How Much Do Home Inspector Certifications Matter Anyway?

A trend I’ve been noticing in a down economy is that when people are losing their jobs, unemployment rises, and work is harder to come by, education systems come out of the wood-works. As people have been forced to become more creative and ‘entrepreneurial-minded’, a whole new industry has boomed, offering professional certifications for just about anything, as long as you have the money to spend.

For example, before I made my way into the home inspection industry in Colorado Springs, I obtained two different certifications while experimenting with other careers in 2007 and 2008 for two very different fields: heavy equipment operation, and personal fitness training.

The heavy equipment operating school I attended in Las Vegas (The Nevada School of Construction, a.k.a. NAHETs) was straight forward, and not completely relevant to what I’m about to point out, except for this: I spent a lot of money to acquire training and certifications to market myself to prospective employers, but in the end, those certifications were basically just ‘marketing tools’. Telling a construction company that I was ‘certified’ was supposed to help me stand out above the rest, but aside from some very basic proficiency with the machines, by the time I found a real job running that heavy equipment, it was completely obvious to that employer how painfully ‘green’ I was while working. Spending a lot of money for that certification was just a way market myself, and it did not mean that I was a good heavy equipment operator.

When I went into personal training, the certification schools available were extremely similar in structure to the certification organizations involved in the home inspection industry, which I’ll get into in a minute.

Most large gyms in Las Vegas only employed trainers who were certified by one or more certain educational organizations. I obtained my certification through NESTA (The National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association), one of the larger (but not the biggest) educational companies out there for trainers.

And here’s how it works:

You pay NESTA $300 or so for some study material (an e-book and a few DVD’s, as I recall), which, upon passing the multiple choice test at an approved testing location, you become a member, and have the right to utilize their logos in marketing yourself. To KEEP your certification and membership, you must regularly enroll in continuing education, choosing from various other courses, indefinitely. Keeping that membership and the title of being ‘NESTA-certified’, you’d have to continue paying the organization, year after year.

Now, in all honesty, I enjoyed the education. But I didn’t learn anything from their materials that I couldn’t have learned just as easily on my own. But I had been convinced that education provided from a certification company was special.

NESTA, and other larger educational organizations like it, have utilized a tactic to carve out a business niche and change the standards of the personal training industry across the country to propagate the belief that such certifications are necessary. And this circular belief continues to reinforce such a standard, while anyone serious about going into the business for themselves could accomplish the same education on their own. Such educational entities ultimately enjoy forcing these small entrepreneurs into becoming a member to satisfy this artificial perception.

In 2012, after years in the construction and home improvement industries (and a brief stint in personal training, of course), I took my residential construction and marketing experience, and set my focus on the home inspection business.

And I was not surprised to see the same, similar model of self-serving professional certification businesses there.

Now, in the home inspection industry, there are likewise many certification companies to choose from. The big ones are ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors), NACHI (The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, a.k.a. InterNACHI), NAHI (The National Association of Home Inspectors), and NIBI (The National Institute of Building Inspectors). There are many others, less-widely known.

The model is the same. You pay a few hundred dollars to take their exam and become a member. Some organizations will try to sell you expensive in-person training, and match you up with one of their certified instructors in your state, if possible. You will have to pay substantial yearly dues to remain a member, and you will also need to take continuing education to keep your certification valid. You’ll continue paying the organization, year after year.

To someone new to the real estate or construction industry, this basic education in home inspection (if you opt to pay for the expensive training) can be valuable to an extent, but only as valuable as my basic heavy equipment operating training was to me. A brand new home inspector with a certification may have never raised a hammer before in his life. And even though he may be very inexperienced, even incompetent, he can then use that certification as a banner to get business because the real estate industry has been manipulated to believe that having a big-name certification means he’ll do good work.

The major advantage of being certified is the ability to use the certification organization’s logos and their marketing tools. Some may have a marketing ‘network’ on the web to help provide leads. This marketing ability can actually be quite powerful and effective, because just like with the personal training industry, the home inspection certification industry has carved out their own niche in the real estate world to where many realtors and customers are led to believe that certifications are necessary. And you’ll often see home inspectors with these large, expensive certifications helping to continue this myth, because they are now bound to it by the recurring expense they incur to maintain them.

I believe that the focus of professional certification businesses is to build their own cash flow more than it is to provide the great educational background that people are led to believe a certification stands for. A professional certification can be extremely valuable as a marketing tool for an inspector going into business, but that’s about it. The organization may provide (for sale, of course) the inspector with various forms, maybe a business model, and other shortcuts to get them on their way, but when you examine these things, it becomes clear that the primary goal is to just make more money for the certification companies.

In my business, for instance, I examined some of these forms (available for sale from certification companies) before designing my own, and found their legal strength convoluted and weak. When I first considered getting into the business, I bought an excellent book/manual for the industry from Amazon, and found that many certification companies use that very book for course materials. And as far as their testing standards? One of my inspectors informed me that when he, himself, was perusing the major certification companies, he applied to one of the big organizations online and aced their exam without a lick of study, based on his construction background.

Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate, author of the e-article “4 tips for finding the best home inspector”*, states:

“Don’t trust an inspector simply because he or she has a state license or certification… the training may be so minimal that it is ineffective.”

What this all boils down to is that, whether you are a customer looking for a home inspector, or a realtor networking with home inspectors, a builder or construction professional considering home inspection as a new career, or anyone else in the real estate industry exposed to the myth that a certification is required… remember that it’s a myth. Certification organizations are in the business of making money from people who believe they need certifications. And you can bet that those companies, and the successful home inspectors who are tied to them, will continue pushing the myth, even so far as lobbying for state regulation that ends up giving those organizations even more business.

That’s why I don’t pay much attention to certifications, but, instead, focus on the experience a potential (inspector) applicant already HAS, in real estate, development, home building, renovations, etc., before he ever decided to get into the property inspection business in the first place.

And you should too.

Step by Step Guide to Become a Certified Home Inspector

In United States, there are millions of home buyers require the services of a certified home inspector. These inspectors are responsible for inspecting each home thoroughly, including the roof, foundation, plumbing and overall condition of the home. Due to the high demand for certified home inspectors in the market, it will be ideal if ones intend to select this profession as their career. Below is the step by step guide to obtain the license for home inspector.

• Check the licensing requirements in your state. Most states require home inspectors to have licenses before they start to perform their tasks. Under state law, home inspectors are required to be at least 18 years and above and they must attend a certain number of hours in home inspection courses.

• Get yourself the home inspector courses. The courses can be obtained, either online or in a traditional classroom setting, from any accredited schools listed in the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors. Topics such as inspection reporting, interior construction and marketing are often covered.

• After completing the courses, you are then required to sit for the National Home Inspector Examination. The exam questions are related to inspection methods, reporting, building systems and professional practice.

• Upon successful completion, the testing center will issue a score sheet and a certificate of achievement to you

• Submit the necessary documents to your state licensing board in order to get the license. In some states, it is also compulsory for you to obtain insurance before the license is awarded to you

• The final part is to obtain membership with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Although it is not compulsory to become a member of the ASHI, obtaining membership from ASHI is beneficial in assisting you to meet the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics

Choose the Right Home Inspector When Buying a Home

There’s no sense in getting a home inspected if the professional you hire is unwilling, or unable to catch all the problems, or provide the services that will meet the standards you should expect. Making any fast, erroneous decisions by selecting the first business that you find online can cost you thousands of dollars cause you to regret buying the house in the first place.

Interview the inspector. Ask the inspector a few questions, like: how long it takes them to inspect the average sized home. If they can get the job done in less than a couple hours, they will probably not do a thorough enough job. Don’t let them convince you that they are so experienced, they can do it in less time. Also, ask them if they do pest inspections in addition to home inspections? If so, you could have both done at the same time and save yourself time, money and effort.

Ask for references. A good home inspector is going to have a lot of happy past customers who would be more than willing to brag about what a great job they’ve done. Call a couple of them and hear what they have to say.

Don’t choose the inspector solely on what they charge. Oftentimes, inspectors who don’t get repeat business, don’t do a good job, or hardly have any experience as an inspector offer a discounted price for their services. Sometimes new inspectors are still good and deserve a chance to talk with you about what they have to offer, but contact more than one professional before making your final decision.

Inquire about their experience and education. An inspector who has previous experience, even in other fields, might have an advantage over other inspectors. Some might have construction experience in their past, which will provide an in depth knowledge of how a house is put together correctly and what standards must be met in the construction of a home.

How helpful are they? A home inspector who cares is going to be one of the best professionals to work with because they will work hard to catch problems and explain them to you as they see them. They should be okay with walking around the property and showing you what issues they see, how soon each they need to be fixed, and how much money it’s going to cost you to get the property up to a reasonable standard.