Are Home Inspectors Required to Be Licensed?

Home Inspectors Do Not Make Repairs

Home inspector licenses
A home inspector in California is not licensed by the state. © Big Stock Photo

Many people have no idea that home inspectors in California are not required to be licensed. But in northern neighboring states like Washington and Oregon, for instance, licenses are required. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, 22 states in America have no licensing requirements for home inspectors.

Working With Unlicensed Home Inspectors

Now, without a licensing requirement, what do you think the odds are of receiving a poor quality home inspection?

It's bad enough that some businesses are run like a bell curve, with only a few at the top that provide superior service, but without any regulations to govern the home inspector, the results of a home inspection might be questionable at best.

If your home inspector is at least certified by a trade association, even without an inspector license, that affiliation tends to offer some small assurance that the inspector has gone through training, passed exams and should possess some semblance of adequate knowledge. But that is also no guarantee.

Now, when you look at a place like Sacramento, where I sell real estate, we have about 5,000 real estate agents that belong to our Board of Realtors. Almost 90% of these agents sell about 3 or 4 homes a year. That means 10% of the agents are doing the bulk of the transactions. Without experience, how adequately do you think an agent can advise her buyer about a home inspection?

Further, what do most agents know about home construction, repair or improvements? This is not an agent's specialty and agents are not licensed to provide advice about home inspections. Yet, buyer's agents still are expected to guide a buyer to arrive at the right conclusions.

I tell my home sellers the odds of going into escrow with an inexperienced buyer's agent are very high.

If a buyer's agent represents a first-time home buyer, typically that kind of buyer has little experience or knowledge about home construction. When you couple an inexperienced buyer's agent and a first-time home buyer together with a home inspector who has no licensing requirements, it can be a recipe for disaster. You can end up with three important entities to a transaction who are wandering about like they are blindfolded.

Yet, this is how we sell homes in California, and I suggest the same ratios may very well apply to other states. Many transactions are renegotiated after the home inspection in California, so home inspections completed by a competent home inspector are crucial to home sellers and home buyers.

Correcting Defects Noted by a Home Inspector

Every home has defects. Some have more issues than others. When was the last time you crawled under a house to inspect for leaks? Probably never. Well, you probably have a slab.

There will more than likely be many defects noted in a home inspection. Some repairs will be called out as health and safety issues, and some of those so-called health and safety issues were not health and safety issues back when the home was constructed.

Health and safety issues are not necessarily life-and-death situations.

There is no purchase agreement requirement that health and safety issues need to be corrected to sell a home in California. There is an option for state-mandated and government retrofits. The C.A.R. Residential Purchase Agreement states all homes are sold AS IS and sellers are not required to make any repairs.

Can a Home Inspector Also Make Repairs?

Inspectors have great leeway as to how they prepare the home inspection. They can note items to be replaced, repaired or demolished, dangerous, inadequate, failing, any number of categories. Sometimes people wonder if a home inspector is writing his own job ticket and whether the inspector is capable of doing the repairs. I do not have knowledge of any reputable home inspector who would do repairs, and that practice is not encouraged by the trade associations.

It would be considered a conflict of interest.

In addition, although California has no licensing requirements for a home inspector, there is the California Trade Practice Act, which prohibits home inspectors from performing repairs on a home they have inspected within the past 12 months. It prohibits "unethical" inspections.

Generally, an inspector will suggest a home buyer obtain further inspections by licensed and qualified specialists.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.