Upon meeting Steve Lettow at his El Cajon home, I immediately notice two pink flowers and a small green leaf tangled in his hair. When I point them out, he says, “Sometimes it’s worse. When I come home from a day at work there are usually co-webs in my hair. My wife usually wants me to take a shower before I kiss her.”
Lettow is a residential home inspector for HomeSite Inspection Company a subsidiary company of DeBerry Inspection Services.
“If you are in any way claustrophobic or afraid of heights, home inspecting is not the job for you,” says Lettow.
On an almost weekly basis he is on his belly slithering through the crawlspaces of homes or strolling around on roofs.
“It’s a definite motivation to lose weight. When I started this job, three years ago, I was about twenty-five pounds overweight. When I almost got stuck in one of the crawlspaces I was inspecting and thought, great, the owners are going to find my fat dead body down here, I lost the weight,” Steve tells me with a laugh.
On a typical day at work, Lettow inspects two homes. His job is to point out any issues whatever they be potential structural or electrical issues or something as mundane as a missing screw in a light switch plate, he takes note of everything in and outside of residential homes prior to a buyers purchase. He works with both buyers and relators.
“With my company you can only book two inspections a day because of the quality of inspection. You have to make sure you catch everything. There are other companies, fly by nighters, that offer real low discounted inspections. They take like an hour to go through a home. How they don’t get sued and lose their life savings, I don’t know.”
Lettow was originally hired by DeBerry Inspection to work in their office. When the office was slow, Lettow went on ride-alongs with the company’s inspectors.
“After two ride-alongs, I knew it was my calling.”
Soon after he took courses and did the required 100 ride-alongs his company required in order to become a home inspector. Lettow is outgoing and detail orientated. He found the job to be a great fit for him.
“I love it. First of all, I am out of the office. I get to meet all these new people. Even after three years of working as a home inspector, I still find that with each new house I go to, I get excited and wonder what I going to find and see. I know every neighborhood in San Diego. I have met a ton of people. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten buyers that have said to me after an inspection, ‘You are totally coming to our housewarming party.’”
At the same time there is a large amount of stress. Lettow has to make sure not to miss anything during an inspection that could be a potential costly repair down the line for a buyer. Also, he doesn’t get his schedule for the day until the night before a work day. He tends to have busy weeks followed by consecutive days with no work.
“This job teaches you how to budget. During the summer, the market spikes. A good chunk of the money I make is during April-September. It dies down around New Year’s. You never know what will affect the housing market. When things are good you can’t go crazy, you have to bank it.”
In the State of California the mean salary for a Residential Home Inspector is $75,000. Most companies pay residential inspectors a percentage of the overall cost a client pays for the inspection. Experts recommend entering this field when the housing market is booming.
As for others looking for a career in his field, Lettow recommends working with an established company. “You definitely want to be associated with one of the few organizations that are dedicated to developing and supporting home inspectors. There are courses on code. Since it is a referral-based business, your relationship with realtors is key. They are the ones that will refer you to the buyer. Our company has agents that they have worked with for 20 plus years.”