Dear Barry,

Your column often advises people to find the most experienced home inspector possible. That’s all well and good, except for those of us who are just starting out. How do we get the experience we need if no one will hire us because of lack of experience. Most home inspection companies are one-man operations, with no need to hire another inspector. So there’s little opportunity to gain experience as employees of another company. Because of this, I’ve dropped out of the business. Whenever people asked how long I had been inspecting, I had to be honest, and then they wouldn’t hire me. Additionally, unless you’ve performed many home inspections, you cannot obtain full membership in a recognized home inspection association, and candidate memberships don’t encourage business. How can new home inspectors overcome this entry-level impasse? –Gary

Dear Gary,

All home inspectors start out with little or no experience and without full memberships in professional associations. At first, business is slow, as with most business start-ups. A few jobs might be lost when people ask how may homes you’ve inspected, but the fact is, most people never ask this question.

To generate increased business, a new inspector must continually market his or her services to Realtors. Most agents will not respond, but a few will. And if they’re happy with your services, they’ll call again. Many agents actually prefer new inspectors, rather than ones who are experienced. These are often not the most ethical agents, but they do provide new inspectors with the opportunity to become experienced. 

Little by little, experience is gained, and home inspection skills are refined. Most home inspectors started out in this manner, the only exceptions being those who entered the profession as employees of larger companies. But as you’ve learned, that avenue is not available to many.

A large part of the problem is that the real estate marketplace, in recent years, has become saturated with an overabundance of new home inspectors. Home inspection schools have become a burgeoning business, pumping out more fledgling inspectors than are currently needed, and many retiring contractors are viewing home inspection as a part-time career. Consequently, many new inspectors are encountering the same obstacles that frustrated your attempts to establish a business foothold.

The problem of gaining initial experience poses a serious challenge, but as difficult as it may appear, there are those who eventually overcome the resistance. As with success in most fields, perseverance and determination are essential.

Dear Barry,

In a recent article, you discussed the problem of ungrounded outlets in old houses. In my home, the screws that hold the cover plates on the outlets turned out to be grounded. Is this the case in all older homes? –Al

Dear Al,

The screw at the center of the outlet plate is only grounded if the wiring system in the home includes a ground wire to each outlet box or if the wiring is contained in metal conduit. In many older homes, no such ground wires or conduits are provided.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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