Home inspectors conduct a thorough inspection of a home prior to purchase. With an average annual income of over $58,000, this career offers a solid living with a flexible schedule. However, you’ll need to get specific education and experience before you can start inspections. These are the eight steps to take to become a home inspector.
1. Confirm the Licensing Requirements in Your State
The first step to becoming a home inspector is to find the licensing requirements in your state, since there is no standard for a career in home inspection that applies to every region. While you do not have to have a license to be a home inspector in every state, the majority require aspiring home inspectors to complete several hours of coursework, pass an exam, and complete on-the-job training under the supervision of an experienced inspector.
If your state does not require a license, it is still a good idea to take training courses prior to marketing yourself as a home inspector as these will equip you for a more successful career. AHIT is a home inspection training company that stays up-to-date on changes in the industry and helps you establish your career. Their courses are offered in 48 states and include classroom and field training to maximize your potential success. Learn more about AHIT today.
2. Increase Your Knowledge of Construction
Home inspectors are expected to determine the overall state of structural, heating, plumbing, and electrical systems of homes, so it’s essential to have general construction knowledge. Start by reviewing home types, then learn about support systems, infrastructure, and construction methods.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but the types of homes currently on the market are incredibly diverse. From historic Victorian mansions to LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) modern homes, there is a variety of home styles available, each with its own set of standout features—and recurring challenges. To know what to look for, study home types built over the last 50 to 100 years to help you understand their unique weaknesses and strengths.
Each type of home and its systems has its own strengths, pain points, and areas of particular vulnerability. Learn how each type of home is built and how heating, plumbing, and electrical systems should be safely installed. Finding out what things to look for will bring you one step closer to becoming the type of home inspector people clamor to hire.
Clients expect home inspectors to have a solid understanding of up-to-date housing codes and be able to provide advice about what to do related to issues found during the inspection process. If you don’t already have construction experience, the best way to learn is by taking home inspection prelicensing courses from the right provider. AHIT is our top choice, but here are a variety of great home inspector training schools that can help you learn.
3. Find Courses & Training That Work for You
If your state requires a license, then you will need to complete the necessary coursework in the given time frame. Whether license education is online or in a classroom, create a block of time for taking the classes and learning more about the details of home inspection. Take notes as needed so you will have a reference point to study for your exam.
This is also a helpful step, even if you are not required by state law to complete coursework as these classes often focus on the following topics in addition to the basics of home construction:
- Standards of practice and code of ethics
- Best business practices
- Risk management tips for home inspectors
Check out the schools and resources in your state for more information on specific construction topics.
4. Pass Your State’s Home Inspection Licensing Exam
Not every state will require a home inspector licensing exam. For those that do, however, you need to have solid preparation. To ensure you master up-to-date material, study regularly and ask friends to help quiz you on inspection topics.
Study for the Test
The best thing to do to prepare for the home inspector licensing exam is to use a study guide and take practice exams. Some schools offer courses as well as additional study guides to prepare for the upcoming exam.
Take & Pass the Exam
Register for the exam through your state’s real estate licensing board; this is often considered your application. On the night before test day, get plenty of sleep and take one final look at your study materials, concentrating on topics you know least. On test day, drink lots of water and focus on the questions you know. For those you don’t know, eliminate clearly incorrect answers to increase your chances of answering correctly.
Different states will have different processes for notifying test takers of their test results. In Illinois, for example, home inspection licensing tests are administered online and results are displayed after test completion. Scores are also automatically sent to the Department of Real Estate, which will then determine whether or not to grant you a license for home inspection.
5. Develop Your People Skills & Build Relationships
When learning how to become a home inspector, no one tells you that people skills will be important to your career. You’ll need to be able to communicate clearly with clients so they feel confident in their understanding of their new home. This is also important as establishing relationships with people in real estate will be the key to securing work.
To build relationships with agents for repeat business, go to networking events through the Chamber of Commerce or local National Association of Realtors (NAR) meetings. Also, be sure to maintain relationships with agents after your initial meeting or first referral. Regular communication—even if it has nothing directly to do with job solicitation—is a good way to stay connected and top of mind. That way, when inspections are needed, they will think of you first.
6. Join ASHI
While there are no laws requiring you to become a part of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), joining can only help your career. After you’ve passed your exam, ASHI can offer further education opportunities, networking possibilities, and additional specialized industry standard professional certifications. Learn more by visiting the ASHI website.
7. Choose Your Home Inspector Career Path
Once you pass the licensing exam or are otherwise qualified in your state, there are three primary career paths to consider: working for an established firm, starting your own firm, or buying a franchise. Review the positive and negative aspects of each before making an informed decision on the best path for you.
Work for an Established Inspection Firm
Working for an established home inspection company is the easiest way to start working as a home inspector. This could be the best choice for you because you won’t have to start building clientele or creating a marketing strategy from scratch, but it could limit your future earnings.
Pros of Working for an Established Inspection Firm
Cons of Working for an Established Inspection Firm
Company has a known brand, established marketing strategy, and a steady stream of clients
Company can take anywhere from 40%-60% of your fees
Start working immediately
May have to purchase your own insurance
Minimal startup costs
May need to sign a non-compete agreement
Start Your Own Inspection Firm
By starting your own home inspection company, you can control every aspect of your business. Your potential earnings are only limited by your ability to scale your business. An experienced solo home inspector can make anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 per year doing eight to 10 inspections per week. However, there are no guarantees to starting your own business.
Pros of Starting Your Own Inspection Firm
Cons of Starting Your Own Inspection Firm
You control everything
Higher startup costs
Unlimited potential earnings (can make anywhere from $50,000 - $80,000 yearly with 8-10 inspections per week)
Build your own clientele and marketing strategy from scratch
You get 100% of the inspector fees
No guarantee of income or clients
Cost Considerations When Starting an Inspection Firm
Like many jobs with unlimited earning potential, there are risks and expenses involved with starting your own inspection business. Here are just a few cost considerations:
- Advertising and marketing costs
- Buying your own tools
- Liability and errors and omissions insurance
- Association dues
- Office space
- Vehicle maintenance
Tips for Starting an Inspection Firm
The easiest way to keep income consistent as an independent home inspector is to have ongoing relationships with agents. The problem is that most experienced agents are more than likely already working with experienced home inspectors who they already know and trust. Convincing real estate agents to work with you rather than a trusted inspector with whom they already have a relationship can be extremely difficult, but not impossible.
Another way to gain clients is by showcasing your unique skills or specialties. For example, if your neighborhood has a lot of historic homes, knowing more about them than other home inspectors can be a real plus; there is an art to knowing and inspecting old electrical systems, slate roofing, steam radiators, and the construction elements of old homes.
Buy a Home Inspection Franchise
When you buy a home inspection franchise, you buy a turnkey business that’s already established.
Pros of Buying a Home Inspection Franchise
Cons of Buying a Home Inspection Franchise
You own the business
Franchises can cost up to $65,000 up front
More work to get started than joining a firm
8. Never Stop Learning With CE Opportunities
Some states require inspectors to take periodic continuing education (CE) classes to keep their licenses current, but ongoing education is a worthwhile investment for all inspectors. In fact, a career in home inspection requires you to constantly learn new skills to stay competitive, so consider professional development and continuing education (CE) classes.
Here are six of the most common professional development and CE certifications:
- Wood Destroying Organisms (WDO): This certification teaches home inspectors to find wood damage in a home due to termites, beetles, and some wood-decaying fungi.
- Garage Inspector: This designation teaches home inspectors how to find structural damage and construction breakdown in and around the garage.
- Deck Inspector: Using this certification, home inspectors can examine a deck’s structural and construction issues for buyers and sellers.
- Radon Tester: Use this training to understand the process of radon detection and learn how it can affect homeowners.
- Mold Inspector: This certification allows home inspectors to identify different types of mold and understand how they affect structural integrity and homeowner health.
- Commercial Inspector: A commercial inspection finds out the important things to look for in the wiring, construction, and framework of different spaces used for business, such as retail, manufacturing, industrial spaces.
Having additional certifications can set you apart from the competition and build trust with potential clients and referring agents. Many of these certification courses are free. Check out the over 60 certifications available through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need insurance to be a home inspector?
If you own a home inspection company or your employer does not insure you, then you will need to get errors and omissions (E&O) insurance and general liability (GL) insurance. E&O protects you from any errors or financial damages as a result of your home inspection. GL protects you from claims of missing items from the property.
Are there any legal issues I should be aware of?
Legal issues for home inspectors vary from state to state. The biggest legal problem that might result from an inspection is failure to report negative findings, which can affect home sale prices and owner expectations. This is the reason that errors and omissions (E&O) insurance is such an important thing for home inspectors.
How often does an inspector’s license need to be renewed?
The renewal term and continuing education (CE) coursework needed to keep your inspector’s license active varies from state to state. Most states require renewal every year or every other year. Some states require additional CE coursework. Find out more about the requirements for renewal by locating your state on the American Society for Home Inspectors site and clicking on the link.
A home inspector reviews properties for lenders and buyers to assess the value of a home before purchase. Home inspection can be a lucrative career choice, paying up to $50,000 per year with a plethora of career options and a flexible schedule. You’ll have to check your state requirements, choose your career path, and build a network to grow a thriving business.