Every once in a while, I will hear comments to the effect that home inspectors are poorly trained or inadequately trained. The blame is placed on the inspection schools. The thing people should to keep in mind is that the mandate for training of home inspectors, whether in licensed states or in states relying on the various associations to train home inspectors, sets a “minimum standard.”
As an instructor in the State of Washington, I will be the first to agree that most students are not adequately prepared to be home inspectors right out of school. They typically have no trouble passing the National Home Inspector Exam, because again, the test is geared to a “minimum standard” of knowledge.
Training in Washington State consists of 120 hrs (3 weeks, 8 hrs a day) plus a fourth week of 40 hrs of field training.
Most students come into the class feeling like they already know everything they need to know and cannot comprehend why they need to spend “so much” money and have to sit in class for three weeks.
At the end of the three weeks, with their brain looking like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote, most students are painfully aware of how inadequate their knowledge was coming in and how woefully inadequate it still is even after all those hours. It will take time before there is room for one more thin wafer of information, and much of the information will have to be eaten over and over and over—before it truly sinks in.
Some of the things they learned will be remembered incorrectly and many other things will not be remembered at all. Hopefully it will have created a little voice in the back of their heads that warns them something is amiss even if they cannot remember exactly what.
It is akin to graduation from middle school.
We do not expect middle school graduates to be adequately prepared for the fast lane of life and nor should we expect home inspectors to be ready to inspect homes after meeting the minimum standards of preparation to become a home inspector–at least not as well as more experienced inspectors.
The way it is set up now, the inspector will have to complete the rest of his or her schooling on their own. Perhaps one day, home inspectors will at least come out of training as high school graduates, and maybe down the road with even a college degree. Until that day, this is the way it is.
Every inspection is the home inspector’s classroom.
The new inspector needs to ride along with experienced inspectors, ever wary the experienced inspector may never have completed their training as well. They need to be mentored by experienced inspectors, ever wary that the mentor may not know what they are talking about. They need to do continuing education, ever wary that not all presenters will be fully educated themselves. They need to learn how to look up and interpret codes as necessary to support opinions they might have, ever way that those codes might not be applicable to what they are inspecting.
Most of all they need to learn to think, to observe, to come to the correct conclusions. They need to learn to ask for help when they do not know the answers. They need to learn to tell the difference between what is correct and what is bull-shit.
This all takes way more time than is currently possible in today’s educational system and quite frankly is not likely possible at all. Even the best and brightest of inspectors are learning all the time (hopefully). Does that mean they were previously inadequate? Most likely it does not. No other profession expects any student to know all they need to know when they get their license, and home inspectors should not be an exception.
Home inspectors coming out of the inspection schools will likely be prepared to catch the bigger issues present in the home and fall short on the many nuances of construction beyond the bigger things. It is akin to the middle school graduate that knows how to cross the street, tie their shoes, put on a rain coat when it is raining, and how to be excited about what they are doing. There is still so much more to know and so off they go to high school, college, and post college.
To Middle School and Beyond!
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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