What qualifications should a professional home inspector have?

Because the home inspection profession is regulated in some states and not in others, home inspectors’ credentials will vary. In states that regulate home inspectors, all professional home inspectors should meet all of the requirements of the state in which they perform their work. In states that do not regulate home inspectors, there are other ways for home buyers to identify competent professional home inspectors.

Training and Experience: This may include a state mandated educational program in states that regulate home inspectors as well as an inspector’s background in architecture, building trades, engineering, or specific non-mandated educational and training in the field of home inspection. Inspectors may also have “time under their belts” having been self-employed or employed by a home inspection company as a home inspector for a period of time. However, it would be a mistake to assume that a home inspector who is just starting out could not perform a competent home inspection. A well-trained “new” inspector may be just as technically competent, methodical, patient, and careful as an inspector who has been inspecting for a longer time because the new inspector really wants to do a good job and the knowledge and skills he or she have recently learned are still fresh.

Associations: Anyone who has belonged to a professional association knows that membership in a professional association does not automatically equate with competence. What anyone gets out of an association is strictly dependent on the individual. It is important to remember that the primary functions of any professional association are to promote the profession, to protect the association’s members, and to educate the association’s members. The benefits that accrue to the public can be real and quite useful, but they are secondary to the primary functions that serve the association members.

There are numerous professional associations for home inspectors at the state, national, and international levels. Perhaps the oldest and most widely recognized is the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). ASHI has done a remarkable job of self-promotion but it is by no means the only professional association providing benefits to home inspectors and to the public. There are others such as the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), and the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) as well as individual state associations such as the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA).

Each of these associations has its own membership requirements, continuing education requirements, standard of professional practice, and code of ethics. Of these membership requirements, standards and codes of ethics are the most important. Standards of professional practice provide minimum requirements and guidelines that association members are to follow in the performance of home inspections as well as both general and specific limitations and exclusions for inspections. Codes of ethics outline and delineate a member’s ethical duties and obligations to customers and to the public. It is important to note that the standards of professional practice and the codes of ethics of virtually every professional home inspector association as well as those adopted under individual state regulatory requirements are, with only minor differences, identical. Therefore, if professional home inspectors state in their promotional materials and inspection contract that their inspections are performed in accordance with any one of these standards of professional practice and codes of ethics, then they are meeting the same inspection standards of most states and professional associations regardless of whether or not they belong to a professional association.

There are other professional associations to which some professional home inspectors belong such as the International Code Council (ICC), the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). All of these make valuable information and educational programs available to their members. These all directly enhance a professional inspector’s knowledge and experience. In the final analysis, a professional home inspector’s credentials are only as good as the inspector. Even membership in multiple associations cannot, by itself, make a poor inspector a good inspector and, conversely, an inspector can be a consummately competent and professional home inspector without belonging to any professional associations. Home inspectors should be assessed on the basis of a whole picture of the individual inspector, not simply on one or two aspects