If you last bought a house several decades ago, you might be surprised by some developments in home inspections. Before I discuss them, let me back up to introduce the overall topic.

First off, don't use a home inspector referred by a traditional agent, because the agent is aligned with the seller of the house. If you're using a buyer broker, it's fine to go with a referral from him or her. But also make sure the inspector provides references. (If he or she is reluctant to provide them, say sayonara.)

Check out whomever you plan to use with the American Society of Home Inspectors, or ASHI (gesundheit!), to make sure he or she has sufficient training and experience. Find out what will be covered in the inspection -- in detail. (Another group is the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors.)

Make sure that you can accompany any inspector on the inspection, and do accompany him or her, observing what they do. If they're good at the job, they'll be able to suggest solutions for minor imperfections that may turn up. In addition, you'll want them to carry "errors and omissions" insurance, which will cover you if they goof and miss something costly. (My own inspector never inspected what turned out to be a less-than-perfect roof because it was a very rainy day.)

Today, often for just a few dollars, you can purchase or ask the seller to provide a home warranty -- insurance that covers unforeseen repairs for the first year or so after you buy the house. Most of these policies are contingent on a home inspection being performed by an inspector the insurance company trusts, but they offer great peace of mind. Many real estate agents and sellers are offering these policies as part of the sale to reduce liability for missed problems and to entice buyers. If they don't mention this, ask about it.

The newfangled
Last year, after I'd written something about home inspectors, I heard from a reader named Dennis, who clued me in to some intriguing inspection tools:

I use Infra-red thermography and a host of electronic tools to evaluate the condition of the major components of a home. I find items that will cost the new home owner money to fix or repair that they are not usually aware of. The cost is minimal and the return is valuable.

Thermal-image cameras can help inspectors zero in on damage to roofs, heat-loss areas, incoming moisture, and the integrity of concrete, among other things. The inspector basically uses a very expensive camera to view things we normally can't see.

Other inspection components to consider include testing for radon and even mold (which can be checked out via thermography, too).

Learn more in these articles:

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article and recently had a CAPS ranking of 1,425 out of 12,622. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.