Don’t get serious about buying a home without hiring a professional home inspector to look into every nook and cranny of the house; including plumbing, heating, and electrical wiring—everything functional and structural. While costs vary based on size, construction, and location; most home inspections run around $300, a small price compared to making expensive repairs.
A good inspector should provide you with a detailed written report that includes suggestions and cost estimates for any needed repairs. The best inspectors are those with some sort of prior building experience, but skip the ones who offer to do the repairs or who want to recommend someone who can—that’s a conflict of interest.
Realtors are good references, but you also want to talk to other homeowners who’ve used them, since they have no vested interest in the outcome of your inspection.