A home inspection checklist for buyers

August 19, 2022

During your initial tour of the property, it’s normal to notice some things that look…questionable. Though buyers and agents typically lack the experience and knowledge to fully answer their own questions about a property’s condition, taking note of anything confusing or suspicious about your potential new home can help you get a better home inspection experience.

When you hire an inspector, et them know you’re already concerned about certain features of the home. Don’t be afraid to share a list of questions you have about the property. Telling the inspector that you noticed a crack in the foundation, mysterious puddles in the yard or a weird smell in the basement will lead to a better customer experience, as well, because it puts those issues on the radar of the inspector. And if it turns out the issue you noticed isn’t really an issue at all, the inspector can specifically note that in their report.

Here is a checklist to keep handy whenever you do a walkthrough as a potential buyer:

Buyer home inspection checklist

This checklist is essentially the same one an inspector uses when performing their inspection, but obviously you can move through this much faster. Remember: even if you notice many issues, most home deficiencies can be repaired. Absent egregious or dangerous conditions, we recommend against backing out of real estate deals until after a professional home inspection is performed. Depending on the market and the results of the inspection report, buyers may be able to negotiate with sellers to include repairs as part of the sale, or lower the sale price to account for repair expenses.

Exterior inspection checklist

Homes have a lot to say before you even enter them. Don’t forget to check these important areas outside any property:

  • Roof: Do you notice any sagging, missing shingles, mystery stains or plant growth (moss, ivy, tree branches) on the roof? Always ask when or if the roof was ever replaced.
  • Sides: What material is the siding, and is it in good condition? Do the gutters look clear of debris, securely attached to the home, with a downspout draining away from the home’s foundation?
  • Doors, windows and shutters: Can the doors be opened easily but secured when closed? Do the doors scrape or bang against floors and walls? Are the windows functional with intact glass, or are they cracked and painted shut? Is there a draft or moisture around the edges of the doors and windows? And if the home has shutters, are they securely attached to the home?
  • Foundation: Do you notice any cracks or crumbling? Is the ground near the edge of the foundation soggy or sunken? Are plants like ivy growing on the foundation? Is a tree growing close to the foundation?

Interior inspection checklist

Try to walk through the whole house, from top to bottom. Check these important points along the way:

  • Attic: Is it finished or unfinished? From inside, does it look like the roof is in good condition? Do you see any signs of water damage?
  • Bedrooms: Do all bedrooms contain two forms of egress (doors or windows) in case of emergency? If closets are present, do the doors open easily without scraping or banging the floors and walls?
  • Floors: What’s the condition of the flooring, and what material are they? If the floors are carpeted, are there stains?
  • Bathrooms: Do the sink, shower and/or tub faucets work? Does the toilet flush properly? Is the water pressure high, low, or just right? Do you see any signs of improper sealing around the fixtures, water damage or leaks? Are all the fixtures in good condition, or will they need to be replaced for sanitary reasons?
  • Kitchen: What is the condition of the appliances? Are they included in the sale? What is the condition of the cabinets and/or pantry? Is there proper ventilation in the kitchen, whether by (openable) windows or exhaust fans?
  • Electrical: Is there adequate, functional lighting throughout the home? Do the switches work in every room? Is the electrical panel a fuse box or circuit breaker? Are the outlets three-prong (grounded) or two-prong (not grounded).
  • Heating/cooling systems: How does the home’s heating system work? Is it gas or electric? How does the home’s air conditioning system work? Does it rely on window units or central air?
  • Basement/Cellar: Is the basement finished, partially finished, or unfinished? Ask the agent to specify if it is a basement or a cellar, as these designations can affect how you are legally allowed to use the space. Locate the water heater and check it’s age, and that it is working properly without leaking.
  • Smell: If you notice a strong or bad smell anywhere in the home, make sure to note exactly where it was and convey that to your inspector. Issues like pest infestation, gas leaks, mold and even methamphetamine contamination usually make themselves known to your nose before your eyes.

What should I do after completing the buyer’s inspection checklist?

If you still want to continue with the purchase and enter into contingency, take your notes and concerns straight to a professional home inspector. Do not agree to waive the inspection (even in a hot market) and make sure to book the inspector yourself. Inspectors booked by the selling agent have an incentive to overlook issues that could tank the sale– this is especially true if you’re buying in a state that does not require home inspectors to be licensed. The inspection report is the opinion of a professional, but some bad actors in the industry can really stretch the limits of professional opinion.

Book your buyer’s home inspection

Avoid trying to vet inspectors yourself by booking your buyer’s home inspection through Inspectify. Our team has already vetted 1000+ inspectors all over the country. We do our due diligence to make sure we only partner with qualified professional inspectors in both licensed and unlicensed states, and that all our partners adhere to local standard operating procedures and regulations regarding property inspections and real estate law. And since we know you can’t wait to close on your new home, we make sure all reports are sent to the buyer within 24 hours of the inspection’s completion.