A Home Inspection Checklist for Home Buyers

Benjamin Feldman Unison, Home Buying 2 Comments

A Home Inspection Checklist

When you walk through a house as a potential buyer, you’re likely just looking at things like the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, the open concept living area, and the updated hall bathroom. Those things may be aesthetically pleasing, but they’re not going to tell you the whole story of your house and if it’s in good shape.

Before you close on a house, you’ll need to hire an inspector to look at the structure and stability of your new home and ensure that there are no major issues hiding behind the surface.

“It’s important to remember that the home inspector is not there to tell a buyer how pretty everything is or how the house flows or even about the school district. They’re trying to tell them about the nuts and bolts and the condition of the house today and maybe in the foreseeable future,” Frank Lesh, the executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), says.

Typically, you will order an inspection once you have an offer accepted, but it may also occur before if you choose to conduct a pre-inspection in a very competitive market. The inspection is such an integral part of the home buying process that often the offer is contingent on how the inspection goes.

What To Do During the Inspection

Once you’ve had an offer accepted, you want to hire an inspector right away. In fact, Lesh recommends that you research professionals in your area and speak to an inspector before you put in an offer.

On inspection day, you will need to be at the house so that the inspector can go through their notes and recommendations.

“I know that not everyone can take off work, and that both parties may not be able to be there for the whole thing. So, if for one party it’s harder for them to miss work, they should come at the end of the inspection because we like to wrap up and summarize what’s been said,” Lesh says.

During the inspection, you should follow your inspector around so that they can give you updates on what they’re seeing.

“You want to be like a good waiter or waitress. You don’t want them standing there every two seconds asking if everything is okay, but you want to be able to get their attention if you need them. So, close by but right not on top of them,” Lesh says.

After the inspection has been completed (which will typically take a couple of hours depending on the size and condition of the home), your inspector will go over the details with you and then give you a written report within the next couple of days.

An inspector’s job is to do a thorough visual inspection of the house (both inside and out) and look at all of the systems within the home. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you haven’t bought a home in a long time and need a refresher, it’s a good idea to know what your inspector will be checking to be prepared for inspection day.

The following checklist—approved by Lesh—gives you a breakdown of what your inspector will be looking at in each room. Study it before, print it out and take it with you on inspection day.

Interior Home Inspection Checklist

The inside of the home has many hazards in every room and your inspector will be taking a close look at each of these components and ensure they’re all in good working order.

  • Basics
    • Smoke alarm
    • Carbon monoxide detector
    • Electrical
    • HVAC
    • Plumbing
    • Water heater
    • Heating
    • Cooling
  • Kitchen
    • Ceilings, walls, floors
    • Windows
    • Sink and faucet
    • Exhaust fan
    • Stove
    • Dishwasher
    • Refrigerator
    • Microwave
    • Garbage Disposal
    • Cabinets
    • Light switches and outlets
    • Doors/hardware
  • Bathroom
    • Ceilings, walls, floors
    • Windows
    • Doors/hardware
    • Light switches and outlets
    • Countertops
    • Sink and faucet
    • Toilet
    • Tub and/or shower
    • Tile
    • Exhaust fan
    • Check for adequate water flow
  • Living Room
    • Ceilings, walls, floors
    • Windows
    • Doors/hardware
    • Light switches and outlets
    • Fireplace
    • Stairs (check railing for uneven or loose railings)
  • Bedrooms
    • Ceilings, walls, floors
    • Windows
    • Closet
    • Light switches and outlets
    • Ensure there are two exits in the room (door and window)
  • Basement
    • Check for water damage
    • Sump pump
  • Attic
    • Exhaust fans (ensure that the exhaust from the bathroom and kitchen are going outside)

Exterior Home Inspection Checklist

Although you may not think the exterior of your home presents any safety hazards, this is where many major problems are found in an inspection (such as structural damage or foundation issues). Here’s a preview of what your inspector will be looking at outside.

  • Surface of the home
  • Doors
  • Grounds
  • Grading/Drainage
  • Driveway
  • Porch
  • Decks/Patios
  • Fences/Gates
  • Roofing
  • Gutters
  • Downspouts
  • Windows
  • Foundation
  • Garage/Garage doors

Share your comment below: “Have you bought a home before? If so, what did the inspection uncover? Was it helpful?”

About the Author

Benjamin Feldman

Director of Content


Benjamin is fascinated by the real estate industry and financial innovation. He enjoys helping people learn about the housing market and how to successfully buy and own a home.

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