Dear Barry,

I’m a newly certified home inspector. I am very detail-oriented and am striving to learn as much as possible about my new profession. But I’m concerned as I begin this new career that many real estate agents will be reluctant to refer my services because I’m so new in the industry and have no official inspections under my belt. How should I approach the topic of “field experience” when I network with real estate agents? I want them to know that I am a continual learner, an overachiever, and someone whom they can count on for their clients. –Keith

Dear Keith,

Getting started in the home inspection business is always slow and gradual. Many newcomers to the profession get frustrated during that first year and some finally throw in the towel and return to construction work. Selling your services to agents before you have actual field experience is not easy, but it has been done by nearly everyone who is today an experienced home inspector.

Instead of worrying about your lack of inspection experience, tell people about your related knowledge and experience — such as contracting or whatever it was you did previously. Tell them about your certifications and any other professional credentials that might apply. Tell them about your commitment to do excellent work. But don’t say you are a “continual learner” because that infers that you have not yet sufficiently learned. And don’t tell them you’re an “overachiever” because many agents are afraid of inspectors who might “kill the deal” by being overly zealous. But when someone asks you how many inspections you’ve done, just tell them the truth and let the chips fall as they will. Most people, however, won’t even ask.

Agents are used to new inspectors popping up all the time. At first, you may be dismissed as just another inspector. But gradually, you’ll get inspection orders — a few here, a few there. And if they like your work, they’ll call again. And little by little, you’ll become an experienced home inspector. But know this: while you’re gaining that valuable experience, you’ll be missing property defects that would be discovered by a more experienced inspector. These undisclosed conditions will result in callbacks, monetary claims and possibly a lawsuit. So be sure to carry errors-and-omissions insurance, and do all you can to continually advance your education. The more you know and the more you practice, the more effectively you’ll serve your customers, the more protected you’ll be from liability, and the more often you’ll be recommended to home buyers.

Dear Barry,

I’m currently looking for a place to rent and am wondering if I should have a home inspection before moving into the house I’ll be renting. What do you recommend? –Jason

Dear Jason,

At the very least, a safety inspection of the property would not be a bad idea. This would include an evaluation of the electrical system, gas burning fixtures, the fireplace, garage firewall, staircases, guardrails, and so on. One problem with this type of inspection is that landlords could be intimidated and might view you as a potentially trouble-making tenant. If the home you’ll be renting appears to be well-maintained, you could delay the inspection until after you’ve moved in.

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

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