Your Home Inspection Checklist
Your house hunt is over – you’ve finally found the one you see a future in! Before you pack the moving truck, make sure your soon-to-be home is in great shape. Hire a professional home inspector and make sure they’re checking out these key things.
- All windows, doors and frames.
- Exterior structures: Fences, sheds, decks, driveways, sidewalks, patios, retaining walls.
- Drainage system.
- Landscape, including yard, trees and walkways.
- Structure of the home, including the foundation.
- Siding and other exterior surfaces.
- Evidence of past water damage/standing water.
- Attic and upper crawlspaces.
- All doors, windows and frames.
- Floors, walls, ceilings and insulation of all rooms.
- Light switches, electrical outlets and general health of electrical system.
- Heating/cooling system.
- Sump-pump and sewage system.
- All major appliances and appliance outlets.
- Plumbing system.
- Any cabinets or fixed features of the home.
- Evidence of past water damage.
- Stairways and handrails.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
A professional home inspector will know exactly what to do, but keep this list in your back pocket and double check that they’re giving your future home the attention it deserves.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
When you hire a home inspector, you’re looking for a professional opinion on the overall condition of a home. Usually inspectors come into play when you’ve found a home that you want but you’re still in the negotiating phase of the deal.
Paying for the home inspector is your responsibility as the buyer. Although you aren’t legally required to have an inspection, it’s one of the most useful tools you have at your disposal. An inspector will let you know if there are problems and can point out good aspects of the home, too. You can use their report to decide if the home is really the right buy for you and can help you get a fair price. So what is the home inspector looking for when they examine a house?
Structural integrity. From the inside to the outside, your inspector is going to carefully check out the home’s structure. You can expect them to climb on the roof, burrow into crawlspaces and inspect every corner closely. They could find something as significant as a missing load-bearing wall that needs immediate and expensive attention. Or there could be smaller concerns, like a mismatched section of baseboard. This is what’s great about having a home inspector. They’ll review everything and then explain to you whether the issues are significant or just something to note.
The roof. A home’s roof plays a vital role in protecting the structure and everything in it. Replacing a roof is expensive, and if the house needs a new roof, this can easily affect its value and price. During inspection, the roof will be reviewed from inside and out, top and bottom. Your inspector will be looking for loose shingles or tiles, watertight seals around chimneys, debris in gutters and if the gutters are firmly attached, and they’ll check if tree limbs are touching or hanging over the roof.
After inspecting the roof, they’ll typically be able to give you a rough estimate on its remaining lifespan. Remember, an inspector’s estimate doesn’t include damage that might occur from storms or other unexpected events.
Water damage and leaks. From the roof to the basement and from every corner of the yard, your inspector will evaluate how water plays a role on the property. Leaks inside the home can be a sign of major problems — past, present and future. Your inspector will look at how water reacts outside of the house, too. If the home doesn’t have the right drainage, water could flow toward it and cause problems later. Caught early enough, these water concerns can usually be fixed before the damage gets too great or before there’s any damage at all. A savvy buyer can use this information to potentially negotiate the cost of repairs.
Plumbing and electrical. The inspector will give these two main components a thorough evaluation to make sure everything is safe and functioning correctly.
Insulation and ventilation. A properly insulated and ventilated home is more energy efficient, promotes healthy movement of air and prevents moisture build-up. From attic to basement, these areas will be examined to ensure your future home has the best insulation and ventilation.
Appliances and interior features. Are you planning on keeping the appliances? Your inspector will check each one to make sure they’re in working condition. You’ll also get condition reports on doors, floors, stairways and hand railings, counters, cabinets and more.
Codes and regulations. Most home inspectors are experts in their local community’s codes and regulations. And their knowledge on these complex topics is extremely valuable since there are different codes for different buildings, depending on when they were built and the regulations in effect at that time.
What If the Home Inspector Finds a Problem?
Inspection reports rarely come back showing that the home is flawless. After all, it’s been lived in and bound to show a little wear and tear. It’s up to you to decide if the report findings are important to you or insignificant. So how do you proceed? Use these steps to guide you on negotiating after a home inspection.
How much does it matter? Ask yourself how much each repair matters to you. Is it a minor problem like a loose baseboard? If so, you might prefer to fix it on your own to avoid losing the sale. Or, you could encounter a more critical issue, like a leaky roof. Since roof repairs can be costly, this is an issue you might want to fix before you purchase the house. During the inspection, create a list of the important issues and determine your preferred solutions.
Talk to your realtor. Your realtor will know the current market and might have some information on the sellers’ situation. Remember, if the contract goes back into negotiation, the seller can walk away from your offer. If the market is slow and the seller is motivated, you have a little more leeway when asking for repairs. On the other hand, if the house has several other offers and the seller isn’t in a hurry to sell, it might be difficult to ask for expensive repairs.
Ask for repairs paid and completed by seller. This means the seller will pay the full amount to have the repairs completed before you buy.
Split the repairs. Often the repair list is divided up in the negotiations. The seller might be willing to take on some of the expenses but they’d like you to take on some of them, too. Don’t be surprised if you go back and forth with this list a few times before you find something everyone can agree to.
Ask for credit for repairs. If you’re willing to do the repairs or hire a professional, you can ask for credit. In this situation you get a little flexibility with time and money. You could ask the seller for the full amount of the repair or you could agree to split the costs. You also get to determine when to have the repair made, so it’s most convenient for you. The credit can be figured in a couple ways; you can reduce the purchase price or ask for cash back credit at escrow.
Accept the house as is. You might decide the repairs aren’t that important to you and not significant enough to drop the value of the home. Or, maybe you have your heart set on that house and nothing else will do. You might feel that you’re in a seller’s market and lucky to have the deal you have. It’s important to note that you don’t have to take action on anything in the inspection report.
Walk away. This might sound like a dramatic decision, but if the inspection uncovered major concerns, this might be your best option. As long as your accepted offer has a home inspection contingency, this is an option for you. But you should talk to your realtor and possibly a real estate attorney first.
When all the negotiations are done and a final agreement is reached, you’re going to need homeowners insurance to satisfy your lender’s requirements. Talk to your American Family Insurance agent well before you get to this stage so they can get your paperwork ready. Then, when the time comes, just check back in with your agent and your new home will be protected before you even walk in the front door.