Buying a home is an expensive investment - why would you do so without knowing the specifics of what you are buying?
Most home purchase contracts include a Home Inspection Contingency. This provides a specific time period in which you the buyer may have the home professionally inspected for defects and describes what happens if defects are found. (Whether the seller is allowed to make repairs, if buyer is allowed to cancel the contract and get the deposit back.)
A basic home inspection should cover both the interior and exterior of the home - structural, mechanical, AC/heat, plumbing, electrical, roof, etc. The inspector should note issues defects, both minor and major. A typical inspection report should also cover the age of major appliances and components and give you normal life expectancies for those items. After the inspection, a report is prepared by the home inspector for the buyer. However, it is in you the buyer's best interests to attend the home inspection in person so you can follow along, ask questions, see in person the issues and defects the home inspector has found.
A home inspection can't identify everything that may be wrong with the property, the home inspector inspects what he/she can see visually. A home inspector gives general information but may suggest you consult a roofer, a licensed plumber, or other expert in a particular field for further investigation of an issue found. Besides a home inspection, you may also want to bring in additional inspectors to check for issues such as termites, mold, septic tanks, engineering problems or site contamination problems.
So how do you select a home inspector? Home inspectors vary greatly in experience and ability. Buyers should seek out qualified home inspectors with good credentials, experience and good references. One group you may want to check into is the American Society of Home Inspectors (also known as ASHI). This group has an in depth process to obtain full accreditation for it's members. You can read more on ASHI at American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI
As in many things in life, the more you know, the better choices you can make.
Diane Christner, Realtor, GRI, SFR, CNE