Millions of field inspections are completed each year by thousands of local field inspectors. Many new field inspectors are eager to get started, but sign up for jobs they really should avoid. Why? Because they forgot the main reason they became a field inspector in the first place – to make a good living.
There are plenty of field inspectors who continue to learn new skills in order to qualify for the high-paying field inspection jobs that can really boost their income. It’s not uncommon for a capable field inspector to earn $75,000 to $100,000, but it takes time to gain the skills to get to that level.
To take your field inspection income from pitiful to profitable, here are 6 tips you must remember:
1. If you’re just getting started, find the national field inspection firms that pay a fair price for a drive-by mortgage inspection. These days, that’s $15-$20 per inspection. There are many national firms that try to take advantage of “newbies.” hiring them for rock-bottom inspection fees. Many of these are connected with large, well-known banks and title companies.
Why do they pay so little? Most have several levels of compensation, so the $20 inspection fee paid by the lender gets diluted by two or three layers of middlemen, who each take a cut, and the local field inspector who does the actual work gets the crumbs. Your solution is simple – refuse to work for these firms unless they are willing to pay you a reasonable inspection fee.
2. Continue to improve your skills and knowledge to get the better paying assignments and do more advanced inspections, like commercial loss control inspections for insurance companies. Many of these national field inspection firms offer free online training, such as videos or webinars, so you can watch and learn new skills.
3. Carry a smartphone with you on the job so you can check your email for new inspection jobs. Many companies post new inspections as they become available, which could be any time of the day. By checking your email inbox during the day, you’ll be able to pick up new projects to do that same day.
4. Start a sideline referring investment opportunities to local real estate investors. Every community has folks who are on the lookout for bargain homes to buy, either to “flip” for a quick profit, or rehab and rent for income. They are willing to pay a “scout,” like a local field inspector, for a tip on any properties that may be available to purchase cheap. If you’re doing mortgage inspections, you’ll find lots of these homes that have potential as investments. So if you are doing an inspection in a neighborhood where there are neglected properties, such as those with neglected yards, pass the information along to investors for a finder’s fee.
5. Reliable field inspectors get the best assignments, as well as more jobs sent their way. If you follow the timeline to completion and get your report and photos back before the deadline, you’ll be rewarded in the future. To make sure you can wrap up your inspections on time, don’t take on any more projects than you can complete by their deadlines, and stay within your zip code area so you don’t waste driving time and fuel. Most inspectors use a 25 mile radius as their work “zone,” and charge extra to do inspections outside that zone.
6. Don’t forget to keep track of your business mileage and deduct it as a legitimate business expense on your annual tax return. The IRS currently allows 55 cents per mile, which can add up to a substantial deduction for most field inspectors, who put a lot of miles on their vehicles. For example, a full-time inspector might travel 800 miles a week doing inspections, which works out to 40,000 miles in a year. That’s a $22,000 tax deduction, which can help pay for a new car.
Like most businesses, success as a field inspector is built one step at a time, and these 6 tips will help keep you stepping in the direction of a high-paying job as an independent field inspector. To learn more about how to get started in this profitable business, read Drive-By Profits.