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Inspection Checklist – Residential Property Purchase

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Prior to the late 1980s, professional home inspections rarely occurred. Most real estate licensees operated as agents of the seller with fiduciary duties.  And the buyer was considered as a customer.

The 1984 landmark case, Easton vs. Strassburger, dramatically altered the manner and the responsibility in which the real estate industry was to deal with property condition issues.

Professional home inspections are very important in today’s real estate transactions. They provide the buyer and lender with an objective third party evaluation of property condition. They also shift some of the burden of property condition issues from the seller and real estate agent to the professional inspector.

The following is the general checklist of home inspection for the buyer:


  • Soil Condition: check a loamy soil
  • Foundation Problems: fill conditions. Landslides. Expansive soils, sinkholes, foundation cracks over 1/4″, stilts, etc
  • General Site Condition: Driveways, retaining walls, swimming pools
  • Structure Exterior: Beware of Manufacturing sidings like Lousinana Pacific Inner seal siding, earth to wood contact, patios and decks 30″ or more off the grounds, etc
  • Roof System: Average life expectancy of 25~50 years except Tar and Gravel of 15 years.
  • Garden spray system: control panel, backflow prevention, check valve and zones and sprinkler heads, and cracks and leaks of pipes.

Major House Systems

  • Mechanical System: heating (furnace) and cooling, check underground storage tank issue in oil heating systems
  • Electrical System: Amps, Volts, types of wires (copper vs aluminum), electrical panel, receptacle & service grounding (before 1960s), GFI outlets, bare wires,
  • Plumbing System: Pipe size and material (PEX, copper, PVC), Encrustation, leaks, system shutoffs, water filtration system, waste drain system, water heater (secured and 18″ off the floor).
  • Miscellaneous Systems


  • Kitchen: floor cover material, under sink cabinet, stove exhaust fan, oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, kitchen cabinets.
  • Laundry Area: Operational washer hook-up valves, gas or electric power source, dryer ventilation to the outdoors. Operational exhaust fan system to remove moisture from the laundry area.
  • Bathrooms: floor cover material, basic fixture, operable shower head and tubs (old tubs showing signs of enamel wear), toilet bowel and tank, and operable ventilation system
  • Fireplace | Wood Stove: cracks, exterior chimney, flue damper (no signs of creosote buildup), discoloration from smoke.
  • Interior Rooms: water stains on walls or ceilings, mold on walls, structural setting issues of entry and interior passage doors, floors in all rooms
  • Attic: access location, adequate ventilation, water stains, adequate attic insulation (majority of heat loss from the roof), condition of duckwork and piping.  
  • Raised Foundations: no organic debris or trash in the crawlspace, dry and free from excessive moisture. Vapor barrier to prevent ground moisture, proper earth-to-wood clearance.
  • Basement: dry and free from excess moisture, cracks of shifting of foundation walls

Environment Hazards

  • Asbestos: Used before 1996. a known carcinogen, and is best left undisturbed if found in a house. Generally not considered a health risk. If found, it should not be torn out but should be encapsulated.
  • Radon: Classified as a known human carcinogen. Increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Lead: lead paints, portable water supply test for lead content.
  • Underground Storage Tanks: limited life. Will rust and leak oil and contaminate the soil.
    Formaldehyde: A colorless, pungent gas classified as a probably carcinogen.
  • Mold, Mildew, and Fungi: visible by discoloration.
  • Meth Lab Contamination: strong health problem. Can be recognized  by a strong cat-urin type order.

Although most buyers will hire an inspector to investigate the property as a method to fulfill the due diligence requirement of investigation, the inspection report is regarded as a personal opinion. And the buyer has obligations with respect to his/her own actions, or lack thereof, when researching and investigating the property being purchased, and needs to know whether the inspection report covers the following categories:

  • Foundations, basements, and under-floor areas
  • The exterior of the building, including the roof and surrounding grounds
  • The major home systems, such as mechanical (heating and cooling), electrical, and plumbing
  • The interior of the building
  • Fireplaces and chimneys
  • Other built-in systems and appliances (sometimes optional)
  • Pools and spas (sometimes optional)
  • Environmental hazards (sometimes optional)

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