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Chris,

It appears you were quite good as an elctronics engineer designer, I can only assume you made a comfortable living...so why did you leave and get into this?

Surely some of you have inspectors as employees....why do they stay with you? What do you offer them that they can't get on their own?

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I got tired of the fear of being laid off which happened several times. It was always gloom and doom. Being stabbed in the back and your only as good as your last movie. It doesnt matter that your last project made the company millions. If your run into trouble on the next one even if its not your fault its off with your head. I worked for several companys and even spent 2 years working in New York on Long Island. It didn't matter what company I worked for it was all the same.

I finally got fed up and quit and left the industry and corporate american back stabbing SP shanigans behind. I guy can only take so much of the BS.

I saw engineer after engineer come and go and all claiming it wouldn't happen to them. Yeah, right. They would often call me up after they had quit or were fired to tell me the truth and how right I was. So many people hide the truth and thats true amougst the inspector class you will find.

I have been an inspector almost as long as I was an engineer and I am still in love.

Theres been trouble of course, we almost broke up once or twice. But thats over with.

When I started inspecting in Oregon I think there was about 200- 300 inspectors in the state in 1998. Jim can correct me on this. After licensing and certification of inspectors was imposed the numbers blossumed out of control with every tom, dick and harry thinking they were going to make it big in this inspecting thing myself included. I am not affiliated with any associations but was told a few months ago that although there are well over a thousand certified inspectors in the State of Oregon there were still only about 300 full time professionals. Jim correct me on this if I am wrong.

I have seen some of these new guys come full of confidence only to withdraw from the fight after thier first tangle with a client who was unhappy.

Instead of employees what I see are inspectors forming LLC's and banding together to cover each other so they take a vacation for once in their life. They can share expenses like a storefront and secretary and advertising. There are also teams but its hard to keep the band together for long.

Peoples lives depend on your actions as a pilot. In this business People including your self stand to lose thousands of dollars even tens of thousands of dollars and sometime personal injury and death for a negligent inspection and even an inspection that is not neglient. Its too high a risk to leave to an employee inspector in my opinion.

And I am serious about the death thing. A few weeks ago a contractor was killed repairing a foundation on a home I inspected. Unknown to anyone was a 6 ton slab of concrete that was sandwiched between two wood framed floor assemblies. I have lots of pictures from the original inspection and I went back after the accident to take more and try and understand what happend and was there anyway I could have determined that there was a slab there. They assumed they were dealing with a standard framed floor and wall assemblys and had it supported for so and when they kicked out the last piece of old foundation the slab fell and killed him instantly. Took 17 hours to get the body out I was told by my client. Need less to say he didn't continue with the purchase.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

I got tired of the fear of being laid off which happened several times. It was always gloom and doom. Being stabbed in the back and your only as good as your last movie. It doesnt matter that your last project made the company millions. If your run into trouble on the next one even if its not your fault its off with your head. I worked for several companys and even spent 2 years working in New York on Long Island. It didn't matter what company I worked for it was all the same.

I finally got fed up and quit and left the industry and corporate american back stabbing SP shanigans behind. I guy can only take so much of the BS.

Your story follows a pattern that I've noticed. Some of the best inspectors out there are people who excelled in their previous professions but couldn't stomach the corollary rigors of the job -- things like working for a dumbass boss, a dumbass company or a dumbass government. These are people who are capable of working for a dumbass but have come to the realization that they don't *want* to work for a dumbass.

On the other hand, the worst inspectors I've met are people who've failed at everything else that they've done and blame it all on someone else. They encounter the same dumbass people and institutions that the first guy encounters but they whine & cry & fuss & complain that they can never get a break.

When I started inspecting in Oregon I think there was about 200- 300 inspectors in the state in 1998. Jim can correct me on this.

To the best of my recollection, that's about right.

After licensing and certification of inspectors was imposed the numbers blossumed out of control with every tom, dick and harry thinking they were going to make it big

Especially the Dicks. There seemed to be more Dicks than Toms & Harrys.

I am not affiliated with any associations but was told a few months ago that although there are well over a thousand certified inspectors in the State of Oregon there were still only about 300 full time professionals. Jim correct me on this if I am wrong.

It's a hard number to pin down, but I suspect that it's closer to half of that. The vast majority of inspectors around here are just passing through. About one in ten seems to be serious.

I have seen some of these new guys come full of confidence only to withdraw from the fight after thier first tangle with a client who was unhappy.

When I was administering membership for the Oregon Association of Home Inspectors, I tracked every new inspector that I could gather data on. The success rate after two years was 1:17. That is for every 17 new inspectors, only one was still in business after two years.

. . . And I am serious about the death thing. A few weeks ago a contractor was killed repairing a foundation on a home I inspected. Unknown to anyone was a 6 ton slab of concrete that was sandwiched between two wood framed floor assemblies. I have lots of pictures from the original inspection and I went back after the accident to take more and try and understand what happend and was there anyway I could have determined that there was a slab there. They assumed they were dealing with a standard framed floor and wall assemblys and had it supported for so and when they kicked out the last piece of old foundation the slab fell and killed him instantly. Took 17 hours to get the body out I was told by my client. Need less to say he didn't continue with the purchase.

Wow. That's terrible. I hope you're not blaming yourself. And I really hope no one else is blaming you.

We had something similar out here in Gaston 10 or 12 years ago. A team of two brothers was jacking up a house when one dropped the house on the other. The guy wasn't killed but could only breathe in short gasps. The other one kept trying to jack the house back up but it kept slipping and falling back on the injured one. The poor guy eventually made it to the hospital with a whole bunch of broken ribs and internal injuries. He pulled through. Never heard what happened to the other brother. He might be a home inspector now.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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As far as the comfortable living thing I went from $80k a year in NY to about $10k starting as an inspector/contractor with no reserves. At one point we were packing the kids up to go live at grandmas while my wife and I were going to live out of the car. My wife bless her never said a word while the rest of my family kept talking behind my back "Chris is a good engineer why doesn't he go back to engineering." We fortunately did not have to go live on the street and I got by on handyman jobs until the following spring when my business began to pick up. It took a while. Over 3 years of being the little fish dodging the big fish until we got something built up.

I am sure that you have heard the old story about the grandson who went to his grandfather to learn the secret of success. Remember the grandfather took him out to the surf and told him to look at the horizon and when the grandson was all preocuppied looking for the secret out at the horizon like it was going to be some revelation the grandfather shoved him under the water and the grandson all amazed and shocked soom started to struggle for his life but his grandfather would not let him up and when he was about to drown the grandfathered yanked him up out of the water. And the grandson said grandfather why? And the grandfathered told him when you fight that hard to succeed then you will!

This is a tough business and we all get our butt kicked from time to time but if its not do or die you'll never make it in this business or any other.

On paper I made more as an engineer however my pockets were always empty. Today what my uncle sees is far less but my pockets are never empty and my wife has not had to work since my 2nd year in the business.

As far as the poor fellow who passed away in the accident he had no family here and I think he was from Chile. I was pretty sure that I hadn't missed somthing and even looking at the evidence after the fact I still don't know how I or anyone else could have caught on to it. the best we could figure is that at one time some idiot poured the concrete to make a patio and then later enclosed it, put a sleeper floor on it and turned it into a laundry room but it was all with in the perimeter of the foundation not some built out section.

As far as I know no action was being taken against anyone. Nobody has said this could or should have been prevented to my knowledge.

Chris, Oregon

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I entered the business by buying a franchise inspection business that had been operating for about 2 years. I paid the same for the business and transfer of the franchise that I would have paid for a naked franchise.

The franchise was a problem to be endured until I could escape, for the many reasons noted. The telephone calls and referrals that came from the existing business sustained me for 3 years while I built my own base.

There are plenty of inspectors with established businesses that are ready to sell. I suggest putting your money into an operating inspection company, not giving it away to a slick franchise salesperson. You want a phone number that is ringing from day one!

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Malban, I agree with you. Buying an existing franchise would be ideal, but, they are none in my area. 9 Independants and a population of 150K that is growing everyday.

I have spoken to a few very successful franchises in the Nashville area, none wish they "had not" done it and they said they would do it again. I guess there are two sides to every thing.

Outside the franchise/royalty/advertising fee, what is the major drawback? A franchise appears to offer a solid marketing plan. Which means business and a well known name that is more than likely familiar to realtors and customers alike. Now do you really own/operate your own business? Its debateable, you always have them hovering over you. Maybe the price is less flexibility, but more business. This thread to date has given me much to ponder. Its a great thing! Surely one of you can say something good a franchise has to offer? There are many successful ones out there, you can agree I think.

Now, if I hire an employee inspector, pay for their training, get them business, what will keep them for the long haul? 30%-35% of the billing, pay E&O, equipment (all), vehicle (maybe), have a full time person doing the marketing getting them business. Will this work? Please be honest. People own trucks and have drivers; People own stores and have employees at minimum wage! Hell if an Insp costs $300 and takes 3 hrs, thats $30 an hour! Two inspections a day is $180 in the pocket. Thats $3600 mo, figure some slow periods, we'll call it 35K a yr. In an area that the avg salary is 28-30K. Why wouldn't someone competent want to do it? You tell me. Is it unrealistic to expect 2 inspections a day after a yr or so? Help me out here fellas. Am I that far off base or not? Again, I really appreciate all of your input/comments!

Nick

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Hmmm,

Oops, I just noticed that your in Walt Jowers' neck of the woods. Walter has a column in your one of your local weeklys where he talks about home inspection stuff and he's not very complimentary toward realtors who try and manipulate the home inspection process nor their toadies. Plus, he just stopped doing inspections full-time and is not doing expert witness work. Not sure I'd want to be a new guy just starting out within WJ's sphere of influence, one serious new guy type slip-up and you might end up sitting in court with WJ testifying for the other side. If you were a seasoned inspector, it probably wouldn't be an issue, but you'll be fresh out of the nursery and will be vulnerable.

Kurt, Jim, Les, wadday think? With Walter's current thinking toward the influx of new inspectors, is he going to be safe?

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Well, if you want to know what Walter thinks, you can sift through the Nashville Scene archives and read it. With all due respect to sixgun95, your last post read like it came from a franchise salesperson.

I'll promise you this much: You ain't gonna be doing 2 inspections a day, every day in Nashville after just one year. You just aint. Plenty of well established guys in Nashville aren't pulling down those kinds of numbers in this market.

Franchises aren't successful in this business, people are. Go ask 10 random people if they've ever heard of the franchises you're thinking of buying. Then ask 10 real estate brokers. Then go ask ten home inspectors. Their answers will surprise you. Home inspections aint hamburgers, and WIN aint Wendy's.

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Walter's semi-retired into expert witness work & writing his column; I think he's got a couple book gigs in the oven too.

Sixgun, you need to educate yourself about the biz for a while. If you wanna really get yourself in situations that make your toes bleed, just start hiring HI's fresh out of HI school, and pay 'em the sort of money your talking.

Think about it. Some guy barely making scratch, working in the field w/no supervision w/no particular incentive for being excellent, cranking out documents advising folks on multi-hundred thousand or million dollar investments, and your name is plastered all over the letterhead.

In this biz, you don't know if your guy is any good for about 1 1/2 - 2 years. Even if they're good, they make mistakes. If they decide to leave you, the last couple months will have them out there not caring at all about you and your operation in 6 months. Can you see the possibility of problems? If you can't, you don't know squat about this biz.

I don't know one guy, not even one, w/a multi-inspector business that didn't suffer & bleed for years before they got a couple good employees they could trust. This isn't selling apples & encyclopedia's; it's amazingly complicated. The sorts of questions your asking are not dumb, but they're indicative of someone who really doesn't have a clue about what they're getting into.

As far as the franchisee's who're happy w/their decision, well, let's think about the business a little while. I've been in the gig long enough to have been through 3 distinct bustout periods; we're now entering our fourth, i.e., the real estate market now sucks after 14 years of non-stop insanity. We also have about 100 times more inspectors all looking for a slice of a shrinking pie.

Talking to franchisee's who've been in biz for <10 years is like talking to a "successful" stock market investor in 1999. IOW, they have no idea what's going to happen to them next year. I'd love to talk to the same guy who's trying to make his biz survive on 30% of their previous sales, and who is managing shrinkage instead of growth, and the franchise is still looking for the slice off the top. Methinks the francise will start looking substantially less interesting.

I'd also like to see if the franchise boys & girls are even around in a couple years. You've been looking @ a tiny slice of the pie, & making assumptions about it. I've done mildly sophisticated market analysis, & I don't have any customers that recognize even one of the franchise names. Not a single one.

And, I'm not working in a small market; Chicago is about business in a big way. We're still waiting for one of the franchise operations to make a dent.

Final word; get involved in a business that you understand. It's just like investing; if you invest in what you don't know, well, you don't know. Do you really want to start a business that you don't know anything about? And, liking houses, working on them, & enjoying HGTV is not the same as understanding the HI biz.

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Top 2 reasons I won't be relocating to Nashville:

2. Our typists can make more than a full time employee HI .

1. If I put "their" instead of "there" in a report, WJ would see to it that my nickname would be princess to my new cellmate.

Sorry Nick. [:-taped]

As an employee of the same firm for almost 20 years, I know what keeps me here and why others have come and gone.

If you want to form the best team, you need to be the best first.

New employees need much more than the minimum required education and field training for a team to compete successfully, and you need to pay them well, while they're learning.

The best players are always striving to improve. Incentive to stay needs to meet the betterment.

The reason I've stayed so long at the same place -- all of the above and I'm a technician, not a businessman. I certainly wouldn't be close to my current income if I had to run my own show. I know others who have been on their own for decades, eventually joined successful multi-inspector firms and are much better off financially with less effort.

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An advantage to being a "late" poster is being able to say " Everything Kurt, Bill, Mike etc. said and".

This is a public forum so it would not be appropriate to discuss %'s etc. I can tell you your numbers are all off the chart.

We are a multi-inspector firm with very strong niche markets. I have a lead inspector that I trust explicitly and younger by a generation - heir apparent. He cost me $45,000 the first year. He is just a kid, only ten years of full time inspection experience, published author, MBA, wife and kids, etc.

I have trained and lost about as many inspectors as post on this board and don't have any regrets. Sadly I have testified against dozens of inspectors that just did not listen and watched too much "late night TV". Can not remember how many inspectors have started and lost in this one small market.

YOU may be an exception, I hope you are.

Take a week-end trip or a day off and go talk to Scott P, Kurt M, Mike, Walter J or Rick, Bill, Arlene P, JD G, me or Jim M - face to face! These guys have over a century of knowledge.

You are on the wrong track, in my opinion.

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Sixgun, when I started and I sat down to write up a list of names for my company I was told don't sweat it cause your clients for the most part will only remember your first name "Chris".

Who did your inspection? This guy Chris did. Whats his company name? Uh, I don't remember.

I have asked clients and sellers, "did you have the house inspected?, Have you ever had an inspection before? and guess what they seem to never remember the name of the company but they can usually tell the first name of the guy who did thier inspection.

The idea that there's any bankable name recognition in the name of a franchise I would dispute.

I lucked out and got a catchy name "Hawkeye" but most of my clients know me as "Chris" My hispanic clients have no idea what "Hawkeye" means. It might as well be chinese. They know me as "the inspector".

Some others might disagree but in my opinion you might as well call yourself "Nick Last Name Home Inspections" for all a name is worth in this business.

I dont't believe the name plays any significant part in a clients decision to use the inspector. In my area and base it seems to always boil down to #1 Fee, #2 availibility and lastly qualifications. Sometimes availibility wins over fee. The fact that the realtor or a client referral was given to the prospective client makes you qualified so then it just boils down to price and availibility.

What the franchise promises in marketing appears to run counter to reality.

The success of the franchise idea is based on taking the business and breaking it down into logical, repeatable and easily trainable parts.

You can't do that with this business. Its more like a street fight and anything goes.

Buying into a franchise is like subscribing to only Karate as your only fighting style.

Successful inspectors are more like Bruce Lee and they don't subsribe to any one of them but pick and choose the best points of many and incoporate them into a style that works for them and they are constantly tweaking their business something I imagine is a challenge when your a franchise.

Can your just change your report style as a franchise? Can you tweak your contract? Are you free to handle disputes as you see fit.

I know of one case where I got the referral of a realtor for years now because an inspector, a member of a well known around here franchise screwed up and even admitted to it but the regional boss who the inspector had to defer to told the client to go jump in the lake!

Chris, Oregon

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  • 2 months later...

Well, I'm sure I'll offend someone here, but - I've been doing this a long time. There is only one franchise I've ever ran across that seems to have competent HI's, that's Pillar to Post.

Other than them, I can't think of a single inspector from a franchise that I have ever met that was worth a crap.

HouseMasters is the worst. The best marketing, LOUSY inspectors.

www.ableinspector.com Home Inspections Naples, Fort Myers FL

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In my market we have had most every franchise; one actually lasted 2 1/2yrs. The phone book is full of franchises that are out of business. The last one called it quits 1-1-07!

Piller to Post was no different than the others. I have never known a veteran inspector to buy a franchise, but I guess it has happened.

It is about the inspector and their qualifications, not about the name on the door.

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A year ago we had two new Pillar to Post franchises in Lexington. Both are now gone.

A new Brickker just started up. We'll see.

Another franches (won't name him) has been around for a couple of years, but in the last six months I'm getting referrals from realtors who say he missed major stuff and won't refer him again. I've met some of his ----. Pays the guy $25.00 to inspect a Heating & Cooling system. They weren't worth the $25.00.

Then there's the one who bought a good succesful non-franchise operation. Decided he didn't like the name and changed it along with the phone number. ???????????

Long timer inspectors around here say there's been many franchises come and go.

I say there's been many individual inspectors around here come and go too. (At least two of the licensed inspectors told me, in the last week, they quit. We only started issuing licenes six months ago.)

Got about 301 licensed inspectors in the state. (Well, make that 299.)

It's a tough profession no matter how you approach it.

You can be the best damn inspector there is, but if your phone don't ring, you don't eat.

I got pretty skinny my first three years.

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Hi all, slightly off topic but,

Wondered what you folks do when you encounter a really wet/several inches of water crawl space like the ones Mike listed earlier in this post. Do you still crawl thru it? report it as too dangerous? (especially if wires are seen hanging down in it from the doorway). defer to other specialist? I am still doing ride alongs and have not encountered one yet but I am sure I will. My boss told me the story about a HI that was in a crawl with plastic sheeting and several inches of water, all of a sudden he fell into a really deep hole, buyer is inside the house at other end, couldn't hear him yell, finally they came looking for him and needed fire co. to get him out, also broke a leg. I want to do a good inspection but I will not put myself at risk doing it if possible. any comments?

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Originally posted by bandag

Hi all, slightly off topic but,

Wondered what you folks do when you encounter a really wet/several inches of water crawl space like the ones Mike listed earlier in this post. Do you still crawl thru it? report it as too dangerous? (especially if wires are seen hanging down in it from the doorway). defer to other specialist? I am still doing ride alongs and have not encountered one yet but I am sure I will. My boss told me the story about a HI that was in a crawl with plastic sheeting and several inches of water, all of a sudden he fell into a really deep hole, buyer is inside the house at other end, couldn't hear him yell, finally they came looking for him and needed fire co. to get him out, also broke a leg. I want to do a good inspection but I will not put myself at risk doing it if possible. any comments?

Employ a helper[:-slaphap

I won't risk my life for the price of an inspection fee.

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Hi,

It's pretty hard to fall into a hole in a crawlspace unless you've got your head tucked completely up your backside. Even with plastic on the surface, if your walking on your hands and knees your hands will find the unsupported plastic first. which is the same thing that will happen when you're low crawling and your elbows practically punch through the plastic.

That's not to say that it can't happen. I have fallen into one hole, but it was my weight that caused the hole. The soil under the barrier was honeycombed with rat burrows that I didn't know anything about. When I got directly over the center of the warren the ground gave a little shudder and then collapsed beneath me, plunging me into a hole with my chin on the ground at one side and my instep on the ground on the other and the rest of me in that hole. There were writhing, squeaking bodies all around me and as I began wigging out they began pouring out from under the plastic.

I've got a phobia about rats and would rather face death than one of those, so I crab-crawled out of there likkity-split at about a kajillion miles an hour, repeating that word you're not supposed to use in mixed company (F**k) about every half second. Every time I said that word, she responded with, "What." So, there she was going, "What, what, what, what, what?" and when I'm about to the basement access port I let out with, "F****n' Rats!" grabbed my stairs and headed up those basement steps like my hair was on fire. I glanced back just in time to see dozens of those vile creatures pouring over the retaining wall into the basement and her and the realtor kicking in every direction. I was almost to the main entrance when she knocked me aside like a linebacker, screaming bloody blue murder and ran out of the house ahead of me. I was out at my truck panting and still repeating that word, when the 'zoid came out and yelled, "O'Handley, get back in here and finish this inspection!" My response? "No f****n' way I"m going back in that house!" He came back with, "You better get back in here or you'll never work in this town again!" I responded with something a little indelicate, packed my gear, wished the lady good luck and got out of there. She hired me six months later to inspect another home over in Bremerton. She'd gotten a new realtor by then. Said she didn't like the rude way he'd talked to me at the last inspection.

Home inspection. It's not just a job, it's a friggin' adventure.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Hi,

I didn't complete the inspection and didn't write a report on it. I've written up thousands of crawlspaces for rodents. I've seen thousands of dead rats, mice, opposums, a few dead racoons, a few dead dogs and a few dozen dead cats and have always kept going. That's the first one where I'd ever encountered live rats. Once that happened, wild horses couldn't have dragged me back through those doors. They're damned lucky I didn't punch a crawlspace hatch up through the floor above to get away from those things. Left a $55 scuba light in that hole with it's beam still shining upward. Never went back for it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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