You would think that most people would say this is a foolish question to ask and that it doesn't seem like it even deserves the attention of a thoughtful answer (doesn't everyone know that you should get a home inspection?)
The truth is, otherwise very intelligent people skip this step of the home purchase process, and many live to regret that decision.
A home inspection can cost $200 and up, depending on the size of the home and the number of outbuildings involved. Most of the home inspectors I recommend average around $250 for an under 2000 square foot home.
Many buyers will try to save some money, especially if they're squeaky tight on their down payment. Key point to ponder: If you can't afford the home inspection, you will definitely not be able to afford the repairs that you don't know about until after closing. If your Realtor encourages you to skip this step, especially if they are the listing agent, run - don't walk- away from them and obtain good representation. (As a buyer, it costs you nothing, in most cases!)
Other buyers, especially investors who intend to renovate and resell or rent the property, also skip this step. You would be surprised at items that can be overlooked by seasoned investors, that end up adding a whopping 20-50% to the original repair budget. I've had investors replace a roof the week of closing, because they didn't know the age (FHA guidelines expect a roof to have 5+ years of life left in it, even if it doesn't leak.
Then there are the buyers who deal directly with the owner of a property. They think they are getting a good deal, and that the person selling the home is trustworthy. They figure the seller is saving a commission and passing that savings on to them.
I had a friend call me last week asking for help. She bought her home directly from someone she knew. My friend, who I will call Faith, and her previous friend, who will be known as Hope, negotiated a contract and sale. Faith did not use a licensed home inspector. Instead, she brought a boyfriend over who is pretty handy, and thought she could save that money and he could spot any problems. He did notice some things and they negotiated based on those things. What he failed to notice, and what Hope failed to mention, is that the basement didn't just get a "little damp" but actually was in the path of an underground spring. The day after a heavy rain, the basement didn't fill with water, it flowed with clear lovely spring water. A lot of it! Hope was living in denial, that a little damp was full disclosure, and Faith was living in dream come true land, so in love with the house that she missed her biggest responsibility.
Faith may or may not have legal recourse. I'm not an attorney and not addressing that here, but I do believe that a good home inspector would have noticed some indication of more than a "little damp". Additionally, a Property Condition Disclosure is required when dealing with Realtors, but the buyer didn't know to ask for one, and the seller didn't give one. Yikes.
In this day of entitlement that seems to be the norm, we need to exercise personal responsibility, especially when it comes to a 30 year commitment and a lot of our money invested. That $250 home inspection fee is much cheaper than the cost of trying to resolve a significant repair and litigation to cover losses. Not to mention the inability to resell the property without disclosing the flowing spring in the basement.
Another smart due diligence move: knock on the neighbors' doors near your potential home and introduce yourself. Let them know you're considering buying the home and wanted to know if they liked the neighborhood, is it quiet, and do they know anything about the house you're considering. Some will limit their comments, but you will find the street den mama or papa who knows it all... And they would love to tell you! Keep in mind, some people exaggerate or downright lie, so take it all with a grain of salt (and compare what they say to what your home inspection confirms.)
How to choose a good home inspector: Ask them if they get on the roof, go under the crawl space, go into the attic, test every outlet, run the dishwasher through the entire cycle. You want someone who is thorough and checks everything out. No, binoculars are not acceptable for a roof inspection. No, testing one or two plugs isn't acceptable. Does every window open and close? Do they take the electric panel cover off? Do they provide photos of the inspected items? Will they provide the age of the roof, water heater and HVAC units? Insist that you meet with them after they inspect the house, at the property, and go over each item in the report. If they won't do this, choose someone else. This is reasonable service to expect, and you need to understand your inspection report in order to know what to ask for in repairs.
In short, a good home inspection is the wisest investment you will make in choosing a home, regardless of how experienced you are or how handy your sweetie is. Take this important step to avoid potential disaster later on. Another key point: hire the best. There are some great home inspectors out there who really want you to be an informed home owner!