Certified — What IS in a Name?

By Rick Bunzel, CRI, Principle Inspector, Mountain View Property Inspection, Niwot, Colorado and Mallory C. Anderson, NAHI Executive Director

There has been a lot of discussion lately over the terms we use in the home inspection industry to express an individual’s competency. “Certified, “Master,” or in some states, “Licensed” are terms commonly used. The first two can freely be used to describe anyone while the latter is regulated and awarded by city or state government.

Unfortunately anyone can use the term certified to describe someone that has taken a test or completed a course. There is no government standard, which defines the level of competency, experience or rigor necessary to pass a course or test. So, in essence, the term “certification” is like ChapStick or Kleenex, a generic term, which is the crux of the problem we are facing. In a search of the Internet, we identified twelve organizations other than NAHI that offer certifications. With the sheer number of certifications and huge variation in qualifications, our challenge is to differentiate NAHI’s certification from the other organizations. This is easy as there is only one other organization (ASHI) that has as stringent testing criteria. NAHI have spent years developing and implementing tests that are legally defensible. In other words, we can show how we created a profile of a competent home inspector and developed a test that could only be passed by this type of an individual. We can also show that we only deliver this test in a supervised environment and individuals do not have any outside assistance during the exam. All other organizations have lesser stringent qualification to their certification.

Both ASHI and NAHI have spent years developing and implementing tests that are legally defensible. In other words, we can show how we created a profile of a competent home inspector and developed a test that could only be passed by this type of an individual. We can also show that we only deliver this test in a supervised environment and individuals do not have any outside assistance during the exam.

As an organization we have to do a better job of educating our customers and the real estate community about NAHI’s Certified Real Estate Inspector examination. As most of you know, individuals must have 250 verifiable full fee paid home inspections and pass a proctored exam to achieve the NAHI CRI status. In comparison, most “Internet Certifications” do not:

  • Require verification of 250 full fee paid home inspections;
  • Test in a proctored environment (recently a TV reporter took and passed the InterNACHI exam. He had no inspection experience but was able to research the answers while taking the test);
  • Identity verification — With Internet exams, no effort is made to verify the test taker’s identity. One individual could take the test for everyone within a company.
  • Require and track continuing education requirements – many organizations only require a member to log continuing education but have no means to audit and verify compliance.

Internet certifications and the organizations behind them need to require an even higher standard than traditional forms of teaching due to the nature of the home inspection industry. It is believed that one of the best forms of teaching is still the “practice home inspection.” While Internet-based teaching has the most honorable intentions, they allow inexperienced inspectors to use credentials such as being “certified”

and “master inspector” that imply far greater experience and training. This can potentially erode consumer confidence and accelerate the rate at which states adopt licensure. The short-term answer is to educate the real estate community about Internet certification versus NAHI’s Certified Real Estate Inspector certification program.

With the home inspection industry exploding in growth over the past ten years, the confusion with words and definitions are an unwanted part of the growth. If each of us makes it a point to educate consumers and the real estate community we can demonstrate the different types of training programs and actual certification programs available today such as the NAHI Certified Real Estate Inspector certification program.

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