This Complete Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers Can Save You Money

Though not always required, an inspection can identify major repair issues and save you thousands of dollars.

Silver Key on a House Keychain Under a Magnifying Glass
Photo: Credit: bagi1998

Getting a home inspection is an essential part of buying (or even selling) a home. Inspections are not always required—nor are they the same 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, an inspection will cost you (the average cost is $200 to $400, according to Bankrate), but those 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

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 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," Trapasso explains. Plus, buyers who waive 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 also be beneficial if you're looking to sell your home. 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.


  • Proper grading drainage away from the house
  • No evidence of standing water
  • No leaks from a septic tank or leech field
  • Yard, landscaping, trees, and walkways are in good condition
  • No branches or brushes touching the house or overhanging roof
  • Exterior structures
    Fences, sheds, decks, and detached garages in good condition
  • Railings on stairs and decks are adequate and secure
  • Driveways, sidewalks, patios, and entrance landings are in good condition and pitched away from the structure
  • Downspout drainage is directed away from the structure


  • Ridge and fascia board lines appear straight and level
  • The sides of the 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 the surface of the 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


  • 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 noticeable 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
    The vents are clean and not painted over
  • Gutters
    No decay or rust
    Joints are sealed and attached securely to the structure
    No bending or sagging
    No sections of gutter or downspout missing
    The gutters are clean, no mud deposits
  • Chimneys
    Straight, properly flashed
    No evidence of damaged bricks or cracked joints
    Mortar/cement cap in good condition


  • No stains on the underside of the roofing, especially around roof penetrations
  • No evidence of decay or damage to the structure
  • Sufficient insulation and properly installed insulation
    A moisture barrier was installed closest to the heated area of the house
  • Adequate ventilation
    A clear path into the attic for air entering through soffit vents
    Adequately sized gable end louvers
    All mechanical ventilation operational
  • No plumbing, exhaust, or appliance vents terminating in the 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 sufficient insulation in walls
  • Fireplace
    No cracking or damaged masonry
    No evidence of staining on the fireplace facade
    Damper operates properly
    The flue has been cleaned and is lined


  • 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 springs operate properly
  • No leaks in pipes under sinks
  • The floor in the cabinet under the sink is solid
    No stains or decay
  • The water flow in the sink is adequate
  • No excessive rust or deterioration on garbage disposal or waste pipes
  • Built-in appliances operate properly
  • The cabinets are in good condition
    Doors and drawers operate properly


  • 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 the 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 the bath or shower


  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors where required by local ordinances
  • Stairway treads and risers solid
  • Stair handrails where needed and in good condition
  • The 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 the 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 a heated area
  • No evidence of insect damage
  • No evidence of moisture damage


  • Visible pipes
    No damage, no evidence of leaks
    No signs of stains on materials near the pipes
    Drain pipes slope slightly down towards the outlet to the 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
  • The 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 F


  • Visible wiring
    In good condition, with no "knob-and-tube" wiring
    No exposed splices
    Cables secured and protected
  • Service panel
    Adequate capacity
    All cables attached to the 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 airflow on forced hot air systems
  • Flues
    No open seams; slopes up to the chimney connection
  • No rust around the cooling unit
  • No combustion gas odor
  • Air filter(s) clean
  • The ductwork is 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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