Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look For Before Buying

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During a home inspection, a professional will examine a property to identify any potential flaws or damages. A property inspection should include detailed reports on the indoor, exterior, plumbing, electrical systems, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and foundation. A particularly thorough inspection may recommend maintenance you should conduct once you move in.

Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look For

Home inspections can vary depending upon your location and the individual inspector you work with. The inspector's association also influences what he or she will examine. Home inspectors typically check components outlined in the standards set by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI), or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Using these guidelines, they’ll assess the condition and safety of each of the following categories.


  • Floors and drywall: Are the base of the interior walls and floors intact? Are there any large cracks? Are these vertical or horizontal cracks? Are there any signs of leaks?
  • Stairways: Are the railings intact? Are there any noticeable noises or movement from the steps when you put weight on them?
  • Cabinets: What is the condition of the hinges, fixtures, and material? Will anything need to be cleaned, refinished, or replaced completely?
  • Windows: Are they properly sealed inside and outside? Are the frames in good repair?
  • Vents: Do the vents move air to the exterior of the house?


  • Appliances: What is the age and condition of the fixed appliances? When will they need to be replaced?
  • HVAC: Is the heating and cooling equipment working properly? When might units need to be replaced? Do vent and exhaust systems pose any potential fire hazards? If the house smells, can the source be located?
  • Electrical: Do the main panel and circuit breakers appear to be in good working condition? How do the wiring and fuses look? Is all the work done up to code? Are the outlets grounded?
  • Plumbing: What are the pipe materials and condition like? Do they have any faulty joints? Is there enough pressure in faucets and other fixtures? Are there any strange noises when running water?


  • Lawn area: Are there any soggy patches or standing pools of water? What does the drainage system look like?
  • Walls and siding: Will the siding need replacement or repainting? Are the downspouts and gutters in good condition? Are there any cracks along the exterior walls?
  • Decks and porches: Are the railings intact? Is the deck flooring structurally sound? Will any part of the wood need resealing or repainting?
  • Garages and carports: Do the vents, ceiling, and concrete slab look intact? Does the garage have a continuous, unbroken firewall separating it from the rest of the house?

Structural Elements

  • Foundation: Are there obvious shifts or cracks in the foundation? Are there any trees very close to the foundation that might grow roots beneath it?

When you get a home inspection, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re there in person when the home inspector visits the property. That way, you can ask questions and point out any aspects of the home you want looked at more carefully. The inspector may not be required to look at everything, including components they can’t see and any they can’t readily access. For example, they won’t move furniture or enter crawl spaces that are too small.

Do You Need a Licensed Home Inspector?

Getting an inspection before putting your home on the market may give you an advantage in the selling process. If an inspector finds significant issues, addressing those problems before selling can help you list the home for its maximum value. Or, you can choose not to make the repairs (if they are minor ones) and disclose any issues to a buyer, helping to expedite the closing process.

Making sure your home inspector is licensed can protect you from any legal or financial issues. For example, if you hire an inspector backed by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, you could be compensated if the inspector misses anything significant. And as long as you apply within 90 days of closing, the association may buy back your home.

However, keep in mind that a general home inspector won’t examine every part of your house. You may need specialized professional opinions for more complex areas, such as roofing, asbestos, mold, and rodent issues.

Should Buyers Pay for a Home Inspection?

Buyers are usually responsible for the cost of a professional home inspection, which forms part of their mortgage closing costs. Inspections can take place at any time while the house is in escrow, which is the period of time between the signing of the purchase contract and the closing date. However, getting the home inspected as soon as possible gives the buyer more time to work out any issues that might be discovered.

Paying for a home inspection guarantees you more transparency as a buyer and gives you more peace of mind before closing on a home. A professional inspection can also give you more leverage when negotiating with the seller. If the home inspector uncovers any significant defect in the property, the buyer can ask the seller to make the necessary repairs. Having an inspection [contingency clause](

If your purchase contract has an inspection contingency, you could also back away from the contract without penalty if the inspection turns up serious flaws in the property. If the inspection reveals problems that you're willing to fix on your own, such flaws may give you an opportunity to negotiate for a lower sales price on the property as a whole.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Product Manager for ValuePenguin with years of experience in addressing critical questions about mortgages and homeowners insurance. He spends his time evaluating insurance providers and policy features to understand where consumers might find the most cost-effective coverage. Chris has contributed insights to the New York Times and many other publications.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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