Business OverviewIf you have construction or remodeling experience and you like diagnosing house ailments, then you can give a home buyer sweet dreams--or at least let him know what he's up against--as a home inspector. You'll work mostly for buyers, but also for sellers and with real estate agents, clambering around in attics, crawl spaces and basements, peering at plumbing and electrical components, air conditioning and heating systems, and checking out decks, pools and landscaping elements. You'll then provide a written report or checklist of your findings. In these days when everybody seems to be lawsuit-mad, your service can solve problems before they arise, making the seller and realtor as happy as the buyer. And this business is poised for growth--real estate disclosure laws make inspections more important than ever, and mortgage lending firms and institutions often require inspections before handing out loans. The advantages to this business are that you're always out and about, and you get to see lots of different homes and exercise your mind, solving where-did-that-water-stain-come-from type mysteries. You'll need extensive knowledge of homes and how they work (or don't work)--foundations, walls, floors, roofs, plumbing, electricity, heating and air conditioning. You also must be able to diagnose major-appliance problems; outdoor components like pools, drainage, decks and landscaping; and invisible ailments like radon and lead-based paint. And you should be familiar with building and zoning codes and ordinances in your area. You'll also need people skills to work with high-anxiety home sellers, overanxious home buyers, and real estate agents who may fear your findings will gum up a potentially sealed deal.
The MarketYour clients will be home buyers and real estate agents, mortgage lenders and attorneys who deal with real estate transactions, with the occasional home seller thrown in for good measure. Your best bet is to target realtors, attorneys and mortgage companies by sending your brochure, then following up with a phone call to cement your image in their minds. Give talks to real estate professionals on the benefits of your services. Place ads in the Sunday real estate sections of local papers. Get your business written up in local publications.
Needed EquipmentMost states don't require a license, but you may want to join the American Society of Home Inspectors for startup credibility. You'll need a ladder that reaches to most roofs in your area, flashlights, screwdrivers, an ice pick for testing for dry rot or termites, electrical diagnostic tools like circuit testers and volt meters, a moisture meter, water pressure gauge, gas leak detector and carbon monoxide detector. You'll also need a checklist on which you can make detailed notes and a computer system with a laser or inkjet printer and the usual software on which to write them up. And don't forget errors-and-omissions insurance as well as liability insurance and bonding.