Not enough women home inspectors
Q: I am a 37-year-old woman who is interested in becoming a home inspector. What can you tell me about the ups and downs of being an inspector and about the income range? Also, what type of person makes a good inspector, and what percentage of home inspectors are women?
A: Welcome to the club. Women are definitely underrepresented in the home inspection profession. I can't give you any percentages, but the home inspector conventions I've attended have included fewer women than can be counted on one hand. Why this is the case is anyone's guess, but the field is open to all qualified candidates, regardless of gender.
As for qualifications, home inspector candidates should be detail-oriented individuals with entrepreneurial ambitions, good communications skills (both written and verbal), a working knowledge of building construction and property defects, an aptitude for interacting with people, and not-too-strong an aversion to the unpleasantries of dusty attics and spider-infested crawl spaces.
Inspection fees typically range from $300 to $500 or more for a moderately sized home (up to about 1,500 square feet). Your income, therefore, will be determined by the number of inspections you perform and your ability to maintain low overhead.
The two downsides of the home inspection business are these:
• Referral conflicts of interest:
Inspectors depend primarily upon real estate agents for the majority of their business referrals. As you begin to market your services and to gain experience, you'll discover some agents prefer home inspectors who are very thorough in their property assessments, while others do not. If the quality and thoroughness of your inspections are good, you will obtain referrals from the more respectable agents. Others may label you as a "deal breaker" or "deal killer," but don't let that worry you; they are not the ones with whom you want to do business.
• Liability for errors and omission:
Homebuyers are in the process of making a major financial investment, and they base their decision, in part, on the findings of their home inspector. If undisclosed problems are discovered after the close of escrow, home inspectors can be held liable for nondisclosure, and this can mean costly liability: even lawsuits. Therefore, it is vital that you obtain thorough training prior to commencing business as a home inspector and that you continually increase your knowledge of property defects and inspection skills for as long as you remain in business. It is also advisable to carry insurance for errors and omissions. Sooner or later, you will make a mistake on an inspection. Every home inspector does.
Finally, be sure to become a member of a recognized home inspector association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors or an equivalent state association. These professional guilds set standards of practice for home inspectors and promote ongoing education for their members.
Here's wishing you success in your new career, and may all your errors and omissions be small ones.
• 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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