Satisfaction is Key
As a professional, delivering quality work to the client’s satisfaction is key to keeping you in business. A professional home inspection requires a keen eye and a systematic order for scrutinizing the home. It’s also vital for lenders, real estate agents, insurance companies, and may lead to deal-breakers during the sales process.
However, it’s not without risk. You may have to navigate a tight crawlspace in a new home, be aware of asbestos in older homes, or inspect an older water heater that is rusty. It’s also possible that the driveways are cracked, air filters are clogged with harmful contaminants, or termites have infested wooden areas.
With these hazards, it is crucial that any inspector stay focused, and fill out a home inspection report that is detailed, ethically documented, and transparent. Since this report is a crucial component of the home buying process, a professional home inspection checklist will keep you on track, ensuring all bases are covered without skipping critical sections.
To help ensure a thorough inspection and client satisfaction, here’s a home inspector checklist used by many certified home inspectors that will guide you on what to look for in every home area during an inspection. Always remember to refer to your official state or association guidelines when performing a professional home inspection — some items may not be required, or additional items may be required by your standards.
Inspect the Grounds
The first item on any checklist for a home inspection is an overall property inspection. Since the first area you’ll set foot in is the grounds, it’s the most ideal for working from outwards going inwards. It’s a good idea to start with walkways and driveways. This may help you identify potential problems in an orderly fashion.
Signs of Water Damage
Inspection of the grounds can tell you a lot about what to expect inside the home. Start by checking for signs of water damage, standing water, or drainage issues such as:
- Stagnant water
- Water puddles
- Downspouts/water draining toward the house
- Insect and pest breeding grounds
- Vegetation on the home
The next item on our property inspection checklist template is to inspect the septic tank (if applicable) on the grounds. Check if the septic tank has proper ventilation and drainage. Too much liquid in the septic tank may indicate drainage issues. Are the septic tank pipes in good condition? Check for clogged pipes or ruptured pipes. Damaged pipes can leak, which you can also tell by a pungent smell coming from the tank.
Once you’re done with the grounds, inspect the home, starting from the exterior and going inside. A professional property inspection checklist for the home exterior includes checking the structure and foundation, roof, deck, stucco, door frames, garage door, handrails, and exterior walls. Here’s the breakdown of what to look for:
Structure and Foundation
Walk around the entire perimeter of the house to check if the foundation is solid, with no cracks or signs of rot. Check the metals for signs of rust which indicate moisture from possible water damage. Inspect the top piers for signs of movement or any broken connections.
Next, is the foundation level? Bulging areas on the foundation are a sign of unevenness, meaning the foundation is not intact. Are there landscaping materials that are impacting the foundation of the home? And finally, is there any noticeable damage on concrete slabs or the piers?
Exterior walls should be straight, touching the ground at a 90-degree angle, and have no cracks deeper than a quarter of an inch. Slanting walls, deep cracks, and especially horizontal cracks on the wall are a sign of stress on the foundation. If the cracks keep growing, they may cause a shift in the foundation, compromising the integrity of the entire structure.
Shifting foundations can cause bulging, leaning, or bowing on the exterior walls, which is easily noticeable by looking.
The home inspector’s checklist for siding will notate signs of damage such as:
- Missing materials
- Water stains or mold- indicates water damage
- Chipped paint
If the home has a deck, check to see if the wood has any signs of rot. Are the supporting posts and joists under the deck intact? Is the paint flaking or are wood materials showing signs of rotting? Check the deck flashing if it’s sufficient.
Most accidents on the decks are caused by railing issues rather than deck collapse. Check the safety of the deck railing by pushing to see if it’s intact and inspect any loose nails that may be a safety hazard around the deck.
It’s important to note that home inspectors are not required to climb up on the roof to conduct an inspection. However, climbing up the roof will give you a clearer picture of the roof’s condition including the fascia and flashing.
For starters, check if the roofline is straight and even on all sides. Confirm if the gutters are free of debris. Check whether the skylight and chimneys are solid.
A close inspection of the roof involves checking for:
- Missing shingles
- Presence of moss or algae
- Damaged flashing or presence of rust
Homeowners need to know if the roof is in good condition or if it may need repair or replacement, which will be determined based on the accuracy and details documented on the roof inspection report.
Once you get inside the home, working one room at a time is essential to ensure all sections are covered.
General Interior Rooms
This includes the living room, bedrooms, and other open spaces.
Windows and Doors
Start by checking if the windows and doors are intact and open or close quickly. Are the doors and windows aligned? Are all the locks functional? Are there any signs of rot on the frames (if they’re made of wood) or rust on the hinges?
Check for gaps between the doors/windows and the wall, which compromise the home’s insulation and allow insects inside the home.
Interior Walls, Floors, and Ceiling
Check for cracks or signs of mold or dark/brown patches on the walls, floors, and ceiling, which indicate water damage.
The floors and ceiling should be leveled, so check for signs of sagging, warping, or bulging, indicating a shifting foundation.
The kitchen is a critical room in the house that requires a thorough inspection. Check the kitchen’s overall look to see if everything looks in place and leveled. Confirm if all the cabinets and drawers are functional and have no rot or other signs of water damage.
Check if the sink drainage is functional and that there are no leaks under the sink. Are there issues with caulking or faucets that are dripping? Is the kitchen exhaust fan working correctly? For homes with kitchen appliances, check if they’re in working condition and finally, check for any defects on the electrical outlets such as:
- Missing sockets
- Damaged sockets
- Exposed wiring
The state of the bathroom speaks volumes about the entire property’s drainage system, as most water usage occurs in the bathroom. Start by checking all toilets to see if the flushing system is functional — no clogs and enough water pressure for flushing.
Check if all shower heads and taps are functional and have sufficient water pressure. Next is the bathtub — is it intact? Are there any cracks? Is the bathtub drainage clogged?
Lastly, check the drainage system on the bathroom floor and sinks to see if the water drains at the right speed and if there are any leaks beneath the sinks. Slow drainage implies a minor clog that can be fixed with a plunger, and stagnant water implies significant drainage issues.
The attic is the first area in the house prone to water damage from a leaking roof. If you missed any damage signs on the roof, the attic’s state could confirm the roof’s state. Check for:
- Visible stains from water leaks
- Evidence of moisture
- Rotting wood
- Sufficient insulation and ventilation
- Exposed electrical wires
- Exhaust pipes/chimneys
Extensive water damage and foundation issues are most apparent in the basement. Inspect the basement for signs of:
- Cracks and leaks on walls and the floor
- Moisture or mold (water damage)
- Pest infestation (rats are notorious for breeding in the basement)
- Functioning sump pump (if water collects under the basement, the sump pump may be the source).
Electrical wiring is installed behind walls and can be difficult to diagnose just by looking at it. However, a general inspection involves checking for:
- Exposed wires or splices near a service panel, walls, ceiling, or doors
- Condition of the electrical panel
- Defects in the main switch
- All light switches and sockets are functional
- Sufficient number of sockets in each room
- Ungrounded outlets- characterized by two prongs
Like the electrical system, the plumbing system piping is often done behind walls. General inspection of the plumbing system involves checking for:
- Exposed pipes
- Leaking pipes
- Water pressure on water outlets. Low pressure indicated an issue in the plumbing system
- Water discoloration — a sign of contamination, possibly from a busted pipe
- A pungent smell from the drainage may indicate a pipe leak
- Functioning water heating system. Check for efficient water flow, hot water and any signs of gas leaks.
Inspecting the HVAC systems involves turning on the heating system and the air conditioning one by one and observing the room’s temperature. Assuming the unit operates as designed with no visible leaks or electrical issues, they will then check the speed and efficiency of the heating or cooling system. Older units will include inspection of the damper, furnace, and other heating system components.
For a heating unit, they will monitor the time of how quickly the room heats to the desired temperature and how the warm air is circulated through the room.
With a cooling system, they will check how long it takes for the temperature to drop and if the airflow is consistent throughout the room. Also, check for signs of rust on the cooling unit metal and if strange sounds are coming from the AC. They’ll also provide an inspection of the ductwork — which is a vital component of energy efficiency.
Final Points on a House Inspection Checklist
Homeowners and potential buyers need to know the exact condition of the house so they can prepare themselves for potential repairs, prepare for negotiations, or at least have a basis for calculating the estimated value of the home. Your report on the home’s condition goes a long way in helping to determine all that.
Missing a significant defect during an inspection may cost the first-time homeowner or buyer large sums of money for repair or replacement. It may eventually hurt your business due to negative reviews.
A detailed home inspection checklist helps keep you on track and ensures every bit of the home is inspected for an accurate report of the state of the house.
At HomeGauge, we provide home inspectors with knowledge, tools, and guidance on how to succeed in their business and serve as the bridging gap between homeowners/real estate agents and qualified home inspectors. You can use HomeGauge home inspection software to help guide you through the complex home inspection process. If you’re an experienced inspector looking to scale up your business or a new inspector looking to learn more about the tools of the trade, contact us today for more information.
Frequently asked questions
Can a home inspector condemn a house?
No, a home inspector does not have the authority to condemn a house. The legal power to condemn a house only lies with the local building inspector.
A home inspector can make observations and write a report on their observations. However, the client’s choice to proceed after reading the home inspector’s report is up to them.
Are our home inspectors allowed to move things in the house?
Home inspectors are not allowed to move large equipment and furniture or items inside drawers, cabinets, or closets to avoid liability in the event of damaged property. They are also not mandated to move any object in the home, which may hinder a thorough inspection.
However, some inspectors move area rugs or small items that may be used to hide damage to cover all bases.
Do home inspectors check for code violations?
No. The primary task of the home inspector is to look for and discover defects in construction, materials, and installations. They are looking for any problems with the property that can impact the safety, health, and wellbeing of all occupants and visitors to your property. While, in many instances, these defects may represent a construction code violation, they do not define these problems as code violations.
Can a contractor do a home inspection?
Yes, a contractor can conduct a home inspection, depending on the state. Still, their knowledge of what to look for is limited compared to a licensed home inspector with specialized training in checking for defects in the home.
In addition, hiring a contractor to conduct a home inspection poses a conflict of interest if they also conduct repairs. Their “thorough evaluation” may be biased in favor of trying to get the most out of the repair job.
Do home inspectors make mistakes?
Yes, they do, which is why most professional home inspectors have insurance, although it’s not always mandatory. Even the most skilled home inspector can make an error that may cost the homeowner a lot of money to fix.