that could put themself or others at risk. The complete rubric for a home inspection can be found at under Standards of Practice and helps understand the limitations of a home inspection.

A completed report with photos will paint a picture of the state of the home in question at that moment in time. It highlights possible areas requiring remediation for damage, rot, and mold. The age and function of the HVAC and hot water system will be listed, and the electrical system will be described based on the service’s amperage, voltage, and disconnect location. Older equipment and wiring will be noted so that the homeowner can be reasonably informed of the risks they are taking on.

Many things in an expertly compiled report can drive off a potential homeowner. Yet, only a few houses present insurmountable challenges to remediation and restoration. A good home inspection can provide a road map if the owner is up for the challenge the report represents. It offers solid ground from which the client can then negotiate terms of purchase, either compelling the seller to make changes themself or make financial concessions toward the final purchase price.

If an agreement proves impossible, the buyer may walk away, but the home has not “failed” its inspection. It simply was not a good fit for that buyer – the same inspection report may spark excitement at the prospect of a new challenge in one that elicited fear in someone else.

Do I really need a home inspection in this hot real estate market?

Like many other parts of the country, Montana real estate is flying off the shelves. As inspectors we chat with our local real estate professionals on a daily basis. Lately we hear mostly about how crazy this market is and how buyers are competing with other offers for every single home no matter the condition of the place.  And then there is the one single thing that they tell us that we, as home inspectors, HATE TO HEAR… in many cases buyers are foregoring the home inspection in an effort to enhance their offer to sellers. That’s right, in some cases the buyer has decided to move forward with their purchase of the home without having a home inspection performed in order to find out about the condition of the home. Yikes! That is not a good idea!  

So why are some home buyers choosing to forgo a home inspection?

Well I don’t know about what is happening in other parts of the country but up here in Flathead Valley, the Northwest region of Montana, here are some of the reasons we are hearing about this unorthodox plan for a home purchase.

Scenario 1:

The most common reason is that buyers are trying to find every advantage they can in order to compete with other offers. Some buyers reason that it serves no purpose because in order to compete with other offers coming in they cannot afford to make demands in the form of concessions [either asking for items to be remedied or in the form of monetary reductions in the sale price].

Scenario 2:

Another reason they are choosing to skip the inspection has more to do with timeline. Again due to the highly competitive nature of this “hot” real estate market, it is common for realtors to set expectations for a very short transaction timeline. This serves to help to “sweeten the deal” when a realtor comes in with an offer that includes a rapid closing timeline. And when that is the case, there may not be enough time included to reasonably get a home inspection scheduled and completed by that date. 

Whatever the reason, it’s not wise to skip a home inspection. Even if the buyer has no opportunity to use any deficiencies that were identified in the inspection as a way to negotiate credits or ask for them to be fixed as is common right now, the inspection can provide a great deal of insight about the condition of the home. 

In some cases an inspection may reveal some very unattractive deficiencies and thus a buyer may decide to walk away from the purchase because they know a seller will just move on to the next offer so that they don’t have to give away any credits or fix anything. So if you think about it in terms of “risk analysis”, the home inspection is a tool to help you to identify any humongous risks that you may be getting into by purchasing a home which may have some very major and costly expenses coming down the road. Wouldn’t you want to know for example if the home has some very major defects in the foundation or possibly the wall structure?

Another great reason to still plan on inspecting any possible home purchases even if the seller won’t negotiate any concessions is to find out more about the general condition of the home and to identify any items that you will either want to fix or that you may need to fix once you own the home. It can be something small like installing GFCI outlets in the bathrooms if they are not there. Or maybe the report identified some issues like missing anchor bolts on a deck ledger board. This is the board that attaches to the house where the deck is supported. Now would you want to stand on a suspended deck knowing that it is not properly constructed and supported? 

There is so much to learn about each and every home and that is what home inspectors do. Aside from inspecting the exterior and interior of the home, they walk the roofs, look in attics, and they crawl through the area under the home called the crawlspace. And any home inspector will tell you that “no home is perfect”. Every property has it’s kinks. So its good to find out what is going on in the home you are about to buy. That way you can make an informed decision and feel good about this major investment.

What’s included in a home inspection?

A home is the biggest purchase most people will ever make, and a home inspection is always recommended before buying a home. It’s important to realize the condition of your investment.

While some little quirks may be nothing to worry about, there may be more serious issues that only a professional home inspector can assess.
A large part of surviving the home inspection is understanding what is and what isn’t included.

Here’s a helpful infographic that shows you what’s covered in a home inspection.

What is included in a home inspection?

Home Inspection Regulation in Montana

Bills We Support

Realtors and Home Inspectors of Montana

I am seeking your support of SB 269, which passed the Senate floor and will be voted in the House (no hearing date as of yet) This bill seeks to regulate the home inspection industry in Montana, which currently operates like we are still in the Wild West.

A brief summary:

Proposed bill SB 269 creates a registry and standards for home inspectors, including education and insurance requirements.

Registration of Home Inspectors

The bill is designed to revise current Home Inspector laws, require registration, provide fees for listing registered Home Inspectors on the Department of Labor & Industries website, allow for a joint application for a Home Inspector registration and an Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate and create a minimum set of conditions required to become a Home Inspector.

Current Conditions

Currently anyone with a ladder and a flashlight can do home inspections without education or insurance. This practice is a disservice to Montana homebuyers and has hurt some consumers during the buying of their largest asset. This has also hurt the credibility of the home inspection industry as a whole.

For Consumers

The registration would allow a central website for consumers to check the current standing of a Home Inspector. Registration would help insure credibility and set minimum competency standards for Home Inspectors. It would help assure consumers of a minimum level of education, insurance and governance.

For Home Inspectors

Registration would create a more credible and professional industry by minimizing the part time or new inspectors with no insurance or governance by a national organization. The registration list would create a central list for home inspectors to verify a competitor has met the minimum qualifications.

In Summary

The registration is designed to be paid for completely through the registration of Home Inspectors with no cost to taxpayers. The registration list would allow for self-monitoring by current Home Inspectors checking on newer competitors in the field. The registration was designed to include all currently practicing inspectors that have passed an acceptable certification examination as provided by one of the national organizations and is in good standing with that national organization.

I appreciate your support of this bill. Feel free to call me at the number below if you have any questions.  And if you would like to take action to help,

You can TEXT TO SUPPORT SB 269 to:
406-253-8982 (Mark Noland) and 406-471-2356 (Neil Duram)




I thought this amusing 1970’s video would be a good way to remind us how these ideas become bills .. and then in the end hopefully a law!  Hope you enjoy!


Common Issues That May Cause Your Sump Pump to Fail at Its Job!

Common Issues That May Cause Your Sump Pump to Fail at Its Job!

Many of my customers ask me about the use of Sump Pumps in their home.  If you have a sump pump or perhaps you are looking into getting a sump pump in your home, here is a bit of information about what they are and some of the possible issues you may encounter with a sump pump that is not running as expected.

Sump pumps are designed to handle surface water and ground water (storm water) that accumulates around the building.

Some houses need sump pumps because the slope of the land directs water toward the foundations. In other areas, sump pumps are necessary because of a high water table.

A sump pump system consists of a sump (tank) below floor level. It has one or more side inlets. The sump may be tile, steel, concrete or plastic, for example. Sumps should be at least 18 inches in diameter and 24 inches deep, ideally with a solid floor. Pumps have both the motor and pump at the bottom of the sump. In either case, there will be 120-volt electrical power and a float switch to activate the pump as the water level rises.  Sumps should have a cover to prevent people, pets and objects from falling in and to help keep radon gas, for example, out of the home.

Common Issues That May Cause Your Sump Pump top Malfunction

Plumbing and Piping

Codes now require a check valve on the discharge side, although we see many installations with no check valve. The purpose of the check valve is to prevent water in the discharge pipe from flowing with gravity back into the sump when the pump shuts off.

The discharge piping line is often polyethylene, PVC or ABS piping, although it can be any approved drainage piping material. Flexible hose is not a good material.

Sump pump pipes discharge incorrect, should be into a ditch, onto the ground, well away from the home, into a French drain (gravel pit below grade), or out through a hillside (to daylight) if the ground slopes down away from the house.

Water should be discharged far enough away from the building that it won’t find its way back.

The discharge line is obstructed or disconnected. The pump may be operating properly, but the water may not be carried away


Sump pumps typically have 120-volt cords plugged into a conventional receptacle. The receptacle is typically a dedicated circuit.  All sump pumps should be electrically grounded and a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) −protected circuit .


A missing or weak cover is a safety hazard. Children may fall into the sump. Objects may fall into the sump, obstructing the intake or fouling the float switch mechanism

A defective float switch system

When water rises enough to lift the float, the float switch closes and starts the pump motor. The pump runs until the float drops enough to open the switch and turn off the motor.

Sump problems

Debris in the sump or clogged sump.  Sump pits are often collection points for debris. If silt or other foreign material gets into the pump, the pump may be destroyed.

Sump damage

If the sump pit is damaged, dirt may get into the sump. This will clog and possibly ruin the pump. Sump walls may be broken, rusted or collapsed.

Pump problems

There is a risk of flooding if the sump pump is not operable. The sump may not work for several reasons:

A defective float switch system, a lack of electrical power, a seized pump or a burned-out motor.

Sump pumps are inexpensive devices with a critical role. They are an important part of a home inspection. The inspection report should explain the importance of the pump to clients. We recommend quarterly inspection and testing of sump pumps.

If you’d like more information – or to contact a professional about a consultation for your home water issues, we recommend Montana Basement Solutions