Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

Home Inspector or Appraiser: Which Career is Right for Me?

Home Inspector or Appraiser: Which Career is Right for Me?

Posted by: Emile L’Eplattenier, Fit Small Business
Updated: January 15, 2019

Real estate agents aren’t the only people in the real estate field who can rake in the cash. Home inspectors and home appraisers can make a very comfortable living. So if you want to get into real estate, but don’t want to sell homes, consider these two options.

What does it pay and who do I work for?

As a home inspector, you can work for yourself (as your own small business) or work for a home inspection company. As an independent, you’ll need to find your own work and clients, but it can pay off handsomely—we found the average home inspector makes over $70,000 a year. You’ll need to build relationships with homeowners, homebuyers, and real estate agents—these are the people who will call on you when they need an inspection done. If you work for a home inspection company, they’ll be taking a cut, and you could make less.

As a home appraiser, you will generally find full-time employment as an in-house appraiser for a bank or mortgage company. You can also be a fee appraiser—an independent worker who offers appraisals for a fee—although you’ll need to find your own clients. For in-house appraisers, pay differs according to experience, employer, and location, although you could make more with the right skillset and employer. In fact, the highest 10% of appraisers make over $97,000.

Jobs of the inspector

Home inspectors are the people who scour a home for everything that’s right or wrong with it—and that’s important. You need to be able to spot an unstable foundation or a plumbing system on the fritz.  That means you’ll want a healthy knowledge of what makes a house work. That includes:

  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Foundations and basements
  • Electrical systems
  • Insulation
  • Fireplaces
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Structural integrity
  • Wells and septic tanks
  • Local building codes
  • Indoor air quality

You may even want to get certified for pest inspection, because many buyers will want to include additional services such as a termite check. For a full list of things an inspector should know, check out these resources from the American Society of Home Inspectors.

A home inspector’s job can affect the value or sale of a home. For example, a buyer might ask for a price reduction to reflect the need for a new furnace—but inspectors don’t have the home’s value as a priority; it’s simply their job to report the facts to both the buyer and seller. Inspections generally take about two to three hours.

Jobs of the appraiser

A home appraiser’s job is to figure out the fair market value of a home. This is done by an on-site check, where you survey the property and take note of all the home’s amenities, aesthetics, appliances, size, number of rooms, types of construction materials used, and updates throughout the home. You also take note of lot size and its condition, as well as the general upkeep of the home’s exterior.

While figuring out the value of a home, you will have to consider all comparable properties within the area. For example, if the home has a pool and is located in an area where pools are a desirable feature, it could boost up the price. But if most buyers in that area don’t desire a pool, the price may not be affected at all.
Whereas the inspector works for the buyer and seller, the appraiser works for the lender. It’s the appraiser’s job to tell the mortgage company how much this house is worth. Preparing for, conducting, and reporting on an appraisal takes about 4 to 5 hours for a non-complex assignment. For a complex assignment, the process can take much longer. .

Training and licensing

Becoming a home inspector is arguably easier. Thirteen states (CA, MT, WY, CO, NM, NE, KS, MO, MN, IN, MI, GA, ME) do not require a home inspection license. The other 37 states do, and they require you to take a home inspector licensing exam, which varies by state.

Of course, just because you don’t need a license doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one. A home inspector’s license will make you appear more professional and provide you a competitive edge next to those who don’t have one. Additionally, it’s a good idea to join the American Society of Home Inspectors for networking and additional education.

To become a home appraiser, you need to take 75 hours of coursework and an additional 4-hour class to become a trainee appraiser (at least in most states). For example, California and New York require 150 hours of coursework. After that, you’ll need to work under a licensed appraiser as an apprentice for 2,000 hours over the course of a minimum of one year—so pick someone you get along with! You also need to have at least 30 hours of college-level coursework under your belt in lieu of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Remember, whether you’re an inspector or an appraiser, you’re selling yourself. Extra certifications and education can only make you look better and give you a bigger chance of making more money in the future. And while the two jobs may be different, both help ensure people’s future...and that’s a very good thing!