Experience, and a license, needed to evaluate homes

Inspector's Eye

November 25, 2001|By Dean Uhler

Quite a few letters to this column have asked how someone becomes a home inspector. The answer to that question became much clearer this year with legislation by the General Assembly that now requires home inspectors to be licensed in Maryland.

The new law puts in place the requirements on who can conduct home inspections. Those requirements are being phased in during a two-stage process.

The industry is in the first phase, which continues until July 1. Until then, inspectors can qualify for licensing based on a broad spectrum of credentials, including "relevant work experience."

Experienced inspectors can be, in effect, "grandfathered" in during this period. After July 1, completion of an approved training course will be necessary to become licensed. Inspectors must have general liability insurance of at least $50,000.

The licensing law sets a needed minimum standard. But in reality, additional training and experience are necessary to become completely competent.

To perform a thorough inspection, one has to be a generalist, covering a broad range of subjects, including structures, roofing, interior and exterior finishes, plumbing, electrical systems, heating and air conditioning. All of these subjects must be understood in sufficient depth to enable the inspector to evaluate workmanship and to identify evidence of failure or deficiency.

People rarely follow a direct path to this profession. Many of the inspectors I know first worked in the construction industry and later used the knowledge gained there as a basis for inspecting buildings. Of those, a few were engaged in a particular trade, such as carpentry. Many were general contractors whose work touched on all aspects of construction.

Some inspectors have college degrees in a discipline related to construction. My colleagues and I look for a degree in engineering or architecture on the resume of candidates applying to our company.

What an inspector does not necessarily need are actual hands-on skills in installing the systems being inspected. You don't have to be a bricklayer to inspect a brick wall. You just need to know the elements of a proper wall.

Regardless of prior training and experience, nearly everyone starting out in home inspections must undertake specialized training. Inspection schools offer courses of study designed to impart basic knowledge of the practice of home inspections, and building systems and construction. Larger inspection companies offer in-house training and apprenticeships.

Many established inspectors take continuing education to improve their skills and stay current with new technology. One source is the American Society of Home Inspectors, which features educational speakers at monthly meetings of the greater Baltimore chapter.

People interested in the field of home inspecting are encouraged to attend an ASHI meeting. More information can be obtained on the Internet at www.ashi.org or at www.homeinspectorsmd.com.

Inspector's Eye

Dean Uhler has been a home inspector for more than 12 years and is president of Baltimore-based Boswell Building Surveys Inc. Uhler is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and is the treasurer of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ASHI.

Questions, with name, address and daytime telephone number, about homes and home inspections can be faxed to 410-783-2517, e-mailed to real.estate@baltsun.com or mailed to Inspector's Eye, Second Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.

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