Professional Roles: Home Inspectors

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  12/9/2008 10:10:16 PM

What does a home inspector do?

A home inspector inspects the visible exterior and interior systems and components of a residential structure for condition, safety issues and evidence of potential problems. An inspector does not do any invasive or destructive testing; he or she only concentrates on what can be seen. Outdoor structures not attached to the house are not normally inspected, and the inspection is limited to no more than four living units on a property. While homeowners or potential homeowners are not required to be present during the inspection, it is recommended they are so they can ask questions and better understand the report.

After an inspection, a home inspector completes a detailed report and delivers this to the homeowner. The report is simply an objective description of each component and system and indicates any current or potential problems found. Ethics laws prevent a home inspector from providing any repair services to a client who has purchased the inspection.

At a minimum, an inspector should examine the visible elements of the electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems; the foundation and structural systems; the roof (including chimneys, vents, gutters, etc.); and the exterior and interior components such as walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors. The inspection should take a few hours.

It is important to note that a home inspection is different from an appraisal that determines market value, from a code-compliance inspection and from a warranty evaluation.

For what specific tasks would you seek the services of someone in this profession?

A home inspection is a critical part of the sale process of a residential structure, and this is one reason to hire a licensed inspector. Most home sales are contingent upon the home inspection report. This means that, even though the buyer has made an offer on the house and the seller has accepted, the sale does not go through until all actions have been taken regarding the home inspection report. This allows the buyer to understand more fully the condition of the house he or she wishes to purchase. Once the buyer has the report, he or she can then choose to continue with the sale, negotiate improvements or withdraw from the sale. Be sure a home inspection contingency is included in the terms of sale.

If a homeowner anticipates selling his or her house, he or she may hire a home inspector to be sure the home is in the best possible shape. This allows time to fix any items noted by the inspector before the home is placed on the market. If the homeowner does not choose to correct any problems, he or she is required to disclose the problems to any prospective buyer.

What licenses and certifications are available in this profession and what requirements are needed to obtain these?

The Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors issues residential building inspector, residential electrical inspector, residential plumbing inspector and residential mechanical inspector licenses to qualified individuals. A person with a residential building inspector license performs the overall, traditional home inspection. Specialized inspectors are not normally needed.

To obtain a residential building inspector license, an applicant must have 90 hours of classroom instruction at a board-approved training facility and 30-40 hours of in-field training with board-approved trainers and must pass the National Home Inspectors Examination. As of Jan. 1, 2007, the applicant also is required to complete a report-writing seminar and a standards-of-practice review.

All licenses must be renewed annually. For license renewal, the inspector must present each year proof of $300,000 in Errors and Omissions insurance and general liability insurance and proof of completion of 20 hours of continuing education.

How can the consumer verify that the professional has the license he/she purports to have?

A listing of licensed home inspectors can be found at the Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors’ Web site or by calling the board at 225-248-1334 or 1-866-244-1334.

What license is required in Louisiana to do what type of work?

A residential home inspector license is required for standard inspections on residential houses that are not new construction. One inspection covers up to four living units per property.

What is the typical pay basis for this profession and what is the typical cost?

Fees will vary and may depend upon the size of the house to be inspected, as well as any special features of the home or any special testing needed. Fees are normally presented as a flat fee. The state of Louisiana mandates a $5 charge for every inspection and this may be included in the price of the inspection.

If you decide to shop around for prices, make sure to find out exactly what is included in the price quoted. A quality home inspection is very important and, the decision of which inspector to hire should not be based on price alone.

How does a person become a home inspector?

In Louisiana, an individual wishing to become a home inspector must attend a board-approved training institute. A listing of these can be found on the Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors Web site. They include specialized training institutes, community colleges, vocational schools and a continuing education program through a university. A listing of board-approved field trainers for an individual to fulfill his field training hours can also be found at this site. Next, the prospective home inspector must pass the national exam. After completing these requirements and attending a report-writing seminar and standards-of-practice review, the individual can apply for a Louisiana license.

How does a home inspector who is licensed or certified for providing service in another state get authorization to provide services in Louisiana?

An individual wanting to do home inspections in Louisiana needs to obtain a Louisiana license in order to perform such an inspection. If this individual has passed the national exam and has been trained at a LSBHI-approved facility, he or she would be exempt from having to repeat the exam and the 90 hours of classroom instruction. However, he would still need to perform the 30-40 hours of in-field training with a board-approved trainer. After completion, this person can then apply for a Louisiana license.

If the individual has not been trained at a LSBHI-approved facility, he or she would need to repeat his or her 30-40 hours in-field training at a board-approved facility before applying for a Louisiana license.

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