The Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Homebuying can be a convoluted process requiring many different moving parts to come together. That includes things like the buyer having to solidify their loan applications, the seller needing to get pre-approvals, and more. All of these parts need to culminate into one thing: a successful real estate sale.

But how does the seller know that they’ve attended to everything needing attendance? Have they checked every box and ensured the property has everything it needs to sell successfully?

The only way to be sure is to set up an official home inspection checklist that the seller can go over with a professional home inspector. This checklist can then be used to finalize the sale of the property and show the buyer that everything is in order. 

Still not sure why a seller would need a home inspection checklist? Well, before the property goes into escrow it’s considered best practice to have the house professionally evaluated to ensure it is up to code from a safety point of view and that the structure is sound. 

While this makes sense enough, it also brings up other questions. Where is a seller to find a reliable home inspector, and what do they do if they identify an issue? Who is responsible for the cost of a home inspection, the seller or buyer? We’ll be answering these questions and more below:

Table of Contents

Why Buyers Want Home Inspections

A home inspection is ultimately a detailed report of the property’s condition in its present state. In some cases, these inspections can prove that the home is in good condition and ready to be sold. In others, it might bring up issues that the seller themself might not have been aware of prior to listing the home as for sale on the market. This is a natural part of the home selling process, and the seller should expect to have a home inspection completed.

Buyers are usually drawn to properties that have completed home inspection reports that they can review before solidifying their offer. Any repairs that need to be addressed will be listed in it, as will other potential problems that can then be put up for discussion between both parties. 

The seller may take the opportunity to fix the issues prior to closing in a show of goodwill, or the buyer may choose to purchase as is if they’re planning extensive renovations. Either way, this list is an essential part of the home selling process and facilitates open communication between both parties. 

So now that we know why buyers are interested in seeing a complete home inspection list, it’s time to take a closer look at what needs to be included in the home inspection checklist and why:

The Ultimate Home Inspection Checklist

A professional home inspector knows exactly what to check for when evaluating a property. Still, it pays for the seller to know what they will be on the lookout for and how to identify those issues themselves even if they plan on employing a home inspector to put together an official report.

As a seller, the more it’s possible to know about what to look for, the faster they will be able to get the jump on any reported issues and resolve them before the buyer completes their offer.

This is what sellers need to keep on their home inspection checklist at the bare minimum:

  • The foundation 
  • The structural integrity
  • The exterior of the property
  • The interior of the property
  • Plumbing/HVAC systems
  • Electrical

We’ll be going over each of these categories in more detail below.

  • The foundation

The very first thing the home inspector will pay attention to is the condition of the foundation of the house. Ideally, they’ll find the foundation in good condition, with no visible cracks or shifts occurring at the base of the walls. Sellers can be assured that buyers will also look into the state of the foundation carefully, and cutting corners here can cost them a good offer. 

Some of the other things the home inspector will ask when looking at the foundation will include:

  • Has the foundation had any previous repairs?
  • Is water adequately diverted away from the foundation walls?
  • Are there any leaks in the crawl space or basement?
  • Is there any foundation issue that needs to be addressed?

Depending on the answers to the questions above, the inspector will grade the condition of the foundation as suitable or not and move on to the next category: structural integrity.

  • The structural integrity

This essential step will involve the home inspector assessing the ability of the house to maintain its structure over time without bending or collapsing. Housing materials have evolved over the decades, and not all of them will stand the test of time equally. 

The inspection of the structural integrity will include steps such as evaluating the foundation, load-bearing beams, and any other framework the property has.  Any issues that are uncovered here are typically of a more crucial nature and need to be addressed before the property is to change hands.

  • The exterior of the property

The exterior of the home is another key thing the home inspector will pay careful attention to when inspecting the condition. This is, after all, the part of the property that is exposed to the elements more than any other and there are many different things to take into account here. 

When looking at the property exterior, the home inspector will be taking stock of the condition of the cladding, the wood trim, the paint, caulking, and the insulation of the windows and doors. If the home has a chimney this will also be checked during this stage of the inspection.

  • The interior of the  property

Then, there is the interior of the property that needs to be inspected. This part might seem more straightforward than the rest, but since it encompasses the majority of the property.

 There are some essential questions that the home inspector is likely to ask the seller, such as:

  • Will the appliances be included in the sale of the home?

  • Are the electrical outlets all in working condition?

  • Has the home been properly insulated?
  • Are the floors damaged or stained?
  • Is there any leaking around the taps?
  • What is the water pressure like?
  • Are there smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
  • Is there any sign of water damage in the ceiling?

If a checkmark can comfortably be added to each of these boxes, then the interior of the home will pass the test. Of course, this only covers the elements that are visible at the surface level. The home inspector will also need to take a closer look at some of the inner workings of the property.

  • Plumbing/HVAC systems

Many homeowners go a long time before thinking about the inner workings of their plumbing and HVAC systems. The problem with that is that these are two things that do show up on the home inspection list and if they’re not in good condition it can delay the sale. 

Let’s start with the plumbing. The first thing to focus on is whether there are any obvious leaks or signs of damage such as rust. The home inspector will check on the condition of the water pump, ensure the hot water is working and that the taps flow easily. 

As for the HVAC system, the home inspector will pay attention to whether each room in the property has sufficient airflow, that the cooling unit is in good condition and that all the air filters on the property are new. They’ll also check whether there is any gas leak to be concerned about.

  • The electrical

The last thing on the checklist will be the electrical system. This is another crucial part of the home inspection process that will see the inspector take a closer look at the splices, whether there is any exposed cabling and if the service panel is easily accessible. 

What Is Excluded From A House Inspection?

For the most part, the seller can expect the home inspection to be a thorough affair but there are a few things that won’t be included in the final report. Some examples of things that are excluded are internet connections, sprinkler systems, and other landscaping activities. In fact, anything that can be considered to be “extra” to the property can be excluded.

Some of the other things the home inspection won’t cover will be:

  • Flooring that is hidden by carpet
  • The presence of pests beyond termites

If the seller is worried that any of the above might be present in their own property, they can take the necessary steps to employ pest control and take other measures that will prepare the home for inspection. These steps will also score extra points with potential buyers.

Home Inspection Tips For First-Time Sellers

A first-time seller may find this process to be incredibly daunting – there seems to be an endless list of things to check and finalize and it can feel like a lot of effort for a property that is ultimately going to be sold. 

Some things that can help to relieve this pressure is to work with the right home inspector, to make sure due diligence is done and that any potential deal breakers are identified in advance.  

Finding the right home inspector is a matter of utmost importance – the seller has to ensure that they are working with someone that comes with plenty of referrals. More often than not there will be an online directory or shortlist of home inspectors that are active in their area, and this is the best place to start with the search. It’s also possible to ask friends and family if they can recommend anyone specifically. 

Final Thoughts

Once a purchase agreement has been signed, a home inspection is the last thing on the seller’s mind. The problem with this is that they are leaving themselves vulnerable to the possibility of unexpected repairs that can be costly or lose them a potential buyer. 

On the other hand, a seller with a thorough understanding of what needs to be on a home inspection checklist and why will have the upper hand and establish good trust between themselves and their prospective buyers by playing open cards with them.