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Buyers’ Guide to Home Inspections

February 07, 2022
Inspector checking the functionality of an air conditioning unit in a kitchen while man and woman look on

Congratulations on making the decision to buy a home! The path ahead can be long and stressful, but it’s all worth it in the end. To be sure you’re getting a gem and not a lump of coal, one of the most important things you can do after you’ve found a home that fits your needs and budget is to have it inspected. However, much like buying a home, the inspection process can be difficult to navigate for first time buyers.

To make the process easier, we’ve taken the time to create a buyers’ guide to home inspections that answers many of the popular questions surrounding home inspections. Keep reading to learn all you’ll need to know about home inspections including a handy home inspection checklist.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation, according to the American Society of Home Inspections (ASHI). A licensed home inspector will look over every inch of your prospective home searching for any problems that may require repairs. Home inspections are extremely important because they can reveal hidden issues that you or the owner may have overlooked and save you money in the long run.

What do home inspectors look for?

Experienced home inspectors usually conduct an inspection of an average sized home in 2-3 hours. It’s important that you be there while the inspection is underway so you can ask questions and have context to any issues the inspector finds. According to ASHI, once finished, the inspector will have looked at your home’s:

  • heating system
  • central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)
  • interior plumbing system
  • electrical system
  • the roof, attic and visible insulation
  • walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors
  • the foundation, basement and structural components

How much do home inspections cost?

The cost of a home inspection can vary based on the size of the home, the location, and the additional inspections that are needed. However, you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 to $600 with the national average inspection cost for 2021 being $339, according to Home Advisor.

How to Hire a Home Inspector

Find a qualified and reputable home inspector is extremely important. Start by asking friends who have recently purchased homes if they recommend the person they used. If that’s a dead end, move on to local online communities such as NextDoor or Patch that allow users to post about the inspector they used. Other home services sites like Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor are also helpful because members of these sites can post reviews of specific inspectors or businesses that they have used.

There are also professional organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors that can help you find a home inspector as well. Beware of any recommendations made by your Real Estate agent as they may be recommending someone that can help them get you to close quicker.

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

While you should leave the actual inspection to a licensed inspector, feel free to go through your potential home beforehand using the home inspection checklist for buyers below. After your initial inspection, you may have questions for your licensed inspector that can help you get more information out of the inspection process.


______ Exhaust van that is vented to building exterior operates properly

______ Dishwasher operates properly

______ No leaks in pipes under sink

______ Adequate water flow in sink

______ No stains or decay in floor in cabinet

______ Built-in appliances operate properly

______ Doors, drawers and cabinets operate properly

______ No excessive deterioration or rust on waste pipes or garbage disposal


______ Toilets operate properly

______ Showers, tubs and sinks drain properly

______ Fixtures have appropriate temperature, flow and pressure

______ Cabinet floor and plumbing under sink in good condition

______ No signs of rust on metal fixtures

______ No stains and caulking in good condition in tub and shower area

Interior Rooms

______ Lights, electrical outlets and switches operate properly

______ Heating/cooling source works

______ Walls have adequate insulation

______ No significant cracks or stains in ceilings, floors and walls

______ Ceilings, floors and walls appear straight and level

______ Locks operate easily

______ Windows operate easily and latch properly

______ No broken glass or decay in windows

______ Wall covering, paint, wood trim and paneling in good condition

Exterior of Home

______ Proper downspout drainage away from home

______ No leaks from leach field or septic tank

______ Exterior structures in good condition

______ Adequate and secure railings on decks and stairs

______ Sides of house appear straight

______ Foundation appears straight and plumb, with no significant cracks

______ No cracking, rot, decay or curling in siding

______ No stains on surfaces


______ No mold, decay, rust or rot

______ No broken/cracked/missing shingles

______ No curling or cupping

______ No cracks, splits or patches

Heating/Cooling System

______ Operates properly throughout home

______ No rust

______ No combustion gas odor

______ Clean air filter(s)

______ No asbestos

______ Ductwork in good condition

Electrical & Plumbing

______ No damage, rust or evidence of leaks

______ Ideal hot water temperature achieved

______ Wiring in good condition

______ Adequate capacity for service panel


______ Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors operate properly

______ Stair handrails in good condition

______ Garage door opener operates properly

______ No stains, decay, damage or major cracks in foundation

______ No evidence of insect or moisture damage


Getting a home inspection is one of the most important steps in the home buying process. Home inspections can help you identify any potential issues with the home you’re interested in purchasing and save you lots of money in the long run. However, finding the right licensed inspector for the job makes all the difference. Use our buyers’ guide to home inspections above to navigate the confusing home inspection process.