A home inspection is an important part of any real estate transaction, and a good home inspector is worth his or her weight in gold. Buyers need a skilled home inspector to point out a house’s issues and damages before they commit fully to their purchase. Real estate agents need a reliable, knowledgeable partner that they can count on to come out in a timely manner and reassure clients about the differences between real issues and “paint-and-paper” problems. And of course everyone benefits from a thorough home inspection report that’s easy to read and provides a clear record of a property’s condition.
But what, exactly, is the difference between a decent home inspector and a truly excellent one? Here are 10 important traits that all of the very best home inspectors seem to share.
10 important characteristics of a quality home inspector
Without fail, a good home inspector shows up to appointments on time. Successful inspectors are often very busy, but customer service is key. The home buyers who hire you may already be nervous, and they certainly don’t want to be kept waiting. And the impression you make here isn’t just with the buyer—you don’t want to disappoint the real estate agent who recommended you, and the homeowners have also arranged their schedules to be out of the way during the home inspection.
Cultivate this trait: The best way to get to your inspections on time is to make sure you schedule them appropriately, with enough time between for travel, lunch, and other necessities. An online scheduler like HomeGauge’s ScheduleNow can streamline this process to help you run a tighter ship.
Have you ever tried to hire someone for a job, only to find it impossible to get in touch with them to get an estimate or make an appointment? It’s crucial to put your best foot forward with a detailed, mobile-friendly, and easy-to-navigate home inspection website and accurate contact information everywhere you’re listed on the web. You’ll also need a business cell phone to keep in touch with clients when you’re on the way, and a professional email address that’s easy to remember.
Cultivate this trait: So you’re a home inspector and not a marketing genius — that’s fine! Have friends and family search for a home inspector in your town and Google and see what pops up. If they can’t find you, it’s time to build a better website, get started with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and get your contact information out there.
Even the best website won’t make a difference if you don’t respond to clients when they reach out to you. We live in an ultra-fast paced world, and waiting for a call back or an email for more than a day feels like an eternity. The most successful home inspectors start building strong relationships from the get-go by returning calls, emails, and texts in a timely fashion. This builds trust and helps you snag customers before they choose someone else.
Cultivate this trait: Schedule small blocks of time throughout the day to read and answer email — and stick to that schedule religiously. Ditto for voice mail to return calls. Your goal should be to respond to people within a few hours.
4. Attention to detail
Inspectors need eagle eyes and keen listening skills to do a thorough job. The best home inspectors refuse to rush, and they walk into every room with curiosity about what they might find there. Excellent home inspectors check their assumptions at the door and treat every home as a brand new place to explore and learn about. This “beginner’s mindset” allows you to see what’s really there instead of skipping over anything because you think you’ve seen it all before.
Cultivate this trait: It’s always good to have a system! Customize a standard template to add every component you want to inspect, and consider doing your inspections in the same order every time. Everyone has a personal bag of tricks, so ask other inspectors for their ideas whenever you get the chance.
Great property inspectors know all the ins and outs of house construction, from the foundations to the roof rafters. The best inspectors can wax poetic about clapboard styles and can find their way through a maze of ductwork in seconds flat. They understand the old ways of doing things but also know all about the latest advancements in everything from plumbing to electrical to eco-friendly appliances and HVAC set-ups. They keep up with the industry and file tidbits away in the mind like an encyclopedia.
Cultivate this trait: You can sharpen your skills with continuing education. There are plenty of high-quality online home inspection courses that will help you brush up on the basics and dive into interesting new areas, like radon testing or mold detection.
It’s one thing to know everything there is to know about how buildings are put together. It’s another to understand how all those moving parts come together to create a solid, livable whole. You may find a list of issues that make a house less than perfect, but a truly great home inspector knows the difference between what’s dangerous and what’s not, what must be fixed today and what can wait, and what might be a dealbreaker vs. a nuisance. Good inspectors put their findings into context for buyers so they can understand the importance of all the facts.
Cultivate this trait: There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to a deep understanding of homes, so a great deal of this trait develops with time. But you can get there faster by asking yourself about the “big picture” as a way to guide your thinking as you write your detailed home inspection report.
7. The mind of a teacher
When you know so much about construction, it’s easy to forget that most people never think about dry rot or clogged pipes — until they’ve got a problem. For first-time home buyers, a successful inspection isn’t just one that reveals a sturdy house. They also want to learn all about their new home and how everything works — and they give high marks to home inspectors who take the time to explain it all along the way.
Cultivate this trait: Make sure you can take your time with clients by scheduling your appointments with enough time in between. You can also make a habit of asking if they have any questions or if they’ve ever seen a furnace like that to gently guide the conversation into some teachable moments.
8. Clear communication
Part of being an effective teacher is explaining what you see in the home in plain language your customers can easily understand. A lot may go over their heads during the walkthrough, so a thorough home inspection report is absolutely critical. The best inspectors have a comprehensive checklist and can also make clear concise notes to cover all the bases.
Cultivate this trait: Choose a report template that you feel good about, and develop a bank of go-to comments that summarize your thinking clearly. If you’re still writing reports manually or only have a word processor to rely on, home inspection software will streamline your reports and lead to happy customers.
9. Strong ethics
The best home inspectors know exactly what they can and cannot do for their clients, and are clear about those expectations. They take their Code of Ethics seriously, because they know it protects their clients and helps them do their best work. They act in good faith by doing the best, most thorough job they can at all times.
Cultivate this trait: Joining a professional organization like ASHI or InterNACHI is a great way to meet peers who are also committed to high standards. You may also want to prominently display an official or personal Code of Ethics on your website or letterhead to reinforce your ideals.
10. Personal networks
Good inspectors are excellent at making personal connections. They do this by putting clients at ease and fostering great relationships in their professional communities, including construction pros, past clients, and real estate agents. It inspires trust when you have a whole network of people who respect you and can vouch for your work.
Cultivate this trait: Stay active in the building community, and reach out to real estate agents — they’re always looking for good inspectors to recommend to clients. Joining your local Chamber of Commerce is also a good way to meet other small business owners to build connections that could help you grow.
Becoming a better home inspector
Whether you’re an aspiring inspector or have been inspecting homes for years, there’s always room to improve your skills, build your business, and develop the personal traits that lead to success. These traits are sought after by home buyers and real estate agents alike, so they’re well worth cultivating. HomeGauge is always here to help you on your journey, with great advice and a robust suite of tools designed just for home inspectors like you.