Are you considering becoming a home inspector?
Being a home inspector means being active, interacting with a diverse array of people, and being able to think on your feet. It can be a rewarding career, one that you can build on your own — and it doesn’t require advanced degrees or have overwhelming startup costs.
Sounds good, right?
If the home inspector life appeals to you, you probably still want to know whether it’ll be a lucrative career. How much money can you expect to make as a home inspector?
In this post, we’ll briefly cover the basics of what it’s like to be a home inspector, the demand for home inspectors in today’s market, and considerations you might make when deciding between going it alone or working for a home inspection company.
What does a home inspection involve?
As you probably already know, home inspectors are the professionals who inspect a property for problems with its physical components and systems — most of the time before the home is sold.
A typical inspection usually lasts between two to four hours. Still, it varies depending on the house’s square footage, the inspector’s thoroughness, the number of defects, and the owner’s helpfulness in getting the house ready for visual inspection. The inspector will follow a home inspection checklist to examine aspects of the house, such as:
- Interior plumbing
- Electrical systems
- HVAC system
- Water heater
- Attic and visible insulation
- Windows and doors
- Structural components of the home
The inspector will then provide a home inspection report detailing the results, typically within a day or two.
It’s usually advisable for the home buyer and real estate agent to attend the inspection to receive the most value; they can observe it and ask questions in real-time, and they’ll be present to hear the inspector’s impressions. Having that conversation usually gives agents and buyers a more thorough understanding of the home’s actual condition.
It’s important to note that a home inspection isn’t an appraisal; the inspection is an objective examination of the home’s physical condition and what components may need to be replaced or repaired. Unlike an appraiser, a home inspector’s goal isn’t to determine the home’s market value.
It’s also not a municipal inspection that will verify whether the home is in local code compliance. Therefore, a house can’t “fail” a home inspection.
Who typically hires a professional home inspector?
The buyer usually covers the home inspection cost, but sometimes the seller will pay if it’s part of the property sales contract.
Sometimes, a seller will commission a home inspection on their own before putting the property on the market. They might want to understand potential issues and get ahead of anything a potential buyer might discover and ask the seller to fix.
Even if the seller has already had an inspection, not all buyers will be willing to accept that report. They’ll usually order their own inspection after they’ve made an offer on the house.
What is a home inspection used for?
Not everything found in a home inspection needs to be fixed; some issues the inspector uncovers will be so minor that the customer won’t bother fixing them.
The home inspection goal isn’t to tell the buyers whether they should buy the home or not. It’s to give them a thorough understanding of the risks, issues, and safety concerns that might affect their decision or the negotiation process.
Demand for home inspectors
While a home inspection wasn’t always standard practice in real estate transactions, there is a high demand for home inspectors today. It’s estimated that 80% of all homes sold now have a home inspection before the deal is finalized.
Since most residential real estate transactions include a home inspection, the demand for home inspections is directly related to the housing market. As the demand for homes, rental units, and property increases, the need for home inspectors increases too — especially for those savvy inspectors who keep up with the times.
Because of its essential nature as part of the real estate industry, the home inspection industry is always growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the home inspection industry has a projected rate of job growth of 3%, or as fast as the national average.
However, that estimate was made before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the global economy and forced many home sales to be put on hold.
Due to the unusual times, experts predict that the home inspection industry is experiencing a pent-up demand, meaning that once the pandemic slows down and normal business resumes in full, there will be a period of very high demand for home inspectors.
Differences in salaries between a home inspector and a building inspector
It’s easy to confuse many jobs in the real estate world, not the least of which is the difference between building inspections and home inspections.
Building inspectors are professionals employed by a city or county whose job is to make sure a commercial or residential building is up to code. It’s their job to inspect new construction, additions, repairs, or remodels under an active building permit. They’ll enforce various regulations in force locally, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, energy, and building codes.
In contrast, home inspectors are not associated with a government agency, and they exclusively perform residential home inspections. They’re usually hired by a potential buyer or seller to make a visual inspection of the property and provide a written report of the home’s physical condition.
While building inspectors inspect components of the property within the scope of their license, they can’t call themselves a home inspector. And similarly, a home inspector might find issues with the home that are building code violations, such as:
- Incorrect roof framing
- Ceiling height is too low
- Doors are too narrow
- Improper ventilation in a room
But once the home inspector discovers those code issues, it’s up to the buyer or seller to contact their local building division to find out if the relevant addition or building project was done without a permit. Those things will need to be determined and addressed before the home sale is finalized.
It is often more profitable to become a home inspector than a building inspector because the range of pay for home inspectors is quite broad. This wide range depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Being self-employed vs. being employed by a home inspection company
- Experience of the home inspector
- Whether the home inspector offers additional services for another fee (like radon testing, pool and spa inspections, termite inspections, or thermal imaging)
The home inspection industry has much more room for salary variety. Unlike building inspectors, who are usually employed by local governments, home inspectors are hired by private individuals and have a more varied range of services and incomes as a result.
Pros and cons of being a self-employed home inspector compared to working for a home inspection company
When starting out as a home inspector, you’ll have to decide whether to work for an inspection company or start your own home inspection business. There are pros and cons to each, and it all comes down to your personal preference.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of each option below.
What are the advantages of running your own home inspection company?
- You can be your own boss. You’ll have complete control over the days and times you work. You’ll also have the final say in all company decisions and full control over everything, from the logo to the services you offer.
- You’ll get a higher share of the profit. As opposed to being an employee with a paycheck, being self-employed means you don’t have to share the profit with your bosses or other employees. Ka-ching!
- You’ll be able to start small and work in your spare time, which is helpful for those transitioning away from another career. If you aren’t sure whether the home inspection business is for you, starting as self-employed can be an excellent option for this reason. You can scale up at your own pace, and the starting costs are relatively low if you’re working out of your own home at first.
What are the advantages of being employed by a home inspection company?
- You’ll have clients from day one. Unlike starting your own business, you won’t have to spend valuable time trying to find clients in the beginning. Because the home inspection industry has so much profit potential, the market is becoming saturated. Working with a home inspection company can help offset the competition because the company will likely have devoted clients and more expertise — and, therefore, credibility in the community.
- You won’t have to worry about marketing or administration. The company will handle all the bookkeeping work, advertising, and maintaining the website. Some larger companies might even provide work equipment and handle their upkeep.
- You’ll get the experience you need to start your own business in the future. Just because you start as an employee of a company doesn’t mean you can’t branch out on your own later. Working for a home inspection company allows you to learn what you need to do to start on the right foot whenever you do take that leap.
How can salary impact your decision to work for a home inspection company or start your own?
While you might make more money working for yourself, there’s also much more risk. You’re responsible for finding a steady stream of clients and booking appointments with them. That’s why some home inspectors choose to work for a home inspection company; working for a business means you’re guaranteed a regular paycheck.
And if you work for a big company, they may have the heft and standing in the community to charge higher prices than you would on your own.
So, in the end, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The decision of working for yourself or a home inspection company comes down to your personal preference and style:
- Do you value freedom over certainty? Are you energized by the possibility of skyrocketing your own business to success and earning more than you would as an employee? Then self-employment might be for you.
- Would you rather start in a safer environment and build up the expertise and connections to head out on your own when you’re ready? Then working for a home inspection company might be the way to go.
The home inspection business can be extremely rewarding and can keep you active. You’ll meet all kinds of people, and you can have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping new home buyers during one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.
On top of all that, it also doesn’t hurt that a career as a home inspector will always be in demand and can pay well, does it?