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The Ultimate Guide to Professional Home Inspection!

Table of Contents

What is Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a visual examination of a structure that determines the condition of its major systems.

  • An independent, objective assessment is taken of all the major components of a property, and then an official report is issued. 
  • The focus on a home inspection is on the current state and performance of a home, rather than code compliance. However, in many cases, home inspection professionals can identify safety issues that may be code violations. 
  • Home Inspection is offered as a consulting service rather than an official government review of a structure.
  • Home Inspection is not intended to be a warranty or guarantee on a home. 
  • Professional home inspection is an objective assessment of the current state of a property.

What do home inspection services include?

Professional home inspection examines the current state of all major systems including:

  • Structural Integrity
  • Foundation
  • Plumbing Systems and fixtures
  • Electrical Systems
  • Roofing
  • Gutters & Drainage
  • Walls, floors, decks, windows and doors
  • Furnace and heating
  • Air conditioning, Water heaters, and built-in appliances
An image of a wooden house with several boxes and red checks next to them. Professional home inspection includes all of the major systems associated with residential homes

In addition to the condition of the major systems within a home, Professional home inspection may also include assessing mold and adherence to local ordinances. 

In some states, professional home inspection also provides analysis of Radon.

Radon is a radioactive gas, which can build up indoors and increase the risk of lung cancer in those who are exposed. 

Depending on the certifications of the home inspector, they may also offer lead paint abatement or containment services.

Learn more about the EPA lead safety certification. 

  • After assessing the property, a home inspector issues their client a written report, detailing their findings. 
  • This report is in no way a warranty or insurance policy. It is merely a third-party review of the current state of a structure.

What do Home Inspectors look for?

Image features a white man wearing a hard hat with construction vest. holding a clip board infront of a mobile home. Professional home inspectors check for major issues with residential homes

Most homebuyers hire a professional to assess the state of a property before closing.

Typically, a home inspector is looking for common issues associated with residential homes.

They are looking for problems that could present themselves and become costly in the future.

Generally, they are looking for: 

  • Potentially poisonous mold and mildew build up
  • Damp basements or water damage in walls or crawl spaces
  • Rotted or deteriorated roofing
  • Non-functioning Fireplaces
  • Deteriorated piping and leaks
  • Septic systems and drainage problems
  • Non-Functioning circuit breakers
  • Receptacles that are not correctly wired
  • Functioning household appliances that detect smoke and carbon monoxide
  • Foundational problems such as sinking, cracks, and upheaval

Pre-purchase Home Inspections

An open house sign stuck in the grass, indicating that a home is for sale. Professional home inspection is a typical within real estate transactions

Buyers and sellers are both encouraged to employ the services of a professional home inspector.

  • Homeowners sometimes believe that a pre-purchase home inspection is something they can do themselves, but it is always better to have a professional handle it. 
  • In some states, home inspectors are required to hold insurance if they are held liable for a mistake during the inspection process.
  • As a buyer, you are more inclined to take the word of a reputable and objective home inspector over the word of the seller who moonlights as a handyman.  
  • As a seller, you hold more bargaining chips if you have an official report from a reputable home inspection company.

Real Estate Agents and Investors

The findings from a professional home inspection are sometimes used as a bargaining tool by real estate agents to lower or raise the asking price of a home.

A real estate agent or investor may hold a home inspection certificate in an attempt to increase their credibility with clients and gain listings.

Insurance Underwriting

A report issued after an inspection, not a legal document, but it can be used by an insurance company to deny a claim.

Insurance underwriters will almost always demand to see home inspection reports.

The information gained from a home inspection can be used to investigate further flaws within a property.

Whether permits were pulled by past contractors or whether alterations to property were performed up to code can be uncovered by a knowledgeable home inspector.

What to ask a Home Inspection Professional

Buyers should primarily be concerned with the structural soundness of the home. Home inspection professionals should expect their clients to be with them on-site during the inspection.

Holding certifications and licenses can avoid the possibility of your clients requiring the services of another inspector if you uncover:

  • Lead Paint
  • Foundational Damage
  • Water Damage 
  • Mold  
  • Structural Defects

Invest in your knowledge and skillset by holding as many certifications as possible. While you are not officially there as a contractor or engineer, understand that your clients may see you as such.

If you do not have a contractor license, you shouldn’t be offering services that fall outside of the spectrum of home inspection. 

Running your business ethically and honestly will ensure your long-term success in this industry.

Have any certification, proof of insurance, or licensing readily available for your clients to see if they ask.

Home inspection Costs

According to homeadvisor.com the average cost of a home inspection is between $279-389 sometimes going as high as $500. This figure can fluctuate regionally and from company to company.

Some professional home inspection companies hold state licensing and certifications. 

Others may have insurance or offer additional services that may allow them to increase their asking price.

Becoming a professional home inspector is an entrepreneurial venture. Investing in yourself and your continuing education should give you the confidence to ask for more money.

What is the difference between a Contractor and Home Inspector?

Logo of the contractors state license board. image features an illustration of a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

A contractor in California is a tradesman who has 4 years of journeyman-level experience in a construction trade, has passed an exam, and holds a bond.

This person is legally allowed to bid and charge over $500 for their services. Contractors in California are governed by the Contractors State License Board.

Many companies that offer professional home inspections were started by retired general contractors. However, they are different jobs.

Can a Home Inspection Professional bid on a Remodel?

A home inspector cannot place a bid or engage in remodeling a property unless they hold a contractor license.

  • Most home inspection associations encourage contractors to separate offering remodel services from home inspection services. 
  • Your job a professional is to use your knowledge to make an objective visual assessment of a physical structure and inform your clients the best you can. 
  • Many homebuyers make their final decision based on the professional opinion of home inspectors. 
  • It is the home inspector’s responsibility to avoid a conflict of interest scenario and remain objective during this process.

What is the difference between a Building Code Inspector and Home Inspection?

Due to the similar wording, there is some confusion between these two professions.

  • A building code inspector is a certified professional who has extensive knowledge of building codes. 
  • When a construction company wants to build or remodel a structure, they must apply for building permits and then schedule an inspection to ensure that the project is being constructed to code.

Building inspectors are employed by local governments to conduct code inspections throughout various counties and municipalities.

An inspector can legally hold up a job site until necessary changes are made to a structure failing to meet code compliance. 

A professional home inspection is merely the practice of visually identifying the condition of a structure’s major systems and then producing a report on the findings.

For a more in-depth look at Building Code Inspection, check out this article.

Who governs Professional Home Inspection?

Until relatively recently, a home inspection was not regulated in the United States. In the early days, a home inspection was mainly conducted by a contractor or handyman.

As time went on and the nation saw an increase in residential construction with it grew a need for a professional home inspection. 

Some states require you to pass the National Home Inspection Exam and have a license. Others require you to complete a course and have proof of insurance. Associations such as:

  • ASHI, 
  • CREIA  
  • National Association of Realtors

exist to create uniformity and standard practice within the industry.

Some of these groups facilitate testing and certification courses, but they are not government-affiliated and are nonprofit organizations.

American Society of Home Inspectors

In 1976, ASHI was established by a group of home inspectors looking to develop professional practices within the industry.

  • Their goal was to raise consumer awareness about home inspection and create a set of standards and ethics for the industry going forward.

Not long after, ASHI began offering education courses and standardized testing for home inspectors. 

Logo of the american society of home inspectors

  • The organization developed what is known as the Standards of Practice and Ethics, which has gone on to influence state legislation for the construction industry across North America. 
  • ASHI is a member organization which includes mentorship, continuing education, and downloadable home inspection invoice forms and related material.

California Real Estate Inspection Association

Logo of the California Real Estate Inspection Association

CREIA is a home inspection nonprofit organization that has over 20 chapters throughout the state of California.

  • Established the same year as ASHI, the two organizations work closely with a common goal of creating uniformity to the home inspection industry.
  • CREIA works to educate the public and promote public awareness around maintaining a residential property.

What is taught in a Home Inspection Course?

Two books laying on a desk with a book shelf in the background. Professional home inspection courses typically include a combination of core skills, business and live inspections

As I am sure you are aware by now, a simple google search will uncover hundreds of results for where to study and become a home inspector.

  • Ideally, you would want to have some knowledge of construction before enrolling into a professional home inspection course, but this depends on the individual.
  • Home inspection does not require knowledge of building codes, but you will want to understand the basics of the major systems found within a residential home.

 Typically, a home inspection course will be a blend of technical and business concepts including:

  • Understanding the role of real estate professionals
  • Ethics, liability and Negligence
  • How to determine property value
  • How termites, vermin and other insects affect structures
  • Identifying defects in electrical and plumbing systems
  • Advanced valuation concepts
  • Interior and exterior finishes, chimneys, flues, roofing, and foundations
  • Assessing Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems
  • Preparing inspection reports
  • Landscaping
  •  Business and marketing strategies
  •  Creating step by step processes when conducting inspections

Blueprint Reading

featured image for a blog post about how to read construction blueprints for home inspection professionals

Depending on the state you are in, it is possible that additional certifications and skill sets such as Blueprint Reading are required for certification.

Be sure to research the specific requirements in your state before you purchase a home inspection course.

There are a variety of additional concepts and skills that you may find within a home inspection course. Many courses will include onsite walkthroughs and even one on one training.

If you do not have a background in construction, a live instruction component would be highly beneficial. 

How to start a Home Inspection Business in California

If you are looking to get into the home inspection industry in California, your first step should be to find a CREIA or ASHI recognized course.

There is currently no exam requirement in the state of California for home inspection.

California law prohibits the unethical actions of home inspection professionals and encourages courts to consider ASHI’s and CREIA’s standards of code and ethics.

Below is a simple step by step guide to get you started:

  • 1Complete a CREIA or ASHI recognized course
  • 2Invest in Home Inspection Marketing material and documentation
  • 3Get a basic liability insurance policy
  • 4Network and develop relationships and contacts within the community
  • 5Invest in your continuing education and additional certifications

The home inspection industry is a thriving industry that is seeing growth year after year.

For knowledgeable people that put the interests of their clients first and commit to being of service, professional home inspection can be highly lucrative. 

If you have thought about getting a contractor license in the past but don’t have the required experience, this niche area of construction might be for you.

As with anything, take the time to do your research and invest in your education. If you have found this article helpful be sure to leave us a comment!

OSHA Certification

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Occupational Safety Hazard Association

Statistically, 21% of all work-related fatalities are in construction.

That equals about 1 and 5 worker deaths on average. In the construction industry, the leading cause of worker deaths is reported as falls, struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between.

The construction industry can be dangerous, especially if your workers are not properly trained.

Home inspection professionals should know the basics of safety. It is helpful to complete some level of OSHA training.

Learn more about OSHA Training!

Understanding Building Permits

A building permit is an official document issued by a government agency approving the construction or alteration of a piece of property.

How a structure is built or remodeled not only effects the safety of the structure itself but also the area that surrounds it.

Before a homeowner or contractor can begin a construction project, they must pull all necessary construction permits.

The term building permit and construction permit are often interchangeable, and virtually identical in meaning.

the ultimate guide to pulling building permits

Building permits create uniformity and help to maintain building standards that ultimately service public safety.

Construction permits to protect property owners and contractors in different ways. 

For a construction business, being forced to halt construction or rebuild a particular part of a structure that was not permitted can create additional expenses and cripple a business in some cases.