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A Complete Home Inspection Checklist For Buyers

5-minute read

A home inspection can tell you a lot about the home you’re thinking about buying, including if there are any major problems or if the home is in great shape. Here are some things to expect during your home inspection.

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual inspection of the physical structure and systems of a home. You can choose your inspector, so it’s important to pick someone trained and qualified, which can be indicated by their membership to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a nonprofit professional organization.

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 there’s a big problem with the home and you can’t reach an agreement with the seller.

Although the two are commonly confused, a home inspection isn’t the same as a home appraisal. An appraisal is an estimate of how much your property is worth. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to make sure the home is worth the amount they’re lending. An appraiser doesn’t go over fine details, but rather looks at local property values and the home’s overall condition.

Mortgage lenders usually only require an appraisal, but if you want to minimize any unpleasant surprises or problems down the road, it’s a smart idea to hire a home inspector.

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What Does A Home Inspector Do?

An ASHI-accredited inspector usually takes about two to four hours to inspect a home. They’ll check out the house from top to bottom, including the attic, visible insulation, walls, HVAC system and more.

At the end of an inspection, you’ll receive a written report that covers the condition of the home’s major features. ASHI publishes a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics that outlines what should be covered in your home inspection report.

Areas Evaluated During A Home Inspection

We highly recommend you be present for your home inspection. The home inspection is your last chance to take an in-depth look at your new home before you buy. As you walk through the home, make sure your inspector takes a look at the following areas.

Outside Structure

An inspector usually takes a walk around the outside of the home to look for structural damage. They check for things that could be problematic in the future, like a cracked foundation. An inspector should also check the sidewalk and driveway, as well as the window insulation and drainage around the home.

Roof And Attic

Roofing and attic damage can turn into expensive issues, so your home inspector should check the uppermost area of the home. They should search for problems with the roof’s tiling, like missing or broken shingles, and look at the rain gutters and runoff system to make sure water is draining properly. The inspector should also enter the attic and look for structural problems on the inside. 

Interior Structure

Before your inspector takes a detailed look at each room in the house, they’ll need to do a once-over to spot problems with the home’s interior structure. The inspector should look at all the home's floors, walls and ceilings, and search for water damage, ceiling cracks and foundation damage.

Basement

If the home has a basement, the inspector should look for signs of water and structural damage. The inspector should also test support beams and check for cracks in the foundation.

Electrical System

Your inspector should first make sure that the electrical system is safe before testing it. They should check the capacity of the electrical system and make sure the wiring is in good order. Then, the inspector should go through the home and check the lights and outlets in each room.

Plumbing System

Your inspector should also check for any plumbing or sewage issues. First, they should check the water shut-off valve. Then, they should go through the home and make sure that toilets, sinks, showers and hoses are working and draining properly.

HVAC System

Your inspector should examine and run the heating and cooling systems. They should look at the wiring and ventilation to make sure there are no fire hazards. If the home has sprinklers or a fireplace, your inspector should check them as well and make sure they work.

Keep in mind your inspector will probably only examine central heating and cooling systems, because sellers usually take space heaters and window air conditioning units along with them after the sale. If you want to keep any temperature-controlling systems, be sure to negotiate this with the seller.

Built-In Appliances

Your inspector will need to make sure all appliances work. They should test the stovetop, washing machine, garbage disposal, smoke detectors and any other appliances in the home. The inspector should also look at the wiring for each appliance to ensure there are no fire hazards.  

Garage

The inspector should look for signs of structural decay and damage in the garage. They should specifically check the walls, ceiling and flooring for water stains or damage. If the garage has an electric garage door opener, the inspector should see if it opens, closes and locks correctly. 

Other Add-On Areas To Inspect

Not all home inspectors are qualified to test certain aspects or features of a home. For example, you may need to hire a separate pest specialist or chimney inspector. If your initial home inspection raises some red flags, here are a few areas you might want to consider looking into a bit further.

Paint

Lead-based paint is often found in older homes. If you're buying a home built before 1979, it’s important to schedule a test for lead-based paint. Experts have linked lead paint to permanent health problems, so it’s crucial to know if and where there’s lead in the home, which may require your inspector to schedule a separate lead paint check.

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It’s commonly found in soil and may seep into the home if you live over a radon deposit. Experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have linked radon exposure to lung cancer. The EPA recommends that you schedule a radon test before buying any home, especially if the home has never had a radon test. You can schedule a radon test for around $25.

Chimney

If the home has a chimney, make sure your inspector doesn’t skip over it. Your inspector should look at the interior and exterior structure of the chimney and check for issues such as cement problems. The inspector should also check the flue, connectors and interior walls for fire hazards.

Not all inspectors can do chimney inspections. If your inspection doesn’t include a chimney check, you can hire a chimney inspector to handle it for an additional fee. 

Pests

In some states, you’ll need a pest inspection before you can close on your new home. During a pest inspection, a special inspector should walk around the home and look for signs of insect and rodent infestation. The inspector should examine walls, floors and support beams for bite marks, droppings and other common signs of pests. The inspector should also look at wooden structures for signs of termites.

Foundation

If you’re buying a very old home or have concerns about the home’s foundation, you might want a separate foundation inspection. During a foundation inspection, a structural engineer will assess the home’s foundation and make safety notes.

Standard home inspections include basic foundation inspections, so you usually won’t need a special foundation inspection. However, if your inspector finds a problem with the foundation, it may be worth the extra cost to have a structural engineer take a more in-depth look.

Well Water Inspection

If the home’s water supply comes from a well, you should get a water test. During a water test, an EPA-certified technician will take a sample of water and send it to a laboratory, where it will be checked for common metals, including lead, cadmium and arsenic. If the home has a septic tank, it’ll also need an inspection to check for contamination.  

Summary

Home inspections are important because they can uncover hidden issues in your future home. During an inspection, a trained inspector should look at the home’s systems, interior and exterior structures, electrical system, plumbing, HVAC system, basement, attic and more. You can also schedule some extra tests for radon, lead paint, chimney safety, foundation stability, pests and water safety.

After the home inspection, the inspector will give you a written report that covers the home’s major features and notes any problematic issues that may need attention. If you’re ready to start the home search, visit Rocket HomesSM!

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