Home inspections are highly recommended for buyers of homes to help them avoid costly repairs and maintenance surprises after they take possession of a home. No one wants to find out they have to spend $50,000 replacing the roof, the heating system and correct structural problems after they move in. Significant issues identified during the home inspection can be used as negotiation leverage, provided that you have this clause identified in your original offer.
Home inspections help the seller as well. Although every home will have items identified on a home inspection report, if they are all minor, your home will be more marketable and demand a higher price. Home inspections are very popular during a buyer’s market; however, many buyers tend to take more risk during a seller’s market, fearing they might lose the home of their dreams to someone making an offer for a home as-is.
In this article, we will learn more about home inspections and how they can help both the buyer and the seller. After all, buying a home is one of the largest purchases most couples make during their lifetimes. A home inspection can help manage the risk associated with such a large transaction.
What Is a Home Inspection Checklist?
Every home inspector will use a slightly different checklist, and then there are special home inspections that go beyond the normal checks completed by home inspectors. These might include mold inspections, radon gas inspections, and inspections for asbestos commonly used in older homes.
The inspector will check for many different items and all areas of the home inside as well as outside. The major categories found on a typical home inspection checklist include:
- Heating system, including hot water system
- Central air conditioning system operation (temperature permitting), otherwise checks for overall condition
- Interior plumbing and electrical systems, including circuit breaker panel
- Roof condition, rain gutters, and downpipes
- Attic, including visible insulation type and amount
- Walls, condition, paint condition, etc
- Ceilings, condition
- Floors, condition, type, repairs, and updates
- Windows and doors, condition
- Foundation, cracks, drainage
- Basement, finished, unfinished, dampness, etc.
- Structural components, integrity, strength, etc
Many items will be identified on the checklist that is minor. For example, nail holes in walls are common in paintings and pictures hung from walls. These are easily repaired and are not considered major expense items or deal-breakers. On the other hand, a furnace that is over 20 years old and inefficient is probably on its last legs and will require a major investment to replace it along with the equally old AC system. This kind of item can be a negotiable item and/or a deal-breaker for many people.
The home inspection checklist report may be quite long; however, the important items to focus on are the major maintenance and repair items that will need to be addressed shortly once you move in.
What is a Home Inspection Checklist Template?
Home inspection checklist templates go into far more detail than the previous section outlined. The template is divided into sections covering the grounds, structure, exterior surfaces, windows, doors and trim, roof, attic, interior rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and miscellaneous items such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors stairway treads, risers, and handrails, etc. There is also the basement, mechanical room, garage, crawl spaces, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling system, and hot water system. Each category goes into many details, covering every possible condition and item.
The template ensures that the inspector completes a thorough and complete evaluation of the home. The report will be many pages in length and identify major items that need your attention and many items that are considered minor.
What is Included in a Home Inspection?
Home inspectors are qualified professionals who visually inspect the components and the structure of a home, looking for immediate and potential problems. The inspector provides a detailed written report including a description of any problem areas and may include recommendations for further special inspections such as mold, radon, etc. Most buyers will review the home inspection report with their real estate agent to decide if they should modify the offer to purchase, withdraw the offer or enter into further negotiation.
While the home inspector will cover all of the major areas identified in previous sections of this post, it is important to mention some of the things they will not inspect. They may suggest further inspection by certified specialists. Regulations vary from state to state.
- Pest control such as termites, bees, etc
- Swimming pools, hot tubs, and saunas,
- Asbestos insulation
- Radon gas measurements
- Venting equipment associated with household appliances such as clothes dryers,
- Indoor air quality,
- Painted walls containing lead
- Mold (Note many states require a specialist to report mold infestations and follow clear mold removal processes to avoid endangering homeowners and workers).
Home Inspection Checklist Templates & Examples
Common Types of Home Inspection
In addition to the standard home inspection, there are special inspections that check for very specific issues that may have been identified on the original inspection or an issue you are concerned about and need more information before finalizing the offer.
These specialists check for a variety of issues. If you are concerned about the presence of:
- Termite infestations
- Lead piping or paint
- Water damage
- Other safety issues
Then it is well worth arranging for one of these special inspections. Termite infestations can easily be missed in southern states. If you smell a strong, musty odor when you enter various rooms in the home, there is a strong likelihood there is mold present. Water leaks can cause structural issues and also lead to mold infestations. Older homes may have asbestos insulation, and the water pipes may have lead in them. There can be a significant cost to removing these problems, which many buyers do not want to absorb.
Older homes with lots of trees may have their sewage pipes compromised due to cracked pipes and roots invading the sewage lines. If this is a concern, an inspection of the sewage lines using remote cameras may be warranted.
The following are a few of the common frequently asked questions many new home buyers have regarding home inspections.
In general terms, home inspectors are looking for evidence of failing structures (e.g., cracked foundations), construction that does not meet current safety standards or building codes (e.g., alarm fire sprinklers, exhaust pipes, etc.), systems that are not operating in a normal fashion (e.g., garage door openers, fans, furnaces), major maintenance issues (e.g., roof shingles missing or needing replacement, cracked driveway pavement, etc.), landscaping and drainage, condition of the siding and working outdoor lights, insulation, and ventilation in the attic, electrical systems up to date including breakers, outlets and fans, all plumbing conditions in bathrooms, laundry and kitchens. Condition of appliances, heating systems, cooling systems as well as fireplaces and chimneys, and much more.
The average house inspection costs approximately $340; however, the cost can range from $250 to $500 depending on the state and the size of the home.
Look for certified home inspectors and request recommendations from your real estate agent. The least expensive inspector is not always the best. An inspector can save you thousands of dollars in surprise repairs and provide negotiation leverage with the seller.
There are usually no follow-up costs with the initial home inspection; however, there may be other specialized inspections that could be warranted depending on the age of the home and its location. For example, termite inspections are common in southern states. Older homes may require inspections for asbestos, lead, or mold, especially if there are existing water leaks. These inspections will be over and above the cost of the original cost of the initial inspection.
The home inspection can take several hours; however, the duration depends on the size of the home and the number of issues identified during the inspection. Thoroughness and assistance from the seller can also impact the amount of time the inspection will take. The inspector must prepare a detailed report that can span many pages. The report may take several days to complete.
What should a seller expect from the home inspection?
Most homeowners have a pretty good idea of the condition of their home, although home inspectors can identify surprises. It is in the seller’s interest to ensure that the home inspection goes well and shows the home is well maintained. Homeowners can create a positive impression of the inspector and perhaps a more favorable report.
Some of the steps a homeowner can take are as follows:
Arrange for easy access to electrical panels, ensure that the pilot lights are on for the fireplace and the furnace and they are in working order, keep your home tidy, including the basement and attic, provide easy access to crawl spaces, tidy up your yard. If you have shut off the utilities because the house is vacant, reconnect them to show that everything is in working order.
No one is expecting everything to be perfect; however, try to make your home look the best it can be. Make all of the minor repairs you can before you list the home for sale. Major items may be identified in the listing or negotiated with the buyer. A thick inspection report suggests a poorly maintained house. At the same time, a thinner report suggests that the house was well maintained and all minor items have been looked after.
Do your own inspection a few weeks before the inspection of your home and make repairs as best you can. All of these steps will help you to ensure a better inspection report and avoid surprises.
Home inspections have become the norm in many real estate transactions. They provide the buyer with an understanding of the details of how well maintained the home is and what they can expect in terms of major maintenance expenses once the transaction is completed.
A home inspection report also provides the buyer with the information they can use to:
- Withdraw their offer due to surprises indicated in the inspection report
- Negotiate a better price based on major maintenance items
- Firm up their offer knowing the actual condition of the home.
In all cases, your original offer to purchase must include a clause indicating that the offer may change based on the results of the home inspection. A real estate agent will help provide the proper language to use.
Many sellers will also arrange for a home inspection before listing their home for sale. They find out through someone else’s eyes what the actual condition of the house is and what improvements they might consider before listing the house.
During volatile market conditions, when there are multiple bidders on a home, some buyers will make an offer without an inspection report. The pressure is to remove all conditions to make their acceptance of the offer more probable. The buyer accepts additional risk in these situations since they are purchasing the house as-is. A home inspection is one of the best protections a seller can invoke when making one of the largest purchases in most people’s lives.