How to Become a Licensed Home Inspector

June 14, 2021 | 
licensed home inspector
Do you like houses, meeting new people, and learning something new daily? If so, becoming a licensed home inspector is likely an excellent career choice for you!

A home inspector inspects a property’s physical components and systems, usually during the home-buying process. They visually inspect the home, checking for any problems or defects. Then, they write a home inspection report listing their findings. The client can use this report to decide what should be replaced or repaired.

Whether you’re transitioning away from a career in construction or the building trades, or you’re just starting in the workforce, becoming a licensed home inspector has the potential to be an exciting and fulfilling job. In this post, we’ll walk you through the career outlook, licensure requirements, and process of becoming a successful inspector.

Do home inspectors make good money?

A home inspector’s salary can vary greatly depending on their location, how much they work, how much they charge for their services, and what properties they specialize in. 

The market in an inspector’s area can determine the starting range for an inspector’s prices. The average home inspector’s salary in the U.S. is shy of $50,000 per year, but the average total income for inspectors ranges from $30 to $90 thousand annually.

ATI Home Inspector Training states that the average home inspector’s income varies by state. For instance, the average salary in California is $110,000, while it’s closer to $48,980 in Wyoming.

The property an inspector specializes in also makes a huge difference in pay rates. 

For instance, commercial inspections can cost more because they often involve large, complex commercial properties such as factories or industrial buildings. While the average home inspector charges just over $300 for a residential property inspection, commercial inspectors might earn up to 1-2% of the total sale price of the property (which, for multi-million-dollar developments, is nothing to sneeze at). 

Is there a high demand for home inspectors?

In a word, yes. 

Home inspectors are essential in the real estate industry, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. In the modern home-buying process, 80% of all homes sold are inspected professionally before the deal is finalized. 

This means that as long as people are buying homes, there will be a demand for inspectors.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth of home inspectors is expected to be 3%, as fast as the national average. And with moving trends showing a spike in relocations and real estate transactions thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for inspectors will likely increase to match.

Is being a home inspector a good side job?

Many potential home inspectors want to start working part-time because they have other commitments or are looking for a lucrative side hustle to add to their primary profession.

While the training and certification process is highly technical and becoming an inspector isn’t for the casual hobbyist, home inspection lends itself well to part-time hours.

Since the average home inspection brings in hundreds of dollars for a few hours of work, part-time home inspectors can earn a substantial wage even when doing inspections as a side hustle. Of course, you’ll still need to market and network enough to land jobs, but part-time inspecting is very doable overall.

Also, if you choose to be your own boss rather than working for a multi-inspector company, you’ll have the flexibility to set your rates and choose your hours. 

What’s the difference between licensed and certified home inspectors?

Before we get into the specifics of obtaining your home inspector’s license, it’s probably a good time to explain the difference between two terms often misused interchangeably. Depending on the context, “licensed home inspector” and “certified home inspector” can have two meanings. 

In states where inspectors are regulated, being licensed means you’ve met the state requirements to practice inspections legally in your area. These requirements usually include specific coursework and a designated exam, potentially along with other requirements like an application or registration fees.

In this context, being certified means you’ve met the requirements of a third-party organization (not a government body). For example, perhaps you’ve joined a national professional organization like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Both groups have their own courses, exams, and requirements to remain a member in good standing. 

Even if you’ve met licensure requirements for your state, it’s advisable to add certifications like these to your qualifications to demonstrate your expertise and professional skills in your field.

How to become a licensed home inspector

There is no national standard for becoming a certified home inspector. Not all states in the U.S. even require training or a license. 

Those who are interested in becoming inspectors come from a variety of backgrounds and training levels. Many home inspectors have experience in construction or real estate—but not all do. You don’t need a university degree to become a home inspector. However, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is a requirement in many states since you need to be able to write clear and legible inspection reports.

Most commonly, the process for becoming a home inspector looks like this:

1. Learn the state-specific requirements for education and testing

Most states requiring a license have specific standards for inspector training before the licensing test, like a certain number of formal education and field training hours—but these requirements vary widely from state to state. Some states allow online-only courses, while others only recognize in-person coursework.

The best advice for prospective inspectors is to research the requirements for your state and see what is needed to become a home inspector in your area. Check out this map and links to local rules to check your state’s requirements

2. Take a pre-licensing home inspection course

Once you understand your state’s education and licensing requirements, choose a home inspection course to fit your needs. Of course, even if your state has no licensure requirements, getting as much training and preparation as possible is still the best course of action.

There are plenty of online courses available through professional organizations and training schools. Most courses can be completed within a few months, or they can be done at your own pace if you’re working full- or part-time. Some of the most popular certification courses are offered by:

3. Mentorship

Some states require a mentorship period before a new home inspector is approved for solo practice. You’ll be completing a certain number of inspections under your mentor’s license and observation. 

Check out our Find an Inspector tool to connect with a licensed inspector.

4. Pass a licensing exam

After completing the home inspection coursework and any field training to meet your state requirements, you must pass a test to prove your knowledge. It’s best to take the exam as soon as possible after completing your pre-licensing course so that the contents of the course are still fresh in your mind. 

Some states require you to pass a national licensing exam, such as the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE), while others have specific state exams you must pass. To help prepare yourself for the exam, you can take NHIE online practice quizzes or purchase an exam prep book.

5. Complete additional applications (if any)

Some states require you to submit a home inspector application and/or file for a state business license. You also may need to pay an annual fee to stay registered and in good standing.

How long does it take to become a licensed home inspector?

Getting that inspector’s license can be long or short, depending on your preferences, situation, and background. For many, completing the proper training courses and passing a certification exam might take just a few months. 

Others may go through an online training course slowly in their spare time while working a full-time job. And if your state requires mentorship, that process can add another few months or more to your timeline. 

Ultimately, how long it takes to become a licensed inspector is mainly up to you. 

What else do I need to become a licensed home inspector?

In states that regulate inspectors, obtaining a license is essential if you want to start a career in inspection. A license shows the public you’re fully qualified, knowledgeable, and professional.

But if you’re serious about beginning a career as an inspector, you’ll need a few other essential components. For instance, proper Errors and Omissions (E&O) and Liability insurance are crucial to protecting your business from liability due to unintentional mistakes.

Don’t forget the tools of the trade! You’ll need inspection software, a plan for promoting your business, and a professional website to start your new career on the right foot. HomeGauge is here to help; check out our Learning Center for additional training and business tools to set your new career up for success.

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