There are many steps in the home buying process, but few are as impactful as the home inspection.

By the time you put in an offer on a house, you may think you know all there is to know about the property. However, a professional home inspection can offer much-needed reassurance to home buyers by allowing them visibility into any potential problems before closing on the home. Keep reading to learn more about home inspections and how you can prepare for them with our home inspection checklist!

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a noninvasive, visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home. If an inspection unearths problems, you can negotiate with the seller to lower the home’s price or arrange for repairs before closing. You may even decide to cancel the sale if there’s a big problem with the home and you can’t negotiate a lower purchase price or otherwise reach an agreement with the seller.

A home inspection is different from a home appraisal. An appraisal is an estimate of how much your property is worth. Mortgage lenders use appraisals to make sure the home is worth the amount they’re lending. An appraiser doesn’t go over the fine details of the home, but rather looks at local property values and the home’s overall condition.

A home inspection usually takes place right after the seller accepts an offer from the buyer. After both parties sign the purchase agreement, the home goes into escrow. This process happens before the appraisal. It’s important to note, the home buyer is typically responsible for paying for the inspection because it protects them from purchasing a home with significant issues.

The Home Inspection Process: What Buyers Should Know

There is more to the home inspection process than what happens on inspection day. As the buyer, there are certain steps you can take before and after the inspection to ensure you have the information you need about the home you’re buying.

The Home Inspection Contingency

A home inspection contingency is a clause added to a real estate contract stating that the purchase is contingent on the results of the home inspection. This allows home buyers to cancel the sale or negotiate repairs based on the inspection results.

If you decide to add a home inspection contingency, you will have a specific time frame to schedule and conduct the inspection, as well as any potential follow-up evaluations. For example, if there is a plumbing issue and the inspector recommends consulting a plumber for a more in-depth look, the buyer is responsible for finding a plumber and getting the information they need to either move forward or withdraw from the sale before the period ends. Typically, buyers have about 1 – 2 weeks to complete this process.

If there are any deal-breaking issues on the inspection report, the home inspection contingency empowers buyers to pull out of the sale at no extra cost, making this one of the best ways to protect yourself against surprise costs after move-in.

Home Inspection Day

Your home inspector is the expert, but there are still things you can do as the buyer to ensure the process goes smoothly. When possible, we recommend home buyers attend their home inspection so they can see the damage firsthand and ask questions. Having these discussions with the inspector in real time leads to more in-depth information about your home than what you will find on the inspection report.

As you’re walking through the house, try not to get hung up on the number of defects, as often these repairs are very minor. Instead, dig into the severity of the issues to determine if there are any deal breakers that would prevent you from moving forward with the sale.

The Home Inspection Report

After the home inspection, you will receive a report that covers the property’s major features and notes any problematic issues that may need attention.

A good inspector will take the time to walk you through the report and their findings. This may include any damage or wear that they found in the home, no matter how minor. It’s their job to make note of every flaw, so your report will likely have a lot of issues listed on it. This does not mean that everything is something that should cause concern – they’ll be able to help you discern what may be hazardous or a red flag.

Asking For Repairs Or A Discount

If your home inspection report contains significant damage, you may be able to ask the seller to cover the cost of the repairs or negotiate a discount on the purchase price.

Although you can’t expect the seller to fix every defect in the home, you can use the information in the inspection report to demonstrate the additional expenses you would have due to the necessary repairs. A good rule of thumb is to only negotiate the cost of major repairs. If it can be described as normal wear and tear, the buyer will likely be responsible for it!

If you’re comfortable paying for the repairs yourself, you also have the option to negotiate a reduced sale price based on the cost of the repairs.

Home Inspection Checklist: What To Look For

After conducting research and vetting options, you should have a professional home inspector you can rely on who knows what to look for in each part of the home. However, understanding what the inspector is looking for can help you ask questions to better understand the extent of the damage. This checklist is a comprehensive overview of what to look for in a home inspection.

Grounds And Exterior Structure

  • Foundation appears in good condition with no significant cracks
  • No evidence of leaks from septic tank
  • Drainage away from the house with no standing water
  • Exterior walls appear straight with no sagging
  • Windows and door frames appear square
  • Siding appears in good condition with no cracks or damage
  • Bricks appear undamaged with no cracks in joints
  • Paint is not flaking or stained
  • Roof shingles are not missing or damaged
  • Gutters show no decay and drain properly
  • Chimneys appear straight and undamaged
  • Detached garage, shed, fence and deck appear in good condition with no rotted wood or evidence of termites


  • No evidence of moisture
  • No evidence of water damage to above floor
  • Sump pump operates properly


  • No evidence of staining from roof
  • Structure shows no damage or decay
  • Adequate ventilation through soffit vents and end louvers
  • Insulation is sufficient and installed properly
  • Electrical splices are contained


  • Visible plumbing under sink is in good condition and shows no signs of water damage
  • Adequate water pressure for hot and cold water at all fixtures
  • Tub, shower and sinks drain smoothly
  • Toilet flushes and fills properly
  • Toilet is stable, with no rocking or stains at base
  • No evidence of leaking around base of tub or shower


  • Visible plumbing under sink is in good condition and shows no signs of water damage
  • Working exhaust fan vents to outside
  • Garbage disposal is operational
  • Water flow to sink is adequate and drains properly
  • Built-in appliances operate properly

Interior Rooms

  • Floors, walls and ceilings appear straight and level without visible stains, cracking or damage
  • Doors open easily and latch properly when closed
  • Lights and switches operate properly
  • Adequate number of electrical outlets in each room
  • Heating and air conditioning vents in all rooms
  • Fireplace has no cracking and shows no staining
  • Fireplace flue has been cleaned and is lined
  • Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working and located properly
  • Stairway treads and risers are solid

Electrical Systems

  • Wiring is in good condition
  • Service panel has normal capacity with cables attached correctly
  • Cables are secured and protected
  • No exposed electrical splices

Heating And Cooling Systems

  • No gas odor
  • Air conditioning and heating operate well
  • Air filters are clean
  • Flues have no open seams and slow up to chimney connection
  • Cooling unit has no visible rust


  • Visible pipes have no damage or evidence of leaks
  • Water heater shows no signs of rust
  • Water pressure falls within accepted range
  • Hot water temperature does not exceed 125-degrees Fahrenheit

What Does Termite Inspection Entail?

A termite inspection is a visual inspection of the readily accessible areas of a home for evidence of wood-destroying insects. The inspector will visually inspect the entire interior of a home (including accessing and entering any sub-space such as basements and crawlspaces) and exterior of the property. After the inspection has been performed, the findings are reported on a special wood destroying insect form separate from the home inspection report.

Can termites live in colder climates?
Yes, termites have been found throughout the United States, even in Alaska! Cold weather does not kill them, it only slows them down or causes them to go into a hibernation state.

Why inspect the attic if termites stay close to the ground?
The termite inspection is actually an inspection for wood-destroying insects. The inspector is also looking for other types of wood-destroying insects, such as ants and carpenter bees.

What do termites look like?
Subterranean termite colonies consist of three different castes–reproductives, workers, and soldiers. All of the Subterranean termites are generally creamy white in appearance and are translucent, looking very much in size, shape, and color as a grain of rice. The reproductives, or “swarmers,” have a pair of even-sized wings and are often mistaken for flying ants. The workers look similar to the “swarmers,” only they are a little smaller and do not have wings. The soldiers are also similar except for their oversized heads and large, crushing mandibles.

What is the difference between carpenter ants and termites?
There are a number of differences between carpenter ants and termites. The body shape of a carpenter ant is like an hourglass–it narrows between the abdomen in the rear and the thorax in the front. The body of a termite is more cigar-shaped without the narrowing between the front and back halves of the body. When wings are present, carpenter ants have larger wings in the front and smaller wings in the back, whereas termite “swarmers” have relatively equal-sized wings. Carpenter ant wings are less “veiny” than termite wings. Also, ant wings have a stigma (dark spot) on the leading edge of the front wing, and termite wings do not.

Carpenter ant antennae are bent or curved, while termite antennae are relatively straight. Also, termites eat the wood they tunnel through and ants do not.

How do you treat termites?
There are several methods available to treat Subterranean termites. A chemical treatment is the most common treatment type available for Subterranean termites. The goal of a Subterranean termite chemical treatment is to establish a continuous termiticide barrier between the termite colony (usually in the soil) and wood in a building. This is done by placing termiticide in the soil on both sides of all foundation elements to provide a barrier preventing termites from entering the structure. Technicians trench the soil and inject termiticide beneath it at 16-inch intervals. They also drill into hollow masonry block foundations and inject termiticide into the block voids. This creates a protective barrier around the property.

In-ground baiting systems are also becoming a popular method for treatment of Subterranean termites. A subterranean termite baiting system involves placement of cellulose (wood material) bait stations at strategic locations around the perimeter of the home. Worker termites, which constantly forage for wood to feed their colony, locate the cellulose bait stations and leave special scent trails to summon their mates to the food source. The cellulose material in the bait station is then replaced with a chemical inhibitor, retarding the molting process in termites and preventing them from growing. The carrier termites then bring the chemical back to the colony and–if everything goes well–spread the inhibitor throughout the remainder of the colony. Because of the growth inhibitor, the carrier and the rest of the colony will die.

Could there be hidden termite damage?
Absolutely! One of the main characteristics of termites is their tendency to avoid open air and bright lights, meaning they will stay underground or within wood products. It is almost impossible for an inspector to visually identify or locate an active termite infestation just by looking at the finished surface of a wall or the accompanying trim.

Is a termite inspection included with the cost of a general home inspection?
No, it is not. The initial cost of a general home inspection does not include any other inspections.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock. It is invisible, odorless and tasteless, and can only be detected by specialized tests. Radon enters homes through openings that are in contact with the ground, such as cracks in the foundation, small openings around pipes, and sump pits.

Radon, like other radioactive materials, undergoes radioactive decay that forms decay products. Radon and its decay products release radioactive energy that can damage lung tissue in a way that causes the beginning of lung cancer.

The more radon you are exposed to, and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of eventually developing lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in 15,000 to 22,000 deaths per year.

Testing your home for radon is easy and homes with high levels of radon can be fixed (mitigated). The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends that all homes be tested for radon.

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