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Inspector Training!


hausdok
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Personally, if I were going to do this again, I'd avoid ITA, AHIT, or any of the other 7 to 10 days schools or any school remotely like them. If there were a college giving a decent 1-2 year course in this business that provided a solid background in business management, marketing, bookkeeping, taxes, plus HVAC, Plumbing, Electricity Air Conditioning and basic construction, then I'd get a full-time job working a swing shift somewhere and I'd work, attend school and live like a monk for a couple of years in order to get that degree. At some point, I'd use every spare minute to do ride-alongs with another inspector, so that I could see what the business is like and get some mentoring.

Unfortunately, such a college doesn't exist, so you're kind of screwed in that regard. However, I still wouldn't waste my hard-earned cash on one of these 7 - 10 day wonder courses. Why? Because you'll sit in a classroom digesting a lot of drab stuff that you can read on any home inspection forum like this one or in a book purchased from the local book store. You'll have to endure days of listening to an instructor that, unlike military NCO's who attend NCO courses and are trained to become trainers and are very proficient at it, will be a home inspector who's not professionally trained at how to present training, and you'll probably spend a lot of that time listening to his war stories while he allows himself to be distracted by endless irrelevant questions. At the end of the "training" you'll realize how just little you do know and how little you've actually been taught and will wonder why you wasted your money. You won't get any real business training from an ITA-type course and when they turn you loose you'll be pretty much experimenting on other peoples' homes for a living, while those same people are relying on you not to ruin their future. Do you see a problem there?

Find a good reputable inspector in your area who has a ton of experience and nothing to fear from you in terms of competition and then pay that inspector to train you and mentor you more or less like an intern. You should work out an agreement with that guy that will spell out exactly what it is you're getting and not getting and then you should stick to that guy like a burr for the next six months at least. I've mentored 3 guys. Here's what we did:

1. Each was given specific texts to study.

2. Each accompanied me every day on the job and became the fly on the wall.

3. Each spent two 3 hour evening sessions with me every week. I'd first test them on the reading assignments and what they'd learned so far, and then we'd go over the stuff they'd gotten wrong and had more question about, and then we'd work on some new aspect of building science or electricity, etc..

4. On jobs, they were expected to focus their attention on those areas they'd already studied. If I didn't have a job scheduled, they were expected to spend time cruising town with a digital camera, spotting defects and photographing them. This kept them mostly outside, but they were told to visit open houses on Saturdays and Sundays and to convince friends and relatives to allow them to do the interior and electro-mechanicals of their homes, so they could get experience inside.

5. They were expected to prepare a written report describing the defect, explaining why it was bad for the house, and then write a recommendation as if they were writing an actual report for the client. Those became part of the evening sessions. As soon as we'd exhausted the written test and had discussed errors from the test, we'd go over the photo's. They were expected to present the photo to me like I was the client, explain it's significance to me and make a recommendation, and then we'd go over the written recommendation to see how well it was written and whether they'd been able to write it in a way that a non-inspector could understand. All of this was done in narrative format - no f*****g lame-ass checklists.

6. As time went on, and I knew they had the knowledge but needed the experience, I allowed them to present small bits of the inspection to the clients. I might open up a panel, look at it and then ask the student to explain the deficiencies inside to my client while I listened. Kind of like the doctor at a hospital with the staff of interns in tow and having them help with the diagnosis of a patient while the patient sat there and listened. If they got it wrong, I'd correct them on the spot - ensuring that the client got the information he or she needed, and we'd move on.

7. Over time, they'd gradually get to separately do every component of the inspection and then I'd allow them more latitude to do complete parts of it while I observed.

8. Then we worked on the report program. I taught the student my program and then on the job we wore FM intercoms and I would relay information to the student as he put the data into a laptop on-site. This give the student the expertise at using the program and he got more experience listening to me present issues to clients. Eventually we reversed roles and I stayed at the computer. If I heard him stumble, I'd coach him by microphone while putting data into the computer. Then, before he moved onto the next area of the inspection, say from the exterior to the roof, I'd quickly walk the exterior to confirm everything that I'd heard him present and to see if there were any other issues, before I'd allow him to move onto the next phase.

9. By the time they'd gotten to the point where they could inspect an entire home on their own and prepare a full report that was well written, they'd inspected dozens of homes - first as the fly on the wall, then taking on small pieces, and finally as the primary inspector.

If I were king of the world right now, I'd decree that every single practicing home inspector must immediately take a very stiff written test, undergo a stiff on-site peer review, and pass a test of basic English composition and spelling or get out of the business. I'd require every new inspector to undergo at least 2 years of college to learn business, marketing and building science, as well as extensive inspection training, and then every one of those would have to spend at least a year as in intern with a practicing company before he or she could sit for a very tough 4-6 hour test followed by an on-site peer-evaluation, before being awarded a credential and being allowed to practice.

Under my perfect scenario, organizations like ASHI, NAHI, NACHI and AII would be allowed to conduct continuing education but wouldn't be allowed to award any bogus certifications or credentials - those would be awarded by the credentialing body only and terms like Master Inspector, Certified Master Inspector, Senior Inspector and the like could also only be granted by the credentialing body and no association could confer them.

Taking it still further, schools like ITA and AHIT would be illegal, unless they were two years long and included all of the required curricula stated above. Checklist type home inspection reports would also be illegal, and realtors would have to give a list of every single home inspector within a 50-mile radius to their clients, and it would be compiled in alphabetical order so they couldn't top-load the list with their "favorites."

I guess it's a good thing that I'm not King of the World, huh?

I guess what I'm saying is, is you're new and want to get started in this business, until there are actual college courses that teach this business, don't waste your money on 7 to 10 day diploma mills that don't teach you anything about the business. Instead, find a reputable and very experienced inspector in your area and work out a mentoring deal. If he's good, he's not going to fear you as his competition, 'cuz it's not likely that he's going to lose enough business to a rookie to matter, and he knows that a fair amount of the 7 - 10 day HI school wonders will be out of business after a year or two anyway. You'll be his backup in the event he's booked up and needs to refer his clients to someone else that he knows is competent.

You hear a lot of guys in this business say that they don't like mentoring because they don't want to train their competition. Well, I think that's short-sighted. When I'm booked and have to refer someone to another inspector I don't leave them to the wolves and say, "Look in the yellow pages;" I refer them to the guy that I know is every bit as capable as I am and who writes just as tough a narrative type report as I do. They do the same for me. That's a whole lot better than letting another consumer experience a buckethead inspection replete with uninformed folklore commentary, and a dumbed-down checklist report.

Who knows? In the end, you and your mentor might hit it off, you'll be hired as a second inspector, and one day you might buy him or her out when it comes time for the mentor to retire. Given the average age of folks in this business now - that probably wouldn't be that long, anyway. If if the other inspector doesn't hire you, he or she will at least know that there will be one more well-trained inspector on the street versus someone who's experimenting on peoples' homes for money. If I'm going to lose business to someone, I sure as hell want it to be someone who's competent, not someone who I know is using his clients as guinea pigs.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

(Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, MSG, US Army, retired. 20 years, 9 months, 5 days, and 4 hours but nobody was counting.)

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Fascinating. And, it puts me in a mood for confessing and/or enlightening.

Here's how I got my HI education: Even though I had no real experience as a carpenter, I rebuilt a (rotten) flat-lock metal porch roof on a neighbor's 80-year-old house, photographed the work, wrote an article about it, and submitted it to OHJ. OHJ hired me as an editor, and moved me to NYC.

Once at OHJ, I set about reading every book in their library (same way I got through college).

While I was at it, I read every issue of New England Builder (now JLC). JLC hired me as a freelance columnist.

Then I read everything Rodale was publishing. Rodale hired me as a freelance writer for their books and magazines.

I subscribed to, and read, every decent building mag available. Read a lot of books, too.

Then I just printed up cards and started up an HI biz. During the first (lean) year or two, I made most of my living by writing for OHJ, JLC and Rodale.

Twelve years ago, I started writing a weekly column for the local alternative newsweekly. About 1/4 of the columns have to do with homeowning, house "stewardship" and the real estate and HI bizzes. That created an affluent, and trusting, customer base.

My only real building experience came from renovating three old houses. (Made a profit on all of 'em.) I was never a builder, a contractor or a construction worker. I was just a guy working on my own houses. My only unusual skill was the ability to explain things so that people understood me.

Long story short: The self-taught/handy guy/bookworm/silver-tongued devil route might not be for everybody. However,it's entirely possible for a motivated person to educate himself about how houses work, and have a perfectly good run in the HI business. For me, 20 years, .05% complaint rate, no claims paid.

Two very good things about my method:

(1) Didn't have to waste any time at a lame-ass HI school.

(2) I actually got paid to educate myself.

Finally, this: A whole lot -- probably more than half -- of my HI education came from generous and brilliant HIs who were willing to (figuratively) slap me upside the head whenever they caught me thinking wrong...

WJ

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I am a relative "newbie", that feels that there are other paths than the one expressed above.

My history goes like this: I have had a degree in Electronic Engineering for 30 years. Designed, drafted, engineered and built 2200 sq ft 3 level cabin in the mountains, with full compliance to the State Building codes and requirements. I learned a lot there, but certainly not enough to call myself an inspector. Other than that, no experience in construction or codes. (by the way, the instructors on several occasions told me that being an engineer would get in the way of being a home inspector. I think that is a poor generalization.)

I found the 2 week ITA on-site course to be a great introductory course for learning the basics of what a Home Inspector needs to know. Does it instantly make you a good inspector? NO. But it does give a rounded perspective of what a house is, how the systems work, the interaction of these systems, how things have changed over time, and even more important, how much you do NOT know. I found it invaluable, and worth the time and money spent. In fact, I believe that ALL inspectors should go through a multi-week on-site structured course before entering the profession. (I find it difficult to believe that correspondence courses can come close to depth of an on-site class.) I believe that those of you that take on a new candidate for inspection will find it much easier if they have this education behind them.

The classes became the springboard to daily researching the web, libraries, and ........ materials to study. Websites like Journal of Light Construction, Building Science......, the Mfgrs. sites, etc. I read daily the forum boards like this one, ASHI, The Inspectors Journal, and others........ I am just beginning to comment on and post replys on existing posts.

I do think one shortcoming of the class I took is in not supplying a road map for continued learning in each of the disciplines. Like a list of "must" websites for further learning. The list seems to always be a list of the other course offerings. But, that is not a reason for discounting the value of these instruction companies.

The next important (no, I mean critical) thing is knowing what you do not know. And, when you don't know, taking the time to learn. If you are too confident, then you will be a problem to yourself and the industry.

I joined ASHI in October, passed the exams in November, began doing ride-alongs with a 14 year veteran in November, was doing parallel inspections all December through mid-Jan, and then began inspecting and writing my own reports in mid-Jan. I advanced to ASHI Assoc. with Logo several months ago, and am close to 100 fee paid inspections. AND, I am a GOOD and an ETHICAL inspector.

My MUST list for an inspector in training:

1. Attendance at a reputable 2-week on-site class.

2. Immediately preparing for and taking the NHIE exams. There is no better time to do them than in the weeks following the classes. I do not feel that a new inspector should be doing inspections until these exams are passed.

3. Find an inspector to be a mentor

4. If there is a local HI chapter, join it. (no matter what national organization it is.)

5. A commitment to lifetime learning, not limited to just "conferences".

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Originally posted by hausdok

You hear a lot of guys in this business say that they don't like mentoring because they don't want to train their competition. Well, I think that's short-sighted.

Yes it is. Joining any of the professional inspection groups puts you in the middle of training your competition. ASHI was founded by a few innovative guys who really wanted to train the competition.

None of the employees I ever hired did a solo inspection until they had been with me for at least 3 months, which included being assigned daily to do 3 inspections with a seasoned inspector as well as all the book work and study. After the 3 months they got to do one a day with all day available. Most were seasoned enough after 4 months to work alone with minor supervision and after 6 months if they were still with the company they were the best around.

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  • 1 month later...

In relation to comparing reports, education and services, the industry is full of questionable service providers. Without some concrete legal guidelines, that includes nationwide licensing and enforcement the bar cannot be raised across the board. Adequate licensing and a solid educational baseline is probably not the long-term answer because the government and its entrenched bureaucrats are frequently heavily tainted by the financial influences of corrupt political forces with personal stakes and entangling alliances. The public is often left in jeopardy with a false sense of governmental oversight and competence.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Mentoring and ride alongs are not as easy as it sounds. I think I sent 3 dozen Emails to Inspectors within a 250 mile radius asking if I could get even a single ride along. Of all the Emails sent, ZERO responses. Not even, Sorry I don't have the time etc. I mean no response period. The Franchises will only do it if you enroll in their training plan then work for them (with related no competition clause). I don't think I came across wrong and even offered to pay just to watch them. Still zero responses. What may, and I stress may, be the reason is because they fear local competition and see no need to help me.

Through other contacts I talked to a HI friend in Memphis and drove out there from Virginia Beach (16 hours) and did some with him. But otherwise, not a single HI locally has been able to help.

One thing I've been thinking of lately is trying to find a retired HI and at least maybe buy him lunch and chat and see where it goes from there.

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I think mentoring, parallel inspections and shadowing are all good ideas. Let me be openly honest as an experienced inspector who has helped around 30 or so folks over the years, they are a pain in the butt!

I stopped doing them when I moved to a new city/state, heck I had to start from scratch building my own business back up.

As an experienced inspector I use to think that I could help the profession by doing this and that I kind of had a duty to do it. Ever seen that V8 commercial when the person is slapped on their forehead! I wish I had been slapped a few times. I think one person out of the 30 or so folks I helped is still in the business, and he is doing well.

If I had to put a price on helping to train a person, it would all depend on that person. I have nothing to gain by doing it, so it would need to be enough to make it worth my time. But, as I do not see me doing this any time soon it is a moot point for me.

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Scott,

I share some of your experience(s) with ride alongs. You and I have worked on a national level for many years with the mentor concept. I have had some new people that would have paid thousands for the opportunity and others that just plain thought I owed it to the profession.

Two real sucess stories out of over a hundred folks. I can't count how many "inspectors" asked for and got my "world famous opinion" and promptly ignored everything. Dozens of newly trained inspectors have sat in the rocking chair in my office and listened and then ignored everything. Dozens have sat in that chair and then never tried the business. It is all about the ability to think and observe.

I have never turned down a request to ride along. I have asked a couple to sit in the truck while I finish - just to get them to shut up.

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Maybe it's just me, but there's nothing about HI work that a reasonably intelligent, curious lifelong-learner type couldn't learn by reading a couple dozen books and working on/watching a couple dozen building projects. I can't think of a good reason to invite a middle-aged, set-in-his-ways Tilt-A-Whirl greaser into my truck. Druther skin rabbits.

If I had ever trained a total newbie HI, I wouldn't have done it for the "good of the profession." The profession didn't seem to benefit much from the "training" that HIs got over the last 30 years. I'd say -- based on long observation -- that of every 100 HIs, maybe 5 are useful.

If I were going to train somebody, I wouldn't do it for free. I'd charge him the same thing I'd charge the customer. The hourly rate is what it is.

That said, I did sorta train my co-inspector of 14 years. All I did was pick the right guy. Given that he was bright and had an excellent work ethic (only missed 3 days in 14 years, due to a death in his family), he learned everything he needed to know by reading, watching, and asking good questions. After six months, he was a finished product. He's still doing fine, even in this slowish market.

Summary: It's the quality of the trainee, not so much the quality of the training.

WJ

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Cheap only if the person realizes what they must learn.

Inspectors do not value themself. What other business can you start with $1400.00, flashlight, $4.00 form, ladder (?), screwdriver, wiggy, business cards and a good cooperative attitude toward real estate salespeople?

Had a young man come in to office the other day "Mr Van Alstine, I have everything needed to do inspections. The roofing business is slow now so I can do 3-4 inspections a week for you. Jenny (our office person) can type them and I'll give you fifty bucks for every one I do. When I find a bad roof and get the job I'll give you a 20% finders fee." I was nice, very nice for me, and asked him about a few different kinds of plumbing issues, electrical, etc, then consoled him as he realized exactly how ignorant he is. Nice kid, just dumb and ill informed.

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Originally posted by Les

Cheap only if the person realizes what they must learn.

Inspectors do not value themself. What other business can you start with $1400.00, flashlight, $4.00 form, ladder (?), screwdriver, wiggy, business cards and a good cooperative attitude toward real estate salespeople?

Had a young man come in to office the other day "Mr Van Alstine, I have everything needed to do inspections. The roofing business is slow now so I can do 3-4 inspections a week for you. Jenny (our office person) can type them and I'll give you fifty bucks for every one I do. When I find a bad roof and get the job I'll give you a 20% finders fee." I was nice, very nice for me, and asked him about a few different kinds of plumbing issues, electrical, etc, then consoled him as he realized exactly how ignorant he is. Nice kid, just dumb and ill informed.

Y'know, this touches on one of my observations: The people who are good at the HI biz seem to be bright, creative individualistic types who have the native intelligence to learn things and the curiosity to look for new things to learn.

The average HI, best I can tell, is a guy with some trades background, questionable native intelligence and little or no curiosity. The roofer you describe is typical. He's a boxed-and-taped package. He's not going to learn anything except how far from useful he really is.

As brother Patterson has pointed out, you don't exactly get jet pilots looking for HI work. Mostly, you get handymen with very limited skillsets.

That's money in the bank for expert witnesses; not so good for consumers. And with licensing, there is now a pressure wave that will take the HI skillset to rock bottom.

WJid="blue">

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  • 5 months later...

As for myself: I am just now starting to make a comfortable living inspecting (into my third year). I realized that since this is what I do (and intend to do until I'm too old to do it anymore) I should constantly try to become better at it. I take relevant courses whenever I can, I read as much as possible, and I ingest as much knowledge as possible at forums like this one.

Well...... that just wasn't enough. I recently learned that there is a college here in Ontario that will be offering a multi-year program in Building Inspection. Sure, it isn't home inspection, but the two are related. It focuses on building codes, law/ethics, report writing, as well as the technical aspects. There will be proctored exams and field placement. So, at the tender age of 36 I will be a college freshman.

Well, I guess I should go buy some textbooks now.

[:-graduat

-Brad

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Hi Brad,

Good for you. The College of San Mateo where Douglas Hansen taught has a two-year AA Degree earning course in building inspection. My dream is still to get the first college up and running that teaches strictly building science and home inspection.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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This is probably a similar course, though I believe it is the first time something like this has been offered in Ontario (at least that's what the admissions office told me). If I'm not mistaken, the University of Toronto offers a certificate program in building science, but no full degree yet. As much of an education junkie as I am, I'll likely try to take every related course available to me at one time or another.

My wife likes when I take these courses, apparently I tend not to say stupid things while I'm reading (but only while reading).

-Brad

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