Compared to many of our members, I suppose I’m still a rookie. I started in 1992, have been inspecting homes for 18 years, and have performed over 8,000 home inspections. I can say with certainty things are not the same as they were when I started and are unlikely to be as they are today 20 years from now.
I started out in life as an architect and maintain my registration in Ohio. When I got tired of sitting in a cubicle, I took a job as a field superintendent with Centex homes. As an architect, my knowledge of construction was mainly comprised of book knowledge. Working for Centex taught me how things are really done in the field. My desire to be in business for myself took me to home inspections. I thought that my knowledge would prepare me for home inspections, but I was wrong. Inspecting homes is not the same as designing or building them. My training was the ASHI Training Manual for Home Inspectors by Alfred L. Alk. I still have this excellent book. Schools were few and far between. I would have had to travel an extensive distance from Ohio to the East Coast to take a 10-day course.
During the housing boom, home inspection schools were opened everywhere. A few years later, at the peak of the boom, there were three schools in my hometown. It seemed like everyone wanted to get into home inspections. Then the bubble burst.
In the business cycle, there is the beginning phase, the growth phase, the plateau and then the correction. No doubt, we are in the correction phase at this point. Foreclosures and short sales were something that home inspectors never had to deal with years ago. The classes are practically empty. Pricing pressure is moving home inspection fees down. Inspectors are leaving the business.
Through all this, ASHI has fared pretty well. Our membership has been stable, while most associations have seen massive declines. We are the top inspectors and are able to weather the storm. Nonetheless, these are not the boom years. Hopefully, we will emerge from this experience stronger, both as individuals and as an association.
New trends are emerging. Inspectors are looking for ways to augment their traditional business. Energy and weatherization certainly are emerging trends. Consumers are more concerned than ever about healthy homes. Mold and radon certainly were not the concern 20 years ago that they are today. Building science was never in the forefront years ago. People are studying how homes function as a system. The days of the flashlight and clipboard are over as inspectors turn to infrared cameras, moisture meters, carbon monoxide testing and other sophisticated technologies. Perhaps the days of the non-technically exhaustive visual inspection are behind us. The ASHI Standards have remained the standard of the industry since 1976.
In April, the ASHI Board of Directors will began strategic planning. It is our task to look at the profession and determine where we are going over the next three to five years. It will be interesting to get the input of the best minds in the business. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin’.”