How to become a home inspector:
This document provides a description of the home inspection profession and information about becoming qualified and certified.
In response a flood of inquiries about getting into the home inspection business, we independent advice on becoming a professional building or home inspector.
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First, there is no other profession or line of work that would fully prepare you to become a home inspector. Although construction related fields require an understanding of how homes are built, they almost never deal with the extended use and age related deterioration of components that the home inspector encounters daily. You will need extensive detailed knowledge in many areas such as electrical systems, plumbing systems, heating and cooling systems, and roofing. You will also require knowledge of components that are obsolete yet still in service.
Some multi-inspector firm owners believe that anyone can be trained to perform home inspections. However, if you have absolutely no background in construction work, you are at grave risk practicing in the field. The ability to recognize conditions that may be a problem comes in part from experience with "what goes wrong." No single course, nor even a collection of courses, can prepare you for all of the significant, or even life-threatening conditions that occur in the field. An inspector who fails to recognize such defects is guilty of failure to meet the due-diligence standards of professional services. Worse, an error can result in catastrophic financial loss or even death.
The comments herein are the opinion of the authors and are in no way approved nor endorsed by ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Considerable experience, training, and expertise are required for proper performance in this profession. No single source of information, course, individual, is sufficient to launch a competent practice in the field.
ASHI's certification requirements specify a combination of experience, training, and field work. ASHI Certification requires a number of qualification "points" which are made up of education, experience, field work, a minimum of a specific number of fee-paid inspections and written reports which meet ASHI's Standards of Practice (subject to audit).
ASHI's founders recognized that a combination of formal training AND hands-on experience would produce the best field performance for the profession, and for that reason did not limit certification to professional engineers, nor to licensed heating contractors. Rather, a combination of the two types of background produce the best-informed practitioner.
This cross-training among professions, an activity which is continued through ASHI Conferences and Seminars has been instrumental in producing well qualified professional inspectors. It also led to ASHI's role as the U.S. and Canadian certifying and training association for the profession, and to recognition of ASHI in that role by federal, state, and provincial authorities as well as by allied professional associations.
ASHI does not explicitly require formal course training. However, inspectors lacking exposure to more disciplined and formal training are at extra risk of having difficulty distinguishing between arm-waving "opinion" and well-researched authoritative sources of information. This is a critical distinction if you are to practice as a qualified professional rather than simply as a generic business operator.
While the work looks easy, I can assure you that it is not. You will find it to be extremely demanding both physically and emotionally. To the novice, perhaps a person who is familiar with the building trades, it looks easy: just walk around a home for a few hours and chat up what you see.
A "real" home inspection requires in-depth knowledge of good construction practice across all of the building trades, an ability to see acutely, observe detail, understand the implications of details on buildings, and to translate that into a recognition of costly or dangerous conditions. A "real" home inspector also must have very good communication skills: the ability to communicate clearly with the client, explaining the conditions observed and their importance. Both oral and written communication are critical.
Personal physical risks are present: climbing on roofs, breathing dusts in attics and crawl spaces, opening electrical panels. Proper training is important to reduce these risks for the inspector and his/her clients.
Many, perhaps most home inspectors practicing currently refer to the work as a "business." Without meaning to sound fancy, we'd prefer if the work were a profession. To the extent that a practitioner's view is "mostly business" focus is on speed, fee, income, and minimizing liability - a high risk approach to the work. To the extent that a practitioner's view is "mostly professional" focus is on the work itself, on its technical demands and on the demands for excellence in knowledge, application of that knowledge to understand a particular building, and excellence in communication, orally and in writing, with the client in order to protect the interest of the client.
In sum, home inspection is, a very rewarding profession in which the inspector is engaging in challenging detective and forensic work on buildings in order to provide a very personal service to people who are buying a home. The inspector bears not only heavy financial burden of accurately detecting and avoiding costly surprises for the client. S/he is also addressing health and life safety concerns for the future occupants of the home.
Home Study for Home Inspectors : Carson Dunlop's nationally recognized Home Study Course, selected by ASHI the American Society of Home Inspectors and other professionals and associations. This website author is a contributor to this course.
Classroom education for home inspectors: How else to become a home inspector: there are several training schools and courses available which will help. Some of them are: Home Tech 800/638-8292 Inspection Training Associations 800/323-9235 The Inspection Experts 800/226-6299. ASHI conducts annual and semi-annual professional education conferences, as well as sponsoring seminars held by chapters in various US states and Canadian provinces.
Several universities, colleges, junior colleges, and offices of continuing-education offer home inspection courses, certificate programs (Northeastern University, New York University, and others), and also very valuable trade-courses in proper construction practices for every construction branch and trade. These can be invaluable, particularly for those areas with which you are most unfamiliar.
Beware of some inspection "schools" which promise far more than they deliver. Some make false claims such as being endorsed by the National Home Study Council. At least one of these, offered by a subsidiary of a major US publishing firm, has an expensive course which has very little pertinent content.
Some low-value courses include much course material taken from other previously prepared courses in architecture, real estate, blueprint reading, which are nice background but mostly irrelevant. Some of these courses leave very little content that actually includes the key information that home inspectors need to know. Some individual inspectors offer to train would-be professionals, charging as much as $10,000. Other training is not only far more cost effective, training with some of these costly individuals risks being mis-trained by someone who may not even be a top performer in the profession.
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Has the course been qualified for ASHI's continuing educational requirements ("membership renewal credits" abbreviated currently as "MRC's?"
What are you getting? If the course costs $2000. and includes $1500. worth of computer hardware and software, and has 3/4 of its content borrowed from architecture and blueprint reading, how much actual home inspection problem recognition training could possibly have been included?
Discuss the course, and the teachers, with experienced professionals in your area, or in the nearest ASHI chapter.
Several major inspection franchise companies make it easier for a novice to "get into business." Some offer good training. Some are mostly marketing to you their canned report forms, documents, programs. Beware that such companies may teach "their way" of inspecting as if were the "only" way to proceed. It certainly is not the only way to perform inspections, and, measured by long-term success in avoiding errors, omissions, disputes, may be a poor performer.
However a quality franchise operation often offers the most support in training and marketing, and will be of particular use to new entrants who have the least experience in construction and business.
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Although some inspection companies in your proposed marketing area might be reluctant to compete with them, most ASHI professionals, locally or in other areas are happy to take you along on a few inspections.
Another approach is joining an inspection company as a trainee. Obviously, only multi-inspector firms would do this. You need to make some phone calls to find out who they are.
A list of ASHI Chapters and members is available from ASHI Headquarters and is provided to registered ASHI Candidates. Check the Yellow Pages for others.
The best credential in the home inspection profession is membership in the American Society of Home Inspectors. ASHI members are widely recognized as the best. The road to membership involves experience and testing. Anyone interested in the business should become an ASHI Candidate as early as possible. For information, call or write: ASHI - see www.ashi.com
The ASHI Standards of Practice, and the ASHI Reporter, and (partial as of 11/20/95) the ASHI Exam, &c are available for direct examination on the Internet at www.ashi.com
Before even attempting to start a business of any kind, you need to have the financial depth to get it off the ground. According to the Small Business Administration, 65% of new small businesses fail in their first year. Most of them were under capitalized.
As a minimum you will need a reliable vehicle, a computer and $25,000 in working capital. This is a conservative figure and could be a lot higher depending on your market area and your ability to sell your product. Don't think for a minute that revenue in a service business is all profit. If you do, you will become a SBA statistic. Overhead costs will run close to 50% of gross income or more!
Home inspection is a very risky business. Your customer's expectations will be very high. In order to survive, you will need to be very good and very careful. Sharing ideas and experience with others in the business helps, but you must know what you are doing and consistently do it well.
General Liability insurance is of modest cost and is required by some states to obtain a home inspection license. Errors and Omissions Insurance coverage is available at a rather high cost for ASHI members.
You very well may find yourself involved in a lawsuit even though you were not at fault. While you may be able to prove that you are not at fault, legal costs will run into the thousands. At greatest risk of litigation are:
In sum, while many seminars on home inspection liability Reduction or home inspection risk Reduction focus on contract language and report disclaimer language to try to reduce home inspector's liability, the best ways to reduce risk for the home inspector include:
Check out Moe Madsen's advice to folks who want to become Home Inspectors - nice additional information, especially suited for Canadian inspectors.
In closing, if you decide to proceed, please consider membership in an ASHI Chapter. The local camaraderie and exchange of ideas can be extremely valuable in keeping your business going. Once you are accepted as an ASHI Candidate, you can join a local chapter as a member, or you may join as an affiliate member at any time.
Your best source of information about professional status, and how to proceed is ASHI Headquarters: information is at the ASHI Home Page (www.ashi.com). This is where you obtain a candidate application packet, apply for candidate or membership status, subscribe to professional publications, and find constantly updated key professional information.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: what do I need to do in order to become a licensed home inspector?
How can I become a licensed Home Inspector? - Joe Ward
Reply: study, exam, licensing, professional association participation, continued education
Joe home inspection licensing requirements vary by state; typically you'll need hours of classroom education and some experience performing inspections supervised by an already-licensed individual, and you may need to pass a certifying exam. Your state may also require that you purchase liability insurance.
Watch out: In my OPINION, it's much easier to obtain a home inspection license and start "practicing" than to stay in business. The scope of what a home inspector really needs to know is very great if she or he is to avoid making a mistake or failing to recognize a condition that could become an expensive surprise for the client, and worse, what the inspector needs to know about the safe functional operation of all residential building components and systems in order to avoid missing a dangerous condition that could hurt or kill someone.
So even with a license you'll want to continuously participate in professional education, professional association meetings and conferences, and perhaps even to take occasional trade courses in all of the building and construction fields affecting residential structures.
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