If you have an interest in real estate or construction, becoming a home inspector might be a job for you to consider. This career centers on hands on experience and offers a flexible work schedule. Learn if there are any legal requirements to become a home inspector, as well as the typical duties and recommended skills.
What Is a Home Inspector?
A home inspector is hired to assess the condition of a property. The inspector is looking for any defects or flaws in the property. This includes looking at the structure of the property like the foundation, roof, and interior and exterior walls, as well as the actual systems and services in the home, including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for an inspector in 2018 was about $59,700, or $28.70 an hour. As of July 2019, the median annual salary for workers in the United States was about $47,200, so if you are looking to a career as a home inspector, you should expect to make more than the average worker. Of course, you could make more or less than this depending on your exact location, job, and skill set. On the low end, inspectors can make less than $36,000 and on the high end, they can make more than $97,000.
An inspector’s job is to examine the structure and condition of a property. They must perform a physical inspection of the property, but they must also prepare reports and gather necessary data. The duties of a home inspector may include:
- Physical home inspection: Spending several hours at the property to examine it from bottom to top, inside and out
- Documenting issues: Taking notes on any issues found, as well as documenting the general condition of all structures and services (the estimated age of all items will be written down)
- Taking photos of issues: Photos will be taken of any problems or defects
- Advising buyers on necessary maintenance: Discussing what will need to be performed to keep all services in good order, such as changing the filter on the HVAC unit
- Advising buyers how to operate systems: Giving the prospective buyer tips on how to operate any systems in the home that they may not be familiar with
- Radon testing: Potentially performing a radon test
- Lead testing: Potentially testing the water for lead
- Offering referrals for sewer, well, termite or other inspections: Advising the buyer to get any additional inspections done on the property
- Preparing inspection report: Drafting a detailed report on their findings with recommendations on necessary repairs or building code violations
Education and Certifications Required
The exact requirements to become a home inspector vary by state. Some states, such as Kansas and California, have less strict requirements, while many others like New York and Texas, require home inspectors to have a license. General requirements to become a home inspector may include the following.
- Degree: A college degree may not be required to become a home inspector. A high school degree is usually sufficient.
- Course requirement: A home inspector’s job is to understand building and construction. Many states require home inspectors to take courses or to have a certain amount of industry experience before becoming licensed. General knowledge of construction and specific systems is necessary.
- Industry experience: It is not uncommon for plumbers, electricians, or other specialized contractors to work as home inspectors on the side since some of the knowledge and experience may overlap.
- Exam: Many states require home inspectors to pass an exam to obtain a license. Check the requirements in your state to determine if you will need to obtain a license.
- Associations: Many home inspectors are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors. This gives them credibility in their field and allows them access to educational resources.
- Insurance: If a home inspector does not have insurance from the company they work for, the inspector may need to purchase errors and omissions insurance and liability insurance to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit or other claim.
- License renewal: Depending on state law, home inspectors may need to renew their license or take continuing education courses every few years.
Beyond education, licenses and certifications, knowledge and experience with certain hard and soft skills may help you become a home inspector. These may include:
- General construction: The inspector should have a general knowledge of construction to determine the integrity of the structure and specific items.
- Specific system: The inspector should have knowledge about specific items, such as furnaces, water heaters, HVAC units and electrical wiring.
- National and local building code: Must understand the legal codes.
- Clear communication: When explaining how systems works or specific issues to their clients.
- Detail oriented: When inspecting the property and preparing the report.
- Conflict resolution: Homeowners may be frustrated with a home inspectors findings, so the inspector must use facts and industry knowledge to diffuse these situations.
Who Hires Home Inspectors?
Home inspectors are most often hired by the buyer of a home or other property. They want to determine what issues the house has before being purchased. Buyers often use home inspections as a way to negotiate a lower purchase price on the home or to have the seller fix certain issues before closing.
Sellers will sometimes hire a home inspector to determine any existing issues in their home. The seller often fixes these issues before putting their home on the market in the hopes of selling the home for more money.
Home inspectors are hired in both residential real estate and commercial real estate. Banks and other lenders recommend buyers get a home inspection before purchase, but most do not require it.
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in real estate and construction, a career as a home inspector may be right for you. Consider the education, certification, and license requirements, as well as the salary and job duties first before determining if it’s the right fit for your lifestyle.