You’ve finally found the home of your dreams and now you’re ready to sign the contract. But, there is one key step before making the purchase final – getting a home inspection. The freshly painted walls, hardwood floors, and granite countertops are simply superficial touches. What you don’t see is the dangerous wiring, ancient plumbing or foundation cracks. All these defects can be revealed if you hire a home inspector.
What is a Home Inspection
A home inspection is, basically, your chance to investigate a property thoroughly and reveal any serious flaws. People usually hire an expert that walks through the house and makes a report that lists the major components of the home, the condition they are in, and whether something requires maintenance once you move in.
If you sign a purchase agreement that has an inspection contingency, then you can walk away from the deal without any penalties if the home inspection reveals some serious flaws. You can also ask the seller to make all the necessary repairs, saving you money and hassle.
Even though you might hire a home inspector, it is wise to have your own home inspection checklist which can help you get the most out of the inspection report.
How to Find a Home Inspector
Finding a good home inspector might take some time. If you have a real estate agent, then it is very likely that he will recommend several inspectors. You should also do research on your own and ask for recommendations from your friends, colleagues, or family members. Keep in mind that licensing requirements for home inspectors vary from one state to another. For example, in some states, a home inspector must complete training, pass an exam, and demonstrate experience in order to get licensed. However, in other states, home inspectors are not required to be licensed at all. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) provides an interactive map which lists home inspection license requirements in all states.
Once you find a home inspector, make sure to ask for a sample report before you hire him. Some reports might be 100 pages long while others only contain checkboxes. A longer report doesn’t necessarily have to be better. Make sure to check with the inspector what is included in the inspection. If there are certain concerns you want to have addressed, ensure that the inspector adds them to the list.
What a Home Inspection Does and Does Not Include
The scope of a home inspection depends on the inspector. However, there is one thing that is consistent – all inspectors focus on the physical components of a home. This certainly covers many things but doesn’t include absolutely everything.
A home inspector can only report what he can see, not what is inside the walls or underneath the furniture. However, if there are accessible crawl spaces in the home, the inspector will enter and check the foundation. In addition, the home should be vacant so that the inspector can inspect as much as possible.
A home inspection typically does not include:
- Wood-destroying pests,
- Rodents such as mice and rats,
- Trees and landscaping
- Lawn sprinklers and swimming pool equipment
- Sewer line
- Chimney and fireplace
- Floors covered by carpeting or spots where there is furniture
- Roof covered by snow
What to Look for in Your Home Inspection Report?
There are some red flags you should look out for in every home inspection report. For example, a water leak can cause a lot of trouble to homeowners. However, locating the source of the leak can be a bit tricky. Make sure that this is included in the report and that the inspector checks the plumbing properly. The water should be turned on during the inspections and the faucets should run for a period of time so that leaks can appear.
Make sure that the home inspector pays attention to any structural issues. Even though a small crack seems innocent, it can cause larger problems. Inspectors should look for cracks between doors and windows, bulging walls, and sloping floors.
Even if your home has a concrete foundation, it doesn’t mean that it is immune to termites and other wood-destroying insects. They can crawl through small spaces and damage wooden structural supports and even porches and windows. It is recommended that your home inspector searches for these pests since they can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
Keep in mind that the home inspector typically only searches for problems and won’t estimate repair costs for you. If you have any questions, make sure to discuss them with your inspector and ensure that you are making a good investment.
Home Inspection checklist
Below we cover our 80+ point home inspection checklist. While we always recommend purchasing a home inspection prior to buying a home, you can use this list as a way to do your own DIY inspection while you’re house hunting and before making an offer.
Exterior Home Inspection Checklist
Before checking the interior of your new home, don’t forget to check what the exterior is like.
- Driveway and walkway – do they need any repairs? Are there any large cracks?
- Grounds – there should be no evidence of standing water or any leaks from the septic tank. House should have proper drainage. There shouldn’t be any branches or bushes touching the house.
- Porch, deck, and railings – make sure that the boards are solid and that the supports are sufficient. Also, see if repainting will be necessary.
- House exterior – the paint should be in good condition. There should be no crumbly stucco or flaking of bricks. The siding boards should not be cracked. It is desirable to have gutter extensions that take water away from the house.
- Fences – are the fences in good condition or they started rotting?
- Foundation – are there any significant cracks? Can insects reach the wood?
- Roof – will shingles need replacing any time soon? Is there any sagging in the roof? Are there any gaps? Are shingles curling or splitting?
- Doors and windows – you want them to be in good shape. This means that there are no cracks, decay, or rot. There should be no broken glass or damaged screens. Drip caps should be installed over windows. All locks should be working properly.
- Sheds – the shed door should be working properly and the shed floor should be solid. There should be a source of light as well.
- Propane tank – if there is a propane tank, it should be securely mounted. If it is near the driveway there should be some safety barrier.
- Garage door – garage door and other doors should be in good working condition.
- Firewall – there should be a firewall between the house and the garage.
- Floors and walls – are they in good condition?
- Flat roofs – are there any patches, cracks, or wrinkles?
- Composition shingles – are there any missing or damaged shingles? Are there more than two layers of roofing? There should be no cupping or curling.
- Wood shingles – watch out for mold, rot, decay, as well as cracked or broken shingles.
- Chimney – should be straight. There should be no signs of damaged bricks or cracked joints.
- Exterior venting – all vents should be clean.
- Gutters – should be attached securely to the roof. All the joints should be sealed. There should be no decay or rust.
- Insulation – is it properly installed and in good condition?
- Ventilation – are there any vents? Are they properly installed?
- Wires – is the wiring updated?
- Roof – there should be no light coming in through the roof. Inspect for any black spots or patches that could be mold.
- Pests – is there any sign of pests such as droppings or chewed wood?
- Damage – the structure should be checked for any decay or damage.
- Other – there should be no plumbing, exhaust or appliance vents.
- Moisture – no evidence of moisture, water stains, or standing water.
- Floor and walls – no cracks, discoloration, or bulging that indicate damage or evidence of water.
- Foundation – no cracks or flaking.
- Structural wood – no damage, decay, or sagging should be present.
- Faucets, sinks, drains – should be in working condition.
- Smoke/carbon monoxide detector – is there a smoke or carbon monoxide detector installed? Does it function properly?
- Size – is the crawl space big enough to crawl in?
- Venting – is the crawl space adequately vented to the exterior?
- Insulation – is there insulation on vent pipes, waste, and exposed water supply? Also, is there insulation between crawl space and heated areas?
- Damage – there should be no evidence of moisture and insect damage.
- Mast – is the mast (electrical connection) attached to the house?
- Outside wires – are there any wires rubbing against the house? Are the lines more than 10 feet above the ground?
- Breaker box – are there breakers instead of fuses? Are the breakers labeled? Is the breaker box covered?
- Wiring – wiring should look normal. Exposed splices should be in junction boxes. Is there exposed wiring? Are there any wires with evidence of burning?
- Outlets – outdoor outlets should have weather protection. All outlets should have undamaged covers.
- Water pump – should be working properly and shouldn’t short cycle.
- Pipes – there should be no damage, no sign of staining on materials near pipes, no evidence of leaks.
- Water heater – should be vented properly and capable of producing an adequate amount of hot water.
- Water temperature – should be between 118 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Interior Home Inspection Checklist
- Floors, walls, ceilings – there should be no stains. All should appear straight.
- Walls – there should be no significant cracks nor damage.
- Flooring materials – are they in good condition? Will they need replacing any time soon?
- Windows and doors – do they operate easily and latch properly? There should be no broken glass or hardware nor any decay.
- Paint and paneling – are they in good condition?
- Lights and switches – do they operate properly? Should they be replaced soon?
- Insulation – there should be evidence of adequate insulation in walls.
- HVAC – every habitable room should have a heating/cooling source.
- Fireplace – there should be no cracking, damaged masonry, or evidence of back-drafting.
- Flues – there should be no open seams. Separate flues for propane/gas/oil and wood/coal should exist.
- Air filters – they should be clean and working properly.
- Ductwork – is it in good condition?
- Cooling unit – is there rust around the cooling unit?
- Pipes – there should be no asbestos on heating pipes and water pipes.
- Structure – are there any cracks or gaps?
- Damper – does the damper open and close easily?
- Chimney – is the chimney in good condition? Is it pulling away from the house? Are there any bricks coming apart? Is there a chimney cap?
Living Room, Dining Room, and Bedrooms
- Walls – are there any cracks or bulges? Is the paint or wallpaper peeling? Look out for water stains as well.
- Ceiling – it should not be sagging. Check out for peeling paint as well.
- Floor – look out for any stains or damaged areas. See if the floor is even. the carpeting should not be pulling anywhere.
- Lights – make sure that all lights and light switches work.
- Outlets – all outlets should be anchored firmly to the wall and working properly. Outlets should be covered. Make sure to test all outlets with an outlet tester.
- Doors and windows – they should be opened and closed easily. If there are any blinds or curtains, make sure that they are functioning properly.
- Appliances – make sure that appliances are working, if there are any included in the sale.
- Cabinets – all cabinets should be in good condition; doors and drawers operate properly.
- Exhaust fan – does the exhaust fan work? Is it vented to the exterior of the building?
- Garbage disposal – there should be no excessive rust or deterioration.
- Pipes – they work properly and there are no leaks in pipes under sinks.
- Faucets, sinks, and drains – see if all faucets are working and watch the color of the water. How long does it take for hot water to get there? Does the sink drain easily? Is there any moisture under the sink caused by leaky drains?
- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter – should be within 6 feet from the sink.
- Smoke detector – is there a smoke detector? Does it work properly
- Sink, tub, and shower – do they work properly? Do the sink and tub/shower drain easily? Are there mineral stains in the tub/shower? Are the walls around the tub/shower damaged? The sink should show no sign of rust.
- Toilet – flush the toilet to see if it operates properly. Is there any dripping? Is the toilet stable? There should be no stains around the base.
- Tub/shower tiles – are they secure? Is the wall surface solid?
- Flow and pressure – are the flow and pressure adequate at all fixtures?
- Entrance – is the entrance well lit? Is there any noticeable damage to the walls or the floor?
- Stairways – are the stairs safe for walking on? Are there any loose steps or broken edges? Do all stairways have handrails?
- Furnace – Is the furnace working properly? Is the flame blue or orange? Does the fan sound smooth? Is there any smell of leaking gas?
- Water heater – is it in good condition? Is the water hot enough? Are there any stains that might indicate leakage?
- Air conditioning – does it work? Does the condenser unit run quietly? Are the cooling fins of the condenser unit in a good condition?
Wrapping it up
Getting a home inspection is only one part of the home buying process. If you’re interested in learning more about buying a home we recommend reading our article about what to look for when buying a home. If you’re ready to buy a home we recommend checking your rate below to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your mortgage:
And if you’ve made your purchase, we definitely recommend downloading our new house checklist to make sure your home is move-in ready on day one!