These building inspections are meant to inform you of what are getting into. They will tell you the condition of the property your are about to buy, and are almost always done before you sign the contract. This is because they can be a very effective bargaining tool and will reveal any “hidden” costs involved with the house. Things like repairs or renovations that will need to be made will suddenly be brought into the light, all the things that you may not have seen until they became a major and costly problem down the road. Often times these inspections with have a comprehensive checklist used to check every area of the property, but they can also be a custom checklist to fit your specific needs, desires and situation.
The inspections themselves should cover everything inside and outside of the house. This includes the walls, ceiling, floor, attic space, roof (both interior and exterior), the basements and the property itself. Other than the structure, the inspection should review any retaining walls, the driveway, parking lot, wiring, plumbing and pumps. The inspector is not an estimator however. This means that they will not determine the cost to repair those particular problems, but rather simply point them out. If you are looking for estimates for the problem you will have to contact a professional in that particular field. Also, the inspector will not report minor problems nor will they detect termites. Both of those jobs should be done by a professional in the individual fields. Once the inspector is finished they should provide you with a list of major problems with the property on a sheet that includes both your name and his/her name, the address of the property inspected and the date it was done. This report should also list areas that weren't inspected, as well as an explanation as to why they weren't. The report summary is incredibly important in determining the overall condition and value of the property.
If you are looking for an inspector you will want to ensure that he/she isn't attached to some other professional such as an electrician or plumber. You will also need to feel as though you can talk to and communicate with them. And finally ask for proof of experience, licensing and insurance.