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Professional Engineer and Registered Architect Issue

For doing home inspections there are licenses and/or certification requirements in most states. Most states generally require you to work under someone else's wing until you learn the basics of the business and get some training. It's similar to getting a State appraiser's license. Working with someone else's inspection company has many positive aspects to it. You won't be calling the shots for a while, but you won't have any overhead or liability problems either.

There are no Engineering or Architecture degrees needed to do home inspections. Let me put this issue to bed nice and early. This is a very common misconception about home inspections. The following statement was issued by the American Society of Home Inspectors. ASHI has members from all different backgrounds, including engineers and architects. This is verbatim from their statement:

  • "It is not uncommon for buyers to be confused about who is qualified to perform home inspections. There are for example, no home inspection degrees offered or required by law. In some cases, consumers have been led to believe that a home inspection involves engineering analysis and therefore requires the use of a licensed Professional Engineer. The confusion is compounded by the inadvertent misuse of the term "engineer " and "engineering inspection."
  • Visual home inspections do not involve engineering analysis however even when performed by Professional Engineers. In fact, engineering is an entirely different type of investigation, which entails detailed scientific measurements, tests, calculations and/or analysis. Normally this is done on one specific component of the house (structural or electrical, for example) by, or under the direction of, an engineer trained in that area. Such a technically exhaustive analysis involves considerable time and expense, and is only appropriate on rare occasions when visual evidence exists to indicate design problems which require further, specialized investigation."

An analogy to this is, let's say you were doing an inspection on a slate roof, and there were visible signs that shingles were excessively shaling (flaking) and falling off the house. You should then instruct the client to contact an expert in that field who specializes in that one aspect of house construction. In this example the client should contact a roofer to get repair estimates. A home inspector is a generalist, in the sense that he/she knows a lot about all he different aspects of housing construction. A home inspector is not an expert in just one area of housing construction.

You have to educate potential clients when they call for price quotes and are only looking for a PE or a RA. PE and RA are the abbreviations for Professional Engineer and Registered Architect. Tell the potential clients to try to find an engineering or architecture school that teaches people how to become a home inspector. (But don't hold your breath while you look). Engineering courses are a lot math and physics. Home inspectors are trained to determine the life expectancy and operating conditions of a boiler/furnace, air-conditioning, plumbing, termites, water problems in basements, roofs, septics, wells, etc.

You will come across some unethical engineers and architects that try to deceive people into believing that they're more qualified as home inspectors due to their college degree and education. There was a PE in my area who was suspended from ASHI over this issue. This dishonest PE was caught handing out flyers to Realtors and other people stating that a new law was just passed which stated you must be a Professional Engineer to be a home inspector. This PE even went a step further. He put ads in the yellow pages that misled consumers into believing only Professional Engineers were qualified to do home inspections. Inspectors in the area complained to the yellow pages and they made this PE change his ad the next year. Talk about a greedy, dishonest, jerk! This guy wins the prize.

A PE can be a Nuclear Engineer, a Civil Engineer, a Chemical Engineer, an Aeronautical Engineer, a Mechanical Engineer, an Electrical Engineer, etc. which has absolutely NOTHING to do with a home inspection. Architects are trained to design the plans and layout for homes, not evaluate the life expectancy and condition of roofs, heating systems, plumbing, siding, insulation, water problems, termites, etc. I have friends that are architects, mechanical, electrical, and structural engineers and they know nothing about home inspections. When you come across any engineers or architects who try to tell people that they're the only ones qualified to do home inspections, then you should just ask them what they learned in college about home inspections. Ask them, what Engineering or Architecture school teaches you to become a home inspector? It's not that being a PE or a RA is bad, because it's helpful to have these qualified degrees regardless of the occupation you're in. It's just that a PE or a RA isn't any more qualified to do home inspections than a person with a good construction background or a well-trained home inspector.

You may even want to tell potential clients to call their State Board of Engineering to learn the distinction between an engineer and a home inspector. Do the same with the Board or Architects in your State. If you know what you're talking about and you're knowledgeable enough, the customer will understand the logic behind the PE and RA issue. You should even tell the potential client to question the integrity of any other home inspector that tries to convince them that only PE's or RA's are qualified to do inspections.

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