Home Inspection Checklist: A Complete Guide

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A home inspection is a critical tool for you to help protect what may be the single largest investment you will ever make. There’s nothing worse than buying a home, and then later finding a number of issues that may be have been easily detected by a trained and highly qualified inspector. If you’re in the final stages of purchasing a home, here’s what you should know about a home inspection.

Why is a home inspection important?

You can expect several small expenses when you’re buying a home. These include application fees, homeowner’s insurance, legal fees, and more. Because you’re already spending so much money upfront, many buyers are tempted to skip a home inspection. Averaging between $350 and $600, a home inspection is a relatively insignificant expense that may help you in the long-run and at the very least give you peace of mind if there are no material issues uncovered during the inspection.

Here are a few reasons why a residential home inspection is worth the investment and the time:

1. It may help you avoid significant expenses later.

Ideally, a home inspection should reveal any major issues with the home. These aren’t things you would normally notice with a routine walk-through, such as a failing HVAC system, improper wiring, structural issues, and more.

2. It may help you create a maintenance plan.

Even if there are no significant issues with the home, you can expect to pay maintenance expenses as long as you live there. Over time, these expenses can add up. A home inspection could help you outline a maintenance schedule, so you can prepare for these costs in advance.

3. It may help identify any safety issues.

A home inspection can uncover safety issues, which may be very costly problems in addition to potential problems associated with the roof. Mold, carbon monoxide leaks, and lead are all significant safety issues that can threaten the health of your household members.

4. It may protect you from a bad deal.

When you sign a contract to purchase a home, you can add a contingency. This is a note that lets the seller know that you only agree to purchase the home if the home inspection meets your expectations.

If the home inspection reveals significant issues, you can choose to void the contract, ask the seller to make necessary repairs, or request a discounted price.

Without a home inspection, you’re buying the home as-is. If any problems arise after the purchase, they’re entirely your responsibility.

Home Inspection Checklist

Whether you attempt to perform a home inspection yourself or hire a professional, you can consult this checklist to make sure the most important aspects of your home are covered. This is a full checklist condensed from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Most professional home inspectors will use a checklist very similar to this.

With each item, you’re looking for anything that could cause problems down the road. Any obvious damage should be outlined, but you’re also looking for things that might cause damage later.

ROOF

  • Covering materials
  • Gutters
  • Downspouts
  • Vents, flashing, skylights, chimney, etc.
  • General roof structure

EXTERIOR

  • Exterior wall covering, flashing, and trim
  • Exterior doors
  • Walkways and driveways
  • Stairs, steps, stoops, stairways and ramps
  • Porches, patios, decks, balconies and carports
  • Railings, guards and handrails
  • Eaves, soffits and fascia
  • Windows
  • Vegetation, surface drainage, retaining walls and grading of the property
  • Spacing between intermediate balusters, spindles and rails

BASEMENT, FOUNDATION, CRAWLSPACE, AND STRUCTURE

  • Foundation
  • Basement
  • Crawlspace
  • Structural Components

HEATING

  • Heating System
  • Thermostat

COOLING

  • Cooling System
  • Thermostat

PLUMBING

  • Main water supply shut-off valve
  • Main fuel supply shut-off valve
  • Water heater
  • Fixtures and faucets
  • Toilets
  • Sink, tub, and shower drainage
  • Drain, waste, and vent system
  • Drainage sump pumps

ELECTRICAL

  • Service drop
  • Service conductors and attachment point
  • Service head, gooseneck and drip loops
  • Service mast, service conduit and raceway
  • Electric meter and base
  • Service-entrance conductors
  • Main service disconnect
  • Circuit breakers and fuses
  • Service grounding and bonding
  • Switches, lighting fixtures, and receptacles
  • Ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacles and circuit breakers
  • Smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors

FIREPLACE

  • Visible areas
  • Lintels above the fireplace openings
  • Dampers
  • Cleanout doors and frames

ATTIC, INSULATION, AND VENTILATION

  • Insulation
  • Ventilation
  • Mechanical exhaust systems

DOORS, WINDOWS, AND INTERIOR

  • Doors and windows
  • Floors, walls, and ceilings
  • Stairs, steps, landings, stairways and ramps
  • Railings, guards, and handrails
  • Garage doors and door openers

OPTIONAL SYSTEMS AND COMPONENTS

  • Dishwasher
  • Garbage disposal
  • Ranges, cook tops, and oven
  • Microwave
  • Trash compactor
  • Door bell
  • Sprinkler system
  • Swimming pool, spa, hot tub, and equipment
  • Outdoor buildings
  • Outdoor grill or smoker
  • Gas supply system
  • Private water well (This isn't part of a standard test, but click here to learn more.)
  • Septic system
  • Whole-house vacuum
  • Security system
  • Other appliances or systems

Do home inspectors offer a guarantee?

Though home inspections offer a substantial amount of protection for the home buyer, they generally do not come with a guarantee. There are simply too many factors that can go wrong with a home for a home inspector to take on this amount of liability.

However, some home inspectors may offer a limited guarantee, which is a refund of the money you pay for the actual inspection if you are not completely satisfied with the inspection. Some home inspectors may offer a home warranty with their home inspection services.

How to Find a Home Inspector

While you can certainly use this list to oversee a qualified inspector or perform an inspection yourself, it’s best to hire an expert to conduct the actual home inspection.

Many of these systems, including electrical and plumbing systems, require professional knowledge and expertise that most home buyers simply don’t possess.

A good home inspection may cost you a few hundred dollars, but it’s well worth the investment. Conducting a proper home inspection now may save you thousands of dollars (or more) down the road.

For more information or for help with a new home inspection, click here to find a WIN Home Inspection expert near you. Alternatively, call (800) 309-6753 or email us at inquiry@wini.com and one of our experts will contact you promptly.

If you need help preparing your home for an inspection, please see our additional guide.

Sources:

Bankrate

International Association of Certified Home Inspectors

Forbes