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I want to be a home inspector, but.....

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COMMENTARY: by Scott Patterson

Over the past year I have noticed a marked change in the attitudes, perceptions and the general demeanor of home inspectors across the country. The prevailing theme behind most of the grumbling has to do with regulation of the industry and the additional steps, and in some cases obstacles that must be surmounted by home inspectors, to obtain their required licenses or registration.

I spoke of obstacles; for some reason the authors of legislation to regulate home inspectors have included steps in the regulations that make it extremely difficult for a new person to enter into this profession. The largest obstacle as I see it is the number of required inspections that an inspector must do before he or she can become licensed in any particular state. The next obstacle would be the enormous amount of pre-license education hours that are required by a couple of states and the limited number of selected providers. Fortunately this is only in a couple of states and, with any luck over the next few years, changes may occur. However, it will take many voices in unison to do it. Threats, misinformation and pointing the finger will not do it. Today I found a post on one of the forums from a person who had written a letter to a state legislator. This letter sounded real good and had some very strong points, but it was very inaccurate and slanted toward the author's agenda. It would not take much research to reveal this and make the author of this letter look like a fool.

Much ado has been made of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) as being the leading force behind the push for the regulation of our profession. I don’t think that this can be credited to ASHI, at least not on a national level. I think that this might however hold some credibility on the local front. With ASHI having over 6500 members across the U.S. and Canada, and with a good majority of those belonging to various chapters across the country, it is only logical that those home inspectors who are in states that have licensing, or are in the process of being licensed, are going to belong to ASHI. I think that we have some very strong chapters that have been active in many states. For the most part, I have found, legislators listen to their local constituents over outsiders.

ASHI did, and still does, offer a model of home inspector legislation for anyone to use. And, as far as I know they were the first home inspectors organization to do this and are still the only one that has developed model legislation for this profession. Unfortunately, some local inspector groups/chapters have modified the model legislation, or have crafted self serving legislation that gives the outward appearance of trying to limit competition and restrict entry into this profession. It is unfortunate, but this has happened. As I see it, one of the reasons for having poor legislation become law is the lack of input in the beginning from inspectors. I have seen it happen in my state firsthand. Other inspectors took the back seat while a few inspectors pushed or spearheaded legislation. If you're not going to be involved than you will need to accept what has been put on your plate, regardless of whether you like it or not.

If you scan the various internet forums that cater to the home inspection profession, it does not take long to see the various levels of strife that many inspectors are facing in the way of competition. New inspectors can have a difficult time breaking into the market - especially when a strong home inspectors group of chapter has done a good job of marketing their members to the real estate profession and the general public.

So what can you do? The easiest thing would be to try and become part of that group. If joining the dominant group/chapter of home inspectors is not possible, you will need to set yourself apart from your competition by offering specialized services or products. However, one primary rule to remember is that you should never talk bad about your competition, or whine and complain about your competition to the person you're trying to get referrals from. It really looks bad and is not professional. Would you do business with a person who is complaining about their competition? I doubt that you would.

The best advice I can give is based only upon my own personal observations and experiences. If you chose this profession because you were under the impression that you could make a lot of money with very little outlay of cash, while only working a few days a week, than you have chosen the wrong profession. Over the past few years, I have spoken with many former home inspectors, all of whom had similar stories. They'd felt like this was an easy profession to break into, with little effort and only a few hours of work a day, and they believed they could start up on a shoestring budget. Another common misconception was that they believed they could join an association and have instant credibility among their peers and the public. From what I can tell, much of this misinformation is being introduced by some of our home inspector trainers and schools. They make this profession sound like it is the best thing since sliced bread, simply to ensure a constant supply of new students. This is not a difficult profession but it is demanding and requires a certain amount of personal ethics and the ability to adapt and learn.

All you can do is to do your job to the best of you ability and provide service to your clients as if they were part of your family. If you do this as a home inspector and you are consistent, level headed and honest, you stand a very good chance of making it in this profession. Survive for two years, and you stand a 50% chance of making it to your third year. Survive your third year, and you stand a 75% chance of making it to your fourth year. Survive the fourth year, and you have a 90% chance of making it to your fifth year. Survive your fifth year and you can say that you have made it!

Scott Patterson is Principal of Trace Home Inspections, Ridgeland, MS (http://www.traceinspections.com) and is a charter member of the Mississippi ASHI chapter and the Mississippi Association of Home Inspectors (MAHI). Scott inspects primarily in the Jacson area and has been in the home inspection business since 1995. Scott can be reached via E-mail or by phone at 601-898-4504. Comments on this article should be posted to the 'Feedback' forums on TIJ.

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