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Home Inspection Checklist

Closing on a home

The importance of a home inspection

While you aren’t required to have a home inspection, it’s highly recommended to get one. It’s there to protect you and your investment. Learn how to prepare for a home inspection and what to watch out for with our checklist.

Closing preparations videoOpens Overlay
Final walk-through

It’s smart to perform a final walk-through before closing on the home you’re about to buy.

Know the difference videoOpens Overlay
Know the difference

While home appraisals and home inspections are both vital to the home buying process, they serve two different purposes.

How much home can you afford?

Take the first step and get prequalified.

When do I get a home inspection?

Home inspections are usually done 7 to 14 days after the contract is accepted. Make sure to choose your home inspector ahead of time, so you can stay on schedule.

How can I find a good home inspector?

Ask friends, colleagues and your real estate agent for referrals. You can also look online for other reference sources.

Here’s what to look for in a home inspector:

  • Experience. How many years have they been in the business and how many inspections do they do per year?
  • Exclusiveness. Choose someone who specializes strictly in home inspections. Beware of contractors who do house inspections "on the side."
  • Reporting. Find out what type of report will be issued—written, oral, or both. We recommend getting a detailed written report and a checklist. (A checklist alone may not include important details and information you’ll need.)
  • Certifications. Make sure they are certified with a respected home inspection organization like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
  • Insurance. Ask if the inspector has errors and omissions insurance (E&O). This can protect you should the inspector miss something.

Should I be there for the inspection?

You’ll gain a lot of insights about the condition of the home by attending the home inspection. Ask questions. That way, you’ll be fully informed about the home and feel confident about your decisions.

Here’s what you should look for on your own
Conducting your own inspections will help you weed out the properties that have too many obvious concerns. Look for these red flags:

  • Apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation
  • Overall condition and age of roof
  • Evidence of leaks, inside and outside
  • Basement or crawlspace dampness and lack of insulation
  • Interior structure of attic
  • Obvious electrical malfunctions
  • Appliance conditions and age
  • Heating and cooling performance
  • Exterior paint or repairs needed

How do I prepare for the home inspection?

Here’s what you’ll need to do to get ready for the inspection:

  • Contact the property owner to confirm the date, time (during daylight hours), and estimated duration of the home inspection.
  • Provide the home inspector with your full name, address and phone number.
  • Provide the home inspector with the home’s address, specific directions, and access or lock box information.
  • If an appointment needs to be canceled or postponed, contact the home inspector at least 24 hours before the scheduled inspection.
  • Turn on all utilities: gas, electric, hot water heater and refrigerator.
  • Inform the owner that appliances, systems and equipment will be inspected.
  • Make sure the inspector will have access to the garage, closets, attics, etc.
  • Advise the owner to remove all items that may block access to the air conditioner, hot water heater, attic, access panels, electric service panel, etc.
  • Allow 2.5 hours for your home inspection (1.5 hours for a condo).
  • Payment is expected upon completion of the inspection.

How much does a home inspection cost?

A home inspection usually costs between $200 and $500, depending on the property location, the inspector, the size of the home, and the scope of the inspection and reporting. It's a good idea to get estimates from a few inspectors before you choose one.

What will the home inspector look for?

Your home inspector will examine over 500 different parts of the house, including the:

  • Structure and foundation
  • General construction quality
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical systems
  • Heating and cooling
  • Roof
  • Windows and doors
  • Kitchen and bathroom
  • Appliances
  • Interior walls and ceiling
  • Air conditioning
  • Basement
  • Ventilation and drainage
  • Gutters and leaders
  • Garages and carports
  • Patios and decks
  • Walks and driveways
  • Lawn sprinklers
  • Pools and spas
  • Termites and wood destroying organisms

What do I do if we find property damage?

Depending on the nature of the issues, you may want to negotiate with the seller to make the repairs, ask the seller to lower the purchase price or you could walk away if the concerns are too expensive or too hard to fix. First, find out how much it will cost to fix the defects. If you have time, you could get some repair estimates from licensed contractors.

And keep in mind that if you notice the problem after closing, you’ll have to pay for it.

Get ready for your home inspection with this useful home inspection guide (PDF).