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A Building Problem: Home Inspectors Aren’t Licensed in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — If you’re in the market to buy or sell a home in Utah, chances are you’ll need a home inspection performed on the property before moving forward with a final sale. But, ahead of completing such a pricey transaction, you should know: home inspectors aren’t licensed in our state.

Simply put – the industry isn’t regulated in Utah.

Separate from building inspectors who are licensed and certified through the International Code Council and hired by cities or municipalities where a new home is being built, home inspectors complete inspections on existing homes.

RELATED: Number Of Inspectors Isn’t Keeping Up With Home Construction In Utah

In Utah, anyone can be a home inspector. No construction-related experience, trade exams or anything of the like is required.

“Pretty much my 18-year-old son, he could become a home inspector, if he wanted to. He doesn’t have to have any sort of real experience,” said Dave Robison, the president-elect of the Utah Association of Realtors. “They just get a business license and they are a home inspector.”

Robison, a broker at goBE Realty, has worked in the industry for 20 years. He works with home inspectors frequently to help clients buy and sell homes in the market.

“When they come and inspect your home, they give what we call a general inspection of your house,” he said. “They’re going to test electrical, plumbing; they’re going to say what might be a problem. They’re going to try to identify possibilities. One of the things that you have to remember with them is home inspectors aren’t specialists.”

Robison said home inspectors who do not have any real experience can mess up a possible deal in two ways.

“They can mess up your deal by telling you things that are wrong and they aren’t, or they can mess up your deal by not finding things,” he said.

As is the case with any business, Robison knows there are good home inspectors and there are bad ones. But, because home inspectors are not licensed in Utah, it may be more difficult to distinguish between the two.

“That’s scary because there’s not consistency, depending on who you get,” Robison added.

Home Inspectors Across the Country

Utah is one of 18 states nationwide that do not require home inspectors to be licensed. Home inspector requirements vary from state to state. For example, Texas has significantly more mandates and regulations for home inspectors compared to Utah.

Requirements to Become A Texas Home Inspector

  • Texas professional inspector education requirements: 394 hours
  • Inspections: 40 hours of field training (included in 394 hours)
  • Exam Required: NHIE plus Texas-specific exam
  • Application Fee: $130 (other fees may apply)
  • Minimum age requirement: 18
  • Insurance Requirements: Liability insurance with a minimum of $100,000 per occurrence and an aggregate annual total of a minimum of $100,000
  • A background check may be required
  • Fingerprinting is required
  • Citizen of the United States or a lawfully admitted alien

(Source: American Home Inspectors Training; A list of requirements by state as outlined by the American Society of Home Inspectors can be found here.)

Becoming a “Certified Home Inspector” Online

KSL Investigators spent over 100 hours on 24 modules of online video instruction and coursework in preparation for a five-part final exam to become a “certified” home inspector. Our team spent weeks participating in the course, but there’s no denying it – we are not experts.

Somehow, we passed the online certification requirements. It was a group effort. None of our class assignments were timed and everything was open-note and open-book.

“If the home inspector who did my home had as little experience as I do as a ‘certified home inspector,’ I’d be mortified,” said KSL producer Aley Davis.

And yet, our course went beyond any sort of requirements in Utah.

“I would love to follow a mentor – maybe some sort of apprenticeship – to really learn what it’s like to go into a home and to experience what I should be looking for,” Davis said.

That’s exactly what officials with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) recommended. We reached out to the group after completing the certification exam.

“You can learn a lot from textbooks and from online training, and you can take written tests and oral tests, but the true test is the actual experience of doing a home inspection,” said Frank Lesh, ASHI ambassador.

Lesh said the society encourages mentorship and continuing education.

“Doing what we call ride-alongs, where you actually go to an inspection with another proficient inspector, or you go to a conference where we have mockups,” Lesh said. “After you go on one, two, (or) three inspections, you can always call that person and talk to them and ask them questions.”

Bottom line? Certification isn’t even necessary in Utah.

Mark Steinagel, the director at the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, sat down with KSL Investigator Brittany Glas.

“Decisions about what professions are licensed are made by the Utah state legislature,” Steinagel said.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley, has been working on that.

“I want to bring it back to the state. The state says you have the skill to do this,” Mayne said. “The issue is we do not have protection for those people that are buying that home, and probably by the skin of their teeth.”

Mayne introduced a bill last session that pushed for state certification so that homebuyers could have confidence in their costly purchase. After our investigation, she said she’s circling back and planning to reintroduce it with more specific requirements.

Protect Yourself & Your Home: Inspecting Your Home Inspector

So, how do you protect yourself and your home from a subpar home inspector? How can you ever really know for sure that you’re hiring a qualified inspector? Here’s some advice:

  • Check to see if a prospective inspector has any kind of certifications, either from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors. If you confirm an inspector’s certifications from either and they practice in Utah, you can be assured in knowing that they’ve taken industry training – training that is optional in our state.
  • Find out how long a prospective inspector has been inspecting homes. As is the case with any industry or a particular field, the longer someone has been working, the better the chances are they know what they’re doing well enough to stay afloat and keep their business running.
  • Work to learn a home inspector’s relevant career background, if applicable. Several retired construction workers will often make the move to home inspector later in their career. Depending on their resume, you may decide to trust this person to inspect your home over someone who has no related history in the industry.
  • Ask trusted friends and family members for recommendations. Word-of-mouth can always provide a good place to start.
  • You can turn to online reviews for a business, as well, but always be mindful of who or where they’re coming from if you can. Robison said if a business doesn’t have any reviews posted, he would be skeptical. You want to do your best to get to know that inspector’s employment history and training the best you can.

Building Inspectors: A Recap

In Utah, local governments are responsible for making sure all new residential and commercial structures built in their municipalities are safe. That’s the job of licensed building inspectors on staff.

New homes require at least eight total inspections from start to finish. Everything from the foundation to the insulation should be scrutinized and signed off. “Four-way” inspections are more in-depth and focus on framing, plumbing, HVAC and electrical.

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