This home inspection checklist is a basic guideline that tells you what your home inspector should be looking for when you’re thinking about buying a home. Whether you are contracting your own home inspector or a home inspection has been arranged by your agent, and regardless of whether you or the seller is paying for it, you should understand how important the home inspection is. It’s one of the home buyer’s most valuable tools.
Even if you’re buying a new or pre-fabricated home, there may be serious flaws that could end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars later. Particularly if you are buying a pre-owned home or a home in foreclosure, the home inspection could spare you the pain and expense of dealing with a home that has serious, hidden issues.
First, make sure your home inspector is reputable and see if they are a member of The American Society of Home Inspectors. This foundation was established to ensure that home inspectors meet basic proficiency and knowledge standards. Surprisingly, not all states have standards regarding who can become a home inspector. Make sure they will explain the flaws they have found in the home in thorough detail, so that you know what issues may be costly, and which are normal wear and tear. Ask for a sample home inspection so you know what the Inspector will be looking for, and then see that the following items are listed:
Home Inspection Checklist
Foundation and structure
Are there signs of structural damage or a cracked foundation, such as sagging roof lines, or porches and decks pulling away from the house? Is any of the exposed framing showing signs of rot?
Insects and pests
Are there soft or hollow places in the exterior wall that appear eaten away by termites or damaged by insects? Is there exposed, untreated wood? If there appear to be problems, you may want to schedule an additional, formal pest inspection.
Are there drainage issues or root systems (from trees and vegetation that could interfere with the foundation or buried utility lines? Are the walkways or driveway deteriorated in any fashion?
Inspectors have different ways of inspecting the roof, and depending on the slope or height of the house, may not actually climb up to inspect it closely. See that your inspector checks for drainage issues and looks at any vents, flues, and/or skylights.
Is there aluminum wiring? How are the current protections and grounding. When safe to do so, will the inspector open the electric box to check for issues? Do most of the outlets and switches appear to work?
How old is the water heating system and does it show signs of wear or corrosion? How is the water pressure in every bathroom and kitchen? Do any of the faucets or toilets show signs of leakage and/or does any floor show evidence of water damage?
Heating and A/C
Is there a central cooling or heating system and does it seem to be responsive? What kind of furnace is in operation (if any) and are there any lines running to the tank that are visible? Does the A/C unit appear old or make any unexpected noises?
Is the home properly insulated? Does the attic show signs of rot or vapors? Are any mechanical ventilation systems in place and do they appear functional? If there is a fireplace, this should also be checked for signs of damage, blockages, or loss of structural integrity.
Do doors close properly? Do cabinets or countertops show signs of wear or damage? Do walls show signs of previous fire or water damage? Is mold visible in any part of the home or ceiling?
While we’ve basically included everything that might be looked at in our home inspection checklist, you should also know there are a number of things your home inspector may not check for (and may not even be able to check for). Some of these issues can be determined by another type of inspection. In other cases, the inspector may only provide their best guess as to condition, given what they can and cannot see, leaving you to decide if any risk is worth taking. Note that home inspectors are not generally required to offer guarantees or warranties of any kind on their determinations.
Things your Inspector May Not Determine
- The condition of any part or structure they do not have access to
- The future condition or life expectancy of any component or structure
- The presence of dangerous chemicals, toxins, plants or animals
- The condition of components that are dangerous or difficult to get to
- The condition of underground systems (including water tanks)
- Soil or geological conditions
- Compliance with codes, regulations, or certain state mandates.
- The presence of mold or bacterial agents in non-visible places (such as inside walls)
If you are concerned about any of the issues not listed on the home inspection checklist, you can schedule additional inspections with experts in pest control, mold, or chemical hazards. While this naturally leads to additional expense before buying a home, the thousands you save in future home repairs and even health costs make it a worthwhile investment. Of course, you should wait until you find a home that you really want to buy, and on which you have made an offer that is agreeable to the seller. Remember that in your initial offer you can demand that the seller allows you time for any and all home inspections prior to signing a formal contract. To learn more, see Making an Offer.