Home Inspection Checklist: Why Home Inspections Are Important and What to Expect

If you're in the market for a new home, getting a home inspection can save you thousands of dollars down the line. Here is a checklist to help you prepare.

Home Inspection Checklist
Photo: Credit: bagi1998

Getting a home inspection is an important part of buying (or even selling) a home. Home inspections are not always required—nor are they the same thing as an appraisal. An appraisal is done to determine a home's market value, and is almost always required when taking out a mortgage.

A home inspection, on the other hand, determines whether there are any structural issues in the home (and outside of it). Yes, getting a home inspection will cost you (the average cost is $300 to $450 according to Bankrate), but the few hundred dollars can potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

"In this super-competitive housing market, waiving a home inspection can be appealing for buyers seeking to make their offers more attractive to sellers who have plenty to choose from—but buyers do so at their financial peril," says Clare Trapasso, real estate expert at Realtor.com.

Home inspections can be especially important for first-time homebuyers—you don't want to buy your first home and then spend thousands of dollars on major repairs that an inspection could have helped you avoid. Also, it could help you negotiate the repairs or the price of the home with the seller.

Trapasso says that things such as a cracked foundation, roof problems, and electrical and plumbing issues may not be visible to the naked eye in listing photos or during a home tour. "These problems can set new homeowners back tens of thousands of dollars on top of what they're paying for the house and closing costs," she explains. Plus, buyers who waive home inspections and then find things wrong with the property might not be able to back out of a deal without losing money, warns Trapasso.

A home inspection can be important if you're looking to sell your home, too. It can help you get ahead of any big repairs or maintenance issues before listing.

Here is a checklist that can help guide you as you look at a home, and ensure you're looking at all parts of a property. While it does not replace an actual home inspection by a certified professional, it can help you prepare for what an inspection entails.

Grounds

  • Proper grading drainage away from house
  • No evidence of standing water
  • No leaks from septic tank or leech field
  • Yard, landscaping, trees, and walkways in good condition
  • No branches or brushes touching house or overhanging roof
  • Exterior structures

    Fences, sheds, decks, detached garages in good condition

  • Railings on stairs and decks are adequate and secure
  • Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landings in good condition, and pitched away from structure
  • Downspout drainage directed away from structure

Structure

  • Ridge and fascia board lines appear straight and level
  • Sides of house appear straight, not bowed or sagging
  • Window and door frames appear square (especially bowed windows)
  • Visible foundation in good condition

    Straight, plumb, no significant cracks

Exterior Surfaces

  • Adequate clearance between ground and wood siding materials

    6" minimum; no wood-to-earth contact

  • Siding

    No cracking, curling, loose, rot, or decay

  • Masonry veneers

    No cracks in joints
    No broken, spalling or flaking components

  • Stucco

    No large cracks
    Discuss all stucco cracks with a professional inspector

  • Vinyl or aluminum siding

    No dents or damage
    No bowing or loose siding

  • No vines on surface of structure
  • Exterior paint or stain

    No flaking or blisters

  • No stains on exterior surfaces

Windows, Doors, and Wood Trim

  • Wood frames and trim pieces

    Secure, no cracks, rot, or decay

  • Joins around frames are caulked
  • Nothing is broken or damaged

    No broken glass (window or storm panes) or damaged screens
    No broken double-paned, insulated window seals

  • Muntin and mullion glazing compound in good condition
  • Storm windows or thermal glass used
  • Drip caps installed over windows

Roof

  • Composition shingles

    No curling or cupping
    No loss of granulation particulate
    No broken, damaged or missing shingles
    No more than two layers of roofing

  • Wood shingles or shakes

    No mold, rot, or decay
    No cracked, broken, or missing shingles
    No curling

  • Flat roofs

    No obvious patches, cracks, or splits
    Minimal blisters, "alligatoring," and wrinkles
    No silt deposits (indicates improper drainage)
    Sealed tar at flashings

  • Flashing around roof penetrations
  • No evidence of excess roofing cement/tar/caulk
  • Soffits and fascia

    No decay or stains

  • Exterior venting for eave areas

    Vents are clean and not painted over

  • Gutters

    No decay or rust
    Joints are sealed and attached securely to structure
    No bending or sagging
    No sections of gutter or downspout missing
    Gutters clean, no mud deposits

  • Chimneys

    Straight, properly flashed
    No evidence of damaged bricks or cracked joints
    Mortar/cement cap in good condition

Attic

  • No stains on underside of roofing, especially around roof penetrations
  • No evidence of decay or damage to structure
  • Sufficient insulation and properly installed insulation

    Moisture barrier installed closest to the heated area of the house

  • Adequate ventilation

    Clear path into attic for air entering through soffit vents
    Adequately sized gable end louvers
    All mechanical ventilation operational

  • No plumbing, exhaust or appliance vents terminating in attic
  • No open electrical splices

Interior Rooms

  • Floors, walls and ceilings appear straight and plumb and level
  • No stains on floors, walls, or ceilings
  • Flooring materials in good condition
  • No significant cracks in walls or ceilings
  • Window and exterior doors operate easily and latch properly

    No broken glass
    No sashes painted shut
    No decay
    Windows and doors have weather-stripping, "weep holes" installed

  • Interior doors operate easily and latch properly

    No damage or decay
    No broken hardware

  • Paint, wall covering, and paneling in good condition
  • Light and switches operate properly
  • Adequate number of three-pronged electrical outlets in each room
  • Electrical outlets test properly (spot check)
  • Heating/cooling source in each habitable room
  • Evidence of adequate insulation in walls
  • Fireplace

    No cracking or damaged masonry
    No evidence of staining on fireplace facade
    Damper operates properly
    Flue has been cleaned, and is lined

Kitchen

  • Working exhaust fan that is vented to the exterior of the building
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection for electrical outlets within six feet of the sink(s)
  • Dishwasher

    Drains properly, no leaks
    Baskets and door spring operate properly

  • No leaks in pipes under sinks
  • Floor in cabinet under sink is solid

    No stains or decay

  • Water flow in sink is adequate
  • No excessive rust or deterioration on garbage disposal or waste pipes
  • Built-in appliances operate properly
  • Cabinets are in good condition

    Doors and drawers operate properly

Bathrooms

  • Working exhaust fan that doesn't end in the attic space
  • Adequate flow and pressure at all fixtures
  • Sink, tub, and shower drain properly
  • Toilet stable

    No rocking
    No stains around base

  • Caulking in good condition inside and outside of tub and shower area
  • Tub or shower tiles secure, wall surface solid
  • No stains or evidence of past leaking around the base of bath or shower

Miscellaneous

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors where required by local ordinances
  • Stairway treads and risers solid
  • Stair handrails where needed and in good condition
  • Automatic garage door opener operates properly and stops for obstacles

Basement or Mechanical Room

  • No evidence of moisture
  • Exposed foundation

    No stains or major cracks
    No flaking or efflorescence

  • Visible structural wood

    No sagging, damage, decay, or stains
    No damage from insects
    Sills attached to foundation with anchor bolts

  • Insulations at rim/band joists

Crawl Space

  • Adequately vented to exterior
  • Insulation on exposed water supply, waste, and vent pipes
  • Insulation between crawl space and heated areas

    Installed with vapor barrier towards heated area

  • No evidence of insect damage
  • No evidence of moisture damage

Plumbing

  • Visible pipes

    No damage, no evidence of leaks
    No signs of stains on materials near pipes
    Drain pipes slope slightly down towards outlet to septic/sewage system

  • Water heater

    No signs of rust
    Vented properly
    Sized to produce adequate quantities of hot water for the number of bedrooms in the house

  • Water pump does not short cycle
  • Galvanized pipes do not restrict water flow
  • Well water test is acceptable
  • Hot water temperature is between 118 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit

Electrical

  • Visible wiring

    In good condition, no "knob-and-tube" wiring
    No exposed splices
    Cables secured and protected

  • Service panel

    Adequate capacity
    All cables attached to panel with cable connectors
    Fuss or breakers are not overheating

  • No aluminum cable for branch circuits

Heating/Cooling System

  • Appears to operate well throughout

    Good air flow on forced hot air systems

  • Flues

    No open seams, slopes up to chimney connection

  • No rust around cooling unit
  • No combustion gas odor
  • Air filter(s) clean
  • Ductwork in good condition
  • No asbestos on heating pipes, water pipes, or air ducts
  • Separate flues for gas/oil/propane and wood/coal

Source: Total Home Inspection

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