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Home Inspecting 101: What’s it All About?

Home inspecting

So you’re thinking about becoming certified home inspector? That’s great! It also means there’s a lot to learn. Even for contractors with years of experience building and renovating houses, home inspecting is different.

Here’s a quick primer on what home inspecting is and what it isn’t.

Home Inspections and Appraisals are Different

Plenty of homeowners confuse appraisers with home inspectors, or at least think the jobs are similar. In some ways, they are. For example, Angie’s List says home inspectors and appraisers both investigate systems inside and outside the home, such as the roof and HVAC. But these two industries have different goals. Here are a few of the differences.

Home inspectors

  • Work for the home buyer in most cases
  • Investigate and test home systems to determine whether defects exist
  • Photograph the home and defects
  • Prepare a report for the buyer
  • Don’t assign a market value to the home or costs for repairs

Real Estate Appraisers

  • Work for the lender
  • Perform a “walk-through” instead of a hands-on inspection
  • Photograph the home and prepare a report for the lender
  • Determine general market value of the property

Inspectors give the buyer information that helps them make an informed decision about the property’s condition. Appraisers give the lender information that helps them understand how much to lend on the property.

An Inspection Doesn’t Cover Everything in and Around a Home

Home inspections are comprehensive, but they have their limits. One of the first things you’ll learn about the job is that inspectors inspect what’s visible and accessible. If the basement is flooded or there’s a sofa blocking an outlet, the inspector isn’t required to swim or call in a mover.

Aside from accessibility issues, a home inspection also excludes certain systems as a general rule. For example, mold and radon inspections are often considered ancillary services. Termites are usually performed by a pest infestation expert. Home inspectors may perform ancillary services, but they’re not usually woven into the general home inspection.

Home inspecting

Just because you know the average lifespan of a water heater doesn’t mean you should advise your customers. 

Home Inspectors Aren’t Tasked with Predicting the Future

Home inspectors can see material defects, examine them, photograph them and write a report about them. They probably have a good idea about the lifespan of a home system, such as the roof or water heater, or how much it would cost to repair or replace something that’s damaged or past its life expectancy. However, judgment calls are typically outside the scope of a professional home inspection.

Home inspectors don’t often tread into the territory of a predictor or an advisor. Their work only provides information about the condition of the house at the time of the inspection. Customers might ask for opinions or advice, but that’s better left to specialists, such as HVAC installers or roofing contractors. If an inspector tells a customer that the air conditioner should last another five years or that the roof will cost $10,000 to replace, they might be on the hook for bad advice if the customer learns otherwise later.

Several States Have No Home Inspector Licensing Requirements

If you’re doing a little homework about the industry, you might find newspaper articles about fraudulent home inspectors who work without a license. You’ll probably also find lots of blogs and articles written by well-meaning home buyers and even real estate agents advising new home buyers to hire a licensed inspector. But several states don’t offer licensing as an option.

If your state licenses home inspectors, you’ll have certain pre-licensing requirements, such as how much education you need and where to get it. You’ll probably take either the national home inspection exam or one at the state level. If your state doesn’t license or otherwise regulate inspectors, you can choose whether or not to educate yourself about the job.

Home inspecting

Online learning works around your schedule.

Some States Require Brick-and-Mortar Classroom Education

Online education is becoming more and more common for many industries including home inspecting. Some states require home inspectors to learn in a traditional classroom setting, but many states don’t. Take this link and click on your state to find more details about which education path (if any) you need.

While some people think it’s difficult to learn a hands-on job through online courses, that’s not always the case. You can learn about home inspecting online. ICA School has instructor-led video lessons that let you witness elements of an inspection in action. After you’re certified through an online course, which means you’ve passed the program, you have the opportunity to get real-world experience through ride-alongs and supervised inspections.

Training Doesn’t Always Prepare Inspectors for the Business Side of the Industry

Did you know that 96 percent of new businesses fail within the first 10 years of operation? That’s what Inc. magazine says. Other sources might be more or less optimistic, but the consensus is the same: money, or lack thereof, is the reason most businesses fail. Business savvy and marketing chops help you manage the financial side of your business and get customers more effectively.

Most home inspector education programs teach students the ins and outs of performing the job. Unfortunately, business education is lacking with some of them. You need a good grasp of tax issues, business record keeping, marketing to bring in more business and many other business-related skills to keep a new home inspection company afloat.

Continuing Education is Usually Part of Association Membership

Home inspectors can join several industry associations at the national and state level. If you decide to become a member, expect continuing education requirements to come as a condition of membership. That’s true, whether or not your state licenses inspectors or requires any formal education prior to becoming an inspector.

The American Society of Home Inspectors or ASHI has been around since the industry’s fledgling years. CREIA, which is a state-level association in California, has, as well. These and most other associations require inspectors to earn CE credits regularly, but they also provide opportunities to earn them through meetings, seminars, and other avenues. You can also earn credits through continuing ed providers, such as Quality Education Group.

Home inspecting is still a growing industry. In some markets, inspectors are so busy that they can barely keep up. In others, inspectors work the job as a sideline while they slowly build their business over time. However you decide to approach it, an inspector’s work matters. It supplies information to home buyers, which lets them make an informed decision about the property they’re about to finance.

If that sounds like the job for you, ICA School can prepare you for it. What’s more, you can work at your own pace from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. Enroll now and get started today.

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