Buying or investing in a home is exciting. You’re making a major life decision, investing in your future or choosing your forever home. Unless you’re a builder or home contractor, chances are, you don’t know what items need to be on your home inspection checklist.

A home inspection allows you to look beyond the home’s aesthetics to see the condition of the home’s major components.

The typical home inspection cost is $300 to $500, and as the buyer, you’ll be responsible for these costs. If the seller is covering the costs, ask for a walk-through while the inspector is present. You always have the right to hire a home inspector, even if the seller already had the home inspected.

Inspection costs will vary depending on the age and size of the home.

Knowing what to look for when conducting your own home inspection is also advised. If you’re buying or investing in your first home, it’s very easy to overlook common issues with a home.

6 Components to Add to a Home Inspection Checklist

1. Structure and Exterior

The exterior and structure of the home should be the first items you check. You'll want to check the:

  • Siding to ensure it’s not sagging, cracking or decaying
  • Door and window frames
  • Foundation to check for straightness or significant cracks
  • Cracks or flaking on all masonry
  • Large cracks in stucco
  • Exterior paint for blisters or flaking
  • Stains on any of the home’s exterior surfaces

Be sure to take your time checking the foundation and looking for any signs of damage.

2. Grounds

While you’re outside, take the time to look over the grounds. If it’s a warm, sunny day, it can be difficult to determine if the area has proper drainage. A few of the items to check, many which can provide an indicator of poor drainage, include:

  • Grading should allow for drainage away from the home
  • Evidence of puddling and discoloration of the foundation or crawlspace (if one exists)
  • Leaking of the septic tank or leech field
  • Fences, decks, retaining walls and other outdoor structures for rot, damage or leaks
  • Downspout direction (away from the home) and signs of damage
  • State of deck or stair railings
  • Pitch of the sidewalk, driveway and patios should be away from the structure
  • Tree branches touching the home’s roof

Drainage should be away from the home’s structures to prevent damage.

3. Roof

The roof is one of the most critical components of a home, and it’s also one of the most expensive components to repair. You'll want to check:

  • Shingles for cracks, curling, splits, damage or even missing shingles
  • Interior ceilings for sign of roof leaks
  • Signs of caulk or tar recently placed on the roof
  • Vents for signs of clogging
  • Stains or decay of soffits

4. Doors and Windows

Doors, windows and trim are included on every home inspection checklist. You'll want to check for:

  • Broken glass
  • Caulk around joints and frames
  • Damaged screens
  • Gaps around doors or windows
  • Loose trim
  • Drip caps

5. Interior Inspection

The interior space of the home requires an extensive inspection. You'll want to inspect:

  • Walls, floors and ceiling for stains, cracks or signs of damage
  • Wall coverings
  • Paint condition
  • Ceiling bowing or signs of water damage
  • Light switch operation
  • Flooring condition
  • Window latching and condition
  • Heating and cooling in each room
  • Electric outlet condition
  • Condition of trim
  • Fireplace for evidence of staining, cracks, damage and flute condition

If you have an attic, you’ll want to check for:

  • Damage or decay of the ceiling or walls
  • Staining of the roof
  • Open electrical splices
  • Insulation condition and installation

6. Kitchen and Bathroom

The kitchen and bathrooms deserve extra attention. You'll need to inspect:

  • Piping condition and look for signs of leaks or water damage
  • Exhaust fan operation
  • Dishwasher operation for leaks, proper door closing and operation
  • Sink drainage
  • Rust or deterioration of pipes
  • Appliance operation
  • Cabinet operation and look for signs of bowing or damage
  • Drainage of your tub, shower and sink
  • Caulking of the shower and tub
  • State of the tiles
  • Water pressure and flow
  • Toilet operation, caulking and rocking
  • Evidence of past leaks by looking for stains or signs of damage

There’s a lot that you’ll need to add to your checklist. You’ll want to check the handrails of any of the home’s stairs. If there’s a garage, you’ll need to check the door’s operation and seeing if the door fits flush on the ground or if there are gaps.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be examined, and you’ll want to check for signs of moisture if you have a basement. Basements also require visual inspections for major cracks or signs of water damage.

Plumbing systems and piping should be inspected, including well water testing and signs of rust on the hot water heater.

An inspector will also conduct an inspection of the electrical and heating and cooling systems.

If you conduct your own inspection, you’ll be able to avoid calling an inspector for every potential property you’re considering. But before making a purchase, you should call on a professional inspector to overlook your inspection and ensure there aren’t items that you missed.