I invite you to peruse this list and check each item as you inspect potential new homes. This list contains many, many tricky problems which can crop up and annoy the heck out of new owners.
Other good titles for this list would be: 440 things to check before buying a house, or 440 things that could make your new house a Nightmare, or Things that can be wrong with a house, or things that can be wrong with a kitchen, the Great Inspection Checklist, Things you Might Miss When you are Buying or Renting a Home, and finally, the Great Big Home Inspection List.
It is also available as a Home Inspection Checklist in Word format, and as a Home Inspection Problem checklist as a PDF.
It is not essential to avoid every one of these things, but you will be happier if you know about them before you buy or lease.
Yard, Garage and Roof
The gate into the backyard is too narrow for a wheelbarrow.
No electrical outlets outside in the yard.
Trees are growing into an unmanageable crisis.
The driveway is too steep for humans to walk up.
Garage is below the gutters on the street, so whenever it rains, water flows right into the garage door.
Detached garages are horribly inconvenient.
The depth of the garage is exactly three inches too short to house your truck.
The power pole is right next to the driveway making it hard to park a large vehicle.
The tree out front bears nuts, lots of them.
The garage door is broken.
Extremely loud garage door.
Leaking Gutters (three stories up!!).
Garage too small to get out of the car.
The whole house looks tilted when driving toward it.
Pigeons roosting on the roof.
Siding rattles like a buzzsaw outside the baby's room when its windy.
Crappy mailbox / post mounting.
If it's next to a creek/storm drain, you can't sit out in the yard unless you want to be eaten alive by
Massive amount of mummified dead rats in the basement.
The skylights all leak even thought they just put on a new roof.
A patio cover that was built parallel to the ground, collects pine needles and is impossible to keep
There's no TV antenna on the roof
Any reasonable mounted location for the dish is obscured by trees
The 2nd step to the front door is a larger step up than the first, so you lose your rhythm heading up
The yard floods.
Extremely windy, garbage cans frequently blow over.
A 3-acre front yard that requires ten hours a week to mow.
When you enter the house from the deck (which is overhung by lots of trees), you step
immediately onto white carpeting in the family room.
Interior floor tile outside the front door (slip hazard).
An astounding array of strange debris buried in the yard.
Faucet in garage won't turn at all.
Roof is occasionally struck by lightning.
The driveway is only one lane.
Loose bricks and mortar.
Moles in the yard.
Tree stumps that have proven impossible to remove.
No deadbolt on front door.
Garage door opener is lost or the button sticks.
Behind the siding, layers of plastic sheets to keep rain out were overlapped backwards. So, instead,
they trap rain in the walls and against the house to mold.
No outside water spigot (bib) to attach a hose.
It's impossible to make a left turn out of the parking lot.
A chinaberry tree sheds crap in every season.
A roofline that holds snow and ice in an area an creates ice dams.
Too close to a creek that has the potential for flooding.
Property line surprise--turns out you own the alley behind the fence, so you have to keep the grass
mowed and trees trimmed so the power company has access.
Someone put a pigeon feeder on the top of the house at one point and they are still around, making
noise you can hear through the roof.
There is no main shut off at the well tank.
Rain water/snow melt from the entire neighborhood rushes down through the yard.
Rotten exterior wood molding around the windows.
Running the garden hose makes the walls rattle.
Neighbor's trees drop pine cones and mulberries all over the lawn, leaving his own lawn untouched.
Deck smells like dog pee.
Lawn contaminated with spilt chemicals from a porta-potty, creating a dead spot.
Random partial fences.
No mailbox. None.
Bats decided to roost under the wood deck.
Running fresh water spring beneath the basement.
The pool drains itself.
Yard is way too shady for decent grass growth in many places.
Outside patio storage ended up being a closet on the patio that housed the water heater.
There is no place to store the garbage cans.
The Exterior walls leak, creating hidden water damage.
Windstorm and flood insurance absurdly high.
Stairs are too steep.
Built-in closet doors are cracked.
Floors falling in.
The doors has been repainted too many times and a buildup of paint prevents the doors from closing
Not enough closets. You never know how much stuff you really have until you have no where to put it.
Most of the blinds were faded on the outside.
Doors are impossible to open on high-humidity days.
Walls that look square and level, until you try to mount anything to them.
The house is so crooked that water will run off one side of the bathroom counter.
The entire house shakes when the neighbors get amorous.
An onslaught of DEER MICE!
Window flashing not installed behind stucco, so when it rains water seeps through.
Double-pane glass seal broken; windows look like fishtanks.
Carpenter ants in the summer.
Bedroom door doesn't latch properly.
Old one-ply windows with no screens.
No space for a washer and dryer.
Neighbors make a ton of noise when walking around their house... WALKING.
Doors aren't level on their hinges and always swing closed.
The carpet has the tips of nails still sticking out where the carpet transitions from carpet to tile.
The crappy interior doors are hollow and very light, so they will not close by simply shoving them and
letting momentum finish the job. You have to manually shut the doors.
There's a cannibal that lives in the attic
Can't open the closet doors completely because there's a wall jutting out. It opens to about a 80
Squeaky floors in the guest room. Horrendously squeaky.
A homeless man secretly live in the basement area
Wavy glass in the windows.
Ladybugs invade in the fall.
In the attics, nails from the roof shingles pretty much coat the ceiling, and in winter you can see frost
on all those nails.
There is carpet almost everywhere and in my room it's this old sick moss-green berber that has no
fiber definition anywhere.
In Autumn, hundreds of dead bees fall onto the patio.
The washing machine drain is basically a pipe going out the basement into the ground with no
Allergic to the carpet
Doors have intersecting swing radii... they hit each other unless one is all the way open or closed.
Windows that won't stay open.
"Walk in closet" that is too narrow to walk into.
Lack of walls without windows to put tall furniture against.
The stair risers are not all equal in height.
Insufficient room between top of stove and bottom of built in microwave above.
Water pipes are routed through an uninsulated corner of the house's basement.
The access to the cable is on the opposite wall from where any sensible person would put the TV.
Painted over contact paper on the walls.
One of the drawers in built-in cabinetry doesn't work.
The stairs are really loud.
The ceiling fans only have two settings: barely moving the air and arctic blast.
Squirrels in the attic if you know what I mean.
The light switches are all wired backwards...up turns the lights off and down turns the lights on
(note: this is unavoidable with duplex switches).
All fixtures are put together with a variety of screws, necessitating the use of two screwdrivers to
It's freaking falling down the hill.
The plumbing is not properly connected to the sewer system.
Bats living in the attic.
Carpet smells not unlike cat urine.
Carpet tacks at edge of the carpet leading to kitchen and front hallway stick through and are painful
when you step on them barefooted.
Asbestos in the siding.
Stairs which are too narrow to move a couch or a box spring upstairs or into the basement.
Fresh-baked cookies cover up intense musty odor that invaded the entire house.
No linen closet or coat closet.
The well doesn't supply enough water.
A family of mice live in the crawlspace.
Light fixture in the kitchen has two settings: "off" and "nightlight." It doesn't matter what capacity bulb
There is no actual wiring to the sockets to attach ceiling light fixtures in the rooms.
Every year, during the winter, it is suddenly infested with tiny little flies.
Painted over wallpaper throughout the entire house.
The front door doesn't shut flush with frame.
Sound insulation is great, except for from the basement.
Mice get into the kitchen from the dropped ceiling in the basement below.
Only one working phone jack in a 2-story house.
Door to cupboard under attic stairs does not fully close.
The "lock" into the basement really isn't a lock because you can unlock it from either side.
Interior walls are plaster skimcoat over homosote board.
All the windows do not slide fully open, nor fully closed.
Window that makes a screaming noise in the wind .
A rough (and not at all square!) hole in the floor of the upstairs bathroom closet with a cardboard VCR
box attached to it to "direct" the flow of clothing from the hole to a spot in the middle of the basement floor.
Carpet is hard to clean.
There are box elder beetles everywhere.
In Summer, THE CENTIPEDES COME OUT!!
Basement "damp" equals "flooded".
Hardwood floor beneath the carpeted floor.
The front door doesn't close all the way.
Shares a wall with the garbage shoot and the elevator.
There is a glare on the TV for about 12 hours per day.
The walls have slowly filled up with black mold.
Plaster walls are falling apart.
Living room floor is uneven.
A fireplace that is HORRIBLY drafty during the winter.
Front door locks from the inside but doesn't unlock.
Whenever it rains, water leaks out from under the baseboard in the living room.
Some doors stick.
Windows have been painted over and won't open.
The foundation of the house has a crack in it, causing water to be able to seep up into the house and
into the carpet, causing a less-than-desirable smell when it gets hot outside.
Embarrassing bathroom placement.
It's much harder to keep it clean than it looks.
Master bedroom light switch controls outlet, not light.
Back door is an irregular size, so to get a screen for it we would have to have it custom built.
Horrible sheetrock patches.
There is no where to put a dinner table.
Sound travels to well so there is no privacy.
Porcupines in the basement.
Ants in the summer.
Wasps in the eaves.
WLAN black hole.
No air circulation.
Water heater is in a bedroom closet.
The light switch positions make it impossible to hang artwork on center.
Slanty floors in the only decent places to put bookshelves.
The walls are plaster instead of sheet rock, so hanging pictures creates a huge mess and big holes in
The bedroom window is horribly bent and takes several minutes to coax open.
No doorknobs on the inside of some doors.
Basement drywall covers crumbling cement walls behind.
Washing machine drain doesn't.
The door handle on the spare bedroom can only be turned from the inside, not the out.
Hollow-core front door with no weather stripping.
Beautiful, antique window panes not compatible with window air conditioners.
There are mysterious holes in the floor beneath carpets that you can find with your feet.
No light in walk-in closet.
Closets not deep enough to fit standard hangers.
Entrance door from the garage and basement door open into each other.
Previous owners thought it would be a fantastic idea to KICK a cat-hole in the door from the
basement to the garage.
All the multi-switch light fixtures are wired wrong, creating bizarre binary logic problems throughout the
The circuit breakers, and probably the circuits themselves, cannot handle many electrical appliances
running at the same time.
Only one phone jack works, and it is in the kitchen.
The light switches only go to the plugs directly next to them.
Not enough electrical plugs (power points).
A power outlet in a corner next to a drawer. You can't open the drawer if anything's plugged in!
The kitchen has only a pull chain for the light.
The giant living room has only one switch but 2 doorways: Lots of walking the dark to find a light.
All of the electrical outlets are loose so plugs just fall right out of them unless you are using the three-
Cable TV and installed cat5 jacks are on opposite sides of the room.
The house has two-wire electrical outlets throughout - no ground plugs.
While each room has plenty of visible outlets, only one works in each room.
The pantry is too deep. One can hardly reach things at the back, let alone see them.
Cloth insulated wiring.
The landlord replaced all the two-prong electrical outlets with 3-prong ones, but they're not grounded
Junction boxes to nowhere.
I have a missing fuse box, indicated by a light bulb which functions with all the regular fuses removed.
Every light in the house is on motion sensors.
The power in half of the house blows if you run the toaster and the microwave.
Toilet seat hinge is broken.
Some outlets float at 20-70 volts instead of 120v.
There are still glow-in-the dark stars on the ceiling from the previous owners.
Outdoor circuit breaker box for AC, dryer and main house power--the breakers themselves age faster
from the outdoor heat/cold, and start to trip long before maximum load is reached, requiring replacement.
5 light switches control the hall light, but if one is out of sync, you can't turn on the lights at all until you
figure out which one is wrong.
Nine outlets. Eight rooms.
A 4 plug electric socket BEHIND where the bathroom door opens. There really isn't anything that can
be plugged in there because the door would open into it.
The light switch for the spacious walk in closet is behind the door when it is open, outside of the closet.
The breaker box in our house is a fire hazard.
Only the bottom half of the electrical outlet works.
Telephone jacks nowhere near power outlets.
Heating and Cooling
Mysterious heating/cooling problem results in super-high utility bills.
The furnace is in the attic instead of the basement.
The chimney does not have a cap or cage to keep animals out.
The only building in the neighborhood without radiators...winter electric bills are insane.
The basement is incredibly cold.
Furnace makes strange noises that resemble a small child saying "woo!"
Its always cold in here.
The upstairs isn't heated except for floor grates that are supposed to let heat rise from downstairs.
The central heat and air freezes up (pun!) if you turn it lower than 75 degrees.
Bad A/C to 2 bedrooms, the rooms get the A/C last, and have no returns so warm air stays in the rooms
when the doors are closed.
Windows appear to have locks on them, but the locks aren't actually functional.
The windows aren't at right-angles, and so leave diagonal gaps when they close.
The water heater was filled with calcium.
The HVAC unit is in the middle of the basement, rather than on one end.
The boiler behind the gas fire in the front room is so loud that I have to turn the TV volume up when the
central heating is on.
The drain hose for the central ac/heater wasn't installed properly, causing water to leak onto floor.
Only insulated between every OTHER set of studs.
No radiators on the third floor.
Heating Vents are 6 feet off the floor. The top 2 feet of every room are toasty, the rest not so much.
A 'mail slot' by the front door looks like a heating grate, inside but in the winter it lets in a lot of cold air
and there is no way to seal it.
There is a timed thermostat buried inside the wall.
There's no insulation in the exterior walls.
The central A/C unit and blower is near the bedrooms.
The grating on the heating vent refuses to close all the way.
Window has a bizarre sliding configuration that prevents opening more than a six-inch gap.
The stupid baseboard heater in the bathroom doesn't work.
Hot water doesn't last.
Hard to understand the heating/cooling system.
Condensation from the air conditioner causes an unreachable drip, drip, drip inside a wall.
Newspaper in the walls for insulation
Air conditioner is way too loud, and not very effective.
Cold water pressure WAY higher than hot water pressure due to decades of mineral deposits in hot
When the living room heater is on, it smells like socks!
Radiator has gotten so hot over the past 40 years that its feet melted into the vinyl flooring.
Every ceiling fan is broken.
An air exchange duct system was removed from the basement and the person selling the house to us hid
a hole in the wall behind a grate hidden by a chest of drawers.
Water heater tank built during a period of time where the dip tube was made of a material that
disintegrates over time.
The bedrooms have no heat so everyone has to keep their doors open or freeze to death in the winter.
Heat is provided by what we call "fireboxes".
The breaker box which actually contains the useful breakers is in the basement.
AC fan won't come back on after house heats up.
The radiator makes really loud clanging noises when its on.
Kitchen & Bath
Under-sink water leaks.
Bathroom sink is much too shallow, even minimal water pressure causes tremendous splashback.
Shower leaks through the floor.
An innocent-looking vinyl carpet that turns out to have an asbestos backing.
Can't shut off the water to the shower when you need to do some plumbing work.
The light switch for the bathroom is on the wall outside of the bathroom, at the hinged side of the door.
The water supply to the refrigerator is hooked to the HOT water pipe, not the COLD one. This means we
make ice out of hot water, and hot water (after a few seconds) comes out of the in-door water dispenser
Three other kitchens touching the walls of the kitchen, so that you can hear neighbors getting dishes out
of cupboards while having breakfast.
Shower stalls creak when you stand in them or shift your weight.
The temperature in the showers ranges crazy, it is impossible to find warm.
No water pressure.
Cabinets not fully screwed to wall.
The toilet runs for a long time.
Shower's pan is rotted out and water leaks out from under the tile edges onto the floor.
The lightswitch for the bathroom light is not in the bathroom, so you are always at risk of the hilarious"lights-out-while-taking-a-dump" joke.
The bathtub leaks if you fill it past halfway.
Bathroom floor is rotted through.
Water hammer-- that horrible banging noise whenever you turn on the hot water.
The downstairs neighbor's bathroom exhaust fan vents into MY bathroom.
Location of electrical plugs controlled by light switches were designed by a crazy person who has never
put lamps in the most obvious place.
The only electrical outlet in the bathroom is over top the light fixture and it gets so hot it melts any thing
you plug in.
Water gets too hot too quickly.
No water pressure upstairs.
The toilet backs up, no matter how much or how little toilet paper used.
Dishwasher that leaks.
Toilet stalls that face each other.
The dishwasher only has a single water sprayer.
Toilet never flushes correctly.
Cold and hot water are mislabelled or unlabeled.
Bath or shower water leaks down into the ceiling below.
The dishwasher will sometimes back up into the clothes washer.
The floors aren't precisely level, so the fridge door takes more effort than a solid push to close all the
The steam from the shower rises to the ceiling and then collects and condenses and then goes to the low
point and drips on you when you're drying off.
A dumb space between the oven and the countertop. Things get lost forever down there.
There aren't any toilet paper holders.
Shower squeals loudly when you try to find a middle ground between scalding and freezing.
The space between the sink and tub is so narrow there is no way to clean between it.
No hot water in the kitchen and no cold water in the bathroom.
The tub takes 15 minutes to fill then 30 minutes to empty.
The oven heat control is off by 125 degrees (too hot!)
A poorly ventilated bathroom can lead to some nasty mildew buildup in certain climates.
Bathtub but no shower.
A bathtub which is dangerously slippery when wet.
Cabinet opening for oven/range is 1/4" too narrow.
Extremely loud bathroom fan with no separate switch!
The gas stove burners are huge, but heat very poorly.
Drain vents don't leave house, they just end inside the attic leading to periodic horrific odors.
Countertops not being secured to the cabinets.
Cabinets too high to use top shelf unless you are 9 feet tall.
The metal catch thing on the bathroom doorknob doesn't go all the way into it's space on the door frame.
The cover of the light fixture in the shower is not removable.
The water heater takes forever to heat up.
Mold is just painted over.
Bathroom sink's faucet water gets boiling hot instantly.
The showerheads are so low that the water shoots out at sternum-level on a six-foot-tall person.
Makes rinsing out shampoo feel like a prison experience.
Low water volume. It's not the pressure, but the actual size of the pipes that's the problem.
Oven will only open all the way if you open the fridge door first.
All the sewage lines are perfectly level, so all the poop just comes right back.
No kitchen drawers. Just cabinets under the counter.
Previous owners let cats and dogs use the family room as a litter box.
Fan above kitchen stove does not vent outside.
The wallpaper hides hideous walls which rejects painting.
When refrigerator door is open, you cannot walk through kitchen (door hits island...)
The kitchen has 2 drawers in it.
The kitchen isn't quite big enough for a table.
The fridge periodically makes a repetitive gronching noise all night long, but isn't actually broken.
The line of travel goes through the work triangle.
Not enough counter space.
Small, narrow deep shelves in the kitchen leading to pan stacking crisis.
Sticky toilet handle.
Not much space between the door, sink, and tub.
Pedestal sink and no counter space in the bathroom.
Only one bathroom, and that one is attached to the kitchen.
The mirror is too low and the sponge-paint didn't cover where the mirror was.
The faucets in the middle floor bathroom are too far away from the drain; it is hard to wash your hands.
The toilet seat slides fairly far to the right with the slightest movement.
Water temp alternates between boiling and freezing in 6-second increments while showering.
Masking tape which has been painted over.
The bidet is broken.
Roots in the sewer pipes.
Overhead heater doesn't work in the bathroom.
Water heater on far side of house means takes a couple minutes to get hot water at the other end.
The counterspace doesn't flow correctly from the fridge to the range to the sink.
Bathroom window (the only one) is rusted shut.
Two dwellings share the same vents for kitchen ventilation.
The built-in microwave freaks out and starts beeping randomly.
One of the kitchen lights will randomly turn on and off every 20-30 minutes if left on too long.
Bathroom door makes farting noises as it closes.
The water pressure is just too high.
Freezing cold tile in the bathroom, regardless of the temperature outside.
Sink has no u-bend (P-trap).
Crazy taps that just spin round and around you try and turn them on.
The cupboards all have fence hinges on the outside of the doors because the wood is non-existent due
to all the screws that have previously been in and out.
Banging noise with water faucets.
Has a stall shower, which is conveniently so small that you can't bend down if you drop the soap or try to
shave your legs.
On any given day the kitchen sink, washing machine, toilet, bathtub or a combination between 2 and all
will back up- usually into the bathtub.
The toilet in the master bathroom is too low.
Very teensy pantry!
The toilets flood really, really easily.
The plastic liner around the bathtub/shower area doesn't meet the tub exactly.
The oven in the kitchen is off by 100 degrees.
The refrigerator is set in a cubbyhole right next to the wall, so you couldn't open the freezer door all the
way because the wall would stop the door before you could get it open.
No mirror or tiny mirror.
The water heater is in the crawl space, which means it holds MAYBE 20 gallons.
The floor of the cabinet under the kitchen sink is nearly rotted out.
The light switch in the kitchen is across the room from where you typically enter OR to your 5 feet to
your left, 6 feet high, and slightly above the refrigerator.
The finish on the bathtub is peeling off.
The bathroom shower area is not enclosed by a door, making it impossible to suitably warm the air when
taking a shower.
There are no aerators on the sinks.
No garbage disposal.
Shower liner juts out for the shelves so when you want to take a bath, you can't sit up straight, you need
to lean to the side to fit.
The traffic noises are horrendous -- I live much closer to a freeway than I thought.
Helicopter noise from the hospital.
Try to visit your place during busy daytime hours so you can gauge the noise level.
Parking is atrocious in the neighbourhood.
There is one of those audible crosswalks nearby. BEE-BO BEE-BO BEE-BO
After-hours nightclub run out of the Elks Lodge next door.
Sex offender lives next door.
Gas Station nearby.
Built on ancient Indian burial ground.
Neighbors don't appreciate rock and roll.
Upstairs neighbours seem to play a lot of indoor basketball.
You can hear neighbors throwing up every night at 3 am.
Upstairs neighbors recycle cans for a living.
A hole in the road outside my bedroom window that some lorries (trucks) fall into.
The neighborhood won't let you grow tomatoes in your yard.
The house next door is a State-house (owned by the government) and houses hard-to-house
It's in the middle of nowhere.
Near an elementary school, so all day we hear little kids yelling and screaming.
The many children that live near us, use my parent's cars to play hide and seek behind and ride their
little bicycles beside them, which leaves really big scratches.
Neighborhood is infested with stray cats.