Becoming a Property Inspector
Property inspectors, sometimes called home inspectors, review and evaluate the overall condition of new and existing properties. They are often responsible for inspecting the structural aspects of properties, as well as the heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, and other systems. Property buyers generally contact these professionals prior to purchasing a property in order to adequately assess its condition and determine if any repairs need to be made.
While there are some that are self-employed, many inspectors work for local governments or in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry. Much of their time is spend on building sites completing evaluations, but inspectors also work in office settings. Most inspectors work alone, although they may occasionally need to work as part of a team. Inspectors must be comfortable with heights and crawling into small spaces. The majority of home inspectors work full-time; while inspections are generally completed during the day, they may need to spend evening hours writing their evaluations.
|Degree Level||No degree required, although some employers may seek candidates with a postsecondary certificate or degree|
|Degree Field||Building inspection technology or similar field|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure and certification requirements vary by state|
|Experience||Prior experience working in trades such as construction, plumbing, and electrical is beneficial and often required; many positions offer on-the-job training; a bachelor's degree may substitute experience in some areas|
|Key Skills||Strong communication skills; attention to detail; knowledge of various mechanical systems; ability to use many testing devices|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)||$57,340 (for all construction and building inspectors)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Step 1: Gain Experience
Prospective property inspectors may wish to gain experience that will help them become successful. Individuals who have completed high school or the equivalent can seek employment or apprenticeships with general contractors, plumbers, and/or electricians. These types of positions can provide a solid background and thorough understanding of the field and its various components. Experience, while not always mandatory, can be helpful when it comes time to find an actual property inspector job.
Consider postsecondary education. Although property inspectors are usually only required to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent, individuals may choose to enter the field with some postsecondary education or a college degree. Many technical schools and community colleges offer certificate and associate's degree programs in building inspection technology, which provide the skills and training necessary to become successful in the field. Certificate programs generally last 6-12 months and include courses in blueprint reading, building codes, and structural systems. Associate's degree programs may take up to two years to complete and require general education classes in English and social science as well as industry-specific courses in permits, electrical wiring, and plumbing principles. Those wishing to expand their knowledge further may wish to pursue a bachelor's degree.
Depending on the state and/or employer, entry-level property inspectors may receive on-the-job training either as new hires or within a training program. Training may include using measuring instruments to verify dimensions and attaining a thorough understanding of residential building codes. As entry-level employees gain experience, they may move on to more complicated inspections, such as evaluating ventilation systems, assessing roofing, and checking for cracks in the foundation. Other duties include preparing a post-inspection review and reporting building code violations.
Step 2: Pass Exams
The certification and licensure of property inspectors is regulated in 39 states. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some states may have individual licensing exams, while others may accept certifications from agencies such as the International Code Council (ICC). Requirements generally include a high school diploma, previous work experience, and successful completion of an examination. Candidates may consider the ICC's Residential Building Inspector or Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector certification exams.
Step 3: Professional Organizations
Both prospective and certified property inspectors may wish to join a professional organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). These organizations help promote property inspectors and offer them education and employment opportunities. People seeking qualified home inspectors often look to members of these organizations for their personal property inspections.
Step 4: Complete Continuing Education
Most states and certifying organizations require continuing education for recertification or license renewal. Inspectors can stay up-to-date with technological advancements and building code changes by taking professional development classes, attending seminars, or participating in state-sponsored training programs.
Property inspectors with leadership skills and requisite experience may be strong candidates for supervisory or managerial positions within their respective government or business entity. A bachelor's degree might also improve an inspector's eligibility for a promotion. Alternatively, entrepreneurial property inspectors with business acumen may open their own inspection business and operate on a freelance basis.
When considering a career in property inspection, individuals should be prepared to work at job sites or for a home inspection agency ensuring that buildings and homes meet codes and are in good repair. Inspectors will need a high school diploma, experience in various areas of construction, and if required by the state, the individual employed has a certificate, license, or degree.