What’s a Deal Breaker at a Home Inspection?

Fourteen first home buyers. The home inspector who was our night’s guest speaker asked each of them what they most wanted to learn from tonight’s walk-through.

We heard lots of smart answers. We also heard the same phrase over and over.

“Deal breaker.”

Everyone wanted the inspector to tell them, “What’s a deal breaker at a home inspection?”

Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell them. Why? Because a deal breaker is different for every deal. And it’s not only the house problems that could kill you.

It’s Personal

The buyer whose family owns a roofing business won’t consider a leak in the attic a deal breaker.

But the single mom with four kids who needs a house that’s solid right from the start might.

Each buyer has different standards for the house they want to buy. They have different amounts of money. And they have different tolerances for messes.

It’s Subject to Timing

A deal breaker when you’re looking at your first house may not be a deal breaker when you’re looking at your sixteenth house.

There’s nothing like running out of options to make you less fussy.

It Depends on the Deal

A motivated seller whose house has been on the market for a year might be happy to make or pay for repairs your inspector found. Their willingness to make repairs might turn a deal breaker problem into one that’s easily dealt with after simple negotiations.

What’s a Deal Breaker for You

I’ve met fussy first home buyers for whom carpets showing instead of hardwood floors were a deal breaker.

I’ve also known first home buyers who are undaunted by houses that should probably have been condemned.

What do they have in common? Their lack of knowledge skewed their understanding of what a deal breaker is.

The fussy home buyer needed to figure out if the hardwood floors she craved were hiding under the carpets. And the undaunted home buyer needed to have a long talk with his home inspector about what it means when a house is structurally unsound.

So how do you figure out what’s a deal breaker for you?

Think about it before you view a house

When you’re enraptured by a sunny breakfast nook, you might not recognize something that should be a deal breaker when you see it.

Make a list of house problems that concern you before you start looking. Are you willing to address roof issues? Plumbing? How about foundation problems?

Ask your home inspector

No, don’t ask him, “Is this a deal breaker?” He can’t, or shouldn’t, answer that for you.

Instead ask things like, “How hard is this to fix?” “About how expensive is this type of repair?” And “is this a job that probably requires a professional?”

Learn about houses

I love old houses and learned about how to care for mine by reading Old House Journal. It’s clear instructions helped me understand what jobs I could do and which were more than I could handle.

I wish I had started reading it before I bought a house.

You’ll know more about what’s a deal breaker for you if you find a good website, magazine, or book to teach you about taking care of the kind of house you want to buy.

Only You Can Decide

Your home inspector, your real estate agent, even your mom and dad can’t tell you what’s a deal breaker for you.

Heck, even I can’t tell you. If you don’t want to bother with tearing up carpet to find hardwood floors then maybe it is a deal breaker for you.

Josh Stewart

Josh is the Chief Creative / Partner at Hook Creative.