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Getting Started - Questions About Schools

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I am working to get started in this business. My family has been in construction for a number of decades, beginning with my grandfather, and coming down to my dad. I've worked on buildings in various stages of completion and remuddle along with them, though I never moved professionally into the industry. My background is technical - 29 years of computer diagnosis and repair /upgrades starting with IBM. Shooting bugs has been my bread and butter for almost 30 years. I'm looking to start over, however.

I hear it from friends and family quite a bit. "You should do this for a living." "This" being my habit of tagging along on their home-buying treks and pointing out things they don't naturally notice, and helping them avoid problems, or at least maneuver into a better bargaining position. And they are right. It's fun. I love that kind of work, and I think the rather large step up to a professional level is something I would enjoy. My wife has been self-employed for many years, has a good business head on her shoulders, and is on-board with me on this.

What I have been doing the last month or so is looking at various schools, both online and brick-and-mortar entities. At the start, it looked to me that "getting certified" was the way to go. But more and more, I see people talking about how the various courses really are just a way for this or that organization to build credibility for their brand, or logo, and to sell equipment packages. I assume this isn't the full story, but it seems true in some cases. I am more interested in what they offer in the way of real education, course-wise and ongoing, than in a particular logo or tool bag.

I haven't been particularly overwhelmed....

So, here is where I am currently. I'd like to:

  • take a class that would help familiarize me with current terminology, systems I haven't seen or worked on before, and associated concepts
  • learn more about building codes, and remediation
  • work with a few reporting systems, and see what might work for me and customers
  • Study for, and pass, the NHIE

At the moment, I''m considering purchasing the NHIE study guides and practice tests, the complete code book, and burning them into my head. The thought being that passing the NHIE may have more long-term weight with local and California state real estate associations, than school certs that seem to matter little to most of the agents I've met recently.

I would also like to team up with a real inspector willing to flesh out my newbie approach to things. Before I do that, I'd like to get these other things in order.

Any ideas, guys and gals? Yeahs or nays?

If there is a school (preferably online) that has a good reputation, (or a cleaned-up one), who might you recommend? I'd rather have a Phoenix than an Icarus. 


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Your 4 points are a good start (except the software thing - wait and see what level you want to offer your clients first).

If I was in your state just getting started, I'd join CREIA and get with the folks at the local chapter meetings.  There's a good chance you'd find experienced mentors and have access to several members for ride-alongs.  Start reading their publications and follow each of their steps to full member status.


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I've sent you a copy of a recent report of mine.  Focus on the pages between the first and the last two. Keep in mind that it was made with Word and a free photo editor that I downloaded years ago.

Now you can go buy some home inspector software and wait for that epiphany 5 or 15 years from now or you can go straight to what homebuyers want right now: something brief and easy to read that has everything they need to know and want to know.

If you wish, I can tell you the commands and a few tricks I used to make this report.  It takes some getting used to but it'll grow on you and all your inspection buddies will wonder where in the heck did this green thumb of an inspector get ahold of this 'new inspection software'.


Edited by Marc
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Hi Marc.  I found the first and last pages to be the most interesting. jk

That was easy to read, and the style resulted in a quick impact - making memorable the things that you really wanted to point out. I have not seen this kind of delivery in the reports I've read, but I like it. Obviously, YOU come through in the writing. I suspect the report comes across as an extension of your own personality prior to the inspection, instead of a dry clinical stand-in.  Nice approach.

Yes, I am interested in the formatting, headers and such. Thank you for your offer.

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Bill, thank you for the CREIA link. That looks like my kind of place. I will pursue that route. The NHIE requirement was a happy discovery. The steps to full membership are reasonable.

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You have presented a good approach to learning more about the HI business ... measured and thoughtful.

Bill & Marc's comments are excellent. Marc is seriously focused on HIs have a good education and with being able to write a good, meaningful and non - b.s. report. As Bill noted and Marc has shown you ... the content of your report is what should be first/foremost. Don't get caught up in the many software packages ... they all want to sell you something new. Focus on basics.

Spend some time to search the TIJ forum and you will find a lot of information about the 'written word' and what we try to or should be telling our clients. You will also find that Jim Katen (Oregon), Chad Fabry (New York) and many more are quite good with their verbiage.

Don't make mountains out of molehills ... you are (or will be) an inspector and I can assure you that you are NOT a Pulitzer prize winning writer. When something is broke or not right in a home ... note it, describe it in a straight-forward fashion. No need for $25.00 words.

You will find a recent thread with Jim Morrison (Boston area) who was a long-term inspector and is now a writer for a local newspaper. He has a great inspection history (having worked with his Father) and knows how to form words into meaningful sentences and paragraphs. He is providing input on reports we have written and things we have published and how it could be better.

Reaching out to CREIA and planning for the NHIE are good moves and will serve you well.

Welcome to a very educational forum. 


Edited by Nolan Kienitz
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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you, Nolan.

I'm moving through the PHI courses. I understand that many look at them as basic introductions to ground floor knowledge about the minimally needed skills to get started learning about......  (you get the idea)   I agree.  I ran a school with my wife for 10 years, teaching ladies how to become dental assistants. The course was billed as a "basic" course, even though it included significantly more hours and lab time than any competitor, and continually presented new developments in the industry. Course content often changed between sessions. "Quickie" schools can be square and honest, or shady or incompetent. I'm pulling down quiz scores of 95.5% or higher, but I understand this is "just the beginning." I'll soak up what is presented and move ahead for more.

The fun part about all of this is knowing that I had more stuffed into the back of my head than I realized. The questions I'm missing are generally due to the wording of the things, rather than the facts. It's a good start.

I've been doing diagnostic work for nearly 3 decades. Part of what attracts me to this new line of work is that I will be actively looking for safety issues, along with the other areas of responsibility. Discovering, and reporting on conditions that may cause harm is something I can feel good about. I'd like to end the day knowing my work is important for something other than just the big guys' bottom line.

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  • 2 months later...

Just a quick update. Passed PHII's basic course, and I'm off to the advanced. It's not required by CREIA, but I want it. The basic course had some very rough areas in it, and some quiz question answers differed from the lesson material. But hey, I'm through it.

I'm joining CREIA in a couple weeks, and got started on the business formation side of things. A note on CREIA. Recently, an $800 inspection in Livermore resulted in some nasty business and, as a result, the "state" is looking at regulating the industry. I called CREIA to see if they would have a hand in guiding the process and the rep said yes. It looks like joining up with them will be a plus when it comes time to for California HIs to present themselves as legitimate. All other aspect of their businesses being on the up and up, aligning with this association seems to be a good idea.

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It being La-La Land an all, if California legislators are finally seriously going to start pushing to put some kind of regulation on home inspections, I cringe to think what the pols will come up with down there.

In 2005 here in Washington State, one inspector got with a legislator and tried to create some kind of a "registration" scheme. Inspectors got wind of it, saw that it was seriously flawed and put pressure on the legislator to back it off. Then in January 2006 a senior state senator tried to push through her own version of a licensing law with a board that was top heavy with non-inspectors - educators, realtors and engineers and not a single inspector.

Even before that legislator submitted her first version of a licensing law to the Senate, the local ASHI chapter got wind of her planes and began to marshal resistance to licensing. Then another association got wind of what the local ASHI guys were doing and tried to throw up their own road blocks. It soon became a contest to see who was resisting more.

It was a waste of time and energy. Some of us agreed that, no matter what we did to resist it, licensing was coming whether we liked it or not; and, if we continued to fight it, we inspectors were liable to end up on the outside looking in as those unaffiliated with our profession decided how best to regulate us. We wanted to have a say in our own destiny and didn't want it to be decided by a bunch of pols who were bitter about some inspection that didn't measure up to the pols' standards. We agreed that it needed to be something that was fair to both consumer and inspectors; and that it had to be a joint effort - not led by one association - and that even independents with no association standing needed to get involved.

A coalition was formed and then a working group. For months, and then years, the coalition's working group worked to thwart that state Senator's efforts.  Finally, unable to get her bill out of committee due to efforts by the coalition aided by ASHIWW's lobbyist, she came to the coalition hat in hand and agreed to listen to their concerns. Then, three days before submitting a third version of her proposed legislation, she asked the coalition to proof and edit her draft as necessary. Members of the coalition met on a Sunday and worked late into the evening to re-work the entire piece of legislation and then sent it back to her.

Two days later, she submitted her bill in the Senate with a few tweaks of  her own. The next day, as insurance against a double-cross (She'd double-crossed the coalition two years previously), the coalition had a State Representative friendly to the coalition drop a companion bill into the hopper in the house. The companion bill was identical to what they'd sent back to her on Sunday night, without her tweaks. Checkmate! She revised her version and agreed to the coalition's version, The bill sailed through the senate, went over to the house, the house voted to accept it as written and withdrew the companion bill and it got sent back to the senate and on to the Governor's desk. The Governor signed it and it became law 90 days later. The board consisted of seven inspectors - not a single realtor, not a single engineer (well, there was one inspector with an engineering degree and license, but he was chosen for his home inspector input and not because he was an engineer) and not a single non-inspector educator - there was a requirement that one home inspector, who was an educator, hold one position. There was also a requirement that, as much as possible, the board would consist of at least one member from each major association, as well as at least one independent.

Two months after that, the Governor appointed a State Advisory Licensing board - some of whom were members of the coalition - made up of members of all major associations plus independents - and the board got to work creating all of the rules for licensing, continuing education, schools, a state SOP that was unique and not a carbon copy of an association's SOP and an enforceable code-of-ethics. By the time the first licensing deadline for established inspectors came around, the framework was in place.

In the end, those already in the business were required to prove they had been in the business for a minimum number of years, had done a specific number of inspections and had passed the National Home Inspector's Exam (NHIE), the only inspectors exam that had been crafted with the assistance of psychometricians, the point being to require all inspectors in the state to prove they had the basic knowledge needed to do inspections by passing that exam, regardless of their time in the business.

Those new to the business were required to prove they'd completed the mandatory number of training hours, that they'd spent 40 hours accompanying a licensed inspector and had written a specific number of reports, and they were required to pass the NHIE.

All of the time the coalition was working to put together something that would be good for inspectors and consumers alike, they were met by resistance from those in the profession who were opposed to licensing. Lots of folks reviled them on the net - claiming that those on the coalition were designing a system that would put them above others and enrich them and that it was all a money grab by the state - never mind that it was required to be an un-funded revenue-neutral program that paid for itself and made almost no money.

One group of about thirty five inspectors put together their own bill and got a legislator from the east side of the state to craft legislation that would allow them to be exempted from the law's requirements. They were so confident that they would get things their way that they refused meet the requirements for experienced inspectors; and then, three months before the deadline for new inspectors to have completed all of the licensing requirements, that group had their legislator drop their bill into the hopper in Olympia. A public hearing was scheduled to get public input on the bill. The coalition had representatives at the hearing to speak in favor of the current law as written, and against that group's attempt to do an end-run around the new law. The meeting chairman sent the bill to committee, which essentially killed the bill, because it couldn't get out of committee before the deadline for new inspectors came around. That group of 35 found that they had to get the mandatory number of hours of training and pass the NHIE, just like the rookies had to, before they could be licensed. About half of them failed the NHIE - some of them failed it multiple times - and about a quarter of them quit the profession.

Imagine that - inspectors - some of whom had been in the business in excess of fifteen years by then - who tried to make an end run around the new law because they claimed to have superior experience, and to already know all they needed to know to be great inspectors, failed an exam designed to gauge a rookie inspector's competency. Who'da thunk it? If there was ever an example of why inspectors should never be grandfathered unless/until they'd passed the NHIE, that was it!

The law has been in place now for nine years. None of the coalition's working group started schools and got rich off of teaching inspectors. None of the terrible things happened to established inspectors that those opposing the legislation said would happen. No plethora of lawsuits against inspectors developed. The board meets every quarter when the state budget permits and lots of inspectors have had their say at the board meetings. The board has accepted some ideas and rejected others, as it should be, and the original board members, some of whom served for two terms, have all been replaced and new board members are continuing with the tradition of working to keep the law fair and reasonable for both inspectors and consumers.

Down in California, if only one association tries to bird dog legislation designed to regulate all inspectors in the state, I can guaranty you it will turn into a pissing match between associations, pols there will write off the profession as a bunch of thugs and ner-do-wells and inspectors' concerns will be ignored. If California inspectors don't want to end up being saddled with stupid legislation they'd better put their petty little association differences aside, band together, roll up their sleeves and get ahead of whatever is being proposed down there or, I guaranty, they are going to end  up with nightmare legislation.

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I'd add the importance of including the participation and cooperation of neighboring associations, as well as representatives of neighboring professions (RE agents, pest control operators, contractors, insurance companies, etc) as that would help in setting up appropriate boundaries for the new regulatory body and help preempt turf wars later.  But first and foremost is to keep all discussion centered on the very reason why regulation is under consideration in the first place: to protect the interests of the consumers of the state.

Regulation is not about what home inspectors want.  If it were, you might as well just call it a government mandated association.  Protecting the public should begin with:

  1. An educational standard, not a standard of practice.  That means a fully written course, not a given number of classroom hours, not just a syllabus (think Douglas's Electrical Inspection of Existing Dwellings).  90 hours, even a month, of unspecified talk is a joke.
  2. A list of conflicts of interests common to the profession and a requirement for practitioners to disclose them to the client before engaging them (inspectors soliciting agents, agents who steer the client's choice of inspector, inspectors who turn salesman in the middle of an inspection to pitch another service, mold inspection, etc).

There's much more, but the point is some baseline considerations.

Edited by Marc
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Those were some eye-opening posts. Thank you.


Down here in California, the "system", in general, has been tuned to favor money interests for a long time. It's quite the surprise when something common sense comes from Sacramento.

For guys like me, getting into the business has plenty of hurdles. One of them is the bad light powered up by HIs, experienced or otherwise, that just don't care to learn, stay current, or do good work. One jerk can ruin the good efforts of many responsible people.

I don't know how it will turnout. My take on it is that this will be in the works for a couple years, maybe longer. Nothing will happen in this session. Gov Brown has his insane agenda that occupies his time and that of his whips. As for HIs and associations banding together? I'm too new to even begin to imagine how the industry thinks about these things.

But that recounting of the WA effort was a good read. I lived there for most of 2016 and the early part of 2017. One more thing to love about the state. I miss it.

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  • 5 months later...

Checking in on RK52.  How have things been moving along in the past 6 months?

I'm looking to start my education in the HI field and hopefully expand into appraisals and home staging.  At first I was looking into franchising.  Read a couple of books on the subject and was really turned on.  A turn key business that I could start for around $30K.  I was looking at NPI and Posts to Pillars.  My father, who has always been a self-starter and entrepreneur, has recently talked me into saving the $30K and getting certified and some type of apprenticeship, then start my own business.  That sounded even more intriguing.  Wondering how things are going with you and CREIA.  I'm looking to start the same path.


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Hi Jake,

I'm just about there. Life got in the way and set me back about 4 months. Illness, moving, current job loading me up pretty heavy. I went the LLC route, got everything in order, and updated the SOI with the state regarding my new address. Almost there. A couple pieces of equipment are still to arrive, and I need to pull the trigger on insurance.

As for CREIA, that one is down the list. I hope to attend a local meeting in a couple weeks, but membership will be another couple months.

I bid on two homes recently. Passed on the first, and bought the second. Both were inspected by CREIA members. The first gentleman didn't know my plans, and I tagged along to see how he'd go about things. On the next home, I felt led to inform the HI that I'm studying. He opened up and showed me his reporting software, some equipment and went more into details than the first HI.

While I was not DOing the inspection, rather auditing it and asking a few questions, I felt quite at ease. I have gone through houses with the nit comb a lot over the years, for family and friends, looking for things that might hurt them or their pocket books. It simply seems natural to me. The only real concern I have is getting to the point where my schedule is filled adequately. That's the big "wait and see".

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