Because it provides favorable conditions for homebuyers as well as those who are buying, the home inspection has become almost standard operating procedure as they pertain to the housing market. And as a recent incident illustrates, not having them done can pose a significant safety risk for homeowners and tenants.

In late April, located in a Boston suburb, an apartment house was destroyed by fire after a blaze erupted there in the early morning hours. According to fire investigators who were at the scene, more than a dozen people were injured - six of them fire rescuers - and one person died as a result of the incident.

Though city inspectors did not release information on the ultimate cause of the fire, the house had not been inspected in more than 20 years. Investigators believe that this played a role in the incident.

As a general rule, homeowners and landlords should have their property inspected at least once every 10 years, but more preferably once every five years. However, there are a variety of indications that suggest a professional inspection be done sooner.

Is wetness leaking into the residence?

For example, no portion of a home should ever be damp or wet, but a structural problem may be the issue for this if the dampness is found in the basement. If homeowners find that a corner of their cellar is wet and they don't understand why, an inspection process may help them determine the answer.

Another issue that may require an inspection is if the roof is leaking. A routine visual check may be all that homeowners need to realize that a shingle may be missing. This can be fixed fairly easily by those who are skilled with roofing work, but there may be roofing problems that are apparent yet not comprehensible. An inspection can provide a solution to the problem.

Colonial homes - or any other residence that's primarily made from wood - naturally age over time. Hopefully, homeowners are aware of portions of the home that are in need of renovation so that parts of the house don't become dilapidated. Should there be rotting wood, though, a professional home inspection may be in order to see if anything has been compromised as a result.

Inspectors can uncover electrical problems

While home inspectors may not be professional electricians by trade, they do have a wealth of knowledge on energy sources and an understanding of what systems may be out of order. If a home's electrical system seems to be acting up, a home inspector should be able to investigate what the nature of the problem is by looking out for exposed or frayed wiring. Depending on what's found, wiring replacement may be needed.

Then there's the issue of ventilation. While homeowners may not think they're linked, how quickly a home deteriorates is heavily dependent on its ventilation and insulation. A home inspection can reveal whether insulation needs to be replaced and can also help homeowners understand the best type of ventilation or insulation to go with to lengthen the life of their residence.

A home inspector will also want to look at the home's heating system by checking out the furnace. If it's more than 20 to 25 years old, it may need to be replaced.

A typical home inspection will last several hours, depending on how large the property is and how old it is as well. Having one done every five years or so can help ensure that homeowners are safe and what they need to do to preserve the well-being of their family.