23- Point Home Inspection Checklist (For Buyers & Sellers)

Home Inspection Checklist

Sellers getting a pre-home inspection prior to listing is highly recommended.  Get ahead of any unforeseen issues that could cause you to lose a buyer, cost extra money in the long run, and put a negative cloud over your property.

Buyers seek inspections for two prime reasons. The first is to make sure that the home is right for their functional needs, and that they won’t have to contend with major repair problems that come with deferred maintenance. The second reason is to identify any issues before removing final contingencies and provide room for further negotiation. Buyers may request a seller repair those problems prior to closing, negotiate a price reduction, or provide a credit to make a future repair. Many buyers prefer a repair credit with control over hiring vetted contractors of their choice. There are instances when sellers hire inferior vendors, and cut corners when repairs are within their control.

It's important to note that you want to try and get a copy of the seller's real estate transfer disclosure statement (TDS) and seller property questionnaire (SPQ).  Both of these documents can help guide you through the inspection process when things like water intrusion, prior issues with the roof leaking, ect are noted.

Following is a home inspection checklist of the 23 most essential inspections San Diego real estate agent team LUXURYSOCALREALTY routinely recommends to our home buyers, but first some quick home inspection facts.

What is a home inspection? A home inspection is when a professional inspector takes a 360 look at all mechanicals, water fixtures, heating and plumbing, foundation, roof, and more.

What to look for in a home inspection? The major things you are looking for in a home inspection are safety and hazardous items, foundation or structural issues, mold, and possible water intrusion.

How much does a home inspection cost? Home inspections start at $500 and can cost as much as $1200 for larger homes.

How long does a home inspection take? A small condo may take just under two hours where a large custom home could take 6-7 hours.

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection? Unless you agreed to purchase the home "as is" you can expect the seller to repair or provide credit for hazardous unsafe items.

What’s the biggest reason to make your offer contingent on a professional home inspection? Until a professional inspector takes a look you have no idea what the scope of unseen repairs may be. Oftentimes homes look lovely during a showing but under the hood, they are far from attractive.

General Home Inspector

A general home inspection in the San Diego area, which may take four or more hours, typically costs about $750 to $1,250. Multiple general inspectors may be needed with larger homes and estates. This inspection is important because it identifies other areas of concern that signal the need to call in a specialist to do a more in-depth examination such as signs of prior water damage, termites, exterior drainage issues, or cracked roof tiles. The general home inspector typically gives only a cursory look at the roof and any pool or hot tub/spa and whether repairs will be needed—and how soon. General inspectors also help point out specific items that you may need a vendor quote for negotiations with the seller, such as broken seals on windows and wood rot replacement. Deferred exterior maintenance is also looked at during the home inspection. Deteriorating paint, and trees growing too close to the home may also be mentioned to provide an understanding of the maintenance the home needs. 

1. Electrician

One of the most common problems electricians find during inspections are outdated main electrical panels, which may not be up to code and may make the home vulnerable to fire if the circuit breakers fail to trip after there’s a short circuit or an overload. It is also common to see mislabeled electrical panels, ungrounded electrical outlets, and outlets missing power. The cost of an independent electrical inspection usually ranges from $150 to $350, which includes visiting the site, writing up an electrical inspection report, reviewing the original home inspection, and providing any bids. 

2. Plumber

The SD Municipal code SDMC ordinance 147.04 affects all properties that change ownership and receive water from the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. Potential buyers and sellers can determine which water district a home is in by visiting the San Diego County Water Authority website. Prior to close of escrow, the seller has to complete the city’s Water Conservation Certificate. If the seller agrees to complete it, a plumber should be called in to verify that all toilets, waterless urinals, sink faucets, shower heads, and reverse osmosis systems comply with codes.  Other common plumbing problems found during general inspections such as bracing water heaters and areas with suspected prior leaks also need to be addressed further, with solutions and bids for work provided. 

3. Sewer Scope

You should have a drain line inspection to check any drain lines that run from the home to the sewer.  They do this inspection with a sewer camera, which most likely has never have been done, or in recent years.  On older homes you are checking to make sure the main sewer line is not observed sagging and the slope/pitch is good for drainage. If heavy sludge and soil matter accumulating is observed at the bottom of the sewer line it will need to be flushed and also may be indicative of a sewer line that needs replaced. 

4. Mold

Mold inspections are ordered if there is suspicion of prior major leaks, if there is a musty smell most likely in subterranean parts of the home, or if the home lies close to the ocean. Tell-tale visible signs are a surface stain, discoloration, or dark growth.  Expect to pay $400-750 for two to three air samples sent to a laboratory for testing, with a turn around time frame of as soon as 24 hours.

Luxury Home Inspections

5. Audio/Visual Systems

If any audio and visual system connections are concealed within walls and not visible, they should be inspected to determine if wiring is connected, all speakers work, and systems operate 100 percent--and also easily. In one recent sale our buyer hired San Diego Sound and Michel. The sound system was a dinosaur that might have cost $30,000 to replace, which most sellers wouldn’t agree to pay for since some parts might still function.  The company found that some speakers didn’t work and problems surfaced periodically such as intermittent disconnections. A detailed written performance was provided with a bid for repair and necessary upgrades, which we were able to use to negotiate a 25% credit towards a new system. 

6. Indoor Fire Sprinklers

Effective January 1, 2011, all California one- and two-family residential properties and townhomes were required to have fire sprinklers installed during construction. Many homeowners don't know this and that they also need to have residential sprinklers tested and inspected regularly. Water can stagnate in the pipes, and hydrogen sulfide may turn into a black sludge that smells like rotten eggs. If a fire occurs, a homeowner would not just incur expected water damage but the black sludge would cause additional damage. ASI Fire Protection will come out during escrow to take a look at residential fire sprinklers and make any necessary recommendations.


Larger homes often have HVAC systems with multiple zones and components. An HVAC contractor will inspect and provide recommendations for exhaust fans, ventilation, thermostats, heating, and cooling components. The most common identified concerns are clogs in the condensate drains, dirty air filters and dust build-up, all of which can stop the system from functioning well. 

8. Termite & Pest

A termite inspection is no longer a standard seller responsibility in the California purchase agreement, but this inspection is highly recommended. Termites and pests like powderpost beetles threaten the integrity of a structure. Signs of rodents are also looked for.  Most importantly the pest inspector will identify pre-existing wood rot that needs replaced.

9. Fireplace Chimney

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 211) Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances suggests an annual inspection for the ultimate level of safety and efficiency.  A chimney and fire specialist will inspect the firebox through the chimney crown using the same video optic equipment that they inspect drain lines with.  The chimney fire inspector is looking for blockage, chimney leaks, cracked chimney crowns, creosote on the flue walls, and damaged flue liners.   

10. Lawn Irrigation Sprinklers

Landscaping and sprinkler inspections are important because the professionals we hire almost always discover broken sprinkler heads, timers that are on their last year of life, and misdirected sprinkler heads. A qualified company can also make suggestions regarding upgrades and water conservation, measures to save both water and money.

11. Pool & Spa

Any time a property under consideration has a pool or spa a buyer should have it inspected by a pool expert. The inspector will look at lights, pumps, drains, tile and surrounding materials for signs of wear and leaks. If the buyer prefers to fill in the pool or update the look with new coping, such experts can also provide a bid.

12. Roof

In San Diego, roofs are constructed in an array of materials, from metals such as copper, aluminum, stainless steel, to woods like cedar, redwood, and southern pine, plus clay, terracotta, concrete tile and slate. Asphalt shingles and modified bitumen are the most common. General inspectors give a cursory look at the roof. However when an experienced roofing contractor is hired, everything is examined from overall wear to individual tiles and gutters and downspouts. We've always found that when a roofer is called out for an inspection, more broken tiles and areas of concern are found than with the general inspection. A licensed roofing contractor may also inspect the condition of the felt or moisture barrier beneath the finish roof material. A deteriorated moisture barrier can be the cause of the roof leak, and not always the finish roof material. If there are no gutters or damaged missing gutter pieces a roofer can also bid out this project.

13. Sump Pump

In San Diego we don't have basements but we do have subterranean homes and parts of a home may be below grade.  We also have sump pumps up along the bluff to help keep the bluff dry and to prevent flooding in the basement or crawlspace.  We recommend McNamara Pump and Electric to come check out the system and make sure there is no root intrusions ect.

14. Arborist

 We recommend an arborist if there are a number of large old trees on the property, whose roots may grow too close to a house and threaten its foundation. Removal and stump grinding may be necessary. Arborists do not chase roots so if you have roots that are uprooting concrete you will need a separate bid from a landscaper for root removal around the yard.

15. Stucco Repairs

Exterior stucco repairs are quite common in San Diego especially weep screed.  Stucco on the home may be chipped or peeling.  The weep screed is the barrier that is found at the framed wall and foundation joint.  Landscaping  dirt and irrigation often cause weep screed repairs.

16. Survey

Title will provide a plat map and will walk the property with the buyer on an uneven unknown boundary.  A surveyor will use measurements to find your property lines and flag it.  This is important if you're considering installing a new fence, pool, or other outbuildings that may encroach on your neighbor's property line.

17. Plans

On custom homes, it's nice to have the plans, but they can be tricky to track down.  If the seller no longer has a copy you can check with the county or city planning department.  Some HOA's, like Fairbanks Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, that require approval for all building modifications may have plans on file.   

18. Solar

When purchasing a home with solar, it's important to have the entire system looked at even if it's under warranty. If the seller is providing a warranty that's great but it doesn't guarantee the system was installed correctly or that their are no current problems.  They will inspect the solar panels, inverters, conduit, and racking, shut-offs and other components present.

19. Septic System

If you're buying a home with a septic system you need a full inspection. They will look at the water level inside of the tank that will help determine if there is a leak, or if the system is overloaded. Usually, the septic tank is pumped while they monitor the drain field for backflow. They will also inspect the pipes from the house to the tank making sure there is no blockage.

20. Propane

Rural homes in San Diego in communities like Fallbrook, Bonsall, Valley Center, and Ramona often have the gas source is propane you need a propane tank inspection.  They will leak test the system, check operating pressure, inspect venting regulator, bonding, and vent screens.

21. Water Well

If the property has a well you need a water well checkup.  The inspector will run a flow test, test the water for bacteria and nitrates, and check the water level before and after pumping.

22. Coastal Engineers

We recommend David W. Skelly (RCE), Principal Engineer/Vice President for his expertise in detecting the soundness of seawalls for beachfront homes on the sand or along a bluff. Walt has forty years of experience in southern California and knowledge of ongoing city involvement and problematic areas along the coast, and also knows which areas of the coast have more significant problems. Many times buyers just want extra peace of mind. Keep in mind the earth is always moving, and there will always be some movement and settling. Spend some time reviewing the credentials of your engineer beforehand so that you have the confidence to make a decision on moving forward with the escrow based on his professional opinion.

23. Structural Engineers

A structural engineering inspection is not just recommended, but imperative if your general inspector identifies a cracked slab, extensive wood rot or termite damage, or an unstable earth retention system. If not corrected, the house may face extensive damage and lives of people and pets may be endangered. Miles Lovelace of Lovelace Engineering in San Diego has an excellent track record and many years of experience as a structural engineer. If no damage of consequence is found or your are satisfied with a verbal assessment, he reduces his typical rate which starts around $850 for a written report.  

The cost of so many inspections certainly will add up, but are only minor in the long run when compared with your investment towards purchasing a home. The effort and upfront cost could likely save thousands of dollars down the road in additional repairs and replacements. When buying any home--and certainly an expensive luxury one, it’s worth gaining that extra peace of mind. 

Need More Information as a buyer in San Diego?

If you’re having thoughts of buying or selling in San Diego, please do not hesitate to contact LUXURYSOCALREALTY with any questions or to begin your househunting process. We look forward to hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to help you find the home that best suits the needs of you and your family.

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