Home Inspection Checklist: The Ultimate List of Items to Look For

Buyer’s Agent
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You’ve finally found it: the home of your dreams. It’s perfect, and you can’t wait to move in. Before that happens, though, you need to have a home inspection to make sure there are no significant problems and that the home is worth what you’re paying for it.

What Is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an important part of the home-buying process, as important as securing a low rate for a mortgage. Although you looked around carefully before you made your offer, a home inspection can reveal problems you might not have noticed.

Some issues can be expensive to repair or replace, so you’ll want a home inspector to go through the property. While they won’t uncover every little thing, a certified home inspector will be able to identify any major problems and safety issues.

How To Prepare for a Home Inspection

The home inspection occurs after the buyer has signed the purchase agreement but before the final closing. Make sure the purchase agreement has a home inspection contingency because you’ll need that if the worst happens and you need to back out of the sale. Some home repairs are surprisingly expensive, so a home inspection will let you know what to expect.

Make Your Money Work for You

The home inspector will examine the property thoroughly, including every major system. The home inspection will take somewhere between two and three hours, less for a condo. After the inspection, the inspector will give you a copy of the home inspection report. You as the buyer should be present at the home inspection so you can ask questions. The home inspector will expect you to have questions, so don’t be shy.

These are some of the things your home inspector will look at, according to Total Home Inspection:

Exterior

  • No evidence of leaks
  • Roof in good condition
  • Exterior paint in good condition
  • Septic tank in good condition
  • No rotted wood on exterior structures

Structure

  • Window frames square
  • No cracks in the foundation
  • Ridgelines and fascia straight and level
  • Straight sides of the house, not sagging or bowed

Interior

  • Any strange smells
  • The ductwork in good condition
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings in good condition
  • Countertops and cabinets in good condition
  • Insulation in good condition

Plumbing and HVAC

  • No evidence of water damage
  • Sump pumps in good condition
  • Water flow and pressure safe
  • No damage or decay under sinks
  • The water heater and thermostats in good condition

Electrical

  • Light fixtures working
  • Service panel in good condition
  • Cables secured and protected
  • Overcurrent protection in good condition
  • Fuse boxes and breakers in good condition

Problems with electrical systems were the third-most-common cause of fires in homes from 2014 to 2018, so electrical inspections are important before you purchase a home.

What Isn’t Included in a Home Inspection?

While a home inspection should uncover any major issues, inspectors don’t check everything. Anything not readily accessible is generally excluded.

Here are some other exclusions, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors:

Make Your Money Work for You
  • Air quality
  • Property lines
  • Code compliance
  • Environmental hazards
  • Rodents and other pests
  • The life expectancy of any system
  • The size, performance or BTUs of any system
  • Presence of mold, mildew or fungus

Who Pays for a Home Inspection?

Usually, the buyer pays for the home inspection. According to Realtor.com, the average cost of a home inspection is between $300 and $500 for a single-family home. However, some markets may charge more, and rates vary from state to state. The size of the home is also a factor.

How To Find a Qualified Home Inspector

Many people ask their realtor for a referral, which makes sense because they work with many home inspectors.

You could also ask for referrals from family and friends. You could also go to a professional home inspectors association such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors and enter your zip code. Both of these organizations will tell you about an inspector’s experience, special certifications and construction background.

Advice

Buying a home is a significant investment. Although most people get emotional about their homes, make sure your dreams of homeownership don’t interfere with your ability to consider reality.

Get a home inspection and ask questions. If the home inspection turns up issues, you’ll need to decide what you can ask for from the seller and what you can realistically deal with yourself.

What Happens After the Home Inspection?

A completely squeaky-clean home inspection is very rare. Most houses have at least a few issues. Expect your inspection to uncover a handful of concerns you didn’t notice when you toured the property.

After the home inspection is complete, your real estate agent will go over the findings with you. These are outlined in the report the home inspector gave you. If all goes well and you’re happy, you’ll move on to the closing. If the report uncovers major issues, such as with the plumbing or electrical system, you have a few options:

  • Ask the seller to fix the issues.
  • Ask for credit towards the closing costs.
  • Negotiate a new price based on the results of the inspection.
  • Back out of the deal entirely.
  • Ignore the issues and move in.

If a deal falls through because of a failed home inspection, the seller is obligated to disclose this to future buyers. This means owners should be willing to negotiate in one way or another.

If Issues Arise from the Home Inspection

Certainly, if there are safety issues or major issues, you can request the seller to either repair those or give you credit so you can make the repairs yourself. However, some things are not reasonable to ask the seller to address, such as:

  • Cosmetic issues
  • Nonstructural cracks in concrete
  • Nonstructural cracks in drywall
  • Repairs to exterior buildings, like sheds
  • Landscaping not related to drainage
  • Repairs that will cost less than $100

After you and the seller agree on repairs, credits or a new price, you can schedule the closing and move into your new home.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Gail Kellner is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and investing. She has written for Bankrate, Retireable, MoneyGeek, and a host of other small business websites. She is located on the east coast, in Massachusetts where she lives with her sons and her husband.

Home Inspection Checklist: The Ultimate List of Items to Look For
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