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Home Inspections: Checklist of What to Know and Inspect

By Bill Gassett | December 3, 2020

Checklist When Getting a Home Inspection

Are you going to be purchasing your first home soon? When you are buying a home, the home inspection can be an exciting time. It's the first time you have had the opportunity to walk around the home since you made an offer on it, and you get to find out all the problems the property may or may not have.

Home inspections can help you confirm you've made a good home-buying decision or give you a list of issues to raise with the seller. Keep in mind that home inspections are not passed or failed. Properties come in all kinds of conditions, from exceptional to dire need of work.

Keep reading, and you're going to have a detailed home inspection checklist, so you know what to look for when the home is inspected. We'll start by giving some helpful info on how to pick a home inspector.

Checklist for House Inspections
Checklist For House Inspections

Choosing a Home Inspector

There are going to be many inspectors for houses to choose from in your area. So you need to make sure you hire a professional who is properly licensed to operate. Choosing a home inspector is one of the most vital tasks to ensure you will get a thorough inspection.

You can ask for recommendations from your real estate agent or check online reviews to find a home inspector. You can also ask them for a sample home inspection report so you can check how thorough their inspections are.

You also want to make sure that you know fully what is included in the inspection they offer. For example, do they check for mold as part of the basic report or charge extra for that?

Typical home inspection costs range from between $300 and $1000, with the national average being around $400-$500. Inspection costs vary from area to area, and the size of a property will significantly influence the cost.

Though you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, this might seem like a small expense. It is better to find a home inspector who will do a good job for you not end up buying a home with unexpected problems.

When you make an offer on a property, the home inspection will have to be completed in a certain time frame. You need to choose a home inspector fairly early to be ready to schedule an inspection when you need it.

Usually, home inspections need to be completed within ten days from when you have signed an acceptable real estate contract. Buyers should understand that a home inspection is not the same thing as a home appraisal which are often confused.

On the Day of the Inspection

During the inspection of a house, you can be present, and your real estate agent should be with you. The seller’s agent will likely be there as well, to make sure the inspector has all their questions answered, along with representing the seller.

If you want to be present on the day, make sure you set aside enough time. Inspections can take a while and are longer the larger the home is. You can follow the inspector around the home so that you fully understand the issues they uncover.

Don't be worried about asking questions; the inspector will be happy to explain things about the home you don't understand. They could even provide some tips on maintenance for your new home.

Home Inspection Checklist

There will be a lot going on during the inspection of a house, so you need to be prepared when you are attending. If you notice anything that you are unsure of when you first visit the home, be sure to mention it to the home inspector. Whether you are buying a modular home or a traditional stick-built property, all of these components or the house should be thoroughly inspected.

The home inspection checklist will show you what to look out for when viewing the home and what is important in the inspector’s report.

The Roof

When was the last time it was replaced? Is it in good condition? The saying "having a good roof over your head" couldn't be more true when buying a home. You should find out from the home inspector the approximate life that is left on the roof. Homes that have architectural shingles will last longer than those that are flat tabs.

The Attic

Does the roof look as good from inside the home? Are there any signs of leaking rainwater? One of the areas that are most susceptible to mold in a house is the attic. The inspector will be checking over the attic for mold along with a multitude of other abnormalities, including structural issues. Another common thing a home inspector will look over carefully is the lack of ventilation.

The Exterior

What is the condition of the outside of the home? Has it been repainted recently? Are there any repairs needed? One of the more crucial things a home inspector will be looking for when it comes to the building is the siding and trim condition. They will be looking for rotting, cracking, etc. They will be doing the same for other structures as well, such as a deck or porch.

The Foundation

Are there any cracks visible that might indicate the foundations have moved? If there are trees close to the home, they could be causing problems. The foundation is one of the most vital components of a home and needs to be looked over very carefully. Some small hairline cracks are both normal and acceptable. It is when a crack is larger that it could become a cause for concern.

More often than not, a home inspector will recommend having a structural engineer look at more significant cracking.

The Basement or Crawl Space

One of the most substantial issues that a home inspector will look for in a basement or crawl space is water penetration. Are there any signs of dampness, and is the insulation good enough? Water can wreak havoc on a home, so it makes sense that would be of significant importance. If you have any plans for finishing a basement in the future, water issues will become even more important.

What's The Drainage Like

Does water drain away from the home, or are there obvious damp areas in the yard? Checking over the drainage will be commonplace for any professional home inspector.

Are There Any Apparent Leaks

Looking for water damage on the ceiling and around windows is something a thorough home inspector will do. One of the more common issues that can occur in a home is ice damming.

When you see water stains on ceilings or high on a wall, this is the most obvious reason.

It's worth noting that sometimes stains on a ceiling can be a one-time occurrence, such as a toilet overflowing.

Plumbing and Electrical

Are there any issues or reports of malfunctions? Have all the switches being checked, and are the outlets grounded? The home inspector will not only check individual outlets but will inspect the electrical panel as well.

Common problems found in electrical panels are double-tapping (two wires in one breaker) and improper breaker sizing. These are the kind of issues that should be corrected immediately as they are potential safety hazards. To help you on this task, visit Big Family here >>. For Shelton residents, this may be the right time to call for electrical panel upgrade in Shelton, WA.

The HVAC System

How old are the systems in the home, and have they been well maintained? It goes without saying that the heating and cooling systems are vital to be inspected. Both systems are expensive to replace. Quite often, with these systems, some parts will need to be replaced.

Other Potential Home Inspection Items

Besides the general home inspection process, other potential issues should be checked when buying a home. They are as follows:

  • Lead paint - if the home was built before 1979, the potential exists for lead paint. If you have a child under the age of six, it will need to be removed.
  • Mold - mold is a potential health hazard, especially for those who have any respiratory issues.
  • Radon - it is smart to carry out radon inspections when purchasing a house. Radon is an odorless gas that comes from the ground and is known to cause cancer.
  • Water quality and quantity - if the home is not serviced by city water and has a well, it should be tested for quality and quantity.
  • Septic system - when a home does not have a public sewer system and has a private septic, it should be inspected to see if septic tank pumping is necessary. Sewage problems can be plenty during harsh summers. Residential sewer lines are backed up with rainwater during springtime. Sometimes the water sweeps into the sewer pipes through small cracks and breaches. The solution to this problem is to have an annual inspection by a plumbing contractor to check out your sewer pipelines, then have an Oil water separator clean up to keep your sewer system in top-notch condition.
  • Asbestos - if you're buying an older home, the potential exists that the home has asbestos. Asbestos, when in poor condition, could cause cancer.
  • Land survey - although a property survey will not be done by a home inspector it is crucial to have one. When you are paying cash this is something that should be done to verify that all the zoning laws have been met.

Look at The Disclosure Statement

If you can get a disclosure statement from the seller before the inspection, it will help the inspector locate any concerns. Disclosure statements are required in some states but not in others; check with your real estate agent to determine what will be included.

Home Inspections Have Their Limits

An inspection of a house isn't necessarily going to find all possible problems. Inspectors can only investigate things they can see, and they aren't going to start tearing apart the building.

Your contract with the inspector might cover you for things they miss, or they may just return their inspection fee. If you later discover something major wrong with the property, you might end up taking them to court if it was something they should have found.

Final Thoughts on a Home Inspection

The home inspection is one of the essential stages of a home purchase. In real estate markets that heavily favor sellers, it is not uncommon for buyers to waive an inspection. Doing so could be a significant mistake that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

As a buyer, you should be doing at least a precursory look before a home inspector does their job. Hopefully, you have found this home inspection checklist to be useful.

Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate industry with 38 years of experience. Bill is well respected for his informative articles for buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Newsbreak, Credit Sesame, Realty Biz News, and his own authoritative resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. He has been on of the top RE/MAX agents in New England over the last two decades.
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