A Day In The Life
Dan Deist | Owner, Top to Bottom Services
A Typical Day in Home Inspections with Industry Expert, Dan Deist
Have you ever wondered what goes into a career in home inspection? Dan Deist, owner of Top to Bottom Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has almost a decade of experience operating a successful inspection business. He shares his inside perspective on what it takes to be a successful home inspector:
What does a home inspection career entail?
Home inspectors are responsible for a full client experience from the moment they arrive at the property. They must be properly equipped with the right scripts to say to get the buyer and realtor comfortable with what the experience is going to be. They are responsible for communication throughout the whole process and then executing the home inspection itself. Home inspectors should expect to be on the property for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
What does a typical home inspection consist of?
Home inspectors are required to have specific expertise in some fields, and general information in others. On the exterior of the home, they look at everything from the roof, siding, and grating, to how the gutters interact with the roof systems and shed water around the home.
Regarding the interior of the home, inspectors are responsible for a working understanding of the structure so they can intelligently inspect all systems involved, from the attic space all the way down to insulation. They must have an understanding of all appliances within the home, including kitchen appliances, as well as the main systems, such as heating, cooling, and water systems. Inspectors must also ensure all electrical systems are in working order.
What does a typical day look like?
A typical day for an inspector would start the day or night before by reviewing their orders for the next day. They would be expected to download the image of the home, and complete some due diligence to get familiar with the property. They’re also expected to look at the work order itself, and see if there are any special notes or concerns that might have been expressed at the time of schedule.
Home inspectors should expect to have a transit between their home or the office to the home to be inspected. Our inspectors travel anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, so they should expect some travel time. The engagement at the home inspection typically takes 2 ½ to 3 hours. They would be expected to use equipment such as cameras, phones, or tablets. Afterward, the inspection report would then be generated – either on-site, back at the inspector’s residence, or in the office and delivered to the home buyer. A typical day consists of two inspections.
In some cases, inspectors spend little time at the office. Depending on where they are and what equipment they have, inspectors can depart from their homes to the first property. If they need special equipment for any ancillary services, such as mold or radon testing, gas leak detection, or infrared scans, they might have to stop by the office to collect the needed tools. My inspectors don’t go into the office much at all other than to replenish supplies or attend training.
What do you enjoy about your career?
A lot, quite honestly. That’s a question I frequently ask my inspectors because I want to ensure we’re providing them with a career that’s rewarding. Almost unanimously they say it’s the ability to help someone else throughout a very large and stressful transaction. At the end of the day, you go home knowing you’ve worked an honest day and helped someone else through your expertise.
You can be in the home inspection industry as an inspector, business owner, a combination of both, or work for a company. There are a wide variety of options available after completing the Academy.
It’s also an enjoyable career for people who have a background in construction or a similar field. They don’t want all that knowledge in their head to be wasted. The home inspection industry is a field where they can help somebody with something they’re comfortable with, so that’s also rewarding.
Another enjoyable aspect of a home inspection career is working with different building systems. Every home can present itself with some type of unique system or issue that’s intriguing. You’re helping other people, but you’re also challenging yourself on a daily basis to keep your skills sharp and your knowledge of the industry at its peak. It’s an opportunity to continue to learn, and my inspectors love that. Yes, you’re doing home inspections every day, but each home is different, each buyer and realtor is different, and each need is different. As long as you keep your skills sharp, you have the opportunity to never have a boring day in this career.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Every company and each state is different, but we require that our inspectors have attended and passed the federal exam to become a home inspector, as well as any of the local requirements. Maryland, for example, has its own licensing requirements. We also require that they’re a member in good standing with certificate authority at a home inspectors association, such as InterNACHI or ASHI.
We have opportunities at our company to come in at a lower level, or what some people might refer to as an “intern.” We also have opportunities for inspectors that are fully licensed and experienced. They would be considered a professional inspector.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The biggest challenge is continuing your education and advancing your knowledge base. The fact is that someone is always manufacturing a better mousetrap. Once you master a particular water heater, you might think you know everything there is to know about water heaters. But, that’s not true. There are always new safety pieces that are being added to water heaters, for example, so being able to educate yourself and be on top of your game is definitely a big challenge for this industry.
What advice would you give to someone considering this career?
The first thing I would do is see what schools are available. There are a lot of schools out there, but they don’t all offer the same thing. If you don’t initially get proper education from your training academy, then you’re already starting at a deficit. Some inspectors have come to me and said, ‘the classes got me to pass the test, but I couldn’t tell you how to actually do a home inspection.’
I think it helps a lot to have a real instructor, whether that instructor is teaching online, or in a classroom. That way, you can tailor your education by getting answers to your questions along the way, on the spot. And it makes a big difference if the instructor has a solid background actually performing inspections. Learning from someone who has real-world experience is everything.
What sets the home inspection industry apart from others?
The inspector has the ability to learn multiple skill sets, such as HVAC, plumbing, heating, structural, or even landscaping, whereas a plumber is only doing plumbing. An HVAC technician only knows HVAC. In this industry, you get the blessing to become a generalist in all of these disciplines, and then can challenge yourself to become expert-level. You have the opportunity to experience different things while you’re looking at different houses and how they work together with all of these systems. It’s definitely not repetitious, as it would be in other types of fields.
Are there any misconceptions about what you do?
There’s a misconception of what’s actually included in a home inspection and what an inspector is able to do. An inspector cannot tell you about the existence of latent defects. A lot of times, the expectations are set too high. There are limitations regarding the particular knowledge set of an individual inspector, as well as collectively as an industry. There are limitations to the tools or resources that would be necessary to know certain things. For instance, a lot of homeowners want to know if the air conditioning is not only working, but how long it’s going to last. We can make projections, but there’s no way to know when it’s actually going to stop working.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
When I first started, it was just me, myself, and I. Then, I brought on my first employee. You may find this funny, but I remember having a meeting and ending it with ‘Okay, now let’s go save some lives.’ At the time, my employee looked at me like ‘what are you talking about?’ But the truth is, we’re in a career where we literally have the opportunity to save lives. We can find improperly vented natural gas or fossil-fuel-burning appliances. If you don’t have that attitude of ‘I’m in this to serve others and help others,’ you’re going to miss the boat. Coming into this industry you have a chance to really change peoples’ lives and in some cases, save them. It’s a great way to serve others and serve your community.
I honestly believe this is a career that has the opportunity to be bountiful not only financially, because you can make a lot of money, but also personally. It’s fulfilling on a personal level because you’re helping other people. There’s an unlimited income potential in the home inspection industry, and this career allows you to get done with your day and say, ‘I really made a difference today.’ It’s all-around a great career choice.