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A Home Inspection Checklist For Buyers

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When it comes to buying a home, you’re probably more concerned with the negotiation process than technical details. In particular, home inspections. We don’t blame you. After all, buying a home is probably going to be the most significant investment you’ll make in your life.

Try to think about the last time you bought a car. Chances are you were just as concerned with its performance as you were the price. Maybe even more. After all, a great deal doesn’t always justify thousands of dollars in repair costs.

It’s no different than a home. There’s a “one percent rule” contractors use to indicate the cost of repairing a home should be approximately one percent of its value per year. But when buying a home, anything goes. There’s no such thing as a lemon law when it comes to home sales—neither in Florida nor elsewhere.

Luckily, there are rough home inspection guidelines that can ensure the integrity of your home. And they’re just as valid in Jacksonville as they are in Key West. Here’s a home inspection checklist for buyers to help you get started.

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Table of Contents

What Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

Like any other state, most lenders in Florida will insist on a two-step process of evaluation before buying a home. But new home buyers often confuse the two.

The first is the home appraisal process. Typically a cursory examination of a home conducted on behalf of a bank. During an appraisal, the focus is on the ultimate value of a home: both its history, the current market, the neighborhood, and its general condition. Home appraisers are rarely licensed inspectors. They don’t have the training to evaluate structural integrity, the need for repair, or any safety code violations. Their ultimate concern is the bottom line.

Home inspectors, on the other hand, are trained and licensed to spot weaknesses in general maintenance as well as less obvious damages both buyers and sellers frequently overlook. Homeowners looking to sell their house fast may sometimes skip inspection services to ensure a quick sale. Don’t be fooled. While a home inspection can cost you anywhere from $200 upwards, it’s worth it in the end. A few hundred today can save you tens of thousands tomorrow.

Home inspections will rarely result in unnecessary charges. That doesn’t mean there aren’t disreputable services, however. Most inspections result are billed directly following the assessment, which can take anywhere from an hour to a number of days, depending on the condition of a home. And it’s not uncommon for a buyer to wind up paying for a home inspection.


  • Review your home inspector’s license as mandated by Florida law.
  • Ensure your inspector is registered with the Better Business Bureau® and has no recent or outstanding complaints logged.
  • Request a sample report to evaluate how thorough their home inspection assessments are. 
  • Insist on an itemized bill of services rendered, including cost of materials (if any) and a summary of general findings.

A Home Inspection Checklist For Buyers

  • Make sure the seller has provided easy access to all areas of the home – That includes both high traffic areas, such as hallways and kitchen, as well as less frequented spots. A minor crack in the basement wall can lead to significant foundational damage quicker than you think.
  • Ensure the home inspector thoroughly reviews all areas of the home – Don’t be concerned about the condition of the front lawn and whether the house needs a new coat of paint. But fireplaces, chimneys, HVAC systems, and roofing frequently get overlooked by buyers who want to rush through an inspection to save a few dollars. Sadly, those are the areas that command the most attention, and which are often the costliest to repair.
  • Ensure that all alarm systems are in working condition – Replacing batteries may be one thing. But a malfunctioning smoke or carbon monoxide system can be fatal. It might seem like a minor point⁠—after all, replacing an alarm system is relatively easy and inexpensive. But we’ve heard horror stories from new home buyers who failed to update them. 
  • Ask your home inspector for their professional advice – No, your home inspector is not a real estate agent. And they have no idea of what your own needs are as a buyer. But they’ve been through assessments hundreds of times before. And while each assessment is going to be unique, an inspection can also detect some reasonably common areas of neglect⁠—particularly with owners looking to sell their house fast. And their advice can be just as valuable on your decision as a realtor’s.

Should I Get A Second Opinion?

If you’ve hired a reputable home inspection service, chances are a second assessment will reveal the exact same flaws and strengths as the initial inspection. While you may need to revise your home inspection checklist if you plan on buying multiple properties (in particular, houses more than forty years old), a thorough home inspection will include an in-depth evaluation of:

  • Roofing
  • Exterior damage
  • Structural integrity
  • Electrical systems
  • Doors and windows
  • Flooring and ceilings
  • Gutters and downspouts
  • Chimneys and fireplaces
  • HVAC systems
  • Rodent/pest infestations
  • Weather damage
  • Age
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Drainage
  • Septic systems

And that’s just to start!

Like we said, buying a home in Florida is a significant investment. And it demands more, not less attention than you’d extend on purchasing a used car. The real question isn’t what you should look for from a home inspection checklist. It’s what you shouldn’t. The answer?

Don’t overlook anything.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in a home inspection?

A home inspection includes an evaluation of the roofing, exterior damage, structural integrity, electrical systems, doors and windows, flooring and ceilings, gutters and downspouts, chimneys and fireplaces, HVAC systems, rodent/pest infestations, weather damage, age of the property, plumbing fixtures drainage septic systems.

Is it worth getting a second opinion on a home inspection?

It is always best to get more than one opinion when making such a large investment in your future. Getting a second opinion from another reputable source may give you more insight into potential problems that could be easily missed during an initial assessment.

Are there any legal requirements for having a home inspection done?

Yes - some localities require or recommend that buyers have their prospective property inspected by certified inspectors before completing the purchase transaction.

Is it necessary to have a home inspection done before buying a house?

Yes, it is important to have a professional home inspection done before committing to purchasing a house. It is an essential part of making such an expensive investment. A home inspection can reveal potential problems or issues that may not be immediately apparent and give you peace of mind before making such a large purchase.

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