If sitting behind a desk doesn’t seem like the right way to navigate your career, you could learn how to become a home inspector. You will enjoy earning a great living along with the flexibility of running a business the way you want it.
Professional home inspectors play a vital role in the real estate industry. These professionals also have a lot of influence over the construction and banking industries. Houses are bought and sold all the time, which means well-established home inspectors never worry about business being slow.
If you’re wondering how to become a home inspector, it is important to learn the qualification requirements and the exact duties that entail the job. And if you have any experience as a plumber, HVAC technician, or construction worker, you’ll already be a good candidate for the role.
In this comprehensive career guide, we will go over everything that entails being a home inspector and break down how to become a home inspector.
In This Article
What is a Home Inspector?
A home inspector is a professional trained to review the structure and condition of residential buildings. Therefore, home inspections aim to determine if the home is worth what the seller says it’s worth and ensure the occupants’ safety.
Homebuyers hire home inspectors to identify required repairs and structural deficiencies of the property they’re interested in. Home inspectors accomplish this by performing a visual examination of the house. As a result, the physical structure of the home and the many systems present in the house are examined thoroughly.
These inspections typically take two to four hours to complete — assuming the inspector is inspecting a single-family home. After the home inspection is complete, the inspector will create a detailed inspection report that includes all of the inspector’s findings.
The report includes pictures and the inspector’s analysis and recommendations. It is typically sent to the client a day after the inspection, but sometimes it takes two days to make.
What Does a Home Inspector Do?
A home inspector visits residential buildings on behalf of the homeowner or the prospective buyer to evaluate the home’s condition. After assessing the home, professional home inspectors create a report that covers the state of:
- The heating system
- Air conditioning systems
- Interior plumbing
- Electrical system
- Floors, ceilings, walls, doors, windows, roof, and attic
- Foundation and structure of the building
For example, home inspectors in Dothan, Alabama, like Cornerstone Home Inspectors, have a standardized checklist they follow. They also follow InterNACHI’s standards of practice and also perform pool inspections, and crawl space inspections.
The American Society of Homeowners has a Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics that every home inspector relies on to conduct a proper home inspection. You can go through the documentation to gain better insight into the inspection process.
Bear in mind that if areas in the home are inaccessible due to locks or unsafe to examine due to poor structural integrity, licensed home inspectors typically do not assess that specific area.
Where Do Home Inspectors Work?
If you’re wondering how to become a home inspector and considering starting a career inspecting residential and/or commercial property, you must understand what your work environment will be like.
Professional home inspectors typically spend their day inspecting residential properties. Sometimes, home inspectors have to travel far from their office to inspect a property for a client.
Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions an individual can make. For this reason, homebuyers are cautious and prefer having a professional inspect the property before they purchase it.
If there are issues with the home, the buyers can negotiate the price with the owners or ask the owners to make necessary repairs. In this way, home inspections help homebuyers avoid unexpected difficulties with the property.
It is a home inspector’s responsibility to inspect the home diligently and maintain inspection standards through the process. The inspector’s findings may sometimes reveal as little as a need for maintenance to major problems like structural damage. Regardless, the inspection report can help the homebuyer make a confident decision about the prospective home.
Homeowners also hire home inspectors to examine the condition of their property for them. The inspection helps the homeowner determine whether the property is in selling condition or requires repairs.
Home Inspector Salary
The most recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the median annual salary for home inspectors was $62,860 in 2020.
If you’re willing to move to another state if it means a higher salary, consider moving to Washington, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Alaska, or California. Per the BLS, construction and building inspectors in California earn a median annual salary of $91,510.
One of the best things about becoming a home inspector is that the career path is open to individuals from any background. Therefore, the only thing you need to do to become a home inspector is earning the right certification.
How Do I Become a Home Inspector?
The requirements for becoming a home inspector vary slightly from state to state. However, the process is more or less the same across states. Below are seven steps on how to become a home inspector.
Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a home inspector.
Step #1: Learn Your State’s Regulations
While regulation is widespread, there is no national standard for home inspector licensing. Every state has a different set of regulations regarding becoming a home inspector.
In some states, 60 hours of home inspection training and education is deemed appropriate. However, aspiring home inspectors in New York, Texas, and Washington have to complete 400 hours of education. The license requirements can change drastically between states for home inspection training.
For this reason, you must learn your state’s requirements before rushing into further steps. The majority of states require you to complete between 60 and 140 hours of coursework and then pass an exam.
Some states additionally require you to complete between 12 hours to one year of supervised home inspection training to earn a home inspector license. However, states like California, Wyoming, and Colorado do not require home inspectors to be licensed.
The best way to understand what your state requires is to visit the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors website.
Step #2: Meet Pre-Licensing Requirements (If Required)
One of the most important things to remember is that doing property inspection is only half of a home inspector’s job. Of course, the other half is customer service.
If you happen to have experience in property inspection or customer service, you will already know how to do half the job. If you’re rusty, though, brushing up your building or people-pleasing skills is a good idea.
While you do not have to know about buildings or have practical communication skills to become a home inspector, having these skills helps you attract more clients and improve customer satisfaction.
Your state may not require you to take any training. However, every home inspector worth their salt takes up a few courses to learn the fundamentals, get some field training, and meet continuing education requirements.
If your state requires you to have a home inspection license, you must meet the educational licensing requirements within a specific period. Thus, taking up educational courses and field training will help you learn about things like:
- Home types
- Systems and infrastructure
- Standards of practice and code of ethics
- Best business practices
- Risk management for home inspectors
When looking to get a certification, make sure that your state accepts the course you’re taking. In some states, online courses are not valid certification courses. You must make sure the course and field training meets your state’s guidelines.
Additionally, you must remember to take a state-specific home inspector course. Some programs teach dated/wrong information for quick profits. Ensure you enroll in a course offered by a reputable school that is recognized by your state.
We discuss how to find the right pre-licensing course/home inspection training course to enroll in later in this post.
Step #3: Pass the Licensing Exam (If Required)
You should schedule your home inspection exam soon after you complete the home inspection training course. It’s always best to give the exam while the pre-licensing course’s contents are still fresh in your mind.
Depending on what state you’re in, you may be required to give the National Home Inspection Exam (NHIE) instead of a state licensing exam. A simple Google search will help you determine what kind of exam you will need to pass and field training required to get licensed in your state.
The National Home Inspection Exam is four hours long and requires you to answer 200 multiple-choice questions. Taking a pre-licensing course or home inspection will help ensure you know everything you need to know to pass the exam.
The NHIE exam is scale scored from 200 to 800. To pass, you will need to score 500 or more. To take the exam, you will need to pay an exam fee of between $200 and $300. The fee varies from state to state.
PSI/AMP and Pearson VUE administer the exam. Since both are national exam providers for the real estate industry, you will be able to take the test at a testing center close by.
To take the exam and get your home inspector license, you will need to sign up on the scheduling portal. When you have an account on the portal, you can schedule an exam at a test location nearby. You can pay the fee for the national home inspector exam using your debit or credit card.
For more details about the test center’s locations, visit the National Home Inspector Examination website.
Exam Difficulty and How to Pass
Passing the home inspection exam can be challenging. The test has a 55% pass rate, so there’s a chance that you will not clear it in your first attempt.
It is best if you study hard for the exam and get some field training. Using flashcards and taking practice tests should ideally be a big part of your routine. There are online courses like CompuCram that you can take to learn everything you need to pass the National Home Inspector Exam.
A high-quality home inspection training course will give you access to interactive study games, flashcards, and more to help you prepare yourself for the exam.
If you’re taking the NHIE, you must note that most of the questions will be based on the ASHI Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Some courses guarantee that you pass or give you your money back.
Step #4: Complete State Application (If Required)
After you pass the exam, you must follow your state’s rules and submit all required information on your state home inspector application. You will be considered a licensed home inspector after your application is processed and you get your license.
Some states do not require you to submit an application. However, you must make sure you know what formalities you need to complete after earning your certification.
Step #5: Get Insurance
You must get general liability insurance after getting your certification (and license, depending on your state). Both homebuyers and homeowners are protective of their properties and prospective homes. If you accidentally make the wrong assessment or there’s a report omission, your client could rope you into a pricy lawsuit.
Getting Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O insurance) will not just protect you in such scenarios, but it will also ensure you remain employed.
The cost of E&O insurance and the requirements to become insured change from state to state. However, getting E&O insurance is a vital step to take regardless of which state you’re in. It ensures that your home inspection company survives a lawsuit.
Getting General Liability insurance protects your business from needless expenses if clients claim items are missing from their homes.
Step #6: Meet Continuing Education Requirements
Some states require home inspectors to obtain some number of continuing education hours or “credits” after completing field training and getting their certification. You will need to meet these requirements to remain a certified home inspector.
Step #7: Join Professional Home Inspector Organizations
There are several steps you can take to build a successful career after completing home inspector training.
One of the most challenging hurdles of being a home inspector is marketing your services. However, one of the best ways to get started is by joining a professional home inspector organization.
Joining the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) helps home inspectors stay in the loop about the latest trends in home inspection. Furthermore, it helps new inspectors learn from thriving industry experts.
If you become a member of InterNACHI, you can put the InterNACHI logo on your contact cards. It will add to your credibility and help broaden your clientele.
InterNACHI has a built-in home inspection directory. The Hire An Inspector section of the website allows homeowners and buyers, and you can get listed on the directory. InterNACHI charges users $200 annually for listing.
Other organizations that help professionals get hired after completing their home inspector training include:
- The National Association of Home Inspectors
- The National Society of Home Inspectors
- The International Association of Certified Home Inspections
There are also several local groups that can help you get hired.
How to Find the Right Home Inspector Training Course
Getting the right field training is crucial for both a good exam result and a successful career in home inspection. To become a licensed home inspector, you will need to attend a school that offers home inspector field training and certification.
While many places offer these courses, not all of them provide a high quality of instruction or field training. Therefore, you will need to consider the following factors to determine the viability of the course:
- Are the instructors certified home inspectors themselves? Do they have any field experience?
- Is training material available online?
- Does the training include mold and radon inspection training? Or will you need to pay for those separately?
- Can the program be completed at a pace that’s comfortable with the student?
- Is the school affiliated with the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) or ASHI?
- Will the field training give you knowledge about commercial building inspection?
- Is the instructor available to answer your questions throughout the course?
- Is the report generation software included in the tuition fees?
Besides asking all of these questions, ensure you understand the school’s history and know how long it’s been operating. Details like state approvals, accreditations, and a number of alumni can be great indicators of the school’s reliability.
Additionally, you must ensure that the course you pick teaches you how to write pre-inspection agreements and issue inspection reports. Also, you will need to learn to use drones to inspect rooftops. Finally, if you’re aiming to start a home inspection business, you will also need to learn marketing.
Only enroll in a course if you’re confident that it teaches you everything you need to know.
Choosing A Career Path After Licensing
After you meet the requirements to become a home inspector, complete your home inspection training, and get your home inspection license, you can decide what direction you want to go with your career.
You can pick one of the following career paths:
- FEMA inspector
- Self-employed inspector
- Home inspection business owner
- Home inspection franchise owner
- Commercial property inspector
- Local building code inspector/new construction inspector
Besides this, you will need to decide whether you want to work part-time or full-time.
Pros and Cons of Different Career Paths
If you’re wondering how to become a home inspector, you must understand the advantages and disadvantages that various career paths have to offer.
The three things you can do when you pass the licensing exam are:
- Work at a firm
- Start a business
- Buy a home inspection franchise
We’ve highlighted the pros and cons of each career choice below.
Working for an Inspection Firm
Working for an inspection firm is the easiest way to start your career after getting your home inspector license.
The advantage of this career path is that you do not have to worry about creating a marketing strategy to attract clients. Instead, you can start working and earning a salary immediately.
However, there are some downsides to working for a home inspection company. First, it limits your earning potential since the company takes between 40% and 60% of the fees you charge. Furthermore, you may be required to sign a non-compete and buy your own insurance.
Starting A Home Inspection Business
You could start your home inspection business right after you complete the right home inspector training. Starting a home inspection company offers several advantages.
There are no limits to how much you can earn. Your earnings are based purely on your skill and depend on how well you scale your business. You have complete control over how the business operates, and you get to keep 100% of the fees you charge.
However, you will need to manage your marketing strategy and build clientele by yourself. Furthermore, there are no guarantees of earning an income.
For you to create an established home inspection company, you will need to bear the costs of:
- The tools and equipment you use
- Your office space
- General liability and E&O insurance
- Bookkeeping and tax prep costs
- Transport and vehicle maintenance costs.
While starting a business could give you the personal and financial freedom you’re looking for, running a business and bearing the costs can be equally challenging.
Purchasing a Home Inspection Franchise
When you purchase a home inspection franchise, you will be opening a new office on behalf of the brand. Since the brand is established, you will be able to tap into an established customer base, which can bring in a lot of profits.
You will own the business, and the business will run according to pre-established protocol. As a result, you will not need to put in as much work as you would if you establish your own business.
That said, you will need to put in a lot more work into getting the business off the ground than you would if you were to work for a company. Another downside with purchasing a franchise is that there are no guarantees if customers will walk in the door for your services.
To pick the right career path, you must have a deep understanding of what you want out of your professional life. Spend some time gauging the pros and cons of each career path before you decide what path suits you best.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a home inspector?
You can become a self-employed home inspector by taking a 3-day course and earning the bare minimum certification (provided your state allows it).
However, if you want to stand among the best in the industry and earn a great living, you need to have more experience and knowledge than most home inspectors.
Taking an online course will allow you to study at your own pace. Aspiring home inspectors typically complete pre-licensing courses in about four weeks.
Comprehensive online courses are between 100 and 150 hours long, so if you study for three hours a day, you will complete the course in a month.
Can I work as a home inspector part-time?
Yes, you can conduct home inspections part-time. You can choose to work evenings and weekends to supplement your income.
What is the difference between a real estate inspector and a professional inspector?
Professional inspectors are home inspectors that run a business. On the other hand, real estate inspectors are the professionals that work under a professional inspector.
Conclusion: Should You Become A Home Inspector?
Beyond knowledge about the real estate agency, you will need solid communication skills to thrive as a home inspector after completing your home inspector training. It is also important for a home inspector to have the ability to manage relationships with real estate agents and maintain the required number of continuing education hours each year.
Maintaining your relationships is crucial for success as an inspector. Agents often work with the same home inspector once they find one to deliver quality reports before the deadline. In addition, having good relationships with other real estate agents can help you get a steady stream of clients.
If you’re certain that you can put in the effort to learn effective communication and meet the licensing requirements, becoming a home inspector may be the right career choice for you.