The Home Inspection Checklist: Don't Buy a House Without It
A home inspection checklist is a rundown of features throughout a house that might be faulty or need fixing. Home inspectors use these lists while inspecting homes, and while they may vary by individual and geographic area, rest assured, this list is incredibly long—proving that a whole lot can go wrong with a home!
"There are typically over 1,600 different items on our list that home inspectors are supposed to look at,” says Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors, which trains and certifies home inspectors throughout the country.
A home inspection checklist can keep inspectors from accidentally overlooking small things, thereby guaranteeing that their inspection is thorough. If you're hoping to buy a particular house, getting a good home inspection is crucial, since it can help you root out potentially costly problems before the house is officially yours. If any of these features don't pass muster, you can renegotiate with the seller (to lower the price or pay for repairs), or back out of the deal entirely.
What does a home inspection checklist cover?
"The checklist will vary depending on the inspector, but generally it's divided into sections," says Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time." "It will cover the exterior and interior elements."
Here's a rundown of the main things a home inspection checklist will encompass:
Structural issues: "Your home must properly support the weight of its own structure," says Jeffrey Miller, real estate agent and team lead at AE Home Group in Baltimore. "Over time, critical elements may begin to fail."
A home inspector will look for cracked foundation, sagging beams, wood rot, and uneven floors, identifying areas that may be compromised.
Roof problems: If the roof is sloped, Miller says, an inspector will look for curling or missing shingles, worn granules, cracks in skylight sealant, loose gutters, etc. If the roof is flat, the inspector will want to check for cracks in the seams and any kinds of divots or spongy areas.
"They’re looking for any signs that that roof is no longer structurally sound or may allow in water in the near future," Miller notes.
Mechanical issues: From central air to water radiators, the heating and cooling systems in a house should be turned on by the inspector (regardless of the season) to ensure they're in proper working condition.
Plumbing concerns: Although a home inspector can inspect only plumbing that is visually accessible, the checklist will include keeping an eye out for leaks under bathroom sinks, signs of corrosion and rusting of cast-iron drain lines, and water pressure.
Electrical troubles: Electrical issues could spark house fires, which is why inspectors check outlets individually to ensure they're properly hooked up to power and grounded. They'll also check for code violations and gauge the age of the electrical system.
Overall condition: Do the doors stick? Are there windows that have been painted shut? Will the oven that's being sold with the house actually turn on? A home inspector's checklist includes walking through the house and checking on these basic elements, so that issues can be rectified before you buy.
Safety: The home inspection checklist will include items that may compromise the safety of you and your family. That list includes the following:
Open stair risers that are too high
Wobbly deck supports
Loose or missing handrails
Nonfunctional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Peeling paint if the home was built before 1978
Signs of mold
Signs that a chimney needs maintenance
Should home buyers read the home inspection checklist?
Since a home inspection checklist is extremely detailed, home buyers should not feel required to peruse it in depth. However, you should make sure your home inspector is working off one. No one, not even the best inspector, can remember everything!
After your home inspection, "your home inspector should produce a report with detailed notes that analyze the condition and flag any potential problems," says Lerner. This document is the one you'll want to scrutinize and discuss with your inspector. Even better: See if you can tag along during the home inspection so you can actually see any problems for yourself.