Buyers and sellers hire home inspectors because they have a trained eye and are experienced at spotting issues in a home. But as a professional home inspector, you know there are limits to what you can see, do, and recommend in a standard inspection.
Since every home and every potential client is different, it’s important that you clearly communicate to the client which parts of the home will be inspected and what will be included in your inspection report.
There are Standards of Practice (SoP) and home inspection ethics that can vary from state to state and that you should follow in order to run a professional home inspection company and serve your clients properly. Following a code of ethics is even recommended in states where there are no official state laws around home inspection.
Having said that, you do have some freedom to create an inspection checklist that suits your expertise and workflow.
Essentials for a home inspection checklist
A home inspection checklist will help you set client expectations and keep you on track during the inspection.
We’ve broken the typical home inspection checklist down into five main categories:
- Walls, ceilings, and floors
- Stairs and railings
- Doors and windows
- Electrical including wiring to panels, breakers, fuses, outlets, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors
- Plumbing including pipes, drains, faucets, and water pressure
- Heating and cooling equipment and distribution systems (HVAC)
- Water heater
- Built-in kitchen appliances (optional)
- Exterior siding, wall cladding, paint, or brick/stone
- Gutters, downspouts, flashing, and soffit
- Attached porches and balconies, railings
- Attached garages
- Driveways and walkways
- Insulation and ventilation
- Attic and crawl space
The most important items on a home inspection checklist
The most important items for any home inspection are the issues within a home that could pose a safety hazard. For example, it’s very important that the home inspector checks the electrical systems. If the wiring is out of date or appears to have been tampered with, a licensed professional may need to be consulted for the safety of the potential homeowners.
Evidence of water damage caused by water intrusion, or excess moisture, is also crucial to spot. Stains on the walls or strong odors could signal previous water damage that was repaired or even covered up. Mold or mildew stains or odd smells could be signs of more serious problems, like faulty plumbing or foundation cracks. These need to be communicated to the client and possibly followed up by a licensed professional.
It is also important to take note of noticeable exterior damage or evidence of excessive wear. A few worn shingles on the roof or some chipped paint might not be of great concern, but it could possibly signal poor maintenance of the property. You’ll want to closely examine for evidence of water leaks or rot. If the roof looks extensively worn or very old, you may want to recommend that your client have a licensed contractor or roofer evaluate further.
Overlooked or specialty items for home inspection
An inspector typically does a visual inspection to ascertain the general condition of a home’s systems and components, with no extensive evaluations or component tests.
Pest or rodent inspections aren’t typically included in standard home inspections, but if you find evidence of either, it’s important for you to inform your client. You may need to follow up with additional inspections or refer them to a pest control specialist.
Swimming pools and hot tubs are not usually included in a standard checklist. If you are qualified to inspect these items, it may give you a competitive edge depending on your region and market.
If it is an option, home buyers may want exterior structures like detached garages, sheds, or gazebos to be inspected, but these will typically add to the cost of a home inspection. Be sure to include these details in the instance that the home buyer requests any of these items to be inspected.
Hazardous materials like lead paint, radon, or asbestos require extreme caution. Be sure to immediately inform your client if there is evidence of dangerous or hazardous materials in or around the house. In these situations, a specialized test for lead paint, asbestos, or radon may be called for. If you do not offer these services, then you’ll need to advise the client that the test is required and refer them to a licensed professional.
Some homes may have unique aspects an inspector must consider. For instance, historic homes might have components not commonly seen in modern homes. Be sure to communicate with your client beforehand and let them know if you need to do additional inspections or consult a specialist.
Turning your checklist into a home inspection report
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ Standards of Practice (SoP), a home inspection report should cover the condition and operability of a home’s primary structure and major systems. It should include a disclaimer stating which portions of the home were not inspected.
Inspection reports can also vary widely in style, length, and format. Some inspectors like to keep their checklist basic. On the other hand, other home inspectors might provide a more extensive report, which covers insight into what the deficiencies mean as well as illustrative photos.
The bottom line is that your inspection report cannot just be a marked-up version of your home inspection checklist. Your report needs to tell the story of the house and communicate any potential issues in clear language with plenty of detail, including pictures, videos, and comments.
A well-designed report will go a long way in keeping homeowners and real estate agent clients satisfied and allow you to continue building trust in your inspection company.
Inspectors who use HomeGauge home inspection software have an advantage, because they can easily offer clients a media-rich, digital report that can be accessed online with a secure login. HomeGauge reports are easy to read and simple for your clients to understand. Real estate agents or home buyer clients can use the Create Request List™ feature right from within the HomeGauge inspection report, making it easy for them to create a repair amendment or make a project list based on the inspection results.
A good home inspection checklist will set you up for success as an inspector, from the first conversation with a potential client to your final inspection. You can also provide the checklist and a sample of the inspection report to your clients so they know what to expect prior to the inspection.
By creating a clear and easy to understand home inspection checklist, each inspection will be completed with less stress and more professionalism.