Many of my clients are confused about the difference between a property inspection and a home inspection. Why wouldn't they be when the term "inspection" is often attached to what is a FHA or VA appraisal.
To clear this up, an appraisal is ordered by the lender where you are getting your loan as an evaluation of the property's value. Many real estate purchase agreements have language in them addressing that the property must appraise at or above the contract price, assuring that the loan does not exceed the current market value of the property. Appraisers use comparable sales, adjusting pluses and minuses to arrive at a value. This information is shared with the lender and buyer. While an FHA or VA inspector/appraiser may look at the functionability of mechanical systems they hardly could be deemed an inspection. The appraisal of a property takes many times, less than 20 minutes on site. An appraisal is required by any lending institution.
A home inspection is a detailed look at the mechanical system and structural integrity of the property. This type of inspection is typically paid for by the buyer. It is designed to discover defects in the property. The home inspector looks at general condition of the water heater, furnace, electrical panel, working condition of windows and doors, roof, foundation, etc. Typically if there appears to be a questionable issue with any system or structure they will recommend having that item assessed by a licensed professional in that particular field. This inspection typically takes between 2 to 4 hours and provides a buyer with valuable information not only about defects but general home maintenance. A home inspection is not required to get a loan but is highly recommended.
When looking for a home inspector ask friends or your Realtor for recommendations. Your Realtor will be familiar with inspectors with a good reputation and work ethic.