When you are buying a home, you need to be careful. While most home sellers are honest, there are a few that will try to hide defects in the home so you will not know there is a problem until it is too late. In most cases a thorough home inspection will uncover the problems so you really know the condition of the home.
Even when dealing with an honest home seller, you can run into problems. Quite often the homeowner is not aware that there are costly defects lurking in the home. Very few homeowners regularly crawl through their attics for instance. There can be damaged framing members that remain from the original construction, or even worse, some homeowners try (with good intentions) to make repairs to the home even though they are not qualified to do so. This can lead to defective wiring or plumbing connections that will fail in short order.
Another area that needs close scrutiny is the ductwork for the air conditioning system running through the attic. Some HVAC contractors have used a type of ductwork that tends to fail after a few years due to the heat and ultraviolet light in the attic. When this happens, you start losing energy. In addition to the extra cost to cool your home, the hot moist air from the attic is exposed to the lining of the duct and the moisture condenses on the surface. This builds up until the water starts damaging the ceiling and roof structure. A Home Inspection will discover this type of unseen defect.
Finally, you need to do your homework when hiring a Home Inspector. Check his credentials and experience. (see Choosing and Inspector). Most Realtors are honest but some are more concerned about selling the home than they are about you. Remember, the realtor is paid by the seller and only gets paid when the home closes. I get many of my referrals from very good Realtors that are concerned about their clients. There are some realtors though, that will not recommend me because they want an inspector who never finds anything wrong. That way they do not have to worry about the inspector finding a defect that keeps the home from closing.