Home inspectors play a crucial role in the home-buying process. A home inspection is not required by law, but, according to a study from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), 77% of recent home buyers had an inspection before making their purchase.
Professional home inspectors visually assess the systems and components of existing homes or new construction. They identify and report on potential issues with the building that a home buyer should be aware of were they to purchase the property. An inspection report is believed to be the most accurate report on the condition of a home.
This means that insight from a home inspector is vital to the purchasing process. A home inspector’s report could save a home buyer thousands of dollars and a great deal of stress. However, these reports should be provided by someone who has trained specifically for the job – a professional home inspector.
If you’re thinking about becoming a home inspector, it’s a good idea to do research before you jump in headfirst. You’ll want to be familiar with what a home inspector does and what it takes to be trained as a home inspector, as well as what the requirements are in your state.
So you want to be a home inspector?
Becoming a home inspector requires more than knowing how an HVAC system works or looking for issues in a crawl space.
A qualified home inspector will need to stay on top of a few variables. These include:
- State requirements for professional home inspectors
- Any required state licensing or inspector certification
- Items that a home inspector should or is required to assess
Note that once you have completed the required steps to become a home inspector, you should be prepared to regularly market your business, attend networking events, and complete continuing education programs.
What are the state requirements around home inspection?
First, it’s important to know what a home inspector is required to do (or not do) in the state in which the home inspection will be conducted. The laws and regulations around home inspection vary by state, and no state requires that a home inspection needs to be completed before a home is purchased.
However, when you are conducting a home inspection, you’ll need to follow the rules of the state. For example, home inspectors are regulated under Chapter 9.3 [195-7199] if working in the state of California, and this law states that home inspectors are not allowed to perform repairs to a structure that they or their home inspection company inspected within the past year. A home inspector must also perform physical examinations to the residence’s pool and spa, if they exist, to assess for safety and preventative drowning measures.
Laws like these can change regularly and a professional home inspector is expected to stay up to date with these changes.
Does a home inspector need licensing and/or certifications?
The processes of licensing and certification are again unique to the state in which you work and can change every year. In the state of Kansas, for example, the law regulating home inspectors expired in 2013. The Kansas Home Inspectors Professional Competence and Financial Responsibility Act required home inspectors in Kansas to abide by a set of standards and to have at least 80 hours of formal training.
This law was enacted to regulate who can perform home inspections. However, now that the law has expired, home inspectors are once again deregulated.
If your state does not require any licensing or certification to perform home inspections, then it would further legitimize your business for you to obtain a certificate. Certification and continuing education will show future customers that you are serious about your career and can be trusted to inspect their potential future home.
What does a home inspector assess?
Again, because regulations vary from state to state, there is no universal list of what is necessary for a proper inspection.
There are, however, expectations attached to a home inspection, and a home buyer will want to know the condition of the home they are thinking of purchasing.
Logically, buyers will want to be sure that they are not investing their money in something that could end up costing them thousands of dollars down the road. Therefore, a good home inspector will do their best to assess:
- The physical condition of the house
- The electrical systems and plumbing installation
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
They should also inspect for:
- Structural defects, such as issues with framing, the foundation, or flooring
- Potential fire hazards
- Proper ventilation
- Smoke detectors
- Crawl spaces
While it’s not the home inspector’s job to inspect for mold, most home inspectors will assess moisture in the home. They may also inspect features like pools or spas for an extra fee.
Become a licensed home inspector
If the state in which you will work requires that you obtain a home inspector license, then you will need to obtain that license through a state-approved program.
If your state does not have a list of the approved licensing programs, identify if there are requirements that a licensing program must meet (such as a set amount of study time hours, unpaid inspection hours, and an exam) and whether or not the program can be completed online.
If you’re unsure, you can reach out to an association, such as ASHI, for clarification.
Luckily, each state identifies the unique requirements necessary to operate as a home inspector in that state. If your state does not have any requirements around home inspection qualifications or specific home inspection guidelines, then it’s important to clarify how your business wants to operate and to adhere to the Standards of Practice (SoP).
Licensing: A case study of New York
The state of New York requires that home inspectors be licensed.
The state defines home inspection as “the process by which a home inspector observes and provides a written report of the systems and components of a residential building including but not limited to: Heating System, Cooling System, Plumbing System, Electric System, Structural Components – foundation, roof masonry structure, exterior and interior components or any other related residential building component recommended by the Home Inspection Council and Implemented by the Department of State through the regulatory process.”
In New York, a licensed home inspector must file proof of a certificate of liability coverage, and they must pay a fee of $250 for the initial application. Each renewal is $100.
New York also establishes the limitations of a home inspector, who is to not act as an architect, engineer, or code enforcement official. An inspector license from another state may be applied to the state of New York should a home inspector wish to transfer their business from out of state. In this instance, some education or examination requirements may be waived.
Other qualifications may include:
- A high school diploma (or equivalent)
- A completed course of home inspection study (which includes at least 140 hours of approved study time, 40 of which is unpaid, field-based inspections completed under direct supervision)
- Having performed at least 100 home inspections (paid or unpaid) in the presence of and under the direct supervision of a Home Inspector licensed by NYS, or a professional engineer or architect regulated by NYS
- Successful completion of the New York State Home Inspector License Examination or the National Home Inspector Exam (NHIE)
- General liability insurance (with a minimum of $150,000 per occurrence and $500,000 aggregate)
Additionally, 24 hours of continuing education is required to be completed within a home inspector’s two-year license renewal period.
Pre-licensing and certifications
Future home inspectors can complete pre-licensing courses. For home inspectors, pre-licensing courses are preparation for the license examination.
These are the types of pre-licensing classes that might be included in a course and that can be found in courses that are offered by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI):
- Safe Practices for a Home Inspector
- Standards of Home Inspection
- Residential Electrical Inspection
- Residential Plumbing Inspection
- Exterior Inspection
- HVAC Inspection
- Structural Issues
Additionally, home inspectors also have the option to be certified in addition to licensing. As with home inspector licensing, there are no universal rules that say certification is required or necessarily better than being licensed. If the state in which you conduct your home inspection requires a certification, then it’s important to identify what requirements the state is looking for and if there are approved certification programs available.
In addition to basic training, certifications for mold testing, radon testing, and for the inspection of commercial buildings are things that you can consider. These forms of training are typically not included in basic training.
How to succeed as a home inspector
Once you are working as a home inspector, you will have to maintain regular customer inflow and continually improve your knowledge of home inspection. Some states require continuing education. If your state does not, then opting in for continuing education will set your business up for success.
There are five areas that you should focus on when trying to succeed as a home inspector. These include:
- Technical Knowledge: Your technical knowledge is your bread-and-butter. You want to make sure that you are continuing to accurately inform your customers by way of your inspection findings. Technical knowledge can be improved through continuing education courses, online home inspection courses, and walk-throughs with more experienced home inspectors.
- Verbal Communication Skills: In addition to technical knowledge, you will need to be able to clearly convey information to your customers. This means that when setting up appointments, maintaining business relationships, and when conveying the results of your inspection, you will want to practice strong communication. No one likes working with a business that does not communicate effectively.
- Organizational Skills: The daily life of a home inspector can be busy. Since you most likely operate your own business, there is a lot to stay on top of. Staying organized with a home inspection software can be a saving grace. Home inspection software can keep your clients organized, send and save reports, and provide access to customer support to keep your business running smoothly.
- Inspection Report Writing: After each inspection, you will need to send an inspection report to each of your clients. The inspection report is the concrete part of your job that your clients see. You want this report to be as clear as possible and easy for your clients to navigate. Using an inspection report software can help you do this. Some software, like HomeGauge, even includes spaces for 360° image uploads and video attachments.
- Business Skills and Marketing: Marketing your business will help you to maintain a healthy inflow of clients. Marketing can happen through word-of-mouth marketing, online marketing, such as your website and social media networks, and networking with local real estate agents. Make sure you are comfortable with talking to people. Get to know members of your community to effectively market yourself.
Navigating your home inspection business
If you are interested in becoming a home inspector, it may seem difficult and frustrating to identify the right way to start this process. Find the right resources to help you to navigate this process.
When you are new to home inspection, remember to use the resources at hand. Become a part of an association and invest in home inspection software so that you can focus on your business success.