Blog  | Homeownership | Home Inspection Essentials Checklist

Home Inspection Essentials Checklist

Southern Trust Mortgage’s Comprehensive Checklist to Help You Prepare for Your Home Inspection

When it comes to buying a home, what you see isn’t always what you get.

Sure, the home probably looks stunning at first glance, but what you can’t see is the foundation cracks, ancient plumbing, dangerous wiring, broken appliances, or other defects that may be revealed upon having a home inspection done.

For this reason, it is essential that you as the buyer have a home inspection conducted on your potential new property. Imagine moving into your dream home, just to discover that you have to pay for very expensive foundation or roof repair. It is always best to be aware of exactly what you’re getting yourself into when it comes to big purchases such as a home, therefore, to protect yourself and your money, a home inspection is non-negotiable.

What Exactly is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is just what it sounds like. The process involves a licensed professional home inspector, typically paid for by the buyer, who conducts a thorough walk-through of the home and reports back on the home’s major components, its current condition, what needs immediate attention, and what may require maintenance after you move in.

The purpose of a home inspection is to reveal any problem areas before the end of the closing process. This provides both buyer and seller ample time to renegotiate or even walk away from the transaction if necessary.

We at Southern Trust know that home inspections sound slightly intimidating, I mean, who wants to find out their dream home has a major issue? However, a home inspection is one of the best safety nets put in place for homebuyers. And in a lot of cases, home inspections do not reveal any unwanted surprises at all. But, when they do, buyers have the opportunity to communicate with the seller/s about any potential fixes. Remember, when negotiating with the seller you should stay flexible and prioritize the issues in the home. If a home does require any fixes, the buyer can check them over in the final walkthrough to ensure that the job was done correctly.

It is 100% crucial to get a home inspection, even if you believe there is nothing wrong with the property. The truth is, there is no way to be certain and you do not want to be burdened with thousands of dollars in repairs after moving into your new home.

So, if you are in the market for a new home, or are already a homeowner, we recommend reading through our home inspection essentials checklist, so that you can be on the lookout for any potential red flags long before your home inspection.

Our Home Inspection Essentials Checklist

Odds are, if you are working with a professional home inspector, they probably know what they’re doing. However, it is also important for future homeowners to be able to identify the most important inspection components. The more a buyer knows and understands about the process, the easier it will be for them to evaluate their property over time. With that being said, there are about seven categories that are essential to a home inspection:

  1. Landscaping
  2. House Structure
  3. Exterior of House
  4. Interior Rooms
  5. Plumbing/HVAC
  6. Electrical
  7. The Roof

To help guide you through the home inspection process, we at Southern Trust Mortgage are happy to provide you with this comprehensive checklist.


Inspecting the landscaping of a property is done to determine compliance with the landscape maintenance specifications put in place in the area. Your home inspector will check for things like:

  • Grading so that rainwater runs away from the foundation
  • Evidence of standing water
  • Evidence of leaks from a septic tank (if applicable)
  • Walkways in good condition
  • Branches or bushes touching the house or hanging onto the roof
  • Railings on stairs and decks meet code requirements and are not loose
  • Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landings in good condition
  • Downspouts drain away from the house


The basis of a home inspection comes down to getting the foundation and overall structure of the property assessed. Some of these components you can catch with your eyes upon viewing the property, such as:

  • Sides of the house appear straight, not bowed or sagging
  • Window and doorframes appear square (especially bowed windows)
  • Visible foundation in good condition-no significant cracks

Exterior of House

Apart from the foundation and the basic house structure, the exterior of the property must also be thoroughly assessed. Look for:

  • Adequate clearance between ground and wood siding materials with no wood-to-earth contact
  • Siding: no cracking, curling, loose, rot, or decay
  • Stucco: no large cracks (stucco may require a separate inspection from a specialist)
  • Vinyl or aluminum siding: no dents, damage, no bowing or loose siding
  • Vines attached to the surface of the house
  • Exterior paint or stain: no flaking paint or large blisters
  • Stains on exterior surfaces
  • Wood frames and trim pieces are secure, no cracks, dry rot, or deterioration
  • Joints around frames are caulked
  • No broken glass (window or storm panes) or damaged screens, no broken double-paned, insulated window seals

Interior Rooms

The interior areas of the property may seem like the most straightforward, however, it is still important to know just what to look for during a home inspection. Watch out for:

  • Stains on floors, walls, or ceilings
  • Flooring materials in good condition
  • Any significant cracks in walls or ceilings
  • Windows and exterior doors operate easily and latch properly, no broken glass, no sashes painted shut, no decay
  • Interior doors operate easily and latch properly, no damage or decay, no broken hardware
  • Paint, wall covering, and paneling in good condition
  • Wood trim installed well and in good condition
  • Lights and switches operate properly
  • Adequate number of three-pronged electrical outlets in each room
  • Electrical outlets test properly (spot check)
  • Heating/cooling source in each habitable room
  • Evidence of adequate insulation in walls
  • Fireplace: no cracking or damaged masonry, damper operates properly, the flue has been cleaned, the flue is lined


  • Working exhaust fan that is vented to the exterior of the building
  • Dishwasher: drains properly, no leaks, baskets, door spring operates properly
  • No leaks in pipes under sinks
  • The floor in the cabinet under the sink solid, with no stains or decay
  • Water flow in sink adequate
  • No excessive rust or deterioration on garbage disposal or waste pipes
  • Built-in appliances operate properly
  • Cabinets in good condition: doors and drawers operate properly


  • Working exhaust fan that doesn’t terminate in the attic space
  • Adequate flow and pressure at all fixtures
  • Sink, tub, and shower drain properly
  • Plumbing and cabinet floor under the sink in good condition
  • If the sink is metal, it shows no signs of rust, overflow drain doesn’t leak
  • Toilet operates properly
  • Toilet stable, no rocking, no stains around the base
  • Caulking in good condition inside and outside of the tub and shower area
  • Tub or shower tiles secure, wall surface solid
  • No stains or evidence of past leaking around base of bath or shower

While this portion of the home inspection may seem a bit extensive and daunting, most of these items are cosmetic and will be easily identifiable by you as the buyer when you view the home.

Plumbing & HVAC
  • Visible pipes: no damage, no evidence of leaks, no signs of stains on materials near pipes; drainpipes slope slightly down towards outlet to septic/sewage system
  • Water heater: no signs of rust, vented properly, sized to produce adequate quantities of hot water for the number of bedrooms in the house
  • Water pump: does not short cycle
  • Galvanized pipes do not restrict water flow
  • HVAC Appears to operate well throughout (good airflow on forced hot air systems)
  • No rust around cooling unit
  • No combustion gas odor
  • Air filter(s) clean
  • Ductwork in good condition
  • No asbestos on heating pipes, water pipes, or air ducts
  • Separate flues for gas/oil/propane and wood/coal


Inspecting the condition of electrical systems within the home should be one of the top priorities. Incorrect, faulty, or DIY wiring can be a huge safety and fire hazard, along with exposed wires and overloaded circuits. While we know many of you are probably not electricians, it is still a good idea to watch out for:

  • Visible wiring: in good condition and up to code
  • Service panel: adequate capacity, all cables attached to the panel with cable connectors; fuses or breakers are not overheating
  • No aluminum cable for branch circuits

Make sure your home inspector has sufficient electrical knowledge and meticulously analyzes the system during the inspection, as inadequate wiring and electrical equipment malfunctions are common reasons for house fires.

The Roof

Last but not least, you’ll want to make sure the roof appears to be in tip-top shape. Now we don’t recommend breaking out the ladder just, yet but doing a quick visual assessment of the roof’s condition will give you a good idea of its current state. After all, a rundown roof is one of the most common repairs following an inspection. If you can, be on the lookout for:

  • Composition shingle: no curling, no cupping, no loss of granulation particulate, no broken, damaged, or missing shingles, no more than two layers of shingles on the roof
  • Wood shingles or shake roof: no mold, rot, or decay, no cracked/broken/missing shingles, no curling
  • Adequate flashing
  • No evidence of excess roofing cement/tar/caulk
  • Soffits and fascia: no decay, no stains
  • Exterior venting for eave areas: vents are clean and not painted over
  • Gutters: no decay or rust, joints sealed, attached securely to structure, no sections of gutter or downspout missing, gutters are not clogged with debris
  • Chimneys: straight, properly flashed, no evidence of damaged bricks, chimney cap in good condition

Make sure your home inspector has sufficient electrical knowledge and meticulously analyzes the system during the inspection, as inadequate wiring and electrical equipment malfunctions are common reasons for house fires.

What is NOT Included in A Home Inspection?

While it may seem like a home inspector covers every part of a home, there are a few things that are not included in the inspection. A few examples include internet service, sprinkler systems, flooring hidden by carpet, and checking for pests such as mice or ants. Certain pests like termites, for example, will require a separate inspection.

Additionally, home inspectors will only be concerned with cosmetic issues that could pose a risk, such as a large crack or water stain on the wall. Therefore, peeling wallpaper or chipped paint will not be a concern for them, and more than likely you as the buyer will be responsible for fixing those types of issues.

The best way to ensure these areas are up to standards before buying a house could be to ask the inspector to check it out (the worst they can say is no, after all) or hire a separate specialist to examine potential pest situations within the home.

While these added responsibilities may seem overwhelming during the home-buying process, they are ultimately put in place to protect you.

If you’re looking to purchase a new home, get in touch with a Southern Trust Mortgage Loan Officer.

Find a Loan Officer

Zillow 5 Star Lender
Google 5 Star Ratings
Fannie Mae Approved Lender
Equal Housing Lender