Wondering what the inspector looks for? Here are some samples of defects and their significance. It is always important to know how significant any issue is - this is what we mean by "keeping things in context." A good inspector does not unnecessarily alarm a purchaser.
Downspout Discharge Against the Foundation can lead to moisture penetration of the basement. All of the roof water that this downspout channels to the ground is going into a depression against the foundation. The inspector will concentrate a little more on this area in the basement while searching for signs of moisture penetration. The best way to keep a basement dry is to keep the water away from the foundation, and in this case, twenty dollars worth of materials will minimize the risk of moisture damage in the basement.
Spliced Wires can be pulled apart or have the twist-on connectors fall off. In this case, the wire carries 120 volts of electricity, so there is a shock hazard. A professional electrician would have had this connection in a metal octagon box with clamps, so that the wires could not be pulled apart.
Surface Mounted Wiring is a potentially unsafe situation. This wire is exposed to physical damage, and inhibits installing drywall as a ceiling. Ideally, the wire is fed through holes that are drilled in the middle third of the wood joists. This also indicates that the wire was not installed by a professional, and alerts the inspector to be extra vigilant of amateur work.
Clay Flue Deterioration in this chimney could lead to blockage of the flue, exposing the inhabitants of the home to deadly carbon monoxide fumes. A relatively simple repair will keep pieces of clay from falling in and blocking the flue. In this photograph, there is also a path for birds to get in.
Chimney Clearance that is poor exposes combustible materials to heat over an extended period of time. This can lead to a lowering of the ignition point in the material, causing a fire. The wood and drywall should have appropriate clearance away from the metal chimney.
Peeling paint on a foundation or white powdery residue (effluourescence) indicate areas where dampness comes and goes or exists more frequently. A moisture meter is used to determine the dampness on the day of the inspection, but whether it is dry or not, the inspector will advise you of various courses of action. Even if dry that day, dampness can reoccur. This situation is most common in older basements which are more prone to moisture penetration, such as this brick foundation.