A buyer’s home inspection checklist

A professional home inspector looks for potential safety hazards, including structural and systems problems, usually on behalf of a home buyer. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, offers questions you can ask your home inspector to determine what they look for and gain insight into their background and experience. A home inspection checklist helps buyers understand what is included in a home inspection, while the inspector's report can alert the buyer to any significant issues with the home.

6 min to read

What do home inspectors look for?

A home inspection will help you uncover any significant defects in the house before you buy it. They will look for a solid roof, foundation, structure, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems in good working order, a dry basement, a properly insulated attic, and good drainage away from the house, among other critical features.

How long does the inspection take?

An inspection might take a few hours, depending on the square footage of the house. As the buyer, attending the inspection gives you firsthand information about the house.

Home inspection checklist for buyers

The following home inspection checklist will give you an idea of what is typically included in a home inspection. Bring a notebook to jot down the answers to your questions.

This can also be used as a home inspection checklist for sellers, giving sellers a heads-up about things they can address before the inspector comes.

Exterior

  • What is the condition of the paint or siding?
  • Are the windows and doors sealed properly?
  • Are there signs of decay around the frames?
  • Are there any foundation cracks?
  • Are there large roots from neighboring trees growing too close to the foundation?

Landscaping and drainage

  • Is the ground graded away from the house to prevent water pooling near the foundation?
  • Is the deck solid and in good condition?
  • Are any tree limbs touching the house or roof?
  • Are the stairs and railings solid and secure?

Roof

  • Are there missing shingles or signs of aging, sagging, or leaks?
  • When was the roof last replaced?
  • Does the chimney look intact?

Interior

  • Do the floors, walls, and ceilings have any sagging, cracks, or creaking sounds?
  • Is there plumbing that shows sign of leaking?
  • Is the water pressure strong in all the faucets and showers?
  • Do the toilets flush properly?

Electrical system

  • Do all of the outlets work?
  • Do the light switches work?

Heating and cooling systems

  • Does the heating and cooling system work?
  • Are the filters clean?
  • When was the last time the furnace was replaced?

Attic and insulation

  • Is there proper insulation and ventilation?
  • Are there signs of leaks, mold, or pests?

Basement or crawl space

  • Does the basement smell damp or moldy?
  • Is there any standing water?
  • Is the sump pump operational?

Kitchen and bathrooms

  • Do all the appliances work?
  • Do the countertops and cabinets look sturdy?
  • Are there signs of damage or disrepair?
  • Are the exhaust vents in the kitchen and bathroom working properly?

Water heater

  • When was the water heater last replaced?
  • Does the water heater leak?

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

  • Are the detectors present and operational in all required areas?

Security system

  • Is there a functioning security system?

Garage door opener

  • Does the garage door opener work?
  • Does the garage door opener have working safety features such as auto reverse?

What happens on home inspection day

On home inspection day, you'll meet the home inspector and your agent at the property. You can expect the inspector to walk around the outside and inside of the house conducting their inspection.

What to bring to a home inspection

Bring your phone or a camera to take pictures, plus a notebook and pen to jot down the answers to your questions for the inspector. Take pictures of trouble spots and things you want to document for later.

Home inspection tips for buyers

Here are a few common questions about home inspections buyers may have:

What should the buyer do during a home inspection?

As the prospective buyer, you may accompany the inspector as they inspect the house, but try to avoid getting in their way. Ask questions but avoid distracting them from their job.

How long does a home inspection report take?

A home inspection report can typically take one to three days to get back from the inspector, according to Bob Vila.

When does a home inspection happen?

A home inspection can happen near the start of a real estate transaction. Once the seller has accepted your offer to buy their house, the clock is ticking on your opportunity to perform due diligence. While having a house inspected is not required, a home inspection contingency typically gives the buyer 10–30 days to hire a home inspector if they choose and, based on the inspection results, decide if they still want to buy the house or request repairs.

A homeowner might also request a home inspection after installing a new HVAC system or fireplace or to inspect a renovation project that includes plumbing and electrical upgrades. If you're preparing to sell your home, you might hire a home inspector to do a pre-sale inspection so that you know the house's condition before putting it on the market.

Who needs to attend the home inspection?

If you're buying a house, you should attend the inspection with your home inspector. Your real estate agent and anyone else you wish to attend can come. At the inspection, the inspector will talk about any issues they find, giving you helpful context for when you receive a copy of the report.

Does the seller attend the home inspection?

Typically, neither the seller nor their agent should attend the home inspection. The home inspector is a neutral third party who must remain objective throughout the inspection without pressure from the seller.

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?

There are no obligatory fixes after a home inspection. If the buyer has included a home inspection contingency in the contract, they can walk away from the contract if the seller is unwilling to address the repairs that need to be made or adjust the selling price to cover the cost of the fixes. State and local law and the contract terms will determine which of those repairs are required before the home can be sold.

What things are big red flags in a home inspection?

Home Inspector Insider advises that the following inspection issues might be red flags that could make a prospective buyer walk away from a real estate transaction, essentially resulting in the home failing the inspection:

  • Structural problems from foundation cracks to damaged, leaky roofs, building code violations
  • Mechanical systems, electrical problems including outdated wiring, malfunctioning HVAC systems, water heater, or plumbing problems
  • Health and environmental issues such as mold, pests, lead paint, asbestos, carbon monoxide, and radon

Getting a home inspection is one of the initial steps in the home closing process. Learn more about choosing a home inspector and other important steps for first-time home buyers.

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