Man inspecting home.

A Buyers Guide And Checklist To Home Inspections

Jamie Johnson6-Minute Read
UPDATED: July 25, 2023

The home inspection process can be nerve-wracking for buyers and sellers alike. Everyone wants the process to go smoothly so the sale and closing can proceed as planned.

But inspections are an essential part of the home buying process. For a buyer, the home inspection reveals important information about the home and can uncover problems that the average person might miss. Knowing how home inspections work and what the process looks like will help you prepare for yours and ensure you benefit from this important step in the home buying experience. 

What Is A Home Inspection?

During an inspection, a qualified home inspector will examine the home and report on its condition. They’ll look closely at the home’s major systems, like the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems, and its structural features. The inspector is looking for any problems that affect the home’s value and safety.

Home inspections are an important part of the home buying process because they give buyers a complete picture of the property. You’ll go into the sale knowing what you’re getting into and how much you can expect to spend on future upkeep.

And if the problems with the house are extensive, you may decide to back out of the sale. A good home inspection doesn’t guarantee problems won’t arise in the future, but it gives home buyers more information to work with.

Home Inspection Vs. Home Appraisal

A home inspection looks at a home to assess its current condition, while a home appraisal looks at the home to assess its value. During an appraisal, a licensed appraiser walks through the property and does a general assessment of the home. During an inspection, the inspector will look more deeply into the home's systems and physical structure.

Appraisers also look at comparable data to figure out the fair market value of the home. Your lender will require an appraisal since they don’t want to give out a loan for more than the property’s worth. Inspections are recommended but not usually required unless you’re taking out certain government loans.

Understanding The Home Inspection Process

The average home inspection lasts between two and two and a half hours. A typical home inspection costs between $200 and $500, depending on the inspector you use and the size of the home. The buyer usually pays for the home inspection, but this can be negotiated.

It’s a good idea for all home buyers to be present during the inspection. This will allow you to ask questions and receive an expert, unbiased perspective on the home’s condition.

Once the inspector completes their evaluation, they’ll send a detailed report outlining their findings and any recommendations for repairs. The inspection report will also state whether certain appliances need to be replaced.

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How To Get A Home Inspection

When you make an offer on a home, it’s a good idea to include an inspection contingency. This contingency gives you the right to walk away from the sale if the property has serious problems that the seller doesn’t want to address. Your real estate agent can assist you with adding an inspection contingency to the contract.

The first step toward getting a home inspection is finding a company to work with. You can ask friends, family members and your real estate agent for advice on choosing a home inspection company.

Once you find a company you want to work with, spend some time researching them online to see what kind of experience other customers have had. Here are also some questions you can ask a potential inspector:

  • What does your home inspection report cover?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • Do you offer to do repairs based on the inspection?
  • How long will your home inspection take?
  • How much does your home inspection cost?
  • What type of report do you provide?
  • When will I receive the final inspection report?

Exterior Inspection

During the inspection, the home inspector will evaluate the home’s exterior and the condition of the property. Here are some of the main things they’ll be looking at.

Exterior Walls And Siding

A home inspector will look at the house’s exterior walls and siding, watching for cracks or warps. They’ll also look at the home’s windows and doors for signs of damaged caulking or potential wood rot.


The inspector will look to see if the foundation is in good shape. Sloping floors, doors that are hard to open or close and cracks in the walls can all indicate issues with the foundation.

Grading And Drainage

When an inspector looks at the home’s grading and drainage, they’re trying to see how easy it is to divert water from your home. Some common warning signs include overflowing gutters, pooling water and soggy ground around the house.


The inspector may go up on the roof, but they aren’t required to do so if it isn’t safe. They’ll look for missing or warped shingles and check to see that the gutters are in good shape. They’ll also consider the durability of the roofing materials. In general, the best roof materials are asphalt, clay and slate shingles.

Interior Inspection

After the inspector has completed the exterior inspection, they’ll review the major structures inside the home. Let’s look at the main systems they’ll be evaluating.

Interior Walls And Ceilings

The inspector will look at the interior walls and ceilings to check for signs of water damage or mold. Sagging ceilings, cracks, and uneven baseboards are all signs of structural damage in the home.


The inspector will check the toilets, bathtubs, showers and any other appliances where water runs through. They’ll also check to ensure your pipes have anti-freeze protection and look for any signs of leaks.

Electrical Systems

The inspector will also evaluate the home’s electrical systems for potential problems. They’ll look at the electrical panel to ensure it’s connected by circuit breakers and that no trees or bushes interfere with the wiring. They’ll also test all wall outlets and check the light switches to ensure everything is in working order.


To check the HVAC systems, the inspector will evaluate the furnace, heat pump, air conditioner and thermostat. They’ll manually check these systems to ensure they’re in good working order. They’ll also check the home’s ventilation and look for signs of carbon monoxide or gas leaks.


The home inspector will look to see how well-insulated the attic is since the insulation determines the home’s energy-efficiency. They’ll also check the attic ventilation since poor ventilation can cause mold to grow.

Your House Inspection Report Checklist

Here is a checklist of common inspection failures to reference during your house tours and before making an offer.



Condition of outlets and light switches

Condition of shingles

Condition of broken or sagging floorboards

Condition of foundation

Condition of water pressure

Condition of paint

Any signs of leaks

Condition of garage

Poor attic insulation

Condition of windows and doors

What’s Not Included On A House Inspection Report?

A home inspection is fairly comprehensive but doesn’t check for everything. You may need to hire a specialist if you’re concerned about any of the following issues:

The Bottom Line: Are Home Inspections Worth It?

A home inspection is a valuable tool that can help you learn more about the home you’re buying. It may be tempting to opt out of the inspection to make your bid more competitive, but it’s never a good idea. If you’re early in the home buying process, you can start your online mortgage application with our friends at Rocket Mortgage® today.

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.