Q. I am a new home inspector and am trying to break into the business. Some agents don't want to recommend me to their buyers because I don't have much experience. Others have looked at my detailed reports and that say I'm on the way to becoming a "deal breaker." What's the trick to getting started in this business?
A. Breaking into the home inspection business is usually not easy. Marketing yourself to agents will have to be your full-time, 40-hour-a-week job until the work begins to flow. Aside from the challenge of getting work without having actual home inspection experience, there is the fact that it takes a few years of experience to learn how to do thorough inspections. This is true, regardless of the amount of inspection education you have received or how much construction experience you have. Home inspection is a learn-as-you-go business, and the defects you miss while you're gaining experience can lead to costly liability and even lawsuits.
As for the agent who suggested you have the makings of a "deal breaker," this comment can be taken in either of two ways: Either your presentation of defects was overstated (as often occurs among inspectors who are new to the business), or the agent may be one of those used-car-salesman types for whom any thorough inspection report is the work of a "deal breaker." Agents of that kind should be avoided. There are enough honest agents to provide plenty of business.
The best way to become experienced is to become an employee inspector of a multi-inspector firm. However, inspection companies are not in business to train future competitors. If you want to continue building your own business, continue marketing yourself to agents on a full-time basis. The work will begin slowly but will eventually become steady as you gain experience and become a practiced professional.
Q. We recently requested three bids for replacing our old windows with dual panes. All of the contractors encouraged us to buy vinyl frame windows, but we can save money by keeping the old aluminum frames and installing aluminum dual-pane sliders. What do you think is the best choice?
A. Vinyl is the material of choice for window frames, for two important reasons:
• Vinyl does not conduct heat as much as aluminum. Therefore, heat loss is significantly minimized with vinyl frame windows. Aluminum frames become ice cold during winter, and this drains much of the heat from your home.
• The coldness of aluminum frames causes moisture condensation and mold. In fact, in homes with aluminum windows, it is common to see black mold on the sash and sills. It is also common to see moisture damage on sills caused by condensation. With vinyl frames, this seldom occurs.
Also recommended is low-E glass to keep the house from becoming too hot during the summer. Low-E glass allows light to enter, while filtering out the heat rays from the sun.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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