Mock home inspections and walk-throughs can help new home inspectors improve dramatically, but how can seasoned home inspectors get better at their craft? Show others how it’s done. That’s why the ASHI Great Lakes chapter is one of a handful of home inspection groups to offer a peer review program, an opportunity for both new and experienced inspectors to test their skills in front of a panel of other working professionals. David Bunker is the immediate past Chairman of the ASHI Great Lakes chapter peer review program and co-owner of the inspection company Building Inspectors Consortium Inc. in the Chicago suburbs. Dave ran the ASHI Great Lakes chapter peer review program for eight years and has passed the program himself. Here’s his take on why peer reviews are crucial in helping home inspectors perfect their craft.
How Peer Reviews Work
Only offered through a handful of home inspection organizations, peer review initiatives vary from program to program. For the three peer reviews the ASHI Great Lakes chapter runs each year, the organization selects a panel of working home inspectors, all of whom have passed a peer review themselves. The committee consists of the chairman and three home inspectors for each review panel. The number of review panels is determined by the number of inspectors taking the peer review, with each panel being able to review four to five inspectors. The committee inspects the review house early on the day of the peer review and from all of the defects and faults found in the house, picks out ten “must-find” faults.
“There may be 100 items in the house that are faults, but we prioritize and we come up with a list of 10 items that we feel are the most critical that an inspector should find,” Bunker explains.
Home inspectors participating in the peer review program then have two hours to inspect the home. They may use cameras, notes, recorders, and any home inspection software or other tools they normally use on inspections. From there, peer review candidates present their findings to the review panel. They also have two of their inspection reports reviewed for compliance with ASHI standards, and answer 30 general knowledge questions about inspecting.
“If the person passes all three of those items,” including finding all ten must-finds, presenting reports that live up to ASHI standards and correctly answering 70 percent of the general knowledge questions Bunker says, “[the inspector] gets a designation and that designation is called Inspector by Review®.”
The true value in participating in a peer review isn’t in seeing what you know; it’s identifying your weak spots. Bunker says that even veteran home inspectors are often surprised by the results of their review. Among all working inspectors who did a peer review under Bunker’s watch, only about one in five found all ten “must-finds” on their first peer review. Among those who took the peer review again, 50 to 60 percent of home inspectors found all ten on their second go.
In his experience, Bunker says that “The folks that came back until they passed were diligent, conscientious inspectors who went on to be top notch inspectors and high producing inspectors in their area.”
Programs like the peer review are particularly important because home inspecting is a solitary profession. Since most inspectors work solo, finding an objective third-party to quality control your work can be hard to find. Bunker emphasized that Peer Reviews should be seen primarily as an educational program, not a certification program. Even though an inspector who passes the program will receive the designation Inspector by Review® the real benefit is in the education an inspector gains from the experience of participating in the program.
“Every day we’re out there alone. We don’t work with other home inspectors so it’s a good opportunity to get together and just check your knowledge against another knowledge base,” says Bunker. “…I think every home inspector can definitely benefit from it.”
To find out about peer review programs in your area, contact your local ASHI chapter or other home inspection organization.