Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.
It’s Important to Join the Club
There are requirements for and there are benefits of joining an organization of home inspectors. Fees can range from as little as $25 up to several hundred dollars.
But you should join, even if it seems like a costly investment for someone just starting out in the business. It will be worth it.There are groups like the granddaddy of home inspection organizations—the
American Society of Home Inspectors, Inc. (ASHI) ranging all the way to very small groups devoted to certain areas such as historic building inspections. There are two groups determined to keep inspectors independent from others in the real estate transaction. And there are even groups that want to train you to get into this business.
You need to know that home inspection can be an isolating profession in terms of opportunities to interact with and learn from your peers. You will spend most of your time competing against them for business in your local area. When you do get a job, you’ll be the only inspector there.
Let’s face it. The clients you serve—whether buyers or Sellers... and their real estate agents expect you to be the expert and more.
So how do you keep up-to-date on everything, and avoid new or continuing problems facing inspectors, when you’re spending all your time competing for business and then doing a thorough job?
You join at least one industry organization.
It’s a win-win situation. You get to put a new logo, and possibly some impressive initials, on your business card. You can brag that you follow, or exceed, the group’s “Standards of Practice.” And membership shows you care enough about being a home inspector to join a professional group and continue learning about your industry.
In addition, you’ll gain access to valuable information and sup port, along with an established network and referral opportunities to increase your bottom line. Some groups even offer discounts on everything from training to car rentals.
Joining a group is even more important if you do not belong to a franchise. But even if you do, it never hurts to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to learn more about your industry and help improve your skills—and your profits.
Reasons to Belong
One sure way for newcomers to increase their credibility in the home inspection industry and in the eyes of the public is to join a professional society, contends J. Pittard of Professional Home Inspection in Burnsville, Minnesota.
“It helps to give the client assurance that I’m not a fly-by-night guy, but that there is some substance, continuing education, and certifications. I’m a Certified Real Estate Inspector. That’s really the highest designation in the industry.”
To earn the CR from the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), Schnoor was required to complete 250 inspections and pass a rigorous exam, and must maintain 16 hours of continuing education annually. Other groups may have different criteria for certification or membership, but all offer the ability to interact with fellow members either online or face-to-face at meetings and at conventions.
Mardy Hatfield of Home Critic in Houston, Texas, believes it is extremely important for new inspectors, in particular, to have some venue where they can “toss around ideas.” “Out on your own, you don’t get to talk to any one about things you run into,” she says.
For Hatfield, some of that inter play is available at quarterly meetings with the other inspectors who operate as independent contractors under the Home Critic umbrella.
“Otherwise, I would feel really isolated. I wouldn’t be getting the horror stories or the war stories on what’s happening out in the field. That’s invaluable, especially being in business by myself. Otherwise, I might make a mistake I could have avoided.”
“I think that as a new inspector, it would be important to have the association and credentials behind me. It shows I follow certain standards and there is a code of ethics that I follow,” says Pittard, a mechanical and industrial engineer who turned to home inspecting full-time in 1991.
Nick Dominik, founder of the Ohio-based National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), agrees and says the Internet also has provided new opportunities for communication through such formats as message boards where inspectors can post e-mails about various topics.
“The Internet has made it much easier. Before, there was no camaraderie in the home inspection business. You could go long months without interacting with other home inspectors,” he says.
“Something dramatic could happen, like an important recall, and an inspector wouldn’t know about it unless he attended a meeting or bought a periodical. The Internet has changed all that. All inspectors can know about a recall moments after it’s posted.”
In addition, there are online opportunities for “discussions” about topics of interest to home inspectors. On the NACHI site, for example, there have been many thousands of postings by inspectors in 28 countries and by representatives of other businesses related to the home inspection industry, such as homeowners’ insurance companies and home inspection continuing education vendors. One need not be a NACHI member to participate.
“Everyone is welcome and the truth bubbles from the bottom to the top. The Internet has changed everything. Now there is great camaraderie in our industry and inspectors are keeping in touch with the industry,” says, Gromicko.
Ralph Wirth of Housing Consultants Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky, says professional home inspection organizations offer another valuable benefit beyond credibility, certification, education, and fellowship—an opportunity to be heard. That can be extremely important during efforts to institute, or increase, regulation of the home inspection industry within a state or local area.
“The only voice you have in the business world is when your united voice comes through your national association,” says Wirth.
So find your voice, within your group and within the world, by joining at least one industry group in your local area or your state, or find one with a national, or even international, member ship.
As would be expected, there are ardent supporters—and some times, ardent opponents—of some of the national groups. Find one that suits your needs and comfort level. Do some research on the Internet and if you have the opportunity, ask other inspectors which group or groups they belong to and why.
In the meantime, here is a sampling of national home inspection organizations for you to consider. States may have their own groups and/or chapters of a national organization.
The American Society of Home Inspectors, Inc. (ASHI)
By far the oldest, most generally known home inspection organization, ASHI is a not-for-profit professional society established in 1976 that now claims over 6,000 members and more than 80 chapters in North America.
ASHI Standards of Practice are part of many pieces of state legislation. The group includes on its Web site a description f the regulatory legislation of each state that licenses home inspectors.
ASH!, which has a branding program called the “ASH! Experience,” endorses three ways to train new home inspectors: a home training system, two-week hands-on seminars, and classes at community colleges. One need not be a member to take ASHI-endorsed training.
It is one of the more expensive groups to initially join (over $400 in 2004). New and experienced inspectors alike first sign up as a Candidate for a minimum 30-day period of review of their qualifications and/or to take the National Home Inspectors Exam and the ASHI Standards and Ethics exams.
The group has two additional membership levels, and all require a pledge to follow the group’s Standards and Code of Ethics, to not engage in real estate activities or to repair homes they inspect. Candidates with Logo may use the ASHI logo if they pass the two exams and ASHI verifies performance of 50 fee-paid inspections “in substantial compliance” with its Stan dards of Practice. Full Members must submit proof of performance of 250 fee-paid inspections that meet or exceed ASHI standards. After the first year of membership, all must obtain 20 units of continuing education annually.
Member benefits include online discussion groups, access to technical and business resources, lobbying and public relations efforts raising awareness of the industry, a national referral directory, discounts, and various publications.
Consumers may use the Web site to find ASH! inspectors within 150 miles of a zip code; by metropolitan area and neighborhoods; or by name or company. Also offered to consumers: a virtual home inspection to learn more about common problems found by inspectors and a form to rate inspectors.
The American Society of Home Inspectors, Inc. (ASHI)
932 Lee Street, Suite 101
Des Plaines, IL 60016
Phone: (800) 759-2820
Fax: (847) 759-1620
NAHI, established in 1987 as a nonprofit association, calls itself the “Home Inspector—Friendly Association” and claims more than 1,900 members in 49 U.S. states and Canada. As with ASHI, there are states that reference the NAHI standards in their own legislation and other groups that accept NAHI’s Certified Real Estate Inspector exam as part of their member ship requirements.
Member benefits include use of the NAHI logo, a newsletter, public relations support, a member e-forum, and listing in the NAHI referral directory.
NAHI offers Associate Membership to new insp who have completed a 40-hour comprehensive home inspection training program or 20 full fee-paid inspections. They submit a copy of a completed full home inspection report t at me ts NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics req e nts and complete at least eight continuing education units annually.
Inspectors can maintain Associate Member status for up to two years prior to moving to the Regular Member status, which requires a minimum of 100 full fee-paid written home inspections and written confirmation of passing the NAHI Certified Real Estate Inspector, National Home Inspector Exam, or California Real Estate Inspector exam. In addition, Regular Members must complete a minimum of eight continuing education units annually.
NAHI members may earn the CR1 (Certified Real Estate Inspector) designation by fulfilling the above requirements, completing 250 fee-paid inspections, and passing an exam. To retain the designation, they must maintain 16 continuing education credits and undergo an annual review of completed home inspection reports.
Consumers using the NAHI Web site may search for NAHI inspectors by entering the zip code of the home to be inspected and choosing a radius of 10, 20, 50, or 100 miles, or they may search by city, state, or country.
National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc.
4248 Park Glen Road
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Phone: (952) 928-4641 or (800) 448-3942
Fax: (952) 929-1318
The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI)
NACHI says it is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping home inspectors achieve financial success and inspection excellence. Formed in 1990, it claims over 9,400 members in all 50 states plus 22 countries and has 55 chapters.
NACHI offers both Working and Full Membership categories. Both require passing the three online tests, promising to adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, and, after the first year of membership, completing an average of 18 hours of continuing education annually (attendance at each NACHI chapter meeting contributes 1 hour to the total required). To reach Full Membership, one must have participated in 100 inspections and also retake the Online Inspector Examination annually. Members have access to mediation and arbitration services, and free peer reviews to improve reports, along with discounts and use of the NACHI logo.
NACHI funds the Consumer Home Inspection Hotline to help the home buying public find certified inspectors and www.BribeWatch.org; a consumer advocacy group that reports suspected corruption in both home inspection and construction legislation. In addition, NACHI and its NACHI Foundation formed a fund to “provide disaster relief to victims of uncertified inspectors.”
Consumers using the Web site may search for inspectors by entering their zip code and choosing a radius from that zip code of 10, 20, 30, 50, or 100 miles, or they may search by city and state. The consumer is then taken to NACHI’s www.findaninspector.us site. NACHI also owns the www.inspectorseek.com site.
National Association of Certified Home Inspectors
P.O. Box 987
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0987
Phone: (610) 933-4241 (PA)
Fax: (650) 429-2057 (CA)
National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE)
Established in 1989, NABIE is a nonprofit professional society that accepts only state-licensed professional engineers and registered architects specializing in building inspections. It claims 165 members.
NABIE believes that “those aspects of building inspection which require the application of engineering principles constitute the practice of engineering and should only be performed by licensed professional engineers. Such aspects include but are not limited to the evaluation of commercial, industrial, and institutional building and residential dwellings, regarding the structural, electrical, or mechanical systems.”
Member benefits include various publications and a referral directory listing. NABIE is an affinity group of the 70,000-member National Society of Professional Engineers.
NABIE has a Standards of Practice, and its Web site offers consumers the ability to search for NABIE engineers by state and also offers answers to frequently asked questions.
National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers
P.O. Box 520
York Harbor, ME 03911
Phone: (800) 294-7729
Fax: (207) 351-1915
The Housing Inspection Foundation (HIF)
HIF says it is “dedicated to the promotion and development of Home Inspection” and claims 4,500 members.
HIF offers a RHI, or Registered Home Inspector, designation to members with at least two years of experience in the home inspection field, or 50 inspections completed. Members are expected to adhere to the group’s Code of Ethics and follow its Uniform Home Inspection Standards of Practice.
It also says it offers a CHI, or Certified Home Inspector, to members who have completed 50 home inspections and passed a 100-question open-book test mailed with a free home inspection manual. There is also a continuing education requirement.
Benefits include use of the HIF logo, publications (including a newsletter), and a listing in the annual membership directory.
Consumers may search the Web site for an HIF inspector by state or country.
Housing Inspection Foundation
1224 North Nokomis NE
Alexandria, MN 56308
Phone: (320) 763-6350
Fax: (320) 763-9290
Groups Developed by Training Programs National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI)
The National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI) was formed in 1986 to provide professional training and certification. It operates a training facility in New Jersey and also offers online courses. It claims 350 members in the United States and Canada.
NIB! Certified Inspectors are required to complete the NIBI training course, satisfactorily pass its exam or the National Home Inspectors Exam, complete at least 50 home inspections and submit the addresses, submit reports from two inspections for review, and carry Errors and Omissions liability insurance. They also must participate in the NIBI Continuing Education Program and retake a certification exam annually.
NIBI posts a Code of Ethics on its Web site and offers a members-only message board.
Consumers may search the NIB! Web site by state, and then view listings of NIBI Certified Inspectors by county.
National Institute of Building Inspectors
424 Vosseller Avenue
Bound Brook, NJ 08805
Phone: (888) 281-6424
Fax: (732) 469-2138
American Institute of Inspectors (AII)
All, formed in 1989 as a nonprofit corporation, claims more than 300 members. It offers training courses for new and experienced inspectors.
The group offers Associate Membership to anyone who pays the fee. Certified Membership requires successful completion of All training, or passing another recognized certification exam, submitting three recent inspection reports for review, and attending an All new-member seminar at an All Conference. Certified members receive logo use, access to an Electronic Mail Hotline and a weekly newsletter, and a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
Consumers may search for All inspectors by zip code.
American Institute of Inspectors
1421 Esplanade Ave., Suite 7
Kiamath Falls, OR 97601
Phone: (800) 877-4770
Fax: (541) 273-1780
American Inspectors Society (AIS)
Established in 1971 to “promote excellence within the home inspection industry,” AIS offers a lifetime membership to those who complete its training program of classroom and in-the-field instruction, self-study, and oral and written tests. Members must abide by the Standards of Practice and Code of Conduct.
Consumers may find AIS members by clicking on a state to get a name but then must call (770) 695-2894 for additional information.
American Inspectors Society
Maysville, GA 30558
Phone: (770) 416-9877
National Association of Real-estate Inspection & Evaluation Services (NARIES)
NARIES, a for-profit corporation established in 1999, says it is open to everyone and includes among its members inspectors, appraisers, real estate professionals, and others.
It is an outgrowth of Aries Co. (Architectural Review, Inspection & Evaluation Schools), which offers correspondence home inspector training. NAREIS offers a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, along with publications and logo use.
Groups with a Niche
Historic Building Inspectors Association
Formed in 2003 for inspectors actively involved in dealing with historic preservation, this group counts only a handful of members but says it has rejected more members than it has approved.
National Association of Real-estate Inspection Services Evaluation Services (NARIES)
Edmonds, WA 98020
Phone/Fax: (800) 583-5821
A member must pass either the NHIE or the NAHI CR1 exam, complete at least 200 fee-paid inspections, maintain valid state or municipal licenses, and maintain 16 hours of continuing education requirements annually. In addition, two inspection reports on buildings constructed before 1925 must be submitted for review.
Historic Building Inspectors Association
P.O. Box 201
Springtown, PA 18081
(610) 346-7880, Ext. 3
Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA)
IHINA says its primary mission is to help alert prospective homebuyers to the potential, or inherent, conflict of interest when a person/agent selling a house also recommends the person/inspector to inspect it for the prospective buyer. IHINA claims 125 members in 24 states and Canada.
It believes state and provincial real estate licensing laws should be amended by adding a “firewall” between real estate agents and home inspectors, similar to that enacted by Massachusetts to prohibit real estate agents, other than buyer’s agents, from “directly” recommending a home inspector.
IHINA members sign a “No Conflict of Interest Pledge” that they will not actively solicit real estate agents for client leads and will follow the group’s Code of Ethics. The Web site has various photos and articles of interest to home inspectors, along with links to states that have, or are considering, home inspection legislation.
Consumers may locate IHINA inspectors by clicking on a state’s name on the Web site.
Independent Home Inspectors of North America
643 Broadway, Suite 155
Saugus, MA 01906
Phone: (781) 231-0236
Foundation for Independent Home Inspection (FIHI)
The Foundation is a nonprofit association of home inspectors who pledge “to put the interest of their clients above all else.” It was formed in 2003, primarily for registered engineers.
Members must promise “to not be influenced by builders, mortgage companies, REALTORS, relocation organizations sellers or anyone else with an interest in the outcome of a home inspection,” and to follow the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
Benefits include use of the FIHI logo, listing on the Web site, and monthly training with an optional test sheet that can be returned for one hour of continuing education of the 12 required annually.
P0 Box 802
Emmaus, PA 18049-0802
Phone: (866) 488-272
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