A home inspection is an objective inspection of the current condition of the home and it's mechanical systems. A home inspection should cover the structure, roof, electrical, plumbing, AC/heating, walls, windows, doors, attic, basement, foundation and appliances. That way you will have a better idea before you purchase the home as to what may need repairs/replacement now, what may need repairs/ replacement in the near future and what may not be to required building codes.
Depending on how your purchase contract is written, a seller may be obligated to make certain repairs to the home you are buying based on the results of the home inspection report.
You will want to attend the home inspection, follow the inspector around, ask questions and above all listen to what he/she tells you about the home you are buying.
Here are some questions to ask home inspectors you may be interviewing.
1) What are your credentials? Are you licensed if required by the state (some states like FL do require home inspectors to complete an education course, pass a test and keep a current license)? What professional home inspection associations do you belong to (such as ASHI)?
2) How experienced are you? How many home inspections have you completed during your career?
3) What do you charge for an inspection? (Keep in mind cheapest does not equate to best when it comes to home inspections.)
4) How long will your inspection take? A home inspection for a typical home should take 2 - 3 hours .
5) Are you familiar with the style/ age of home I am buying? How many homes similar to this one have you inspected?
6) What type of report will you provide to me after the inspection? How detailed will it be? Do you include photos of issues you find?
As to finding an inspector, ask several of your friends who they used. Your agent may also be a source, but keep in mind that not all agents will recommend home inspectors that have a reputation for being thorough. There are sites on the Internet such as www.ashi.org that offer the names and information for affiliated members located in your area. You can also look for reviews of home inspectors on various Internet sites.
The time to start looking for a competent home inspector is before you actually sign a contract to purchase a home. Why? Because most good home inspectors, the ones with excellent reputations, are often booked days, sometimes weeks in advance. I would suggest selecting at least 2 or 3 home inspectors ahead of your purchase. That way, when you are under contract and have a specified deadline for completing your inspections, you will have more than one name to call for scheduling an appointment.
Good luck with your home purchase.