07 Feb 2020

Starting a home inspection business is attractive to those who want to be their own boss. It’s also a great idea for those who want control over how they use their time.

Every person who thinks about a home inspection business faces an important question. How much are home inspection business startup costs? It’s not always easy to get good information about these costs. Let’s explore them in detail so you’ll have the information you need to make an informed decision.

High Demand for Home Inspections

Anyone who wants to start a home inspection business needs to consider the demand for the service. Fortunately, there’s a growing need for home inspectors in many parts of the country. This is due to a variety of factors:

  • Mandatory disclosure laws driving more pre-listing inspections
  • Lenders require home inspections before dispensing funds
  • Buyers and sellers more aware of the importance of home inspections
  • Increased concern over the threats posed by mold, radon, lead and other environmental issues
  • Realtors advocate for home inspections more than ever

According to the National Association of Realtors, 5.34 million existing homes were sold in 2018. More than 85 percent of home buyers get home inspections. Home buyers are also investing in new home warranty inspections as never before. They need home inspectors to complete this work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 667,000 new homes built in 2018.

Once startup costs are covered, home inspectors often enjoy high margins. There’s no inventory to carry and no storefront to maintain.

Home inspectors are known for performing inspections before the closing. However, many of today’s home inspectors offer many other services. Infrared thermal analysis of home energy loss is one example. Many home inspectors offer specialized services for added business stability and increased income.

Home inspectors also offer specialized services like:

  • Radon testing
  • Mold screening
  • Water quality analysis
  • Lead detection
  • Septic and well inspections
  • Swimming pool inspections

Start-Up Costs

As with any business startup, a home inspection business needs to be properly capitalized. You have to have enough money to live on until your new business is generating enough revenue. Total startup costs for home inspection businesses often range from about $10,000 to $30,000. Startup costs are lower when some equipment is purchased used rather than new.

One estimate suggests that start up costs may amount to about 15 percent of your first year’s revenues. It’s important to recognize that many startup costs can be financed in a variety of ways. Examples include credit cards, home equity loans and personal loans. Financing allows a new home inspector to meet payments through revenue generated over the first couple of years.

Field equipment

InterNACHI says a home inspector could theoretically operate with just two items. A flashlight and a ground-fault circuit interrupter would allow for the most basic home inspection. To successfully compete in the business, you’ll need far more. You’ll also want to invest in key safety equipment.

InterNACHI offers a detailed look at the costs of various items important to home inspectors:

Tools and Equipment

  • Tool vest ($60-$100)
  • High-traction roof boots ($80)
  • Telescoping ladder ($170)
  • Articulating ladder ($300)
  • Electrical gloves ($170)
  • Full-face or half-face respirator ($20-$70) 

Many other items cost about $5-$20 each. Safety glasses, a compass, flashlight, flexible flashlight, basic electrical tester, smoke pen and telescoping mirror are some examples. You’ll also want an assortment of hand tools including screwdrivers and pliers. 

Some home inspectors attach a wireless camera to a telescoping pole called a spectroscope. This helps with roof and chimney inspections.

Electronics 

  • High-resolution digital camera ($300 and up)
  • Smartphone with good camera ($200 and up)
  • Moisture meter ($350-$500)
  • Infrared thermometer (up to $100)
  • Infrared (IR) thermal imaging camera ($500 and up)
  • AFCI/GFCI electrical tester ($170-$260)
  • Carbon monoxide analyzer ($250-$500)
  • Continuous radon monitor ($550)

Some of the above items are optional. They relate to extra services a home inspector may want to offer.

Office Equipment

Some home inspectors maintain traditional brick-and-mortar offices. Others opt for a mobile office. Either way, you’ll want to invest in report binders, color copier and fax machine. It’s also possible to subscribe to a service that converts your digital documents into faxes. This addresses the need for hard documents.

You also need a computer capable of running the home inspection software you select. Home inspection software is available by paying for either:

  • An upfront software license
  • An ongoing monthly fee
  • A per-inspection charge

The right home inspection software saves valuable time. It will speed the delivery of reports. It will also maintain records essential for accounting and tax purposes.

Marketing and Advertising

You’ll also incur startup costs related to marketing and advertising. Examples include:

  • Business cards
  • Signage for storefront and/or vehicle
  • Business website development

Professional networking is also important to your marketing efforts. Other than the cost of an occasional business lunch, networking with peers and other industry professionals only requires an investment in time.

Legal Documents

You’ll need a state business license for tax purposes. FindLaw provides a good overview of licensing, tax ID numbers and related legal matters. Home inspectors often form limited liability corporations (LLCs) to protect their personal assets. Any businessperson operating as a sole proprietor is one lawsuit away from devastating financial consequences. An LLC provides you with important legal protections that will help you sleep easier at night. It is also crucial to have the right insurance. 

Insurance

States often require home inspection services to carry appropriate insurance. 

Business Liability Insurance – Almost all businesses benefit from business liability insurance. Although uncommon, home inspectors do sometimes cause accidents. A ladder might go through a window. Or, a tool might fall off the roof and hit someone in the head. Also, is important that your truck, car or SUV be properly insured as a business vehicle.

Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance – Home inspectors also need E&O insurance. This is a specialized type of business liability insurance. It covers losses related to mistakes made by home inspectors. For example, a client might sue if an inspection fails to reveal a problem foundation.

Workers Compensation Insurance – Home inspectors themselves face hazards. Falls can cause serious injury. Leg injuries can prevent you from doing your work. States often exempt businesses with a single employee. However, coverage can protect you, particularly if you cannot work for a period of time. State-by-state requirements are noted here

Training and Certifications

To become a certified home inspector, you’ll incur the expense of training and testing. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is one certifying organization. It is recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). 

Full access to all InterNACHI resources is available to members. Membership is $49/mo or $499/yr. InterNACHI’s Certified Professional Inspector designation is free to members. Members also have access to training for more than 30 specialized certifications.

Franchise Fees (Optional) 

Some new home inspectors become franchisees. The benefit from the comprehensive training, marketing support, operating systems and business advice that a nationwide organization offers. Although franchise fees add to startup costs, franchisees have an opportunity to get “up to speed” quickly. Access to reporting tools and pre-formatted contracts may save time and reduce the possibility of error. There are also intangible benefits. For example, franchisees often have ready access to mentoring by experienced industry professionals. 

Continuing Expenses

A home inspector’s ongoing business expenses are quite modest compared to the startup costs comparison. You’ll still have ongoing vehicle costs, advertising expenses and membership fees in one or more professional associations. 

Vehicle Expenses

The costs associated with fuel, insurance and repairs are ongoing. Fortunately, these costs are offset to a degree by the business mileage deduction. The IRS allows this deduction when you use your vehicle for business. In 2019, that rate is 58 cents per mile. The deduction is one of the perks of a home inspection business. Virtually every trip out to a home has a legitimate business purpose.

Website Hosting and Advertising 

Once you have your website up and running, hosting expenses remain. It costs about $15-$30 per month for business website hosting. You’ll also pay for monthly cell phone service. Some home inspectors use geo-targeted internet advertising to promote their services in the areas they serve.

Continuing Education and Expansion

Home inspectors thrive in a healthy real estate market. But what happens when a downturn occurs? Home inspectors with the discipline to invest in the latest technology are better positioned to succeed in all market conditions. Specialized services like radon and mold testing diversify a home inspection business. Home inspectors who advertise are also better insulated against market downturns.

Contact Us Today

WIN Home Inspection (WIN) is one of the nation’s fastest growing home inspection companies. WIN began operations in 1993. Today, it maintains 190+ locations in 33 states. WIN provides both aspiring and experienced home inspectors the resources they need to succeed in the profession. 

If you’re interested in starting your own franchise and for more information, please call (800) 967-8127 or email us at franchising@wini.com and one of our experts will contact you promptly.

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