What is a successful home inspector?

Before I go on throughout this book about being a successful home inspector, I need to take a minute and define just exactly what that is.

First, let’s look at what being “successful” means to me. I was once sitting in a pub finishing up one of my inspection reports for the day, when I overheard two guys sitting next to me at the bar talking about what being “successful” was. As they debated back and forth, I quickly tuned them out and began to ponder the question for myself. Having just had a birthday where I struggled to come up with a wish while staring at the cake, I realized that, as far as I’m concerned, success is being thankful for the things you have rather than wishing for things you want, while looking at the ever-increasing bonfire atop your birthday cake each year. After all, how can you ever be content with what you’ve accomplished if you are only hung up on things you haven’t done yet?

Being successful in any career means you enjoy what you do. You don’t count down the minutes away from work for fear of going back to the office . You don’t dread the end of a vacation. You don’t see work as a burden. I honestly love what I do most days, and when I’m away from work for too long I start to get anxious. I’d never call myself a workaholic, but there is definitely part of me that is addicted to going to work each day.

Now that I’ve defined what success means to me, let’s take it a step further and talk about what being a successful home inspector means. A successful home inspector generally has as much work as they’d like, and makes a good living doing inspections. It’s not uncommon for a good home inspector to make six figures or more. Some owners of multiple inspection companies can make substantially more. Keep in mind there are booms and busts in the real estate market, and a fair amount of seasonality inherent to this business. Even the best inspector will have to wonder from time to time if his phone is working. But aside from the natural ups and downs, a good home inspector should be able to stay busy without having to take side work or have other jobs.

And the work doesn’t come overnight once you decide to go into business. In an average market it should take an inspector somewhere around three years to build up a referral base and learn what the business is about. If it’s been much longer than that and you are still struggling for work I promise there will be parts of this book that can help you. Of course, factor in the market conditions in your area and the time of year before you either panic or decide you’ve arrived. If your area is booming, it’s June, and you get three jobs in a week because everyone else in town is booked out two weeks, don’t get too excited. Conversely, if it’s a bad market the week before Christmas, don’t get discouraged if you have a few days off.

A successful home inspector has a healthy respect for what is on the line at an inspection, but has no fear and does not second-guess their ability. If someone asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to, I’m almost excited to tell them that. Of course, the next words from my mouth are that I will find out—if it came up and I don’t know it, I need to know it. The point is that a successful home inspector becomes truly immersed in the industry, and has a desire to learn and succeed that is greater than that of their competition. A successful home inspector never sees inspecting as just “a job.”

I had the perfect storm of circumstances going into this career, and I believe that helped me succeed. I had a newborn baby, a new house to pay for, no college degree, and very little to fall back on if this inspector thing didn’t work out. I had tried and given up on (or failed at) numerous other jobs—and this was the best “light at the end of the tunnel” I could find. I hoped it would take me away from waiting tables and other jobs with no real future. I often liken my inspection career to the set of questions that go something like this: “How fast can you run? How fast can you run with a pack of dogs behind you?” I really had no choice but to make this work—and thankfully it did.

One last note on this whole “success” thing: Being a home inspector is rewarding to me, helpful for my clients, and serves a very important need in our society. Being able to help people understand what they are buying and how their house works can be really fun. But being a home inspector isn’t life-changing in a grand sense. I’m the first to admit there are so many other people doing great things that make the world a better place. There are police officers putting their lives on the line every day, teachers shaping kids’ futures, and doctors coming up with medical breakthroughs. Looking at it that way, being a home inspector is kind of a “ho hum” thing. Many days, as I’m running around sticking my electrical tester into outlet after outlet, I have to think there was something more meaningful I could have done with my life. But I am content.

Continue reading… Buy the book Home Inspector Confidential by Matt Fellman.