A property inspector is generally hired during the home buying process. The inspector's job is to provide information about the building being purchased. This information helps the buyer decide if the home or building is worth purchasing or if there are major defects that could effect the purchase decision negatively.
When a property inspector looks over a property, he checks everything that is visible. They are generally not held responsible for any internal issues like faulty wiring or plumbing hidden by walls. Each property inspector will have a disclosure listing their responsibilities and what errors or omissions they can or can not be held accountable for at a later date.
The general list of items that a property inspector will check include: heating, plumbing, foundation, roof, electric, appliances, air conditioning, doors widows, decks and patios. Some will also check any outdoor structures and swimming pools, but not all will. It is important to be sure beforehand if that they will cover any buildings that the potential home owner wishes to know more about.
There are other potentially dangerous conditions that a property inspector will look for as well. A radon test kit will usually be left in the basement of the building to check what the levels are. If desired, they can check for lead paint and most will keep their eyes peeled for asbestos while in an older home.
It is key to know of past damage in the building and if the condition that caused the damage can happen again. A property inspector will look for past water leaks, fire damage and evidence of termites and determine if the conditions are active or dead. For example, a home may have had termites at one point in history, evident by small holes usually in the basement structures. The inspector will advise if it is an active infestation or one that is long gone based on the age of the holes.
The property inspector will prepare a report at the conclusion of the inspection. Usually it will follow in the days after the inspection and will contain the information they pointed out to the accompanying home buyer during the inspection itself. This report will give a list of repairs needed and code violations as well as cost estimates for repairs. Some inspectors will also include pictures and local information that they believe may come in handy for the potential home buyer.