The Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist for Homebuyers

Buying a home can be overwhelming, but a home inspection checklist can help you keep track. From costs to what's covered, we walk you through a home inspection.

Home inspector making notes during an inspection

There are a lot of moving parts in the homebuying process, including pre-approvals, loan applications, information gathering, fact checking and doc signing. And that’s before you even make an offer. Luckily, there are valuable tools, like a home inspection checklist, to help keep you on track.

Once the seller accepts your offer, the property officially goes into escrow and the window for a home inspection opens. But what is a home inspection exactly? It’s a professional evaluation of the property you intend to purchase that is completed by a third party. Assessing the home from a structural and safety standpoint, an inspector helps ensure the house is free of hazards, up to code and a wise investment. But what do home inspectors look for? What happens if problems are identified? Who pays for a home inspection, or repairs for that matter? To point you in the right direction and eliminate uncertainty, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know now and what to do next. 

What is a Home Inspection and Why is it Important?

An inspection offers detailed insight into a home’s current condition. Sometimes it proves a property is in great shape. Other times, a report spotlights issues the seller didn’t even realize existed. From repairs that need to be addressed immediately to maintenance that may be required down the road, identifying problems at this point in the process can be eye-opening for all parties. Home inspections give sellers the chance to fix any issues up front and affords buyers the opportunity to ask for credits and repairs. Ready to take the next step? Follow this home inspection checklist:

Find an Inspector

Your realtor will likely offer a list of professionals he or she trusts and has used in the past, but you are free to choose your own. Remember, licensing is different in every state, so take that into consideration when looking for recommendations.

Hire an Inspector

It’s important to reach out and schedule your home inspection as quickly as possible. The more valued the inspector, the more quickly their calendar fills up.

Prepare for the Inspection

Home inspection costs average between $350 and $600 depending on your state. Money should also be budgeted to cover additional assessments should the need arise.

Wondering who pays for a home inspection? Traditionally buyers are responsible, though sellers may choose to conduct independent evaluations that they will pay for.

What Home Inspectors Look For?

Both homebuyers and sellers can be present for the inspection. The process usually takes a few hours and is an ideal time to ask questions, bring up concerns and take your own photos and notes. Make a detailed list of components and areas to be evaluated, including:

  • Appliances
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Doors and windows
  • Electrical panel, power outlets and light switches
  • Exterior paint, siding or stucco
  • Foundation
  • Garage
  • Plumbing faucets, fixtures and water heater
  • Porches and balconies
  • Rain gutters and downspouts
  • Roof
  • Stairs, steps and railings
  • Thermostats and heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) system
  • Walkways and driveways
  • Walls, ceilings and floors

It’s important to note that inspectors can only report on physical components they can see. This means they may not catch issues hidden behind walls or beneath the ground, such as in the sewer line, sprinklers and fireplace. For more insight into the purchase process beyond a home inspection checklist, check out our tips for first-time homebuyers.

The Added Benefit of a Home Warranty

Some sellers instruct their real estate agent to order a home warranty while their property is on the market. This helps mitigate unexpected issues that may arise from the inspection and increases value for the buyer. While an inspection offers assurance that you’re making a wise investment, an American Home Shield® Home Warranty can extend that confidence by helping to protect major components of your home’s systems and appliances. If you don’t already have a home warranty you can get a free quote and find out how we can help protect your investment.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.