I have long believed that the most important piece to a successful closing is the home inspection. Not only should a buyer insist on an inspection, but the seller should welcome it. To avoid post-closing problems, it is in both parties' interest that a buyer fully examine her potential new home. A licensed professional home inspector should be an independent and objective expert a buyer can rely on to identify the current condition and future concerns of the home.
No inspector can claim expertise in all areas of construction. The good ones will have an eagle's eye for spotting a wide range of potential problems. Some material issues may require additional investigation from a specialized contractor. For example, it is not unusual for a home inspector to find a problem with a furnace and advise a client to have an HVAC contractor further evaluate the issue.
In the same vein, there are limitations as to what an inspector will or is even allowed by his license to inspect. For instance, it is not customary for a home inspector to inspect for termites. Likewise some, but not all inspectors are certified to test for radon. Others will not include condominium common areas as a part of the inspection. As such, it is critical that the buyer not only choose a competent inspector, but have a full understanding of what is and is not included in the inspection.