What Does a Home Inspection Cover?

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Updated September 8, 2021
A worker checking the solar panels on the roof
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A home inspection lets home buyers know exactly what projects they'll need to tackle down the line

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A home inspection is a critical part of the home selling (and buying) process. These inspections protect both the buyer and the seller from any problems with the home that may arise down the road or anything that needs immediate attention.

If you’ve never gone through the home inspection process before, it can seem a little daunting. Luckily going into it with a bit of knowledge can help you be prepared for anything.

Home Inspection Checklist

These are the major components a home will be judged on during every home inspection:

  • Heating system: Making sure it’s in working order and will not pose a fire risk

  • Central air system: Checking for adequate cooling, age of the system, and that the thermostat accurately brings down temperature to the desired level

  • Interior plumbing: Ensuring everything drains properly, the piping is up to code, and brings water to all faucets

  • Electrical: Looking for all outlets, lights, and switches to work and also checking that the wiring is up to code

  • Roof: Checking for leaks, wood rot, or any other signs of hazards

  • Attic and insulation: Making sure the attic is structurally sound and checking the insulation to ensure it’s laid correctly and doesn’t pose a health risk

  • Walls and ceiling: Looking for cracks or any sign of water or pest damage

  • Floors: Finding any squeaking, loose tiles, boards, or carpet, and assessing if the floorboards are in decent shape

  • Windows: Seeing if windows need weatherstripping, can open and close, and meet the current fire exit requirements

  • Doors: Checking that all doors can open and close, the integrity of the hinges, doorknobs, and frame

  • Foundation: Looking for any cracks or leaks in the foundation and ensuring that the foundation is still stable on the soil

  • Basement (if applicable): Seeking out any signs of cracks, flooding issues, or signs of hazards in any exposed piping or wiring

  • Structural components: Checking the exterior of the home, any load-bearing walls, and studs

These aren’t necessarily the only things that the inspector will be checking for, though. For instance, if you have a fireplace, they’ll need to check the area for structural support and ventilation. Some inspectors also take the time to look for pests such as termites and rodents.

The actual inspection report will vary from county to county, as the county follows state laws and codes and then adds anything that applies to its specific region. For instance, a county near the coastline in Florida may need to take into account flooding from the ocean. A more inland county, however, may need to focus on what type of soil you have around your home.

Preparing for a Home Inspection

There are a few steps the current homeowner needs to take to keep the process moving smoothly and make everyone’s lives easier.

Tidy the Home

Don’t let a mess make things more difficult for the inspector. Remove trash, clutter, and anything else that will obstruct the areas the inspector needs to check. You’ll mainly want to focus on tidying the basement, the attic, and the area around a crawl space.

Be sure to give the rest of your home a quick tidy-up, too.  Presenting a neat space is a good way to start the inspection, as it shows you put effort into caring for your home.

Have Documents and Keys Ready to Go

The inspector may want to see paperwork for the roof, HVAC, and any other recently completed projects. If you know certain areas of the house are locked, like the basement or the home’s electrical panel, it’s time to unlock them. But if you’re not present, leave the keys to these items and label them to let the inspector know which one to pick up.

Turn On Utilities Again

Since the inspector will need to check appliances, you’ll want to turn on utilities again if you previously turned them off. These include water, gas, and electricity. Don’t forget about the pilot light to the furnace and stove if they use gas.

A man inspecting electrical in a house’s basement
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It’s up to you if you want to be present or not for the inspection. If you already cleared your house out and you’ve moved far enough away, then it’s not always worth it to come back if you know everything was already in working order.

The home buyer should be present during the home inspection since it’s likely that they’re going to be the one paying for the inspection. However, this is a negotiable option. 

If you’re the buyer, bring along a camera and notepad to jot down everything the inspector finds. These notes will also be useful when you need to know where items such as the shut-off valve are or how to access the attic.

This entire process will take roughly three to four hours, so come prepared with water and snacks.

After the Home Inspection

Once the home inspection is complete, you’ll receive the results in around three to four business days at most. A clean inspection will typically produce results faster, while any problems found may take a few days to finalize.

Going Over the Home Inspection Report

Getting a perfect score on an inspection report is hard to do, so there are likely going to be a few areas that need addressing. 

If there are any major issues found throughout the inspection, the inspector will let the buyer know while they’re still on the property, making it that much more important for a buyer to be present throughout the process.

When going over the list (which can seem daunting if there are several dozen items listed), feel free to refer back to the images you took. For any sections that don’t make sense, it’s best to call up the inspector so they can walk you through why it was a problem and what it means for you.

The report will list out every item the inspector checked and whether it was in working condition or not, and whether it was within acceptable ranges. The report should also list out if the item was damaged and what type of damage was there, if any.

Fixing the Problems

Minor items such as chipped paint in a room or a stiff door are understandable and will usually fall on the buyer to tackle. In fact, the buyers may prefer this as they can make the changes into something they prefer.

Fixing major problems, such as a failing septic system and lead pipes, may require some negotiation to see who will take on the cost. If the problems are severe enough, you might lose a sale if the buyer thinks it’s too much work.

FAQs About Home Inspections

Can you skip a home inspection?

Unless you’re a home inspector yourself, leave this job to a licensed home inspector near you. They have a checklist of things they need to go through, and skipping over anything may lead to thousands of dollars worth of repairs down the road. Leave the stress and work behind, and learn how to hire a home inspector you can trust.

What are the differences between home inspections and home appraisals?

A home appraisal focuses on the value of the home. So appraisers may take the home inspection when finalizing an appraisal price, but it’s not the main purpose. Home appraisals look into the curb appeal, location of the home, and the condition.

Can you do a home inspection yourself?

Unless you’re a home inspector yourself, you should leave this job to a licensed home inspector near you. They have a checklist of things they know they need to go through, and skipping over anything may lead to thousands of dollars worth of repairs down the road. Leave the stress and work behind and choose to tag along with the inspector rather than act as the inspector.

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