The Complete Home Inspection Checklist for First-Time Home Buyers

A home is probably the biggest, most valuable purchase you’ll ever make. So you want to be sure any house is in good condition before you seal the deal. A home inspection can either help confirm you’re making a wise investment or expose issues that might make you reconsider your decision to buy. This checklist lays out what you need to look for when conducting your DIY home inspection.

Why a Home Inspection is Important

A home inspection is a walkthrough of a property you’re considering buying so you can assess the condition of all its main components: interior and exterior structure and surfaces, heating and cooling equipment, plumbing and electrical systems, and more. It lets you see what might need immediate attention or repairs before you move in, as well as places where maintenance could be needed down the road.

We recommend hiring a professional home inspector if you’re a first-time homebuyer — someone likely better able to spot issues such as foundation cracks, bad plumbing or dangerous wiring. But doing your own walkthrough with the list below is still an important first step, as it can help you steer the inspector toward possible trouble spots and also gives you something to check against the inspector’s final report. 

Home Inspection Checklist

Use the following checklist to make sure you’re looking at every key aspect of your potential new home: 

Inside

A graphic showing items to inspect when buying a new home

Bedrooms

  • Walls and ceilings have no cracks, damage or water spots
  • Enough electrical outlets in each room
  • Electrical outlets work properly
  • Paint or wall covering is in good condition

Bathrooms

  • Shower, sink and tub drain well
  • Pipes under sink do not leak
  • Shower and sink have proper water flow and pressure
  • No cracked or loose tiles
  • Caulking is in good condition around tub and shower
  • Exhaust fan works properly
  • Toilet works properly

Kitchen

  • Sink drains well
  • Pipes under sink do not leak
  • Sink has proper water flow and pressure
  • Dishwasher drains and works properly
  • Exhaust fan works properly
  • Countertops and cabinets have no damage

Basement and Crawlspace

  • No signs of pests or insects
  • No water damage
  • Proper insulation 
  • Proper ventilation
  • Exposed foundation is in good condition with no cracks

Attic

  • No water damage
  • Proper insulation
  • Proper ventilation

Other Areas to Check

  • Stairs are sturdy and have handrails
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working properly
  • Garage door opens and closes properly

Outside

A graphic showing checklist items for a home inspection. The checklist focuses on inspections  to the outside of a home.

Landscape

  • Trees and yards are in good condition
  • Tree branches do not touch house or hang over roof
  • Drainage is directed away from house
  • Driveway is even and uncracked
  • Sheds and decks are in good condition

Structure

  • House walls are straight and level
  • Siding or masonry have no cracks or damage/decay
  • Visible foundation is in good condition with no cracks
  • Exterior paint is in good condition with no flaking/blisters

Roof and Gutters

  • Gutters are not blocked or damaged
  • No missing or damaged shingles
  • No signs of leaks
  • Chimney is not cracked or damaged

Windows and Doors

  • Doors and windows open and close properly
  • No broken glass or damaged screens
  • Wood frames have no damage/decay
  • Caulking is used on joints around frames
  • Storm windows are installed

HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical

A graphic showing HVAC and similar equipment for homeowner inspection

Plumbing

  • No signs of leaks or previous damage
  • Well water test is acceptable

Electrical

  • No exposed wires
  • No overheating fuses or breakers
  • Lights and switches work properly

Heating 

  • Furnace/boiler delivers even heating
  • Furnace/boiler is not more than 15 years old
  • Water heater works properly
  • Fireplace has no damage and works properly

Cooling

  • Air filters are clean
  • AC unit is not more than 15 years old
  • Ductwork is in good condition

Need help assessing the condition of your HVAC systems? Enercare protection and maintenance plans provide annual inspections and tune-ups for your home’s heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems.

Next Steps

This checklist is a good base document but it’s not exhaustive. A professional home inspector will have a much more thorough set of things to go over. If you do hire someone, make sure they’re licensed, experienced and qualified. Try to be there when they do their inspection and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way. 

Remember, no house will be absolutely perfect. Some things will likely need to be repaired or replaced before you move in. (And if your HVAC systems fall under that category, you can trust Enercare for top-quality furnaces, air conditioners, fireplaces, boilers, water heaters and more.) But with this checklist in hand, you can get peace of mind by knowing what kind of work might be needed to turn a house into your family’s home.