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Home Inspection Tips

The Homebuyer’s Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist

Michele Lerner

While a home inspection isn’t a requirement for all buyers, this essential step in making a smart decision about your next home is highly recommended. An experienced, reputable home inspector can help you tell the difference between a home in perfect condition, one that needs some minor TLC and one that you should avoid purchasing.

Keep reading to learn more about the important areas that your inspection should address.

Standard Home Inspection Issues

Don’t be afraid to ask your home inspector questions about anything you don’t understand or things you notice that could be problematic. Even a professional inspector can miss something. Plus, the inspector may be able to alleviate your worry about a tiny crack in a wall.

Heating and Cooling Systems

A home inspection often includes extra time on the heating and air conditioning systems because they are essential to the comfort of your home and can be more expensive to fix. For instance, new furnace can cost thousands of dollars. Your inspector will confirm during the inspection that the systems work. They should also provide you with an estimate of how old the parts are and when you might need to replace them.

Home Inspection Checklist

Water Heater and Other Appliances

Your inspector will check to be sure essential appliances are working properly, offer maintenance tips and provide an estimate of when the appliances may need to be replaced. Most HVAC companies offer maintenance contracts that will provide yearly maintenance checkups. Also purchasing equipment breakdown coverage through your insurance company can cover electrical or mechanical breakdowns.

Structural Integrity

While you may be more focused on decorative elements of your home, an inspector will carefully check the structural elements of the home to ensure there are no expensive repairs in your future. Most houses “settle” and can have some minor cracking of walls, but larger ones can be indicative of a bigger problem.

Moisture and Mildew

Water damage from any cause, especially if it causes structural weakness, can be dangerous. Your inspector should look for moisture everywhere, especially in the basement and crawl spaces. Mold can be a serious problem, so this should be a prime concern during your inspection. Water stains on ceilings should be investigated to find out if there are plumbing issues or a roof problem. Your inspector should also make sure that exhaust fans vent to the outside. Those that vent to the attic can cause mold. They’ll also inspect gutters to ensure they are clean and that water drains away from the house.

While some water issues are minor and may have already been addressed, it’s important for your inspector to assess the damage and perhaps request more information from the sellers.

Plumbing Fixtures

Your inspector should test every faucet, toilet and dishwasher to check for appropriate water pressure and leaks. Many plumbing issues are minor but, left untouched, they can add up to major water damage.

Electrical System

If you’re buying a newer home, your inspector should test the electrical panel, hardwired smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to be certain everything works properly. Older homes may have electrical systems that are just as old. Faulty or failing electrical systems that are not able to handle modern demands can be a fire hazard.

Flooring

Your inspector should check flooring for signs of pests or water damage. Wood flooring is easiest to inspect for signs of termites and carpenter ants. Your inspector can also test for soft spots in subfloors. Replacing the system can cost thousands of dollars. Moldy or musty smells may indicate something wrong underneath the carpet or tile.

Special Home Inspection Issues

While the above inspections should be standard for all home purchases, you may want to hire a specialist if you have concerns about the following issues:

Roof

Not all home inspectors climb onto your roof. Some just observe the roof from ground level or from a ladder. If you’re worried about the roof, you may want to hire a roofing company to check it out thoroughly. Your regular inspector may notice missing or loose shingles. Make sure to have those issues addressed, since they could indicate water damage inside the home. Remember, roof repairs and replacements can get expensive. It’s wise to ask your real estate agent to find out when the roof was last replaced.

Roof Home Inspection

Septic System

Older homes and rural homes often have a septic system. If the ground is soft and wet, or if you are aware there’s a septic system, ask for a recent report from the owners or hire someone to make sure it’s functional. The report should show how long ago it was pumped and whether there have been any past issues that need correction.

Buried Oil Storage Tank

An abandoned and buried oil tank on the property that is leaking (or may leak in the future) can result in costly cleanup fees. You may want to request that the tank be removed by the seller prior to taking ownership of the property. This way you won’t be responsible if any problems arise in the process. If your inspector doesn’t see evidence of a buried oil tank outside but there appears to be evidence inside, ask for proper documentation from the seller showing removal of the tank.

Older Home Issues

Older homes may also need an inspection for lead paint and asbestos. Your real estate agent can help you determine if the homeowners have addressed these potential problems. You’ll want to ask for the paperwork to prove it. If not, you may need to hire specialists for one or more extra inspections.

Chimney

Your home inspector can look at the flashing around your chimney. This means, if you plan to use your fireplace, you should hire a chimney inspector. Remember, replacing or repairing a chimney can be expensive, but necessary for ensuring the fireplace is safe.

Drainage Issues Around the House

Moisture issues can be caused by more than a roof or plumbing leak. Dampness could come from outside your house, particularly if the problem is in your basement. You may need a landscape specialist to check that the landscaping is sloping away from the house, particularly if the grounds are soft and moist. You may also need to add a sump pump or make sure an existing sump pump is working to keep your lower level dry.

Large Trees

While trees are beautiful, they also can cause damage if their roots are too big or the branches hang over the house. Roots can grow around drain pipes and cause leaks, impact underground cables, or grow under a foundation and cause cracks. A tree branch falling during a storm can injure people, crush cars or damage your home. You may need an arborist to check out the trees and offer advice.


Keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance covers specific incidents that occur in a home, but not problems caused by normal wear-and-tear. Buying a house that’s been well-maintained and then continuing to maintain it can provide you with peace of mind — the kind that also comes with adequate insurance protection.


What do you keep an eye out for when buying a home? Share your experience with other readers in the comments below.

11 Responses to "The Homebuyer’s Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist"
    • Douglas Frisbey | September 6, 2018 at 9:44 am

      I believe you have observed some very interesting points, thanks for the post.

    • Mary A. Smith | May 1, 2019 at 12:55 am

      I feel I am quite knowledgeable, but this article brought up some things I haven’t thought about for a while, and that is helpful at the present time since I am looking to buy on fairly short notice due to a 10-31 exchange procedure only gives me 45 days to find one or two houses to buy.

      • Extra Mile Staff | May 1, 2019 at 11:45 am

        Thanks for reading Mary! Best of luck in your next home.

    • Vital Building and Pest Inspections Sydney | May 15, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Very detailed and honest explanation. Loved the way you have presented it. I must say this is a complete and thorough explanation, very helpful.Thank you

      • Extra Mile Staff | May 15, 2019 at 12:23 pm

        Thank you for your feedback!

    • Craig Miller | November 6, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      Check for freshly painted trim around exterior doors and windows. Have building inspector poke the trim to see if it is “soft”. I had to later replace a French Patio door, that the framing was rotted near the bottom. Otherwise excellent tips.

    • Herman Faceson | November 7, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      This information is very valuable as a person that is planning on buying a home these helpful hints will go a long way in helping homeowners. Keep up the good work it is mostly needed. Thanks.

    • John Pickard | February 27, 2021 at 9:32 am

      I found out recently, if there are branches from your tree growing into the power company’s right-a-way to accommodate their wiring, they will arrange to have the tree either removed or trimmed away from the wiring. Check with your power company if you think there is an issue. They will appreciate your concern and will contact you and inspect our concern.

    • Candace Dorsey | February 27, 2021 at 11:45 am

      I strongly recommend additional inspections by the following: mold testing company, electrician, chimney specialist. I personally benefited by several thousand dollars from the mold testing company. At the time, I was not buying a slab house. A shower drain had been leaking. Mold treatment and the removal and replacement of all insulation in the crawl space was needed and turned out to be about $3,500 worth of work. The person who bought the last house I sold had an electrician do a separate inspection, and he found some problems. The same is true of the chimney inspector. Also, try to vet the inspector as thoroughly as possible. Don’t just depend on a real estate agent’s opinion or recommendation. Double check if at all possible.

    • Sharon Craig | February 27, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      Shrubs and bushes in close proximity to house may provide a sheltered area where pests, such as termites, spiders, snakes, rodents etc, may enter the home unnoticed.
      Also, the shrubs and bushes may have been placed there purposely to hide a flaw.
      Another thing to look for is the close proximity of trees to the driveway. Their roots will spread out under the driveway and cause a cracked upheaval of the driveway material and making the driveway uneven. This will cause plowing/ shoveling difficult and cause chunks of material to be removed causing potholes.

    • Ken | February 28, 2021 at 3:16 am

      There was no mention of a home inspector performing radon testing in the article. Radon naturally comes into homes from underground in some areas and causes cancer. Shouldn’t something so dangerous be mandatory tested around the country to help protect buyers?

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