Home Inspections: A Primer and Checklist


Broken electrical outlet
Home inspections can spot problems that may not be evident.

Home inspections are an essential part of the homebuying process, but what constitutes a thorough inspection and how do you find the right professional to do the job?

A general inspection is meant to identify structural or systemic problems in a home:

Construction: Condition of walls, ceilings, floors, foundation, insulation, and roof.

Electrical: Wiring, grounding, main panel, circuit breakers, light fixtures, and exhaust and ceiling fans.

Plumbing:  Toilets, showers, sinks, faucets, and traps. Check condition and identify materials used for potable, drain, waste, and ventilation pipes.

Systems: Water heater, furnace, air conditioning, duct work, fireplace, chimney, and sprinklers.

Appliances: Dishwasher, range and oven, refrigerator, garbage disposal, washer, and dryer.

Garage: Slab, walls, ceiling, garage door, and firewall.

Exterior: Siding and trim, doors, windows, lights, gutters, driveways, fences, sidewalks, landscaping, and drainage.

Sometimes a general inspection may not be enough. Specialists may be called in to test for asbestos, lead paint, radon, or methane gas, as well as mold and wood-eating pest damage.

It’s always a good idea for buyers to be present during home inspections to get an up-close look at the condition of their new home, ask questions, and learn from the inspector’s comments. Plan on at least three hours, and perhaps five or more, for a thorough inspection.

How to find the best inspector for the job? Ask friends for their recommendations, and also the real estate professional who’s assisting you in your home search — he or she has probably dealt with dozens of inspectors and can steer you in the right direction.

Many skilled home inspectors do not belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, but such membership is often a plus. Organizations include the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and the California Real Estate Inspection Association.

(Photo by Spongepad, via Flickr.)

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