I’ve been in the construction trades most of my life, mainly as an electrician. Now that middle age is affecting my knees and back, I’m considering a part-time career as a home inspector to supplement my retirement income. But I need some start-up advice. What is the best and least costly way to become a home inspector? –Dave
There are good ways and marginal ways of becoming a home inspector. The best way is to learn all you can about property inspection before jumping in and then to make a full-time commitment to the business and process of inspecting. The “least costly way” and the “part-time” way involve shortcuts and risks that can have costly and unpleasant consequences.
Property inspection can be a rewarding career when done with total commitment. As a part-time job, it can pose serious problems for the inspector and for every inspection customer. Unfortunately, many new inspectors approach the profession on a part-time basis, exposing themselves to high levels of legal and financial liability, while providing home buyers with inadequate disclosure of property defects. These part-timers venture casually into a field of professional disciplines that appear simple on the surface but whose seeming simplicity conceals a maze of surprising complexities.
Home inspecting is a unique discipline, unlike any other, and it is a learn-as-you-go business. There are no related professions that fully prepare one for competent duty as a real estate inspector. This applies to all newcomers, regardless of construction knowledge, building trade experience, or degrees in architecture or structural engineering. Several years of full-time home inspecting are necessary to become truly qualified at defect discovery. Meanwhile, the first several hundred inspection reports issued by a new home inspector provide incomplete disclosure of significant property defects. And all of the problems that go unreported during that learning period linger in the background as potential claims and lawsuits against inspectors, sellers, agents and brokers.
Besides making a full-time commitment, those who embark on a home inspection career should receive as much training as possible before making their professional debut. The “least costly way” should not even be considered. A meaningful financial investment is necessary when preparing to enter any serious line of work. In the case of home inspection, a basic foundational knowledge of the practical and business aspects can be gained by enrolling in a qualified home inspection school. This, by the way, is not an inexpensive commitment.
To broaden the educational process, new inspectors should become members of an established association, such as ASHI (the American Society of Home Inspectors), NAHI (the National Association of Home Inspectors), or a similar state association. A primary benefit of association membership is the requirement for continuing education. Additional preparation may include building code classes, which are offered at many community colleges.
Buyers hire home inspectors as consultants prior to making a major financial investment. They want their purchase decision to be an informed one. Their purchase strategies are often based upon the findings of their inspector. When these findings are faulty or incomplete, buyers can be financially damaged and may consider their inspector to be liable for those damages. The liability of home inspectors is therefore large and significant. Meeting that demand requires adequate preparation and total commitment. It is not a profession to be approached casually or on the cheap.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.