A homeowner can’t just pull anyone off the street to inspect their home. They need a licensed home inspector — someone who has been trained and approved by the state to ensure the safety and functionality of a home.
To become a licensed home inspector, you need to build the skills to get certified and start working with clients.
Here’s how to become a home inspector:
- Learn what it takes. Different states call for different requirements. For instance, in Illinois, prospective home inspectors are expected to take 60 hours of prelicensing courses, complete five inspection field events led by a licensed education provider, and pass an exam. Once you know the requirements needed to complete licensing, you’ll need to make sure you have enough time to dedicate to these courses.
- Hit the books. Before diving into coursework, you’ll probably want to review the basics of construction. If you’re coming into this profession after working in construction (which many people do), you already have a head start. Be sure to review the many different types of homes. Different styles of homes have different strengths and weaknesses that home inspectors should be aware of. How is a particular home built? How does its heating and electricity system work? The American Home Inspectors Training Institute is a great option for increasing your knowledge.
- Complete your coursework. Your courses will either be online or in a physical classroom. These classes will cover just about everything — such as structural elements, home exteriors, home interiors, roofing, electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, pool maintenance, and more. Show up to class on time, take notes, participate in class discussions, and turn in any out-of-class assignments on time.
- Take the exam. OK, you can’t just take the exam. You also have to pass the exam. But with the wealth of knowledge you’ve gained from hitting the books and completing your coursework, you’ll have no problem acing the exam. You can register for the exam on your state’s real estate licensing website. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before your exam and on test day have a hearty breakfast and stay hydrated. Notification of your test results varies by state, with results sent immediately in some states.
- Develop your people skills. Home inspection requires you to work face to face with clients. In this sense, it’s as much a customer service role as it is a construction/engineering role. You can draw on past experience in order to develop this skill — or you can even look into classes and books that will help you become a better customer service representative. You can also develop your skills by attending a networking event — which, as an added bonus, will connect you with crucial professional contacts from the real estate industry.
- Join ASHI. The American Society of Home Inspectors is a great resource for beginning home inspectors. They’ll offer you further educational opportunities, networking opportunities, and additional certifications. You aren’t required to join, but why wouldn’t you?
- Find a firm (or start your own). Once you’re licensed and have some contacts, it’s time to get started as a home inspector. You can join an established home inspecting firm, which will give you less autonomy but more of a headstart in terms of connecting with clients. Or you can start your own home inspection business, which gives you the exciting chance to build a client roster yourself and on your terms. Before starting your own business, be aware of the risks and expenses that go into a home inspection business. You can also buy your own home inspection franchise. In some ways, this is the best of both worlds — because you’re working with a brand that is already “up and running,” but you get to put your own spin on it.
- Stay on the cutting edge. You want to stay relevant as a home inspector so that you can continue to get consistent business. You never want the business to “pass you by.” So you’ll want to stay up on the industry. The ways homes are built is always changing. And certain technological features — like cooling systems — are getting more sophisticated all the time. Find resources, such as websites and periodicals, that can keep you up to date on everything happening in the industry. This will help you to always be the best modern home inspector you can be.
Now that you know how to become a home inspector, you can begin working with home buyers and helping them ensure their home is safe. It’s a big responsibility — and an exciting opportunity to help countless clients.