You need an inspection on any property you are buying, regardless if it's old or new construction. An inspection is like a check-up for your house.
What repairs will need to addressed now and what might need to be addressed later down the road? This is what you have answered during an inspection.
Having an inspection done prior to signing a contract allows you to negotiate your findings into the deal. Does the roof need replaced? The seller may give an allowance to pay for the repairs. If you don't ask, you'll never know!
Perhaps you've fallen in love with a fixer-upper and are dreaming of doing the repairs yourself. If the inspection discovers hidden damage and costs, you'll be given the option to keep looking for a more suitable house.
Keep in mind, however, that simply because a house needs repairs doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase it.
Nearly every house will have a list of repairs that need to be done to get it "shipshape." It is your decision to choose how much you are willing to spend and how much work you are willing to do.
A home inspection varies depending on what type of property you are interested in.
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), "the standard home inspector's report will cover the condition of the home's heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components."
There are limits, however, to what a home inspection will cover. They aren't required to identify conditions that are concealed or are considered latent defects.
That means if personal property, plants, snow, or debris is covering an issue, the home inspector isn't require to move those items to inspect it and isn't liable if he misses it. They aren't require to make determinations on systems that aren't readily accessible.
And they aren't required to note the presence of potentially hazardous plants and animals. That includes "wood destroying organisms" or even molds.
This means you should find a home inspector that you trust. The ASHI recommends you choose from their list of licensed professionals. "ASHI members know houses, ensuring that you can find a home inspector. They are trained to objectively communicate to you, the home inspection buyer, what the house has to say. ASHI members have demonstrated technical proficiency and report-writing skills, and they have committed to continuing education in order to achieve and maintain their member status."
Having a trusted inspector means that most every problem that can be identified, will be. And inspection is about peace of mind, and a good inspector gives you that.