A Buyer’s Home Inspection Checklist
February 22, 2024 9-minute read
Author: Katie Ziraldo
There are many steps in the home buying process, but few are as impactful as the home inspection.
By the time you put in an offer on a house, you may think you know all there is to know about the property. However, a professional home inspection can offer much-needed reassurance to home buyers because it provides visibility into potential problems before closing on a home.
Keep reading to learn more about home inspections. And use our home inspection checklist to prepare for one.
What Is A Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a critical step when buying a house. It’s a noninvasive visual examination of a home’s physical structure and systems. If an inspection unearths problems, you can negotiate with the seller to lower the home’s price or arrange for repairs before closing. You may even decide to cancel the sale if the home has a significant problem and you can’t negotiate a lower purchase price or reach an agreement with the seller.
A home inspection usually takes place right after a seller accepts an offer from a buyer. After both parties sign the purchase agreement, the home goes into escrow. The home inspection typically happens before or during the same time as the home appraisal.
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Home Inspection Vs. Home Appraisal
A home inspection is different from an appraisal. With a home appraisal, a professional appraiser estimates how much a property is worth. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to ensure the home is worth the estimated loan amount. Anappraiser doesn’t inspect the fine details of the home. They look at local property values and the home’s overall condition.
Who Pays For The Home Inspection?
The home buyer typically pays for the inspection because it protects them from purchasing a home that needs significant repairs after closing. Home buyers should be prepared to cover the home inspection cost out of pocket.
How Much Does A Home Inspection Cost?
The average cost of a home inspection ranges from $281 – $402, but it can vary based on the location, age and size of a home. When you contact home inspectors to schedule an inspection, they should be able to provide a cost estimate.
How Does A Home Inspection Contingency Work?
If you add a home inspection contingency to your real estate contract, you’ll have a specific time frame to schedule the inspection and any potential follow-up inspections. For example, the inspector may recommend consulting a plumber if a plumbing issue in the home calls for a more in-depth examination. The buyer must hire a plumber and getthe information they need to move ahead or withdraw from the sale before the agreed time frame ends. Buyers typically have about 1 – 2 weeks to complete this process.
If there are any deal-breaking issues on the inspection report, the home inspection contingency empowers buyers to pull out of a sale and get their earnest money deposit back.
A home inspection contingency is one of the best ways to protect yourself against surprise expenses after you move in.
Choosing The Right Home Inspector
Lean on your real estate agent to help you find a home inspector. Most real estate agents have relationships with certified home inspectors and can recommend one they trust. When hiring an inspector, make sure they are bonded and insured and that their company only specializes in inspections and doesn’t also make repairs and renovations to help avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
Questions To Ask A Potential Home Inspector
When you call to make an appointment, ask what the inspection includes and how long it takes. Don’t get off the phone until you feel confident you know what they will inspect. That initial call is also a convenient time to discuss what additional inspections you may need, such as a pest inspection. Ask what supplemental inspections they can do and agree on the price.We recommend that, when possible, home buyers attend their home inspection to see any potential damage firsthand and ask questions. Talking to the inspector in real time may offer buyers more in-depth information than what they’ll find printed in the inspection report.
What To Look For During A Home Inspection
While walking through a house, try not to get hung up on the tiny defects. The repairs are typically very minor. Instead, dig into the severity of the issues to determine whether there are defects present that would prevent you from moving forward with the sale.
Let’s use the checklist below to explore what’s worth keeping a sharp eye out for during a home inspection.
Home Inspection Checklist
After researching and vetting your options, you should have hired a professional home inspector to examine each part of the home. If you attend the inspection with an understanding of what the inspector is looking for, you can ask informed questions that help you better understand the extent of any damage.
Our checklist is a comprehensive overview of what to look for during a home inspection.
Grounds And Exterior Structure
- Foundation appears in good condition with no significant cracks
- No evidence of leaks from the septic tank
- Drainage away from the house with no standing water
- Easily accessible crawl spaces to get to plumbing
- Exterior walls appear straight with no sagging
- Windows and door frames appear square
- Siding appears in good condition with no cracks or damage
- Bricks appear undamaged with no cracks in joints
- Paint isn’t flaking or stained
- Roof shingles aren’t missing or damaged
- Gutters show no decay and drain properly
- Chimneys appear straight and undamaged
- Detached garage, shed, fence and deck appear in good condition with no rotted wood or evidence of termites
- No evidence of moisture
- No evidence of water damage to floor
- Sump pump operates properly
- No evidence of staining from roof
- Structure shows no damage or decay
- Adequate ventilation through soffit vents and end louvers
- Insulation is sufficient and installed properly
- Electrical splices are contained
- Visible plumbing under sink is in good condition and shows no signs of water damage
- Adequate water pressure for hot and cold water at all fixtures
- Tub, shower and sinks drain smoothly
- Toilet flushes and fills properly
- Toilet is stable with no rocking or stains at base
- No evidence of leaking around base of tub or shower
- Visible plumbing under sink is in good condition and shows no signs of water damage
- Working exhaust fan vents to outside
- Garbage disposal is operational
- Water flow to sink is adequate and drains properly
- Built-in appliances operate properly
- Floors, walls and ceilings appear straight and level without visible stains, cracking or damage
- Doors open easily and latch properly when closed
- Lights and switches operate properly
- Adequate number of electrical outlets in each room
- Heating and air conditioning vents in all rooms
- Fireplace has no cracking or staining
- Fireplace flue has been cleaned and is lined
- Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working and property located
- Stairway treads and risers are solid
- Wiring is in good condition
- Service panel has standard capacity with cables attached correctly
- Cables are secured and protected
- No exposed electrical splices
Heating And Cooling Systems
- No gas odor
- Air conditioning and heating operate well
- Air filters are clean
- Flues have no open seams and slow up to chimney connection
- Cooling unit has no visible rust
- Visible pipes have no damage or evidence of leaks
- Water heater shows no signs of rust
- Water pressure falls within accepted range
- Hot water temperature does not exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit
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The Home Inspection Report
After the home inspection, you receive a written report that covers the property’s major features and outlines any issues or areas that may need attention.
A good inspector will walk you through the report and their findings, which include damage or wear in the home – no matter how minor. Because it’s their job to make note of every flaw, your report will likely have a lot of issues listed in it. But not every item on the list should cause you concern. An inspector can help you separate the trivial concerns from the hazardous or red flags.
Home Inspection Report Vs. Seller’s Disclosure Statement
An inspector records the condition of a seller's house in a home inspection report and lists any problems they find during their examination, such as foundation or safety issues the buyer should know. A Seller’s Disclosure is a legal document a seller uses to outline undisclosed details or problems with their house that they are aware of but may not be obvious. What a seller must disclose in the document depends on federal, state and local laws.
The Bottom Line
If your home inspection report reveals significant damage, you may be able to ask the seller to cover the cost of the repairs or negotiate the purchase price.
You may not get the seller to complete every repair request, but you can use the information in the report to show the damage additional expenses for necessary repairs would inflict on your home buying budget. A good, general rule is to only negotiate the cost of major repairs. If the damage is due to regular wear and tear, the buyer will likely not pay to fix it.
Making Home Repairs Yourself
If you’re comfortable paying for the repairs yourself, try negotiating a reduced sale price based on the cost of the repairs.
Home Inspection FAQs
Still want to learn more about home inspections? Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions.
How long does a home inspection take?
Most home inspections take an average of 2 – 3 hours to complete, but the time can vary depending on the size of the home.
What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?
There are no repairs a seller is legally required to make after a home inspection. Still, some lenders have minimum safety requirements a property financed with a mortgage must satisfy. It’s reasonable to ask a seller to repair damage or defects that impact the home’s safety, including roof damage, electrical issues and plumbing problems.
What are the most common problems found in a home inspection?
Home inspections can uncover everything from squeaky floorboards to a rat infestation. Common issues a home inspector finds include roofing issues, problems with the HVAC system, faulty electrical wiring, dry rot, mold and structural damage.
What should I do to prepare my home for a home inspection?
Sellers preparing their home for an inspection should take several steps to prepare, including turning on all utilities, clearing items that may obstruct an inspector’s access to the home and keeping pets out of the way during the inspection.
The Bottom Line
When buying a house, the last thing you want is surprises. Surprise repairs lead to surprise expenses that damper theexcitement of owning a new home. Hiring a qualified home inspector can help you avoid major future repairs, and you’ll get the information you need to make the right decision for your future. We recommend printing this checklist and keeping it handy throughout the home inspection.
Make sure your home financing is in order if you’re getting ready for an inspection. Start your mortgage approval online with Rocket Mortgage® to prepare for the next steps of the process.
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