There are many misconceptions as to what exactly a Home Inspection is. Too often there is an expectation of getting more information than a home inspector can deliver.
It is important to understand that a home inspection is a visual inspection. That means that the inspector can only report on things he can see. This can be made even more difficult if there are personal items and furniture present at the time of inspection. The inspector will do his best but these items casn prevent him from seeing clues that there is a problem.
Also keep in mind that a latent defect can suddenly manifest itself. An example would be a structural member that is undersized. It may perform its function for many years and suddenly fail when conditions change. If it is performing at the time of the inspection, there will not be any visual clue as to its existence but it could begin to show signs the next day. Another example is that the air conditioner may be working when the inspector checks it but a component fails soon afterward. Obviously the inspector could not have predicted that but is often blamed for not detecting the problem. Confusing isn't it.
So How do you protect yourself?
The best way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced home inspector. He will be looking out for your best interests. He will have the experience and training to know the types of problems that often occur and look for clues that will indicate if you are likely to experience a problem.
Could you have an thorough inspection by an experienced home inspector and still have a problem? Yes, there is still a possibility of a problem under the best of circumstances, but an experienced home inspector is going to uncover most defects and better prepare you for your home purchase.