I am a 37-year-old woman who is interested in becoming a home inspector. What can you tell me about the ups and downs of being an inspector and about the income range? Also, what type of person makes a good inspector, and what percentage of home inspectors are women? – Dee
Your interest in home inspection is gratifying. Women are definitely under-represented in the profession. I can’t give you any statistics on this, but the home inspector conventions I’ve attended have included fewer women than can be counted on one hand. Why this has been the case, I don’t know, but the field is open to all qualified candidates, regardless of gender.
As to qualifications, likely candidates for home inspectors are detail-oriented individuals with common business sense, good communications skills (both written and verbal), a working knowledge of building construction and property defects, an aptitude for interacting with people, and not too strong of an aversion to the unpleasant aspects of dusty attics and spider-infested crawlspaces.
Inspection fees typically range from $250 to $350 for a moderately sized home (up to about 1,500 square feet). Some inspectors, however, compete by way of cut-rate prices, but those people generally do not spend the time necessary to provide a detailed inspection. The number of inspections you perform and your ability to limit overhead, therefore, will primarily determine your income.
The two downsides of the home inspection business are as follows:
1) Referral conflicts of interest:
Inspectors depend primarily upon agent referrals for the majority of their business. Unfortunately, not all agents recommend the services of thorough home inspectors. As you begin to market your services among the agents in your area, you will soon learn which agents are most interested in full disclosure of property defects. If the quality and thoroughness of your inspections are good, you will engender the recommendations of those respectable agents. Others may label you as “deal breaker,” but not to worry; they are not the ones with whom you want to do business.
2) E&O liability:
Buyers base a major investment decision upon the findings of their home inspector. If undisclosed problems are discovered after the close of escrow, home inspectors can be held liable, and this can sometimes mean costly lawsuits. Therefore, it is vital that you obtain thorough training prior to commencing business as a home inspector and that you continually increase your knowledge of home inspection processes and of property defects for as long as you remain in business. It is also recommended that you maintain errors and omissions insurance coverage. It should be mentioned, however, that there is another school of thought regarding insurance. Many inspectors believe that the deep pockets of an insurance company may actually invite lawsuits. There are pros and cons to both perspectives. It is a serious choice that each inspector must make.
Finally, be sure to obtain membership in a recognized home inspector association. The two top national organizations are the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Additionally, there are a number of similar state associations around the country, all of whom set standards of practice for home inspectors and promote ongoing education for their members.
Here’s wishing you success in your new career, and may all your errors and omissions be small ones.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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