If you’re considering a new career, it’s easy to understand why becoming a home inspector might sound appealing. It’s got potential for high pay and excellent job satisfaction. And even better, you don’t have to have several advanced degrees to get started.
But before jumping into the process, it would be wise to do a little soul-searching. How do you know if performing home inspections is the right fit for you?
In this post, we’ll cover the basic questions you need to ask in your decision-making process, including what home inspectors do, how much money they make, how to become a home inspector, and what the demand for inspectors is like in today’s economy.
1. What do home inspectors do?
A professional home inspector examines a property for problems with its physical structure, components, and systems. They’re usually hired by prospective home buyers in the time between when their offer is accepted and when they close on the new house, though sometimes sellers will hire home inspectors for a pre-listing inspection.
As a home inspector, you’ll be looking for anything that may be defective or in need of repair with systems and components of the property, such as:
- HVAC system
- Electrical systems
- Basement and foundation
- Windows, walls, and doors
In your visual inspection, you’ll be making special note of anything that might present a health or safety risk, such as suspicion of mold, outdated wiring, or any other defects you notice. You’ll compile your findings into a home inspection report for your clients.
Many inspectors also choose to specialize in certain extra services, such as thermal imaging, pool and spa inspections, termite inspections, or mold inspections. Depending on the common issues in your area of the country, you may want to offer these specialized services to provide greater value to your clients.
How home inspectors get work
Once an inspector is licensed and bonded, their first order of business is to start networking in their area to make the connections that are vital to their business. After all, for home inspectors, most work comes from referrals.
As a home inspector, you’ll need to market yourself to professionals in your community who have direct contact with home buyers (your prospective clients). Having a positive working relationship with real estate agents in your area is key to finding clients, and doing a consistently thorough and quality job will help you keep a steady stream of referrals.
2. What is the average salary for a home inspector?
According to PayScale, the average home inspector salary in 2020 is $48,324, but it ranges from $31,000 to $86,000 throughout the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median pay in 2019 for construction and building inspectors to be $60,710 per year, though that occupation category includes home inspectors, building inspectors, public works inspectors, and other specialized inspection occupations like mechanical, plumbing, and electrical inspectors.
The inspection industry has room for a wide range in salary since there are a variety of factors at play that may influence your pay, such as:
- The inspector’s location. An inspector in California, for instance, makes an average of $81,030 per year, while an inspector in Arkansas makes an average of $46,350 per year.
- The inspector’s specializations. If you offer additional services, like thermal imaging, radon testing, or WDO/termite inspections, you’ll be able to charge more for inspections. On the other hand, if you become a building or public works inspector that is employed by a government agency, your pay may be more limited.
- The inspector’s employment structure. Many home inspectors choose to be self-employed, which has the potential for much higher earnings (and higher risk) than working as a contractor or employee for a home inspection company.
How home inspectors get paid
When you become a home inspector, you’ll have three options when it comes to compensation:
- Self-employment: You may want to strike off on your own and open your own inspection company, which can grow and add more employees as you scale your business. Your payment will depend solely on how much work you’re able to bring in. You’ll want to set up some form of business entity, such as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation.
- Independent contractor or contract worker: You may do work for an established inspection company in your area without being a full employee. The difference between contract workers and employees is that as an independent contractor, the inspection firm doesn’t dictate your hours or methods. The company likely won’t provide any training, materials, or tools to you, and you probably won’t be receiving a full-time load of work from the company. You’ll be paid on a per-job basis rather than with a regular paycheck, and you’ll receive a 1099 form at the end of the year.
- Employee of an inspection company: As an employee, you’ll be more likely to work full-time hours, receive a steady paycheck, and have more of your work structured by your employers (such as work hours, tools, and methods). With this structure, you’ll receive a paycheck and a W-2.
3. What are the qualifications to become a home inspector?
The requirements for becoming a professional home inspector vary from state to state—and some states don’t even require a license. To get a good idea of what you need to do for compliance with your state, check out this map for links to each state’s rules.
For most states, you’ll need to have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. You’ll be writing inspection reports, communicating professionally with customers, and doing basic accounting to manage your business, so it’s easy to see why a high-school level education is a minimum requirement in most places.
Aside from basic communication and business skills, you’ll also need to have a thorough understanding of how buildings are put together and how the various systems and components are supposed to function.
Beginning home inspectors need to have some knowledge or experience with buildings and construction, either from previous work in construction fields or by personal hobby and interest. If you have a background in home improvement, carpentry, construction, architecture, or engineering, you’ll be well-positioned to succeed in the home inspection industry.
Of course, no matter your background, you’ll need some specialized education to prepare you to be a successful home inspector. Even if your state doesn’t require licensing, it’s a good idea to take at least one certification course to ensure your expertise is where it should be, not to mention give you credibility with prospective clients.
Choosing best home inspection school for you
Before deciding on a place to get your inspector training, you should check your state’s coursework requirements to make sure the program fulfills them.
For example, states like Florida, Delaware, and Texas require over 100 hours of pre-licensing training, while states like Nevada only require 40 hours of training—but don’t allow online coursework. How long it takes to become a licensed and/or certified home inspector can depend on your state’s requirements and the training program you choose.
Regardless of whether your state allows distance learning or requires in-person coursework, there are several highly-rated options available to you, such as:
- American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI): A 60-hour interactive online course that covers ASHI basics and gives you a year to complete it at your own pace. You can also choose from a selection of additional training courses through the ASHI School.
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI): The InterNACHI School is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and offers online courses free to members or $49 per month to non-members.
- ATI: A program that offers both online and classroom courses, which is helpful for the 16 states that don’t allow online coursework. ATI also offers a National Home Inspector Exam (NHIE) test pass guarantee.
- AHIT: Both online and in-person classes are available, along with specialized courses in radon, mold, and commercial inspections.
Before you become a full-fledged inspector, you may also need to complete a period of mentorship under a licensed home inspector, which includes performing a certain number of supervised inspections under your mentor’s license. Check out HomeGauge’s find a home inspector tool to discover licensed inspectors nearby who may be willing to mentor you.
4. What’s the current demand for home inspectors?
Prior to the 1960s, very few real estate transactions included a home inspection. But over the past six decades, that trend has changed dramatically. According to the Organization of Real Estate Professionals (OREP), roughly 80% of all homes today go through a professional home inspection.
Even newly-built homes can have structural defects, improper wiring, or plumbing installation, and HVAC issues. For that reason, new construction home inspections should be just as common as an inspection for any other property purchase.
Of course, this is good news for home inspectors.
Because of the stronger link between a real estate transaction and home inspections, the demand for licensed inspectors is going to be directly linked to the housing market. There will always be a need for homes, meaning there will always be a demand for home inspectors.
Of course, home inspection is a popular field because of its potential for high earnings and steady work. Here are a few ways to set yourself apart from the competition:
- Become an expert communicator. Practice explaining your process and putting the things you find into understandable and helpful terms. And don’t slack on writing the inspection report, either; always focus on delivering a clear, concise, and readable report that’s helpful to your customers.
- Cultivate an online presence. Today, customers expect to be able to find information about you, schedule appointments, and contact you, all from the convenience of their smartphones. To avoid losing out on leads, be sure to invest in a custom, professional website that’s optimized to rank in search engine results.
- Have professionalism and business savvy. If you need to, take classes on accounting and marketing for your business. Dedicate time to networking with other professionals and promoting your business through social media, advertising, and traditional means like appearing at trade shows and marketing to real estate agents.
- Use technology to your advantage. Invest in quality inspection report writing software that allows you to create customizable templates and includes an interactive delivery feature that will impress clients.
Don’t forget to ask the right questions
When you’re deciding on a new career, the options can be overwhelming. You may get excited about one idea, but then be unsure of whether the reality will fit the picture in your mind. That’s why it’s so important to do your research.
Hopefully, the questions and answers above helped give you an idea of what the life of a home inspector is like and how to succeed in the industry. A career in home inspecting can be rewarding, pay well, and offer you many benefits, such as job security and the satisfaction of helping new homeowners during the biggest purchase of their lives.
If everything discussed above sounds appealing, then becoming a home inspector might be the right choice for you!