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Home is no doubt one of the biggest investments for many people. Therefore, the role of a home inspector is significant when it comes to ensuring that your home is in good condition before making a purchase. They help to detect any problems with the property so that homebuyers can avoid potential financial losses.
The home inspector will also provide a home buyer with a written report detailing their findings. This report can be used as a negotiating tool when it comes to the purchase price of the property.
Although home inspector plays an important role in the home purchasing process, is this a good profession to get into? And what is it really like to be a home inspector?
To have a better understanding of this career, I bring in Ford Shadwell from National Property Inspections with us today. Ford is a licensed home inspector in South Carolina.
In this interview, he will be sharing with us:
- What inspired him to become a home inspector?
- A day in the life of a home inspector.
- The challenges that home inspectors face on the job.
- His business goal and career outlook
- His advice for those who are considering becoming a home inspector.
If you’re thinking of getting into the home inspection industry or simply curious to know more about it, this would be an excellent opportunity to learn from an experienced professional.
Some fun facts about Ford Shadwell
He enjoys playing soccer in several leagues. Any opportunity to enjoy the outdoors is a great day for him, whether it’s going up to the blue ridge mountains to hike or taking the kayaks on the Saluda River. He and his girlfriend like to cook dinner for friends, trying out new cuisine and restaurants whenever possible.
Without further ado, let’s hear what Ford thinks about the home inspection career!
Hi Ford, thank you for joining us today. Before we dive into your home inspector career, can you please give us a bit of your background?
Ford: “Of course, Jacob, and thank you for having me. I’m located in the Midlands of South Carolina; Camden, Sumter, and surrounding areas are my primary market.
I was born and raised in the area and went to the University of South Carolina, graduating with a degree in Finance and Real Estate.”
How did you start as a home inspector? Is that something you have always wanted to do?
Ford: ” My father, Hank Shadwell, has been a home inspector for over 15 years. I worked with him as an assistant and office manager during college. I lived in Asheville, NC, working for Wells Fargo as a banker, focusing on consumer lending and business banking.
After having lunch with my dad and doing some research into the inspection industry, I decided to come back home and work to grow what my father had already built over his career.
The opportunity to run and grow a family business that provides important information to help people make informed decisions and protect their investments is why I got into the industry.”
What do you like about being a home inspector?
Ford: “Continually learning about building science and new techniques being used keeps this job exciting. The more I learn about how the systems and components work together and what techniques can be used to uncover hidden issues, the better information I can relay to my clients.
I enjoy looking at properties through the lens of an inspector. I get to use awesome tools like an infrared camera and sewer scope to see things about a home that most will never see.
The more I can find, the better recommendations I can give to a potential homeowner. There could be critical issues of moisture intrusion or as simple as missing insulation.
I am able to provide information that can save homeowners money and increase the life of their home’s components and systems, which is very meaningful to me. I have always been gratified by helping others.”
I know that you recently got the SC home inspector license, and congratulations! What kind of training or education do you need to obtain such a license? And how long did the licensing process take you?
Ford: “To get a license in SC, you must pass an approved course.
InterNACHI has an approved course, and you can also become a certified property inspector and use their logos to improve your credibility as an inspector.
NACHI and ASHI are the two largest professional organizations for home inspectors. I chose to go with NACHI because of the additional educational materials and certifications they offered.
Our Franchise also offers training classes for franchisees and their employees. I completed both the franchise course and the NACHI certification.
I also worked as an assistant for NPI as I was studying. The hands-on training was extremely helpful in understanding how these different systems work and work together to build a house.
The franchise course was a two-week course, and then I applied through the SC LLR (labor licensing and regulation) to sit for the exam. After communicating and providing all the information to LLR, I scheduled the home inspector exam that is proctored through PSI.
All in all, it took roughly a month to become fully licensed, not including study time outside the coursework.”
What does your typical working day look like? (Do you need to work during the weekend or evening?)
Ford: “A typical day starts with a smoothie and a coffee while I read newsletters and check my emails. I then make sure my pre-inspection agreements are signed for the day’s inspections, map out my route on my phone and fill out any general property information (age, sq foot, address, etc.) for my report.
Usually, I schedule an extra two hours in the morning for administration office housekeeping items on Thursday. Depending on the day’s inspections and locations, I will always look for real estate offices to drop off business cards and marketing material. Drive to the first inspection, meet the client/agent and begin the inspection.
Eat my lunch and drive to the next property or begin marketing.
When I get home, I clean and check all my equipment and, most importantly, put them on the charger.
Then I write and review the reports and schedule them to go out at 9 AM the next day.
Currently, I like to write the report at home after the on-site inspection so I can research additional resources to provide to my clients and understand the house as a sum of its parts and not get hung up on the symptoms instead of the cause.
Starting out, I would expect to work at least evenings doing business admin and networking events. I work with an established inspector, so we try not to schedule inspections on the weekends. However, I do try to go to open houses on Sundays when they are available.”
Can you tell us what it’s like when inspecting a property?
Ford: ” I start by walking around the exterior of the property and then the inside. When inside, I turn on the A/C or heat, depending on the season. I also take 360 pictures of every room. This preliminary walk-through is just to get an idea of the building layout.
I use the software provided by our Franchise. Most software available is laid out similarly. I follow the software to make sure I don’t miss any components or systems.
I order my inspection from top to bottom. I start with the roof walking on it when it is safe to do so. Then walk the exterior of the building.
My main focus is moisture intrusion. I will inspect the condensing unit and the service entrance, possibly the main distribution panel, while walking the exterior. Then we enter the house.
My main focus is moisture, efficiency, and safety. From room to room, I use an IR camera to scan for anomalies I may not see with the naked eye. I also check all the vents for any signs of distribution concerns.
I try to check at least one window and an electrical outlet in every room. Make sure the doors open and close (this can be a clue to settling or other issues)
I try to make a clockwise pattern through the house so I know I have covered all the square footage.
I take the dead front cover off all electrical panels for inspection.”
That sounds like a very thorough inspection. Do you also look into the attic?
Ford: “Yes, after the interior, I go into the attic space. I always try to take care to clean up after myself entering and exit homes. This is another reason we go into the crawlspace last.
I grab my moisture meter and a waterproof camera, put on coveralls, and give a nice yell into the crawlspace just in case there is something waiting for us.
I cover as much space as is safe to do so in the crawlspace. I like to take a moisture reading at the crawlspace entrance and near the center of the home.
I am looking for any signs of moisture intrusion and the type of ventilation that is present.”
Here’s a video of Ford performing a roof inspection
You mentioned you have a specific order when inspecting a property. What is the purpose of doing so?
Ford: “Doing the inspection in this order helps because if I notice something on the roof (i.e., deteriorated vent boots), I’m going to confirm further when I get into the attic (i.e., look for staining or moisture intrusion). If I notice something on the outside, I investigate the interior.
If I notice something on the inside (i.e., doors sticking to the frame, sloping floors, plumbing leaks), I will get to that location in the crawlspace (i.e: unconventional framing, moisture intrusion)”
Can you describe the earning potential of this career?
Ford:” Earning potential will vary based on your market and your effort. It really is unlimited. There is plenty of opportunity in this industry. We are heavily affected by the real estate market, which is in quite a bit of turmoil between inventory issues and rising interest rates.
However, the ability to diversify and find multiple sources of income to smooth out the cyclical nature and ups and downs in the market is why I am confident I can smooth out my revenue and grow our business despite the current market conditions.
The amount you can charge for each inspection will also be determined by your market. It is a good idea to observe your competitors see what their pricing structure looks like.
We try to be near the top of the average price because we believe we are a value leader, not a price leader.
Nevertheless, if you are just starting out, you may start low to get in with some agents. Then begin a price-raising strategy as you refine your process and product.”
What is your goal in terms of business volume?
Ford: “Our goal is to have an inspection 5 days a week, which means we have to find the time to do marketing as well to keep the phone ringing.
We schedule 3 hours for an inspection on-site. When starting out, it is important to go slow and think about what you are looking at. Again report writing takes time to master.”
How do you differentiate your home inspection services from other competitors?
Ford: “I am introducing a new pricing strategy for our business to appeal to a wider customer base.
I can do a structural or “4-point” inspection that will really just cover the essentials: Roof, Attic, Mechanicals (HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing), and Foundation with a focus on moisture intrusion at a lower price.
We believe this will appeal to house flippers and investors that just want to know the bones are good. We have our traditional standard of practice inspection that meets all the requirements of an ASHI inspection (SC has adopted the ASHI standards).
We also offer a premier inspection that includes additional services (pool/spa, well inspection, septic inspection, mold testing, and thermography scan).
We also attach all our raw photos, including drone footage and infrared pictures, for the client with the premier level service. We are always looking to add services that we believe benefit our clients.
I don’t like to sell add-ons that don’t have benefits to the client. I will only suggest them while on-site if I see a need (i.e., mold on the walls, backups in multiple drains).”
What kind of personality or attribute would make a person fit to be a home inspector? And what type of people may not be a good fit?
Ford: “If you plan to be the owner and inspector or grow your business into a multi-inspector business, you should expect to work a lot. Since you are your boss, you need to be self-motivated.
You will need to have interpersonal skills as an owner/operator. I have to form relationships with agents and clients, not just perform inspections.
If you are terrified of tight spaces where there are spiders and maybe other creatures, probably not gonna be for you. I see snakeskin pretty regularly in crawl spaces.
Even if you are in FL or AZ, you will probably do mostly slab-on-grade houses, but you still have to get in the attic, and there’s always the potential to run into something alive (or dead).
I have a large geographical territory, and therefore I have commutes ranging from 30 mins to an hour. I really enjoy the commute. I listen to live music, news, and other podcasts.
I also try to utilize this time to make phone calls when necessary (hands-free, of course).”
What advice do you have for people considering starting this profession?
Ford: “Do your research, and go on a ride alongs with an inspector to make sure it is going to be the career for you. The overhead is pretty low in this business, but there is somewhat expensive equipment you will want to get that can add up. Plan for growth, and use your resources (SCORE is a great one for any business venture).”
If our readers want to know more about your home inspection services, where can they find you?
- FB: National Property Inspections- The Midlands and Pee Dee Line | Facebook
- Web: Midlands-Pee Dee, SC Home Inspections | NPI Midlands-Pee Dee Line (npiweb.com)
- Email: email@example.com
- Ph: (803) 306-2413
Final thoughts about the home inspection career
Thanks, Ford. That’s a lot of insightful sharing about being a home inspector. Being able to provide an accurate inspection that helps homebuyers in making an informed decision is important and also what makes this profession meaningful.
I applaud Ford for holding the mindset and making a mission of helping other people. His help does not only apply to his clients. In fact, how I connected with him is that I saw his post on Facebook. In there, he was willing to share his knowledge about the home inspection profession.
I genuinely believe having the heart to serve others is one of the most important attributes of doing business. Also, having a systematic approach, just like how Ford performs an inspection, is another essential element to success.
Once again, I thank Ford for taking the time to give this interview and share such incredible tips and experiences with us. I wish him all the best and continued success in the home inspection industry.
If you want to learn more about becoming a home inspector, you may click here for more resources on this career. In there, you’ll find the licensing requirements, income guides, and helpful articles about the home inspecting profession.
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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change without any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. Some of the posts on this site may contain views and opinions from individual not related to JCHQ Publishing. They do not necessarily reflect our view or position.
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