How to Become a Real Estate Inspector

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Home inspectors play an important role in the home-buying process. Discover how to work as a real estate inspector.


What Is a Home Inspector?

A home inspector is a real estate professional who inspects a property and writes a detailed report on its condition for the buyer. An inspector looks for large and minor issues, such as structural damage, electrical systems, HVAC, plumbing, and roofing, that a homebuyer may not notice during a walk-through. Although a home inspection is optional, most mortgage lenders require that one be performed. Potential homeowners may request that the seller pay for repairs, request a price reduction to reflect repair costs, or even back out of the deal entirely based on a home inspection report.

Before passing their licensing exam and becoming qualified home inspectors, professional home inspectors must complete relevant education courses and certification programs from an education provider.


Home Inspector vs. Home Appraiser

A home inspector is not the same as a home appraiser. An appraiser determines the fair market value of a home by assessing its condition and comparing it to similar properties. A home inspector's job is to assess the property, look for any problems, and notify the potential buyer of any defects.


What Does a Home Inspector Look For?

A home inspector will look for the following items during an inspection:

Asbestos: Home inspectors look for the presence of asbestos in any crawl spaces or on the roof, as asbestos must be removed.

Compromised structures: A home inspector looks for any structural issues or water damage in the building's foundations, supports, roofs, flooring, and walls that could lead to major problems later on.

Electrical: Home inspectors look for faulty wiring in electrical outlets and electrical panels.

Fire safety: An inspector determines whether a building meets fire safety codes by looking for things like multiple fire exits and smoke detectors.

Heating and cooling systems: Home inspectors ensure that all heating and cooling systems work properly, do not emit radon, and are up to code.

Infestations: A home inspector inspects the property for infestations of wood-destroying organisms such as termites.

Plumbing: To ensure that all plumbing is in good working order, home inspectors inspect pipes, faucets, water heaters, septic tanks, sewer lines, and gutters.


How to Become a Home Inspector

Qualifications and licenses are required to work as a home inspector. If you want to work as a licensed home inspector, you should do the following:

1. Start with home inspection training. You may require additional education before applying for licensure. Home inspection necessitates a basic understanding of engineering as well as experience running a customer service business. To increase your chances of becoming a successful and trustworthy home inspector, take prelicensing courses in both. If you already have engineering experience, consider taking continuing education training courses to broaden your knowledge of specifics like residential versus commercial inspection. You could also get hands-on training from a certified home inspector. (Because some states do not recognize online courses as valid, they do not count toward your home inspector training hours. Seek out in-person home inspection courses instead.)

2. Know the requirements in your state. Professional home inspectors must be licensed in their respective states. Every state requires a certain number of hours of education; some require only sixty hours, while others can require up to 400 hours. States also differ on whether certification is obtained through a national or local exam. Check your state's requirements before looking at any online courses to avoid wasting time with incorrect information.

3. Get certified. Once you've completed your education, you'll be able to take the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE) and become licensed and certified. The exam will assess your knowledge of practice standards, property inspection, professional responsibilities, and the code of ethics. It should be noted that not all states require the national home inspector exam in order to obtain a home inspector license and will instead have their own state exam.

4. Invest in insurance. To maintain your certification, you must protect yourself from errors and unforeseen circumstances. General liability insurance and Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance can protect you if you make mistakes that lead to lawsuits.

5. Start a business or join one. When you become a certified home inspector, you have the option of starting your own business and going it alone, or joining an established home-inspection company. Both have distinct advantages. When you join an established firm, you will immediately benefit from their client base and relationships with realtors. Starting your own business allows you to establish your own relationships with realtors and real estate agents, as well as set your own hours.

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