Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers: Major Systems

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers: Major Systems

Buying a home is a serious investment and process. You'll need to secure a down payment, get a loan and find a property, to which you can be committed for years or decades to come.

When you purchase your home, you also acquire its problems. That’s why it's critical to have a proper home inspection completed before finalizing the purchase. You should plan to be present at your home inspection to ask questions of the inspector, and the seller, if the seller is present during the inspection.

Identifying and addressing problems with the property before you buy can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs. If the home you want to buy requires fixes, you can:

  • ask the seller to make the repairs
  • ask for a credit of the repair costs at closing
  • even lower the selling price to account for the needed repairs.

The following is a home inspection checklist for buyers you can use, along with your home inspector, to ensure the property is in good shape.

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

  1. Appliances. Before buying a home, turn on and test every appliance that will remain with the house. Look to see if they are working properly without making noises, giving off unreasonable odors, or showing other signs of failure.
  2. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The home's furnace, air conditioner, and water heater should operate without emitting odors or loud noises. They should also have clean filters and show signs of regular maintenance.
  3. Electrical system. A licensed electrician can go well beyond the basics. A visual inspection of the panel and breakers to ensure they are modern and in good repair with sufficient amps to run all the appliances and systems is important. Test outlets and fixtures to ensure they operate properly. If not, it could be an indication of deeper issues.
  4. Plumbing. As soon as possible, inspect the home's pipes for signs of damage, rust, or leaks. When you test fixtures, look for adequate water pressure and that water temperature increases in a reasonable amount of time. Watch water drain time to ensure the home's sewer capacity is adequate and properly functioning.
  5. Basements. For many basements, the key challenge is water. Look carefully at the walls for signs of damage, wetness, or cracking. Smells of mildew should also be inspected more carefully. In certain states, tests for naturally occurring mold should also be considered.
  6. Roof and attic. Even a visual inspection can show signs of damage such as deteriorating or missing shingles, clogged gutters, or damaged chimneys. If the home has a flat roof, look for signs of repairs or patches to the membrane. Water damage on the attic's ceiling is a sign of roof leakage. It's also wise to look at the attic's insulation to ensure it is both ample and undamaged.
  7. Exterior walls. A home's exterior should be in good repair with properly painted surfaces and caulk that has no cracks or other damage. In addition, the ground cover should be an appropriate distance from the siding to prevent termite intrusion. Professional termite inspection is also advisable in many regions.
  8. The home's structure. Even if you aren't a structural engineer, you can still spot if the structure is sagging or has a bow in the center. Windows and doors should be aligned and the foundation should appear to be in good condition. In earthquake zones, the buildings should be bolted to the foundation.
  9. Garages and sheds. The principles that apply to the home also apply to connected or outbuildings like garages and storage sheds. Proper foundations, roofs, and sealing against the elements equally are important in these structures.
  10. The surrounding land. Survey the property to ensure it gradually slopes away from the home for proper drainage. In addition, look carefully at paved surfaces since cracks or upheavals could be signs of forces that may have also caused foundation damage.

It is important to note that some areas may not be covered by a home inspector. In advance, ask your inspector what is covered to determine if additional evaluation from a certified specialist may be needed. Generally, home inspections do not cover swimming pools, pest control, or tests for asbestos, lead paint, toxic mold, or radon gas.

While this home inspection checklist for buyers is a good start for determining if the home you are considering may require repairs, it is no substitute for a professionally conducted home inspection. In addition, it does not replace the home appraisal that your lender requires to determine the home's value. On the other hand, a home appraisal—even a more detailed FHA-mandated home inspection—doesn't replace a professional home inspection. Ultimately, it's going to be your house and inspecting it is your responsibility.