How to become a part-time home inspector
Q: 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?
A: Home inspection can be a profitable and rewarding career when done with total commitment. However, there are no shortcut ways of becoming qualified in this complex profession. The "least costly way" and the "part-time" way involve shortcuts and risks that can have costly consequences. The best approach is to learn all you can about property inspection before jumping in.
As a part-time job, home inspection can pose serious problems for the inspector, as well as for inspection customers. For part-time inspectors there are high levels of legal and financial liability. For homebuyers there are risks of undisclosed property defects.
Part-timers, usually those with construction experience, often see home inspection as an application of what they already know. Home inspecting, however, is a unique discipline, unlike any other. It is a learn-as-you-go business, and no related professions fully prepare one for competent duty as a property 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 ominously as potential claims and lawsuits against inspectors, sellers, agents and brokers.
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.
To broaden the educational process, new inspectors should become members of an established association, such as ASHI (the American Society 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, offered at many community colleges.
Keep in mind that homebuyers hire home inspectors as consultants prior to making a major financial investment. They want their purchase decision to be an informed one. When the findings of their home inspector 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.
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