Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look for in a Home Inspection Company

Are you buying a home? Buying a home is probably the most complicated (and important) purchase most of us will make in our lifetime. Like any major purchase there are features and specifications for all homes. On paper it may be the features that sell the home but if any of those features are in disrepair, you might be signing up for more than you bargained for and getting less than you paid for.

When you’re purchasing a home, you need to know what you’re getting. There are a few ways you can help protect yourself — one of them is with a thorough home inspection. Hiring a qualified home inspection company to take a look at the home you’re interested in buying is very important. At the same time, you need to understand what’s involved with a home inspection so years after your purchase, you can keep up with the maintenance of your home. Here’s why…

When you are buying a home it is important that you understanding what’s involved with a home inspection. It can pay dividends for the rest of the time you own your house.

First, it’s important to note that some things are not covered in a standard home inspection:

Pests – Pest inspections require a licensed pest control specialist to perform inspections of building structures to determine damage or possibility of damage from pests.

Radon — Radon gas is an invisible, odorless gas produced by the normal breakdown of uranium in the soil.

Lead paint – Inspecting a home for lead-based paint is not typically included in a home inspection because it takes place over several days and requires special equipment.

Mold – Mold inspection is a separate inspection because it requires three separate air samples and surface sample analysis. Since mold inspection is beyond the scope of a traditional home inspection, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a mold inspection.

Asbestos – Asbestos is generally outside the scope of a home inspection because asbestos requires its own thorough review. Like with mold inspections, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a separate asbestos inspection.

Orangeberg Sewer Pipe — Also known as “fiber conduit”, Orangeberg Sewer Pipe is bitumenized fiber pipe made from layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. It was used from the 1860s through the 1970s, when it was replaced by PVC pipe for water delivery and ABS pipe for drain-waste-vent (DWV) applications.

The first thing to point out is that every home and home buyer are different which means that every home inspection is different and the importance of home inspection items are different. Below are some common things that are inspected during a home inspection. Keep in mind that some items in this checklist may not be necessary for your particular home – and that this list does not include all the item inspected by a professional home inspection service.

General Home Inspection Checklist

Lot and Neighborhood

Lot Area

Does the grade slope away from the home or towards the home
Are there any areas where the soil has settled near the foundation or driveway?
What is the elevation of the home in relation to the street and neighbors?

Exterior

Roofing

Is the peak of the roof straight and level? Or is there sagging?
What is the condition of the roof vents? Are they visible?
Are there gaps between flashing and chimneys, walls or other parts of the roof?
Is there sagging anywhere else on the roof such as between the rafters or trusses?
What kind of shingles are used? How much deterioration has set in such as curling, warping, broken shingles or wider gaps between shingles in the roof?

Chimney

Is the chimney square to the home and level? Or is it leaning?
What is the condition of the bricks? Are any bricks flaking or missing?
What is the condition of the mortar? Is it cracked, broken or missing entirely?

Siding

Is the siding original to the house? If not, how old is the siding and how is it holding up?
Are the walls square and level or bowed, bulged or leaning
What material is the siding? Brick, wood or plastic?
What condition is the siding in?
Is there loose, missing, rotten or deteriorated siding or paint?
How does the siding fit connect to the foundation?

Soffits and Fascia

What are the soffits and fascia made of? Common materials include wood, aluminum or plastic?
Are there any problems such as rotting or broken pieces?
Are there any missing pieces of soffit or fascia?

Gutters and Downspouts

Are there any leaks or gaps in gutters or downspouts?
Does the gutter slope toward downspouts?
Is there any rust or peeling paint?
Are all gutters and downspouts securely fastened?
Is there a sufficient separation of the downspouts from the foundation?

Doors and Windows

Are there any problems with paint, caulking or rotten wood?
Are the windows original to the home? If not, how old are they?

Decks or Porches

What is the porch or deck made of? Check for paint problems, rotted wood and wood-earth contact.
Is there any settlement or separation from the house?
If possible, inspect the underside of the porch or deck.

Foundation

Are there any cracks, flaking or damaged masonry?
Are there any water markings and powdery substances on the foundation? If so where are they located?
Are the walls square vertically and horizontally? Or bowed, bulged or leaning?

Some Home Inspection Tips for Buyers

Homebuyers want home inspection tips as they consider making a large financial investment. Tips about home inspection are especially valuable for those who have not purchased a house before. This article is intended to provide such readers the most important pointers to follow so that the real estate buying process is not so overwhelming.

The home inspection tips contained herein address three primary concerns, namely, how to select a home inspector, how to ensure you get the inspection you want and need, and how to get the most benefit out of the inspection report. These pointers apply whether or not you are working with a real estate agent. In fact, if you are working with an agent, these tips will help you get more involved so that the agent doesn’t make all or even some decisions unilaterally.

Our first tip is to consider why you should have the house you plan to buy inspected. There are various motives or reasons for doing so, the most common of which is to avoid buying a money pit. Sometimes the lender requires an inspection, and in general it’s a good idea to discover what may need to be remedied prior to closing. Also, though at one time a home warranty policy was commonly incorporated into the purchase agreement (perhaps seller and buyer sharing the cost), today the home inspection is in essence the only step taken to protect one’s investment.

But this makes it all the more important to get a report that covers all the bases and serves as a kind of owner’s manual to help you get acquainted to your new residence. Unfortunately, too often the inspection is somewhat rushed or even cursory. Minor problems might get glossed over and occasionally a serious major defect is missed. In such a case, if damages occur down the road, the buyer has some recourse by filing a claim, assuming the inspector is bonded. But the liability may be limited to the price of the inspection.

So our second tip is to find a home inspector who is thorough and who writes a complete report that puts everything he finds in proper perspective. If something is wrong, it is important to know what the implications are, just how serious the problem is, and how necessary it is to fix it.

To accomplish this, your inspector should not be too beholden to the real estate agent. If his primary goal is to please the agent (so he can continue to get referrals), he may take shortcuts. (Agents in general prefer quick inspections and summarized findings of major issues only.)

Don’t ignore or discount an inspector referral from your agent, but ask for more than one name and research them. (Most inspectors have a website with sample reports, and you may find there or elsewhere reviews or client testimonials appraising their work.) Be sure you are going to get the kind of home inspection you want before choosing the inspector.

Our third tip builds on the first two and is similar to them. The first tip was the why, whereas the second advises care in determining who inspects the house and how it is inspected. This next tip advises taking care to establish what is inspected.

A number of things can cause an inspector to exclude items from the inspection. Examples are Standards of Practice, his contract, the utilities not being on, inaccessibility due to blocking objects or locked doors, and dangerous situations. Some of these things are under the inspector’s control, some are not, but he is not liable for unintended exclusions and will charge the same fee despite them.

Thus, we recommend reviewing the contract carefully, identifying normally excluded items you want included and possibly normally included items you don’t care about. Also, be sure that lender requirements and constraints will be accommodated. Discuss changes to the list of exclusions and inclusions with the inspector, potentially negotiating a reduced inspection fee.

Then, we advise leaving as little to chance as possible. Ask the inspector what his expectations are to ensure that all inclusions are actually inspected. Relay this information to your real estate agent, who is responsible for seeing that the expectations are met by making arrangements with the owner via the owner’s listing agent. Now, any unintended exclusions that arise would suggest a deliberately uncooperative seller.

Our fourth tip is to get maximum leverage out of the inspection report. Study all findings in the body, not just the major items listed in the summary. If you followed our second tip faithfully, there should be nothing unclear, vague, or out of context. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask the inspector for explanations or elaborations, who should be more than willing to comply.

Some findings may be purely informational and not defects. Some defects may be more or less trivial and not worth pursuing. Serious problems can be addressed in three different ways: as deal breakers, causing you to withdraw your offer; as things you want the seller to remedy prior to closing at his expense; or as conditions you will accept possibly with some form of compensation such as reduced sales price.

We advise against sharing the inspection report with the seller or listing agent. You have paid for it and it belongs to you. The lender may require a copy, but you may request him to keep it confidential. Simply work up a brief contract addendum with your agent covering items falling into the last two categories mentioned in the previous paragraph.

By following these home inspection tips, you stand the best chance of minimizing if not eliminating home-buying surprises.