There are some great answers that have been posted. As a licensed home inspector here in NJ for the last 18 years, and as an investor, I have acquired a wide range of information on the entire purchase and sale process. This often helps me facilitate answers for my clients when they call me about inspections.
Buyers are often confused about who does what and call me with many of these questions. They often think that the appraiser is the same as the inspector. They don't know about attorney review when in NJ the contract is not binding until the final sign off on the amended contract. Often, my clients don't know if the prospective home is public water and sewer, or, if private, what tests are required, which are discretionary and who pays for them. Is the house heated by oil, and, if so, is the tank in the ground and is it insured? If there was a prior tank, was it removed and are there proper EPA clean soil documents?
I will ask these questions and tell them we need these answers. Often, it is a result of too much diverse information that needs to be sorted out in a step by step manner and checked off in the right order. Some steps need to be done before others. The realtor, mortgage rep, appraiser, inspector and title/attorney all have specific roles and in specific, often overlapping order, but all towards the same goal: the successful conclusion of a complicated transaction.
It is very often the knowledge and experience of the professionals that facilitates or impedes the smooth flow of this process. I have found that it works best when each of these professionals knows his field on a high level, and also knows enough about the entire process, to make it happen, sometimes without a hitch!
Joe Serino, J. Serino Inspections
licensed NJ inspector