I can think of no question which is more frequently posed to an inspector, and that can cause more ire on an inspector’s part, than “does the house pass or fail the inspection?” If you wish to push me for an answer, I would have to say that any house that I inspect fails, if we want to look at this query in such black and white terms.
The funny thing to me is that other real estate professionals posit this inquiry to me, and I would think that they would know better. I guess the idea of passing or failing an inspection comes from the fact that a great deal depends on inspections. True professional inspections have been around for twenty years now, and the belief that a home buyer should have one is becoming more important, due to the idea that they should know everything about the home, since it is such a major purchase. Here is the rub though: a home, wether newly built or not, will have something wrong with it. Older homes will not match current standards of building, and newer homes may be produced so quickly by craftsmen who may not understand the equipment that they are installing, or someone may have just made a mistake. An inspection is a process of discovery, to guide the (future) owner in the direction of concern. Additionally, each inspector in every state will have his own minimum standards that he is meeting, and then he will have his own standards that he will want to reach. I was a certified food service manager for twelve years, so I bring my experience from that field when looking at a kitchen. Another inspector may very well not know about this field, but he may have been a contractor who knows more about framing than I, so he may see some issues that I would miss. However, we both would deal with a poorly structured wall due to framing.
If the house suits your needs, fulfills your desires, then the inspection should inform you of what you may have to take of to ensure that the home is maintained. If there is too much for you to deal with, then you should not buy a particular home. If you still want the home, but there is a serious concern on the inspection report, then you should negotiate with the homeowner on that matter. If it is an issue that would cause the home to not sell at the price offered, the homeowner should reasonably consider either making the repair or lowering the price. If he refuses, you should consider if the home is worth it. Buy it if you value it. I have seen too many times where a buyer attempts to use an inspection report to have the priced lowered. If the price was too high in the first place, why did they offer that amount of money?
Personally, I am fairly strict on trying to find defects. This is not because I want the house to look bad; it is because I want my client to know everything possible, so they will make a wise decision. The great majority of items that I mark down as being in need of repair can be fixed with inexpensive parts or labor. I suspect that this would be the case with most home inspections around the country. We inspectors mark these items down, because they may cause serious harm at one point. If an electrical outlet has no cover, and a child pokes a metal object into the bow where the wiring is, electrocution is possible. A cover costs under $2, and it takes seconds to install, but what if you did not know about it? That is why I write it down.
Do not ask if a house passes or fails. You should ask your inspector about what the concerns are.