The Home Inspection: An overview

It is well known that a home inspection is a key part of buying a home once the home is under contract.  But, it is also important for you, the home buyer, to do an initial inspection yourself PRIOR to making an offer.  This is in addition to the formal home inspection performed by a licensed home inspector once you make an offer.

By doing an informal inspection yourself before making an offer, you may notice obvious deficiencies that would eliminate this house from further consideration and prevent you from wasting your time putting an offer in on a property.  Again, this is not meant to replace the formal home inspection performed by a licensed home inspector after you make an offer on a property.  

For Your Own Initial Inspection

Here is a checklist brought to you by Zillow and featuring our additional remarks for your own initial inspection:

Foundation: In each room of the property, look at the base of the walls and ceilings.  Are there cracks or apparent shifts in the foundation?  Then, go outside and note if there are any trees encroaching on the foundation. 

Lot: Are there any noticeable soggy areas and does drainage appear to be away (and not toward) the house?

Roof: Again, this is just a cursory inspection by you and it is not recommended to climb onto the roof!  But from plain view, what is the overall condition of the roof and when was it last replaced?  Are there any tree too close to it? 

Exterior: What is the condition of the siding?  Will it need repainting soon or will it need repairs?  Are gutters and downspouts firmly attached? Are there any loose boards or wires?  Is there asbestos in the exterior material that would require remediation and added costs if needing repaired or replaced? 

Attic: Can you see any signs of leaks?  What is the general appearance of the interior of the roof? 

Interior evidence of leaks: Look at the ceilings and windows for any signs of leaks. 

Basement: Is there dampness? Odor? Adequate insulation?  And again, don't venture into a crawlspace, leave that for a professional home inspector.  

Electrical: Do the switches work? Are there any obvious malfunctions? Have the outlets been grounded? Is the panel updated and expandable for additional appliances or a potential remodel?

Plumbing: Any unusual noises or malfunctions? Has the sewer line been scoped to check for potential cracks?

Appliances: If these are included, what is the age and condition of the stove, dishwasher or refrigerator?

Heating/cooling system: Does it seem to do the job? How old is the furnace? If the system has been converted, are the old systems or tanks still in place?

Odor: Is there an odor in the house? Can you detect what it might be and whether it could be fixed? Beware of musty odors which could signal a wet basement.

What a Formal Home Inspection By a Licensed Home Inspector Should Cover

Once you make an offer on a property and it is accepted, you, the buyer, will work with a licensed home inspector who will perform a formal home inspection. lists the following items as mandatory items to be inspected by the licensed home inspector.  Also try the virtural home inspection at (the official website of the American Society of Home Inspectors).

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies
Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems
Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors and, as well as

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