Contractor or inspector inspecting a new home, Home Inspection Checklist.

Home Inspection Checklist: What Buyers Should Look Out For

6-Minute Read
Published on August 17, 2021

You deserve to have confidence as a home buyer, especially if it’s your first time. When it comes to purchasing a home, you’ll need to have it inspected. It’s helpful to come armed with what to expect during the process of your home inspection and to keep a home inspection checklist handy to ensure you don't forget anything that day.

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a third-party assessment of your future home's structure and systems. The home inspection takes place after the seller has accepted the buyer’s offer and the purchase agreement is signed by both parties. Keep in mind that you, as the buyer, are able to negotiate and even back out of the deal if major problems arise.

What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Professional home inspectors look at your whole home up, down, side to side and everything in between. Their job is to look at features like the physical structure, walls, roof, attic and windows, to name a few. They’ll also inspect the systems in your home, such as your heating and air conditioning.

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What To Do Before Your Home Inspection

Before having someone go through the home with a fine-tooth comb, there are a few steps you should take in preparation.

Include A Home Inspection Contingency In Your Offer

A home inspection contingency is language in an offer that states that the buyer has the right to have the home inspected. Additionally, it states a specific period, such as within 1 week of the offer being made. It says that the buyer can rescind their offer or negotiate repairs based on the home inspector's findings. 

Hire A Professional Home Inspector

Whether it's your first time purchasing a home or your third, it's crucial to hire a trusted home inspector. Your REALTOR® likely has a few inspectors that they trust and like to work with. Therefore, you should ask your REALTOR® or other trusted home buying professional for a recommendation.

Know What To Look For In A Home Inspection

Once you’ve gone through your home inspection contingency plan and hired a professional, you should gather enough information to know what you’re looking for during the house inspection. It’s important to do your research not only on the interior of the home, but also on the exterior. Come prepared with any questions you might have and a list of any areas you might be concerned or have doubts about.

Voice Any Concerns To Your Home Inspector

You should voice any specific concerns about a given home in advance of the inspection. This way, your inspector knows what to look out for and can advise you on how to proceed.

Attend The Home Inspection Yourself

It’s essential to attend the home inspection to know what the inspector looked at and their recommendations. You can ask them specific questions as a third-party resource. Additionally, your real estate agent might attend the inspection and help you ask relevant questions about the house.

There are several questions that you should ask at the inspection. For example, if your inspector says something might be an issue, you can ask how big of a problem it is or if an expert should look at the problem. You can ask if a problem is typical, and ask them what should be fixed before moving into the home.

A Step-By-Step Home Inspection Checklist For Buyers

As your inspection date approaches, it’s essential to know what to include in your inspection and what to expect from your inspector. Remember, your inspection is meant to protect you from purchasing a house with significant structural issues that could be costly in the future.

Interior Home Inspection Checklist

When it comes to the interior of your home, you want it to be in tip-top shape once it’s time to move in. Make sure that your professional inspector hits these following items on the interior portion of your inspection checklist:

  • Structure: When inspecting the initial structure, the inspector is looking for things like damage or cracks in walls, ceilings, floors and the foundation. This is an essential once-over of the sturdiness of the entire structure.
  • Appliances: Devices like smoke detectors, the washer and dryer, dishwasher, stove and garbage disposal need to be checked to make sure they’re installed and operating properly. They'll also be looking at the age of the appliances.
  • Plumbing: One of the last things anyone wants in their home is water damage. A trained inspector will check the water shut-off, toilets, waste and vent pipes, showers, sinks, and anywhere else leakage can become an issue. As part of this inspection, you should also have your water heater checked. You don't want that not working or potentially overheating.
  • Electrical: In this part of the evaluation, the inspector checks the electrical system's capacity, looks for any defects in the wiring and makes sure everything is properly grounded. They'll also check your main panel and circuit breakers. Finally, miscellaneous items like ceiling fans and light fixtures are looked at.
  • Basement: Here, the inspector is looking for anything that could compromise the structure of your basement. Typically, indications of basement water damage are a bad sign. Since basements are underground and more vulnerable to water in the area, it's essential to look at the drainage systems. They'll also check out any beams, crawl spaces and support posts.
  • Garage: In the garage, the walls, ceilings, firewall and roof are all inspected. This is in addition to the lights and the garage door opener.
  • Each room in the house: This includes floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, staircases, furnaces, fireplaces, insulation and ventilation, and full rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms.

Exterior Home Inspection Checklist

Although the interior is extremely important to look at during the inspection, the exterior deserves the same attention. Let’s take a look at some examples of exterior features that will be inspected.

  • Roof: When it comes to this part of the house, the inspector is looking for any signs of roof damage, like missing or loose shingles. They also inspect your gutters and rain guards to make sure everything will flow properly off the roof. Then, they’ll check your insulation and ventilation to ensure any airflow problems won't damage the roof.
  • Yard: The inspector will look for proper drainage as well as any installed sprinkler systems.
  • Visible cracks: Whether it’s on the driveway or on sidewalks, cracks could create a tripping hazard.
  • Deck and porch: Make sure the structure is up to date and up to code. Your professional inspector might also check the pool if there is one.

Please note that this step-by-step checklist is essentially a starting point for home buyers. Although these exterior and interior items that are listed are important on a home inspection checklist, there may be additional items to check when it comes to your new home.

What To Do After Your Home Inspection

Once the inspection is over, now is the time to take action on it if necessary. The first step is to absorb it.

Read The Home Inspection Report

When the inspection is completed, the home inspector will give you a report. It will have a list of everything in your home and will give a details of any issues they found. It will also include images of any issues that need attention and details on the impact of those issues. You can use the information in the home inspection report to negotiate your offer if needed.

Consider Negotiating For Repairs

Depending on what your inspector finds in your home, you may want to consider negotiating for repairs with the seller. Here’s a list of examples of some of the most common issues found:

  • Leaky basement
  • Clogged gutters
  • Worn shingles that may include asbestos
  • Cracked driveway or sidewalks
  • Faulty wiring
  • Water stains on ceilings

However, it’s not always appropriate to negotiate. Your real estate agent can help you discern when something is negotiable and what you may want to ask for. You may want to ask for a lower selling price so that you can allocate more funds to doing the repairs yourself – or you may be able to negotiate that something is fixed before you close on the home.

The Bottom Line: Prioritize The Home Inspection Process

When it comes to purchasing a home, having a home inspection should be at the top of your priority list. There are many printable home inspection checklists that can be useful during the process.

Many inspection reports come back normal, and you can move forward with the home buying process. If the inspection report goes south, however, you should know your options before finalizing the deal. This process may seem intimidating, but choosing the right real estate agent can make your journey smoother.

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Miranda Crace

The Quicken Loans blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.