A field inspector is a person who is hired on a per-project basis to provide an in-person visual inspection of homes, apartment buildings, and other commercial real estate. They also do collateral inspections of equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, boats, RVs, even medical equipment leased to a clinic or hospital.
The purpose of a field inspection is to check the condition of property or equipment for the company that loaned money on it, such as a bank, mortgage company, or another lender. For example, insurance companies often require a field inspection to verify building dimensions, condition, and safety issues like missing or damage stair handrails or cracked sidewalks that could cause a fall.
Because most lenders prefer to avoid the expenses of having full-time employees in all parts of the country, they “out-source” the work to local field inspectors. Although most field inspection jobs come from banks, insurance companies, leasing companies, and other lenders, there are always exceptions. For example, a national mattress company recently had a warranty problem, so they hired independent field inspectors in towns around the U.S. Those inspectors visited homes, took pictures of the defective mattresses, and filed a simple report. A visit took 20 minutes, paid $25, and there were dozens of these every month in many towns.
Another national firm leases heavy equipment, such as portable generators, bulldozers, cranes, and job-site office trailers. They require periodic inspections to verify that the equipment is where it is supposed to be. They have equipment in thousands of locations, and each inspection, with a digital photo to provide proof, can bring in revenue. So there are lots of opportunities to make money in this area as well.
The economic downturn of the last few years has created a financial hardship for millions of homeowners, forcing many to lose their homes to foreclosure. This is one of the toughest experiences anyone can go through. Over three million homes nationwide have been foreclosed. This has created a huge opportunity for those who can do foreclosure inspections. Banks and other lenders who hold the mortgage on foreclosed are required by law to track the condition of the property to prevent damage from lowering the property value further.
When a company leases equipment, they need to confirm, with an on-site visit, that the equipment is where it’s supposed to be, and used and maintained correctly. Most collateral inspections are for construction equipment, such as backhoes. Occasionally, lenders will want an inspection of other equipment, such as vending machines, portable generators, even medical equipment.
Commercial inspections are detailed inspections of business properties, such as restaurants, retail stores, warehouses, and apartment buildings. Most commercial inspections are done for insurance companies, who will supply a checklist of the items they want to be inspected. Most also require digital photos of the inspected items, such as roofs, elevators, stairs, electrical and mechanical systems, and laundry rooms. Many inspections focus on just the business equipment when the building is leased. At a pizza shop, for example, a checklist would likely include the pizza ovens and other cooking equipment. Some lenders even require “preventive maintenance” inspections yearly to ensure that repairs and regular maintenance are being done. These are usually larger properties, such as office buildings or apartment buildings.
Construction Progress Inspections
When a lender makes a construction loan to a builder, the money is paid in a series of progress payments as the building is completed. For example, a builder typically gets a percentage of the loan when the foundation is completed, the framing is completed, the exterior shell is completed, and so on. To ensure that the work has actually been done, lenders require a field inspection to verify the work. The lender will supply a checklist of what they want to be inspected and photographed.
During the last housing crisis in the 1980s, the government began requiring that lenders make contact with any delinquent homeowners. Today, due to the current housing crisis, millions of homeowners are behind in their payments or have simply abandoned the home and moved away. Because of this, there is an abundance of work doing delinquency inspections to verify occupancy and condition of the home. Some field inspectors also do what’s known as “property preservation”, such as boarding up broken windows, draining a backyard pool, cutting the grass, and changing locks.
Drive-bys, also called “photo only” inspections, are quick inspections that require just a picture and a look at the property or item and file a simple report. Because they are so simple, it’s possible to do several in an hour.
Home Condition Inspections
When a home is in foreclosure or has already been foreclosed, the lender needs to verify the condition of the property regularly. A field inspector determines whether the house is occupied, or note any damage and the condition of the house. Digital photos of the home are almost always included in a home condition inspection.
Insurance companies need local field inspectors at two times. First, when they write a new policy, an inspection is done to look for hazards, such as unfenced pools or damaged stairs. Most insurance companies also verify the square footage of the home at this time by measuring the sides.
An occupancy inspection is requested by a mortgage company to verify that the person who borrowed the money is living in the home. Most residential mortgages for owner-occupied homes contain a clause requiring the borrower to live in the home at least a year, and so the mortgage company must confirm that with an on-site inspection.
Becoming a field inspector is surprisingly easy. In most cases, no formal training is required, just the ability to follow basic instructions and use a computer and a digital camera. Most of the national companies that hire local field inspectors provide free online training for more complex inspections, but almost all routine inspections just require filling out a company-supplied form and sending in one or more digital photos.
Since it’s freelance work, most field inspectors work from their homes and drive to the properties they’ve been assigned to inspect. An inspector’s schedule is flexible as well, so those who want to work part-time can pick just the jobs that they want to do.
Today’s tough economy has created even more need for new field inspectors because government regulations require regular property checks on foreclosed properties. With millions of foreclosed homes, the demand is high for those who can do these simple inspections.
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