A home inspection checklist can help house hunters know what they’re getting into—whether a property will likely be more of a nuisance than a nest.
In a hot market, some buyers skip all contingencies, including the home inspection, taking on risk.
Others are opting to have an inspection done before making an offer. In a time of bidding wars, that can mean multiple home inspections and offers.
In a seller’s market, many properties are sold “as is,” which means sellers won’t negotiate for repairs even after an inspection.
But in any market, a home inspection checklist will help prevent you from buying a home at the top of your budget that will soon need big fixes.
What’s on a House Inspection Checklist?
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, here are the common items evaluated in a general professional inspection.
Note that a general home inspector—whose average cost ranges from $280 to $400—might suggest a separate inspection by a specialist if the inspector spots a potential problem but thinks an expert should evaluate it further.
Heating and Air System
Depending on your geographical location and the weather there, a finely tuned heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system might be a top priority on your home inspections list.
Does the house you’re considering have an HVAC system? An older property might not, in which case you might want to research and price the purchase and installation of a system.
If the property does have HVAC, does it work and how old is it? If it doesn’t work, or work well, you’ll want to find out what it will cost to repair or replace it.
If the system is practically vintage, the Department of Energy says it might be worthwhile to replace it, as newer models are more efficient and likely to lower your energy costs.
It’s easy to forget about pipes when you’re walking through a home. You can’t see them, but they heavily affect daily life and are 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 additional repair work.
An inspector 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, that could be inspected, too.
Check out the SoFi guide
to first-time home buying.
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 functioning of the electrical box, outlets, switches, and lighting will be checked, as well as the state of the wiring throughout the home.
If the house has solar panels, you might want to make sure they’re in working order and ask for the maintenance history.
No matter the type of roof, the home inspector will check its 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 set aside money to replace it when needed.
Replacing a roof can run from about $5,570 to $11,400, HomeAdvisor notes.
Floors, Walls, Ceilings
Put the bones of the house on your house inspection checklist.
Structural components like these will likely be looked at in your home inspection. You’ll want to be sure the floors are level. And 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 cracks are a natural change 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, Basement
A home inspector will crawl through a foundation space, checking for stability and that it is up to national safety codes.
A basement will be checked 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, lowering energy costs.
If your prospective home is quite old, it’s possible it has no insulation, and you might want to consider the cost of adding it. If the home has been insulated, the home inspector will check its condition and look for gaps.
Exterior walls will be evaluated, with an eye toward any damaged bricks, shingles, or siding or bubbling paint. Other important exterior components are chimneys, gutters and downspouts, doors, and windows. You might also want to check for moisture.
If water collects and stands anywhere on the property—because of poorly hung gutters or a leaking sprinkler, for example—you may want to nip it in the bud to avoid mold growth and/or water damage. Check for pests like termites or cockroaches as well.
If a refrigerator, stove, and washer and dryer are part of the deal, have your inspector make sure they are in good working order.
If the home comes with few to no appliances, determine how much adding them will cost.
Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home
Choosing a Home Inspector
If you’re using a real estate agent, chances are your agent can recommend a few home inspectors they’ve worked with before.
Then again, a home inspector your agent referred may feel obligated to go easy on the inspection.
Whether you’re using a buyer’s agent or not, some consumer advocates say it’s a good idea to find your own inspector.
Other things to put on your house-hunting checklist: Know your credit score, and get prequalified and preapproved for a home loan.
A home inspection checklist can unearth problems that can be a dealbreaker, possibly a negotiating tool, or something a buyer is willing to accept and deal with. The curb appeal is great, the staging superb, but house inspection lists offer a probing look at what lies beneath.
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