December, 2016
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Bringing an Entrepreneurial Spirit to Home Inspection


Last summer, Nancy Coughlin, an enthusiastic newhome inspector, took some time to talk with me. The first thing she mentioned was how much The ASHI School impressed her. She said, “I took the two-week course in Tampa in February with five other students and I became licensed right after that. Not long ago, I called my instructors to tell them that everything they described has been spot-on as far as what I’m doing and seeing in the eld. They were happy to hear from me and thrilled to know that their information has proven to be accurate. It was great to connect with them again.”

Nancy lives in Jacksonville, FL, which she de- scribes as a growing and thriving community, with a naval base, several banks, technology companies and a variety of other businesses. She explained, “Five years ago, my family was part of Jacksonville’s real estate boom when we moved here from New York City to follow my husband’s job in banking. Back in New York, we had owned service companies and been landlords for some condos. I’d also been a real estate agent for a couple years.”

While settling into life in Jacksonville, Nancy took the opportunity to try something new. Reading Norman Becker’s book, Complete Book of Home Inspections, inspired her to take a new career path. “As I did more research, it was easy to see that ASHI is the cornerstone of the industry, as far as licensing, education and making connections. I liked the prestige that ASHI’s brand offered, and I wanted to attend the top-rated school.”

Since getting her license, Nancy joined the BiltRite home inspection team. She said, “BiltRite inspected my house when we first came to Florida and then a rental property we purchased later. I liked their style—they have an honest, reputable approach. I’m so happy that I’ve become part of the team.”

Nancy continued, “With so many different types of houses, there are endless combinations of what can be going on. I’ve been on the job since February, and because we cover residential and commercial properties, I’ve seen a lot already. Uncovering and describing a house’s “problems”—that requires a lot of detective work, and I love that.” 

“With landlording and entrepreneurship in my background, I understand how to tackle problems and I can handle getting thrown into unfamiliar situations. As a result, I’ve developed a ‘How will I get this done’ attitude instead of a ‘No, I can’t’ attitude. Good problem-solving skills are important for home inspectors.”


“Another TAS instructor, Michael Conley, also has helped me tremendously as I’ve started my career. Mike has introduced me to other home inspector business owners who live and work in my area, and I’ve been able to start networking with them. I believe it’s important to make efforts to get to know your fellow local home inspectors, whether to understand the competition or to share information and training tips. You can learn from others about so many aspects of the industry and even ask them for guidance about house conditions that you may not have seen before.”

“Terminology is so important. You must balance being professional with not sounding ‘over the heads’ of your clients. Also, I’ve been interested to find out how responsible and how liable we are. I like knowing that I’m promising my clients that I’ll tell the truth about what I see. I believe professional integrity is essential, and I’m proud that it’s a vital part of home inspection.”

In her spare time, Nancy volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. “I provide instruction on budgeting, credit, credit reports and guidance about mortgages as part the Habitat curriculum. When I become educated about something, I feel a responsibility to help others get the same knowledge. Because I’m fluent in Spanish, I enjoy using that skill in my volunteer life and my work life.”

As our conversation drew to a close, Nancy commented, “I enjoy people. If you want to be successful as a small business owner, you kind of need to have that trait! Also, I’m always trying to get better at parts of my job, including ‘driving the drone’! I’m finding that the drone is a fun toy that can take really high-quality photos. So when I can’t walk on a roof due to its pitch or the weather, using a drone helps me zoom in on small fragments (like shingles or corners) and get the information I need. It also brings out the neighborhood kids to watch!”

Be sure to look for Nancy at InspectionWorldTM in Las Vegas in January!