Dear Barry,

I’m preparing to start a new-home inspection business. My background is in aviation maintenance and home remodeling. In researching the topic, I see many more negative comments than positive ones concerning the effectiveness and competence of home inspectors. I believe the national average is 30 percent of new inspectors go out of business in the first year due to litigation. It also appears that many home buyers are unaware of the number of unqualified inspectors. Is there any good news out there for us potential inspectors? –Bill

Dear Bill,

You have apparently done more homework than the average entry-level inspector. That’s commendable, because the more you learn now, the less likely you are to be sued out of business.

Home inspection, as you’ve discovered, is a minefield profession, with more than a few unqualified practitioners. The expectation of home buyers is that their inspector will find every overt and latent defect in a home, and attorneys stand ready to awaken the attention of those who do not meet this expectation. Liability for inspectors, therefore, is enormous. A common saying in the profession is that there are two kinds of home inspectors: those who have been sued and those who will be.

To become truly qualified as a home inspector requires years of full-time field experience. In the mean time, each home inspector is actually an inspector in training — pretending to the world to be fully qualified. Getting through this novitiate without being sued requires miraculous good luck. To make things worse, there are litigious individuals who will sue an inspector who has made no professional errors at all.

Nevertheless, there are those who manage to enter the business and make an ongoing success of it. Before becoming a home inspector, one should spend at least a year in preparation. Enroll in an inspection course from a qualified school such as Inspection Training Associates or American Home Inspection Training Institute, attend the building code classes offered at many community colleges, and join a recognized association such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, NAHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, or a recognized state association.

If you make the plunge, you’ll be doing so with your eyes more widely opened than most.

Dear Barry,

When I bought my home, the builder’s purchase contract said nothing about hazardous soil conditions. That was two years ago. Last month, my friend bought a new home in the same area and from the same builder, but this time the contract disclaimed liability for soil hazards such as asbestos fibers. Why would this concern have been added to the contract for a home in the same neighborhood? –Leon

Dear Leon,

Liability disclaimers are ever-expanding aspects of most business contracts, prompted by growing streams of litigation throughout the nation. Year by year, new contractual clauses are devised, in vain attempts to construct sue-proof business agreements. In this case, the builder’s attorney probably advised the addition of an asbestos clause, in response to somebody having sued somebody else, somewhere.

If you have concerns regarding possible asbestos in your neighborhood, soil samples can be tested for asbestos for a nominal fee. Just package a few random soil samples in sealable plastic bags, and mail them to a certified lab.

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

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