The Go-to Buyer’s Pre-Home Inspection Checklist

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated October 8, 2021
Realtor shows home owners around house
sturti/E+ via Getty Images

Get prepared for the official home inspection

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You’re certainly not a professional inspector, but you’re definitely invested in choosing the right property to call home. It makes sense to document potential issues while you're touring a house for the first time (and maybe a second time), especially if it hits all your must-have points. Arming yourself with knowledge about the condition of the house lets you clearly communicate with your home inspector. 

What to Look for During a Home Tour

After looking at dozens of houses, you have a feeling this house could be “the one.” Get ready to take notes and pictures—you won’t want to forget any questions you have when you hire a local home inspector later. Worry less about the small stuff like funky paint colors and focus on the big-ticket items you need help understanding. 

Keep an Eye Out for Problems Inside

Don’t get distracted by the gorgeous herringbone pattern wood floors. Ok, ooh and ahh for a few moments, but then keep an out for potential problems and updates needed throughout the house. In particular, look for these problems:

Concerns About Major Appliances

  • Condition and age

  • Convey with the property

Electrical Issues

  • Outdated electrical panel and wiring

  • Non-functioning outlets

  • Missing electrical code requirements

Water Intrusion

  • Basement

  • Crawlspace

  • Attic

  • Evidence of mold

  • Windows

Odors

  • Mold and mildew

  • Pets and allergies

  • Gas leaks

HVAC Function

  • Age and installation dates

  • Condition

  • Operating capacity

Plumbing System Status

  • Water heater’s age and condition

  • Water pressure in bathrooms

  • Working fixtures

  • Under the sink leaks

  • Running toilets

Look for Problems Outside

Fabulous curb appeal could hide problems from your untrained eye while you’re admiring the garden beds full of hydrangeas. You don’t have to crawl around the foundation, but keep your eyes open for issues you’d like to know more about. 

Gutters and Siding’s Appearance

  • Intact and attached

  • Water moves away from the house

  • Holes and cracks

  • Missing pieces

State of the Roof

  • Missing shingles

  • Dark stains and moss

  • Date of the last replacement

Foundation Integrity Concerns

  • Big and small cracks

  • Nearby trees

  • Damp, sinking ground

Functional Windows and Doors

  • Cracked glass

  • Open and close properly

  • Warping from foundation shifts

  • Moisture on frames and in between panes

Review the Seller Disclosure Before Inspection Day

The seller disclosure is another source of information to share with your inspector. It’s a list the seller must reveal before the deal closes. If anything, in particular bothers you, share it with your inspector to take a look. 

Talk to your real estate agent about your state’s laws regarding the disclosure because they vary in detail from an in-depth report to a series of yes and no questions. Some states require the disclosure before the offer, but most are after. Depending on the state, the seller can highlight the issue but doesn't necessarily have to fix the problem, leaving both parties to hash out a home inspection contingency and final selling price.

Finding a Home Inspector

Man and woman look over paperwork in new house
Roberto Westbrook via Getty Images

After you’ve done your casual inspection of the house and documented your concerns, it's time to hire a home inspector; ideally, one your real estate agent trusts. Most of the time, they’ll have relationships with multiple inspectors, so you can interview a couple to find a good fit. 

When you’re chatting, ask about their fees, what a typical home inspection looks like, and how long it takes. If you’re thinking about buying a historic home or a property with major renovations ahead, the inspector might also refer you to a structural engineer for a home inspection. Or an electrical inspector who specializes in out-of-the-norm home inspections.

Home Inspection Day and Reading the Final Report

Inspection day is a great chance to learn about the house you're about to buy and find out what the home inspection will cover. You’ll have an expert on hand for professional advice and to answer any questions. And, when you get the written report, you’ll have some background information to work with. Here’s a tip: Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the scary-sounding issues that pile up. You’re paying the inspector to find every defect, even the tiny ones.

Most inspectors take the time to review their findings with you and point out the issues that need a repair now, which features could use an upgrade soon, and the problems that might appear in the near future. By the time the review is over, you should have all of your pre and post-home inspection questions answered. 

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