What Does It Take to be a Home Inspector?
If you’ve ever gone to school to study and then gone out in the real world, you know scholastic preparation and real life are two unique experiences. It couldn’t be more true for home inspection.
Home inspectors need to know how to evaluate systems in a home for safety and structural soundness. Your inspector observes the Standards of Practice of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors):
- Structural System
- Roof System
- Plumbing System
- Electrical System
- Heating System
- Air Conditioning System
- Insulation and Ventilation
- Fireplace and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances
What is important for you and the information you receive in the inspection report, is your inspector needs to know enough to see problems in any of these areas. Experience in the field creates a history of different types of system failures and needs for remediation and repair.
Knowledge and experience are the foundation of a professional home inspector.
California Requirements for Home Inspectors
Home inspectors in California are not licensed. That poses a question for consumers who are buying or selling a home. How do you know your home inspector has what it takes to do a thorough, professional inspection?
There are some legal safeguards for consumers. Although there are no licensing requirements, California laws require legal safeguards.
Senate Bill 258 has been in effect since 1997. In it, is a business and professions code (Sections 7195 ff.) pertaining to home inspectors. It defines home inspections and home inspectors and imposes certain duties and restraints.
- Home inspection – a noninvasive, physical examination, performed for a fee in connection with a transfer … of real property, of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling of one to four units designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures and components.
- Material defect – a condition that significantly affects the value, desirability, habitability, or safety of the dwelling. Style or aesthetics shall not be considered in determining whether a system, structure, or component is defective.
- Prohibition of repairs – prohibits repairing properties on which an inspection was performed in the last 12 months,
- Prohibition on accepting kickbacks
- Prohibition on paying referral fees to real estate agents
The law encourages courts to consider the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of ASHI and the California Real Estate Inspection Association when determining whether an inspection meets the required standard of care. Consumers are protected with the definition of the scope of the inspection and with ethical codes of conduct for all home inspectors.
National Standard Test
In addition, to general knowledge and field experience, home inspectors in California can take a state-specific examination through the National Home Inspector Examination. The exam is very detailed. Home inspectors need field experience over and above study materials to successfully pass the exam.
The National Home Inspector Exam (NHIE) ensures that home inspection professionals meet basic knowledge and practice requirements for the purposes of regulation. Successful completion of the examination fulfills the needs of the public, the government and of home inspectors. Home inspectors who are members of ASHI, take this exam.
Choosing Your California Home Inspector
Since California lacks licensing requirements, choosing a home inspector can seem murky. But, there are steps you can take to find an experienced, knowledgeable, and ethical home inspector.
Take steps to identify the right inspection business to fit with you and your clients.
- Professional Organization – The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is committed to progressing the home inspection profession and providing resources to promote healthy home ownership practices. Use their Find an Inspector page to locate home inspectors in your area.
- Word of mouth – Ask friends and colleagues who they prefer for inspections. Listen to their stories–the good and the bad. As you listen, note which inspection services feel they would fit with you.
- Review sites – Reviews posted by customers on sites like Yelp and Inspect.com. Be aware that some services pay to have their positive reviews listed first or pay to be listed at all. But, get an overall sense of the service from all the reviews.
- Check the home inspector’s business on Google Maps and Google My Business (business.google.com). Reviews are posted there as well. Check to see that the business is verified.
- Check for licenses or professional organizations and time in business – Inspectors verify professionalism with licenses like, often in contracting or engineering, and membership in professional organizations.
- Select 3-5 home inspection services and then call. How they work with you on the phone will be a good indication of your communication throughout the process.
- Ask for a sample Inspection Report. Look for negative findings. A reliable inspector will offer suggested solutions.
- Ask how long a typical inspection takes – a thorough home inspection will usually last a minimum of 1 ½ hours and often take three or four hours.
A professional home inspector always takes the high road—even when no one is looking. They qualify themselves to ensure they deliver quality to their clients. They believe that is a requirement and obligation of being in business. It’s much more than a gold star on their homework, like passing an exam.
The bottom line is choosing a home inspector that meets your standards and communicates well with you.