How to Become a Home Inspector

home inspector filling out an inspection report in a garage

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How to Become a Home Inspector at a Glance

  1. Have a minimum education of a high-school diploma or GED.
  2. Complete your state training and licensing requirements.
  3. Get experience by interning at a home inspection firm or assisting an established independent home inspector.
  4. Take your state licensing exam and get your home inspector license (requirements vary by state).
  5. Start work as an employee of a home inspection company, branch out on your own as an independent home inspector, start your own company, or buy a franchise.

If you want to know what it takes to become a home inspector, you’ve come to the right place. This article outlines everything you need to know about becoming a home inspector and how to successfully launch your home inspection career and business.

What does a home inspector do?

First, let’s look at what a home inspector does and what exactly a home inspection is (and isn’t). Home inspectors review and inspect key components and systems on the inside and outside of a house, such as the basement, attic, siding, or furnace. They look for anything that may be hazardous, broken, defective, not up to code, or in poor condition due to age or wear and tear.

A home inspector is usually not concerned with minor or cosmetic issues when they inspect the condition of the home to generate an inspection report. It’s also important to note that home inspectors do not assess the value of a property -- it’s the job of a home appraiser to estimate the value of a property for the mortgage lenders in order to ensure the property is marketable and priced accurately. Instead, home inspectors concentrate on looking at the condition of bigger parts of a home, such as:

  • The foundation
  • Structural components
  • Visible roof condition
  • Attic and readily visible insulation
  • Basement
  • Siding
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Heating, cooling, and HVAC systems
  • Major appliances
Home inspector examining a home’s foundation while filling out a home inspection report outside a house.

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The following are usually not included in a standard home inspection, and each requires a separate specialized inspection:

  • Pest, termite, and dry-rot
  • Detailed roof inspections
  • Sewer or septic systems
  • Chimneys
  • Mold, radon, and asbestos
  • Well inspections and bacteria count

A home inspection usually takes a few hours, and the buyer and/or seller can be present throughout the inspection. A few days later, the inspector will provide a written home inspection report to the party that requested the inspection. Inspection reports can vary by state requirements and any software the home inspector may use to generate the report. Furthermore, the cost of a home inspection can vary by area, size of the house, and other variables. However, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average cost of a home inspection can range from $300 to $500.

The most common type of home inspection is a buyer’s inspection. This happens after the buyer has made an offer on the property, and before closing the sale. The buyer is responsible for paying for this inspection. In addition to ensuring a buyer is purchasing a sound home without any major issues, a buyer’s home inspection provides an opportunity to renegotiate an offer or ask for repairs to be made if issues or defects come up from the inspection. A home inspection contingency is a clause added to a real estate contract during an offer to buy a home. When an offer to buy is contingent on the results of the home inspection, it means a homebuyer can cancel and walk away from the sale or try to renegotiate the home’s sale price based on the results of the inspection.

The second type of inspection is a seller’s home inspection (also known as a pre-inspection). This takes place before the property is listed for sale. The seller pays for this inspection in order to identify and fix issues as they’re getting the house ready to sell. The benefit of having an inspection before putting a home up for sale is that it can reassure potential buyers and encourage people to make an offer on the home without a lot of contingencies, which can save time during the closing process.

How do I become a home inspector?

Female home inspector filling out a home inspection report.

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A good home inspector must be very familiar with all of the major systems and components that need to run properly within a home and know what problems to look out for. Home inspectors interact with homeowners, potential buyers, and their real estate agents, so they’ll need good customer service skills, too. Ready to get started? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a home inspector and build a successful home inspection business.

1. Know the home inspector licensing requirements in your state

In some states, home inspection licenses are regulated by local municipalities and state governing bodies and vary by each state. Licensing requirements can include:

  • Obtaining a state-issued home inspection license
  • Completing a certain number of hours of home inspection education, in addition to a having a minimum high school diploma or GED
  • Completing a certain number of field hours of practice
  • Completing a certain number of inspections carried out alongside a licensed home inspector
  • Completing a criminal background check

In other states, there is no regulation around becoming a home inspector. However, even those states offer some recommendations to ensure inspectors are prepared properly. If you’re looking for more detailed information about what’s required to become a home inspector in your state, take a look at our comprehensive list of home inspection licensing requirements for every state.

Woman typing on a keyboard at an online learning website.

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2. Enroll in pre-licensing home inspector training

Even if your state doesn’t require coursework or formal licensing, you may want to enroll in a home inspector training course to add to your skill set and increase your confidence. You can also highlight your formal training when it comes time to market your home inspection business.

There are both online and in-person home inspection courses, and some states (but not all) accept either option. There are many different courses available, each suited for different purposes. Some learners do better in face-to-face situations, others do well online, or in a self-directed course. Some are budget conscious, some are looking for the very best training to support a lifetime home inspection career. Some want the course to provide resources for operating as an independent home inspector. The courses vary by price, course availability and format, by how well known they are nationwide, customer service, and ease of use. You may want to find out how much field experience the instructors bring to the coursework, whether the educational agency holds national endorsements, and how robust the company’s customer services seem to be. The Fit Small Business website offers a breakdown of the best courses for each purpose. Just be sure to look into which courses are accepted by your state’s requirements before you get started, along with choosing a learning format that will best suit your needs.

3. Get your home inspector license or certificate

You’ll need to have the right skills and technical knowledge to undertake a successful career in the home inspection industry. This is a field that requires a fair amount of specialized training, education, and experience in order to earn a living doing home inspections. Make sure you set yourself up for success by taking the time and making the effort to ensure you’re properly educated and trained to do the job well.

There’s no national standard for home inspection certification. If your state requires a home inspector license or certificate, you’ll want to schedule your exam soon after you complete your coursework. This will reinforce what you’ve learned and it will still be fresh in your mind. Be sure to study before your home inspector license exam, because they can be tough! Luckily, there are many useful practice tests and exam preparation materials available online.

Failing to get necessary licensing or permits could result in your business being shut down and potential legal consequences. After you get your license or complete your home inspection coursework based on your state’s requirements, you may choose to get a job with an existing home inspection company to gain industry experience before branching out on your own. If you’re ready to set up a home inspection business of your own, read on for what you need to do next.

Person filling out a building inspection report on a tablet using digital building inspection software.

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4. Invest in the right tools for a career in home inspection

You’ll want a pair of shoes and gloves dedicated to use when inspecting places like attics or crawl spaces in order to avoid tracking dirt into a house. You’ll also need a tool vest or belt to keep all of your necessary home inspection tools easily at hand. When it comes to buying specific tools, it’s best, if possible, to invest in well-made tools that can go the distance. Having the right tools can help you avoid costly mistakes. Here are most of the tools you’ll need for a typical home inspection:

  • A high-powered flashlight, preferably with a rechargeable battery. This will help you spot water stains and patches on walls or ceilings that may indicate water leakage.
  • A moisture meter to let you know if a water stain is caused by an active leak, and will help you know whether to look for mold. The moisture meter will indicate the percentage of water in the material.
  • An awl, which is pointed at one end for probing into rotted or deteriorated wood.
  • An outlet tester with a GFCI test to look for ungrounded outlets in older homes. The GFCI button allows you to test bathroom outlets as well as indoor/outdoor outlets.
  • An adjustable small ladder that will be easy to transport, while allowing you to access attics.
  • A high-quality digital camera that will allow you to record findings.
  • Office equipment such as a printer, copier, and scanner
  • The right home inspection and CRM software for your needs. Home inspection software allows inspectors to track home inspections in real-time and more easily generate home inspection reports. You’ll also likely want to invest in customer relations software (CRM) to keep all your customer data in one place, which streamlines marketing and record-keeping. There are many types of each on the market, and the software varies as to ease-of-use, the types of reports you can generate, cost, and level of customer support.

5. Establish your business

  • Decide what type of business entity you want to use. The most common business structure types are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC) and corporation. Each business type has pros and cons, but LLCs provide the benefit of being relatively easy to set up and run while protecting your personal assets. If you’re not sure what type of business is right for you, contact your local small business administration for further assistance.
  • Register for federal and state taxes. This entails registering for an EIN through the IRS, which is free of charge. State taxes will vary so be sure to look up your local requirements. Different types of companies (LLC for example versus a partnership) will present different tax scenarios.
  • Open a business bank account and credit card in order to keep your personal and business assets separate.
  • At the same time, you’ll also want to set up a business accounting system (like QuickBooks) to track your expenditures and profits.
  • Get business insurance before you start working. Look into general liability insurance as well as workman’s compensation, as clients can sue for errors or omissions in your findings. Liability and E&O (errors and omission) insurance protects your business from this scenario. In fact, some states actually require home inspector insurance. Whether your state requires it or not, it’s smart to purchase the right insurance coverage before you may need it.

6. Market your home inspection business

You’ll want your business identity and brand to be memorable and effectively express who you are and what makes you stand out. Developing a website is a must, especially as some home inspections can now be done virtually. An effective website and social media presence makes it easier to network with others in the home inspection and real estate industries. While many small businesses may not have logos and taglines, it makes sense to develop a brand logo and tagline that are simple, easy to remember, and easy to read—this helps keep your brand top of mind for consumers and allows you to market your brand beyond your website. If you have the resources, it’s a good idea to hire a design firm to develop your logo and website. Over time, in addition to your online presence and networking skills, home owners will spread the word about your expertise and your level of customer service.

For sale sign with a sold sign over it in front yard of house for sale.

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7. Attract home inspection customers

Attract home inspection customers by networking with local real estate agents, joining online home inspection and real estate social media groups, and signing up for lead generation platforms to get connected with the kind of clients you desire. The fee schedule for these platforms varies by company so it’s a good idea to do your research before you choose the right lead generation resource. You can also find opportunities to give talks in your community, get listed in anl online directory, send out mailers, and offer specials and discounts when marketing to potential customers.

8. Keep the momentum going by earning repeat business

Grow your business by providing thorough and accurate home inspections, going the extra mile for your clients and wowing your real estate agent partners. Always meet your deadlines, arrive a little early for appointments, and keep communication open to provide the best possible customer service. Wear disposable booties and bring clean drop cloths to protect floors. When you leave, offer customers a copy of your business card to encourage referrals. You’ll want to earn topnotch online reviews from home buyers and real estate agents on sites like Yelp and keep your skills up-to-date with continuing education. There’s always something new to learn in the home inspection business!

9. Expand your service offerings

If possible, get the training to include add-on services, such as home mold and radon inspections. You may also look into getting training in sewer scoping and performing home energy audits, as they’re both popular specialty inspections with home buyers. Consider offering remote and virtual home inspections as a service option, which is a growing post-pandemic trend that won’t be going away. As you add to your suite of home inspection services, consider marketing them on Porch to get quality leads for potential clients.

10. Grow your business and stay nimble

Once your business is firmly established and running smoothly, it’s time to consider hiring new home inspectors to join your team. Having a larger and more robust team will allow you to maximize your business potential by attracting more new clients. Embrace technology so you can work as efficiently as possible with mobile apps, provide online scheduling and virtual walkthroughs, interactive reports, and other digital services. As the home inspection industry shifts, you should be in a position to pivot with it.

The $4 billion residential home inspection industry is growing quickly and presents lucrative opportunities for knowledgable home inspectors across the country. Becoming a home inspector means you can get out from behind a desk and truly make a positive difference in the home buying and selling process for buyers and owners. So what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to start your new career as a successful home inspector.