There are plenty of sites out there that give you the rundown on the basic requirements - but here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to becoming a home inspector. If you’re in Massachusetts, also check out this additional article on how to become a home inspector in Massachusetts.
This is a rewarding job and fulfilling career path - enjoyable and enriching. Getting into the profession, though, that’s another story - it is challenging- and in some markets, it seems impenetrable. The process involves many steps, and as you get more and more into it, you get more entrenched. If you find out midway that you’re just not interested, it is harder to justify tossing out all the effort you’ve put into it, so you’ll want to find out first if you’ll really like doing it.
Step 1: Go on a home inspection with the best inspector in your area. This is the only way to get an idea of what the day-to-day is like. Google home inspectors near you, read their reviews, and check out their websites. Read a sample report if they have one on their website. Call them and chat them up, and ask them politely if they would allow you to shadow an inspection.
Pro tip: Dress well - clean Carhartt-style pants, tucked-in button shirt, and clean shoes. Look the part before you show up. Show up 10 minutes before they tell you to, and keep your mouth shut the entire time (except to thank the inspector). Do not engage the client, do not offer your opinion, and only speak if asked a question (and defer to the inspector) - You’re there to observe, not prove your knowledge. After the inspection, make sure you’ve made time to stick around for whatever time the inspector has to chat and discuss your thoughts about the inspection.
Step 2: Find out the rules and regulations for licensing in your area. Some states are still not licensed - but most are. In Massachusetts, for example, there is licensure, and it is in two stages, Associate Home Inspector and Home Inspector. Research state regulations and state general law. Find out what the prerequisites are for applying for licensure.
Pro tip: Get your hands on a hard copy of your state’s regulations for Home Inspection. Also check out the state legislature to find out if any new bills are being introduced or proposed changes to regulations that are upcoming.
Step 3: Evaluate the market. Are there a lot of home inspectors in your state? How about in your county? Are there big companies around you? What about home sales? What’s the trend in your area? How many homes sold last year? What direction is the market taking right now? Get an idea of your competition and what you’re up against to get a foothold in the local market.
Pro tip: Find a trusted Real Estate agent in your area that’s very active, and take them out for coffee. Find out what their perception is of the home inspection industry in the area.
Step 4: Take a course. Several providers offer a pre-licensure home inspection course. Generally, it is about 70-80 hours and covers all aspects of home inspection. Some even include mock inspections. There are local and national providers. Make sure the course is approved by your state board of home inspectors, if necessary - you don’t want to spend time and money on a course that doesn’t meet the licensing requirements!
Pro tip: Find the best local provider. Why local? Because they will know all the information about not only your state but your region as well. I know of trainees who took a class in Massachusetts taught by a national education provider, and the instructor was a Florida Home Inspector. This guy kept saying, “I don’t know what it is like here, but in Florida…” That is NOT what you want. You need to know building customs, traditions, practices, and most of all, the how-to-get-licensed aspects of your area. Licensed states usually require courses, and that they are approved by the board, as a requirement of licensure.
Step 5: Prepare for and take the NHIE exam. Licensed states usually require this test. It is hard, and many people fail on their first attempt. Check out the NHIE’s site for their study prep guides and materials.
Pro tip: Most Home inspectors and home inspection companies that hire inspectors or train inspectors expect you to have completed this (and PASSED it) before they invest time and energy into training you. So get it done ASAP.
Step 6: Find a local home inspection association chapter and show up. ASHI, The American Society of Home Inspectors, has local chapters which hold meetings. Go to the meetings and check them out. Meet people. The meetings are typically educational meetings, which allow inspectors to get their Continuing Education credits to maintain licensure. During COVID some chapters went Zoom if their states allowed it. Other national home inspector associations that have resources available for inspectors, like NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors)- but as far as I know, they don’t hold local chapter meetings.
Pro tip: ASHI is an organization primarily focused on improving Inspectors and their education and experience. NACHI is more focused on helping inspectors develop their businesses. Both provide resources, and both have their limitations. But a local chapter of any home inspector’s association will allow you to meet inspectors and learn about the industry. Sometimes you can find an inspector or a company that’s hiring this way.
Step 7: Start calling. Once you have all these steps done, you can start calling inspectors to find someone to train you. You’ll need to attend many inspections to learn how to do them, so you need someone willing to take you out on many inspections. You might do this by getting hired as a trainee, or you might have to pay an inspector to take you out. Some inspectors enjoy doing this with trainees, and others believe they will be training their competition, so they’re reluctant.
Pro tip: Call every inspector you can, and be patient. If they train inspectors, find out what their arrangement is. Find out if they hire inspectors or if they train for pay. Be prepared to bring something to the table. We get calls from trainees who want us to “help them out” and “get them licensed” but offer nothing and have no initiative or interest in our company. It is not expected that someone else will mentor or train you, so you have to be a go-getter here and find someone you connect with because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them (hopefully!).
Pro tip: Home Inspection is not a hobby; it is a professional career. Treat it as such. Get your resume together before calling or emailing anyone. Double-check the spelling and grammar of all your communications. Home inspection is also a communications career - speaking, writing reports- so in all of your communications make sure to demonstrate that you’re a competent writer and that you have close attention to detail. (for example: Don’t say in an email that you have a “good eye” and then have typos in the email.)
Step 8: Go on as many inspections as you possibly can, with as many inspectors as you possibly can. Go for free, pay them, offer them lunch, or whatever it takes to get out there and see things. Attending inspections allows you to see the varying types of homes, building materials, systems, and what the typical problems are for these types of homes. You’ll learn all the facets of the process. You’ll see up close what the clients are typically like, and how to interact with them. The more inspections you go on, the more you’ll see how an inspector deals with various issues (like demanding clients, difficult agents, unusual situations, issues where they aren’t sure what they are looking at, and much more. You’ll need to “observe” many inspections before being ready to inspect independently. So you’ll need a supervisor, and as time goes on, you’ll start taking parts of the inspection and working up to running the whole inspection.
Pro tip: Be professional, polite, and ready for whatever the inspector asks. Don’t offer unsolicited opinions or commentary. Stay out of the way until you’re asked to run things. Look professional when you show up. Don’t show up in a jalopy, and park your vehicle somewhere a few cars down from the house.
Step 9: You know some things - then there’s the stuff you know you don’t know, and that you can pursue and learn. And then there’s all the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. So you’re going to have to immerse yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read and understand your state regulations. Learn local codes, building practices, and traditions. Learn about the homes in your area, and the history that went into them. When were the homes in your area built? Learn about the geography in your area - for example, are there areas built on fill, or certain unusual building practices? Are there materials sources regionally that are typically problematic (like here we are having issues with pyrrhotite)? Learn about the local water source and local sewer treatment. Learn the state rules and regulations for septic. Learn about weather and how it affects homes (Is there a lot of snow or extreme heat?). Learn the life expectancies of building materials and components. Learn the history of each applicable industry, and how new practices and materials were introduced over time, so you will know how to speak about it (for example, which types of wire were introduced and used at what time period, and why? - or what types of foundations were used, what types of framing methods, etc…).
Pro tip: Continuously take online courses like those provided by ASHI and NACHI online. They will keep educating you. Get on social media and follow the best inspectors nationally on their facebook or instagram, and read what they are posting (Learn to differentiate between the “good ones” to follow vs. the “bad ones”. Check out youtube, watch videos from builders, electricians, plumbers, tiling contractors, paving contractors, foundation contractors, every facet of the building industry, trades, and related professionals.
Step 10: Read inspection reports from the inspections you’re attending. Ask the inspectors you’re shadowing if they will share the report with you so you can learn how reports are written. Read every report carefully. Read sample reports from other inspectors’ websites.
Pro tip: Reading reports helps you understand how to write reports but also how not to write a report. Read reports as if you are the client - does the report tell you clearly what is happening with this home? Is it a clearly written report?
Step 11: Learn about and get certified for ancillary services. Check out the requirements in your area for ancillary services like Radon testing, Pest inspection, Drone piloting, Mold testing, and others. Get licensed if required, and certified wherever possible. Take courses on these ancillary topics to get truly familiarized with the various other services.
Pro tip: You’ll be a far more attractive candidate to a home inspection company if you have these under your belt.
Step 12: Find out who’s hiring, if any - even those not hiring may be interested in considering a qualified, eager, interested candidate. Call back the inspectors you shadowed on inspections.
Pro tip: Do all the other steps first. Opportunities in Home Inspection are not that easy to come by, so you’ve got to work at it, and you’re going to want to present the best version of your new-home inspector-self to anyone interested in hiring you.
Good luck! It is a great, fulfilling, enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding career.