Water stains on the ceiling are surely an indication a problem occurred at one time. No one goes out and purchases water stained ceiling tiles and installs them in their home. Some how some way at one time or another something leaked and caused a problem. Most of the time stains like this are found under kitchens, bathrooms or roof vents. Finding the cause of the problem during a standard visual home inspection is not always possible as home inspectors can not do damage or take things apart.
When I first started doing home inspections I tell clients corrective actions were necessary in order to cure the problem. Clients would then demand repairs, irate home sellers would contest the repairs were made years ago and there was nothing to fix. For a VERY BRIEF time I would touch the ceiling. If it was dry I would tell clients the leak is not active today however I do not know about tomorrow. Needless to say I then got many complaints from home buyers telling me the leak occurred again and that damages were occurring.
I now have come up with an alternate that seems to protect my clients interest:
PRIOR to expiration of your home inspection contingency either obtain a written guarantee from the owner stating all necessary corrective action has already been performed OR obtain a written guarantee from the owner stating all the necessary corrective action will be performed, in order to avoid additional damages and surprises after closing. Sometimes latent water, insect and other damages exist, in addition to those I could see today. Read the LATENT DAMAGES MAY EXIST and the INDOOR AIR QUALITY FUNGUS, MILDEW AND MOLD sections of this report. If leaks are not cured promptly mold, mildew and fungus may grow, wood destroying insects and rot damage should also be expected to occur.