The home-buying experience is a serious undertaking that requires lots of effort from many parties. The good news is that the process generally follows a predictable pattern, and with the right team behind you — a good real estate agent and a trusted home inspector, for example — the sure-to-crop-up bumps in the road can feel more manageable.
If you are reading this home inspection checklist you probably determined that you’re financially (and emotionally) ready to buy rather than rent.
You have likely considered things like your budget, as knowing how much house you can afford helps narrow your search. Then comes dozens of home tours and probably a few late-night chats with your family or your real estate agent.
All of that leg work ideally leads you to a home you want to buy. And if you are like most potential buyers, you might want to have a general home inspection done so that you don’t buy a home at the top of your budget that will very soon need big fixes. A general home inspection is considered a thorough one because it covers many aspects of the home.
Chances are, your real estate agent knows and can recommend a few home inspectors they have worked with before.
And since the prospective buyer can be present at the inspection, one good idea would be to have your own home inspection checklist to refer to as a guide.
A clear list could also help ensure that your emotions aren’t fogging your vision of possible problems — if you’re in love with the look and feel of the home, it may be difficult to see those problems.
What to Look for in a Home Inspection
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors , here are the common items that would be evaluated in a general professional inspection. Note that a general home inspector — whose average cost ranges from $278 to $390 — might suggest a separate inspection by a specialist if they spot a potential problem but think an expert should evaluate it further.
The seller may also have already had an inspection done. If so, you can ask to view this inspection so you have as much information as possible.
Heating and Air System
Depending on your geographical location and the weather there, a working heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system might be a top priority. So take a close look—does the house you’re considering have an HVAC system? Does it work? If it doesn’t, you will want to find out what it will cost to repair it.
An older property might not have a HVAC system at all, in which case you might want to research and price out the purchase (and installation) of one via a local company.
And if there is a system but it’s practically vintage, the U.S. Department of Energy says it might be worthwhile to replace it, as newer models are more efficient and might therefore lower your energy costs.
It’s easy to forget about pipes and wires when you’re walking through a home. You can’t see them, but they heavily impact daily life and they’re not always simple to repair.
Ask your home inspector to check all plumbing work for possible leakage, as a leaky pipe can lead to water damage and therefore additional repair work.
Inspectors could also check drainage throughout the home, the condition of the garbage disposal and water heater, and overall water pressure. If the home is older and has a septic tank, this could be inspected, too.
A professional home inspection will likely include an evaluation of a property’s entire electric system, ensuring that it is up to safety standards outlined by the National Electrical Code .
The function of the electrical box, outlets, switches, and lighting will be checked, as well as the state of the wiring throughout the home. Should defects be found, you might use this information to negotiate your purchase price, or request repairs prior to buying the home.
If the house has solar panels installed to offset energy costs, you might want to make sure they’re currently in working order and ask for the maintenance history of the panels.
Your roof protects the interior of your home, and no matter the type of roof — shingles, tiles, metal, and synthetic are common — your home inspector will check its current condition and age.
A roof in good shape helps ensure against leaks and provides some level of insulation. It’s also important to know if you’re buying a home with a roof at the end of its lifespan, so you can save money ahead of time in order to replace it in the coming years.
Check out the SoFi guide
to first-time home buying.
Floors, Walls, Ceilings
Structural components like these will likely be looked at in your home inspection. You’ll want to be sure the floors are level — drooping or slanting floors might point to bigger problems below. You’ll also want to consider the floors cosmetically. Is the carpeting new? Are there wooden floors that need refinishing?
Look for cracks in the drywall or plaster that make up the walls and ceiling as well. Sometimes these cracks are a natural change in a home, as walls expand and contract with weather changes. But it’s good to know if all you’ll need is spackle and paint, or if repairs will require a lot more time and money.
Foundation, Attic, and/or Basement
A home inspector will crawl through a foundation space, checking for stability and that it is up to national safety codes.
The same goes for basements. As these are built in the ground and are your home’s lowest point, inspections check for dampness and good ventilation for moisture control.
And if the home has an attic, your inspector will check to see that the beams and rafters (which support the roof) look secure and distress-free.
Homes generally lose heat through the windows, walls, roof, and attic. Proper sealing and insulation can be a good way to prevent this, and thereby keep your energy costs lower.
If your prospective home is quite old, it’s possible it has no insulation, and you might want to consider adding it or look into costs for this in your area. If the home has already been insulated, your home inspector will check its condition and look for gaps.
Check the condition of your exterior walls, looking for any damaged bricks, shingles or siding, as well as rippling or bubbling paint. Other important exterior components to evaluate include chimneys, gutters and downspouts, doors, and windows. You might also want to check for moisture.
If water collects and stands anywhere on the property — due to poorly hung gutters or a leaking sprinkler, for example — you may want to request the seller fix this to avoid future mold growth and/or water damage. Check for pests as well, such as termites or cockroaches.
Some homes come fully equipped with appliances. So if there’s already a refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer, have your inspector make sure they are in good working order, without leaks or any other problems.
If the home comes with few to no appliances, determine how much money you can spend on these items while still keeping in your budget.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
A home inspection checklist like this one can help a buyer focus their attention on property issues that may require financial investment.
Keep in mind, though, that many homes will need a repair here or there — and that may be okay depending upon the severity of the repair, so long as you know what you’re up against and that the necessary fixes are mostly cosmetic in nature and in your budget because health or safety type issues could have an impact on the lendability of the property depending up upon the loan program you are approved for.
Once you’ve found a home that you want to make yours, consider connecting with a dedicated SoFi Mortgage loan officer who can help you with the next steps of the home-buying process.
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