Any buyer of a residential property is advised to obtain a home inspection. There are a number of misunderstandings about what exactly a home inspection is supposed to accomplish. Home inspectors are considered “generalists”. In a manner similar to your general practitioner doctor, a home inspector looks for symptoms and identifies conditions which should be looked at more carefully or more fully inspected.

For example, if a home inspector sees a stained area in the ceiling or on a wall, the home inspector should point out the stained area. The home inspector is not normally allowed to dig into a wall because that would involve a destructive inspection for which a buyer could be responsible. If the home inspector sees a stain, the inspector should highlight it to the buyer and the buyer should conduct further inspection.

If the buyer is determined to purchase a house that has such a stain, the buyer would be advised to arrange with the seller for a more detailed inspection, specifically by an expert. What the buyer should not do is accept the seller’s verbal comment that it’s no big deal or that a leak was corrected. Such an oral statement may well be true, but it may also be untrue and denied later by a seller. It’s important to recognize that the home inspector who identifies a condition which a buyer fails to look into has done the job that he was paid to do. The buyer’s responsibility is to ask for more detail or conduct further inspections.