Not only is it important to know what will happen during a home inspection, but just as important to know what will not happen and how to interpret the results.
Not all home inspectors are created equal, so check certifications and chose someone who is part of the American Society of Home Inspectors and is an ACI (or ASHI) certified inspector. Even the best inspectors can make mistakes, so chose one who carries "Errors and Omissions" coverage that goes beyond the basic liability insurance. Don't choose an inspector for the wrong reasons.
Attend the inspection and don't leave the inspectors side, as you will likely pick up additional insight along the way and better understand the final report. While most inspectors in California follow the National Association of Certified Home Inspections guidelines, there is no uniform checklist. So be sure to negotiate ahead of time what is included on your checklist and understand what is potentially not included, such as items not on the house (fences, surrounding buildings, pipes and septic tanks). Know that Asbestos, lead, mold and other dangers are typically not covered. Understand how thorough the inspection was, like if the inspector climbed on the roof or entered the basement, and how they evaluated the roof and foundation.
Inspectors are not psychics
A home inspection can only go so far. Inspectors can't see the future and don't know when housing systems will fail – they can only evaluate present conditions. Most home inspections are also non-invasive – meaning they only inspect beyond finished surfaces – so protect yourself as much as possible. Many of the most expensive repairs, such as water leaks and damage, rotted wood and faulty wiring or plumbing, are behind the walls and under floor coverings. A trusted inspector can notice defects and if homeowners are trying to cover up problems.