Perhaps you’ve passed your state’s required licensing exam or have completed your certification and are now embarking on a career as a home inspector. You’ve probably already asked yourself this question, but now it’s time to answer it: Should you join a home inspection company or start your own?
Part of what drew you to home inspections might have been the flexibility and independence many self-employed home inspectors have. They’re able to set their own hours and rates, and they seem generally successful without needing to jump through an employer’s hoops.
But you may wonder, is that career path right for you right now? As a new inspector, would you be better served by starting at an established inspection company before venturing out on your own?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of working for an inspection company and starting your own business, and then give you five essential questions to help you decide which option is right for you.
Advantages of working for an inspection company
Many new home inspectors choose to work for a multi-inspector firm. There are numerous benefits to this job structure, including:
- A lower barrier to entry. If you join an established team, you won’t need to worry about start-up costs for a brand new business. You’ll be able to start working right away without needing to find clients or build relationships with real estate agents to get referrals.
- Job security. As an employee, you have a bit more stability compared to running your own business. Your job doesn’t depend on finding your own clients, which can be especially handy in rough economic times.
- You only need to wear one hat. Instead of needing to do all your own marketing, administrative tasks, and scheduling, you simply perform home inspections. Your company already has a structure and process for the other tasks necessary for a thriving home inspection business.
- Working with a team. Instead of being on your own, you’ll have others to share the workload. And if you’re newer to the profession, having mentors and resources can be a great asset. As you become more experienced, you may have a chance to stretch your leadership wings and try various parts of the business such as managing other inspectors and running administrative operations.
- Connections. A great benefit of joining an already-established team is that it has built a relationship with real estate agencies, brokerages, and other industry professionals. Much of the networking is already done for you, meaning you can hit the ground running.
However, there are some downsides to be aware of before you join a home inspection company. For one thing, working with a company may give you job security, but your paycheck is limited by an hourly rate or flat fee per inspection. Your company will be taking a cut of each inspection, meaning you’ll make less money per inspection.
By placing your employment in the hands of a manager, you have less control over how much to charge or how much work you are assigned.
For people who don’t like the idea of having to make business decisions or shouldering the responsibility of finding work, working for a home inspection company could be the right choice — but if you value flexibility and freedom, working for an established company may not be for you.
Benefits of having your own home inspection business
Many home inspectors choose to work for themselves, and it’s easy to see why that choice is so attractive. Being your own boss comes with many advantages, including:
- Having more control. You can set your own hours and decide how much you want to work every week. Want to start part-time as you transition out of your 9-5 job? Feel free. On the other hand, do you want to schedule as many home inspections as possible each day and make as much income as you can? No one’s stopping you. Your business’s success is directly related to how much effort and energy you put into it.
- Your business reflects you. Your own personality will influence your brand and business values, which will attract professional relationships and clients that align with your personality and style. You have direct control over the reputation and image of your home inspection business.
- Flexibility. When you work for yourself, you have the agility to make changes and readjust your business quickly. Want to change your marketing tactics or adjust your prices? It’s up to you. Thinking of offering a new specialty service or catering to a different clientele? Go for it.
- The value of your business is all yours. You can have pride in your work knowing you are building value in something you own. You can keep 100% of your inspector fees and allocate them the way you see fit; no splitting a cut of your profits with your employer.
While owning your own home inspection company comes with freedom and unlimited potential, it does mean that you carry more responsibility. All the roles of your business are on your shoulders, including its financial structure, administration, management, marketing, customer service, sales, and IT — which may take too much time away from your home inspecting role for your liking.
Without excellent time and project management skills, you may find yourself overwhelmed or stretched too thin. It may be difficult to make time for all the aspects of your business (like networking and marketing to real estate agents) all on your own. You might need to outsource parts of your business’s day-to-day procedures.
There’s a reason why so many new home inspection businesses fail in the first few years; if you experience a slow season or lack the right management skills, your business and livelihood might be at risk. Without passion and drive, you may not be able to carry your new business to success.
Choosing the right option for you
While it’s true that an estimated 60%-70% of home inspectors are self-employed, there are many fulfilled, successful home inspectors who choose to work for multi-inspector companies. At the end of the day, there is no one right choice for everyone; it comes down to your values, preferences, and individual situation.
1. What are your goals?
Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s the most clichéd question in job interviews for a reason; understanding where you’d like to be in the future helps shape the right path for you in the present.
Do you want to have a thriving business? Will you be living in the same town in five years? Do you have specific financial goals for your family? Taking the time to write out your personal and professional goals will help you see what to look for in a career path.
2. What do you like about being a home inspector?
Even if you’re brand new to the trade, you probably already have some idea of the aspects of being a home inspector that appeal to you. What drew you to this career choice in the first place?
Many home inspectors love the idea of joining a fast-growing field with nearly unlimited income potential, and they can’t wait to stretch their entrepreneurial muscles.
Others come from backgrounds in construction or real estate and have a love for the nitty-gritty of inspecting houses, but dislike the prospect of doing their own marketing, networking, and lead-finding. They’d be happiest spending their days inspecting and leaving the other aspects of the business to other people.
Which is it for you (or are you somewhere in between)? Understanding the components of the job that appeal most to you will help you know which path to choose.
3. What’s your work style?
Do you like being part of a team or going solo? If you don’t work well on your own, you may struggle in the self-employed life.
Do you like to lead others? Starting your own home inspection business may be an exciting first step to building a team under your leadership. Or perhaps you’d rather join a multi-inspector firm and help mentor other new inspectors.
How are you at time management and logistics? Do you need others on your team to help you stay organized and accountable? If that’s the case, you may work better in a multi-inspector company with built-in administrative assistance.
But if you work best on your own and have no problem staying on track without help, self-employment might be a great fit for you.
4. What’s your risk tolerance?
There’s no avoiding it: starting your own company is a risky move. Markets experience dry spells whether you’re well-established or not. And at the beginning, you’ll need to take time to build relationships with brokerages and other industry professionals that will help you land a steady stream of work.
Do you have savings to fall back on, or perhaps a significant other who has a steady income? If you can’t afford to go several months with no income, you may want to rethink the self-employed route — at least for now.
5. What are your core values?
We’re not necessarily talking about ethical values here; it’s more about your personal priorities, such as:
- Work-life balance
- Freedom to make your own decisions
- Stability and job security
- Having a solid support system
Which aspects of your career are non-negotiables for you? Would you place freedom higher on your priority list, say, than a stable, guaranteed income? If so, you might choose to be self-employed.
On the other hand, you may realize that financial stability is your most important value right now. Or perhaps you prioritize having a supportive team that can teach you the ropes, and you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of income potential to make that happen. In that case, joining an inspection company is probably the right path for you.
There are advantages and disadvantages whether you are a home inspector who wants to start your own inspection company or work for another home inspection business. What is important is making the choice that’s right for you and your particular situation. No matter which path you choose right out of the gate, HomeGauge has all the tools home inspectors need to manage, market, and grow their business at every step of their careers.