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Inspecting a Vacation Home

Many Americans chose to buy vacation homes in recent years and during 2007, one-third of all homes sold in the United States were second or vacation homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. Inspections are especially important in summer homes, since those who own them live a median distance of 287 miles from their getaway place, according to NAR, and may not be present when issues arise.

The best time to inspect a summer home is before purchase, especially if you plan to rent the home or let friends and family stay there when in your absence. If the inspection turns up any issues, you can address them before others start using the space or provide visitors with instructions on how to work infrequently-used home systems (how to start the heat or a gas stove in winter, how to turn on a cooling system in summer). You may also want to arrange a home maintenance inspection annually, especially if you’re not spending much time in the home.        

Unlike a primary home, summer homes may be located in beautiful places that are isolated or subject to nature’s extremes. This means that when it comes time for an inspection, you and your agent need to pay close attention to the report’s findings. In particular, pay attention to comments about safety and security (do doors and windows lock properly? is there outdoor lighting that needs repaired?) and the condition of outdoor surfaces.

If the home is subject to hot summers, moist beach air, or mountain winter snowstorms, make sure exterior surfaces are hardy enough for the elements. To avoid guest liability (and for your safety!) make sure that walkways, decks, and concrete surfaces have been properly maintained. Finally, if the home is in a rural area or surrounded by trees and foliage, you may also want to arrange for additional inspection services to double-check that rodents and insects haven’t invaded.