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What Is the Difference Between Building Inspectors and Home Inspectors?

Many people think home inspectors and building inspectors are the same things. After all, homes are buildings, right?

Yes, they are, but these professionals perform different functions.

What Does a Building Inspector Do?

Building inspectors are employed by a town or county. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their main function is to make sure that construction sites are complying with local and state building codes. They also check to see that the company is following the contract and is conforming to zoning regulations.

They check on the construction company’s progress at different times throughout the project, submitting reports along the way to show that everything is being done correctly.

At the conclusion of the project, they “sign off” after their final inspection, affirming that the building was constructed as intended.

Some municipalities require a building inspector to be licensed, but not all do.

What Do Home Inspectors Do?

Home inspectors are generally hired by the prospective buyers of a home. They are not necessarily masters of their city or town’s building codes; they are looking for safety hazards and signs of damage or wear.

For instance, if the building code mandates that 3½-inch nails must be used to frame a house, home inspectors are not going to check for this. In fact, they likely wouldn’t be able to, since the framing would usually be covered by some type of wallboard.

Home inspectors look at a house’s roof, foundation, HVAC, appliances, electrical and plumbing systems and the structure. They look for problems such as cracks in the foundation, missing shingles, leaky appliances, and drainage problems in the yard.

Home inspectors also take note of signs of potential problems such as unusual smells or noises and nonworking lighting fixtures or switches and improper grounding.

Not all states mandate licensing for home inspectors. There are also no national regulations or standards to which home inspectors must adhere. Thus, especially in states where no licensing is required, the scope and depth of the job can vary significantly.

Even if you become a home inspector in a state that doesn’t require licensing, you can still opt to get licensed. You can do the coursework online and earn a certificate. You can add your credentials to your website, business cards, and other marketing materials, and it will lend credence to your business.

Customers want a professional they can trust and in whom they can have confidence. Licensing aims to regulate that, by offering proof of education and competence. Earning a certificate in the absence of a requirement to do so shows dedication to your profession, and is likely to get you bonus points with customers who value diligence.

Can You Be a Home Inspector and a Building Inspector?

It is possible to be both a home inspector and a building inspector, although the combination may prove difficult. Building inspectors are usually full-time government employees, and this does not leave a lot of time to pursue a second career.

However, in smaller towns, it is more common to work as a home inspector only part-time, since the population is smaller and home turnover is less frequent. So a building inspector who wants to moonlight as a home inspector could find it is the perfect combination.