QDEAR BARRY: You often advise people to find the most experienced home inspector possible. That's all well and good, except for those of us who are just starting out. How do we get the experience we need if no one will hire us because of lack of experience?

Most home inspection companies are one-man operations, with no need to hire another inspector. So there's little opportunity to gain experience as an employee of another company. Because of this, I've dropped out of the business. Whenever people asked how long I had been inspecting, I had to be honest, and then they wouldn't hire me.

Additionally, unless you've performed many home inspections, you cannot obtain full membership in a recognized home inspection association, and candidate memberships don't encourage business. How can new home inspectors overcome this entry-level impasse? -- Gary

ADEAR GARY: All home inspectors start out with little or no experience and without full membership in professional associations. At first, things are slow, as with most new businesses. You might lose a few jobs when people ask how may homes you've inspected, but the fact is, most people never ask this question.

To generate business, a new inspector must continually market his services to real estate agents. Most agents will not respond, but a few will. And if they're happy with your services, they'll call again. Many agents actually prefer new inspectors. These often are not the most ethical agents, but they do provide new inspectors with the opportunity to become experienced.

Little by little, you gain experience and refine your skills. Most home inspectors start out this way, except those who enter the profession as employees of larger companies. But as you've learned, that avenue is not available to many.

A large part of the problem is that the market, in recent years, has become saturated with home inspectors. Home inspection schools have become a burgeoning business, pumping out more fledgling inspectors than are needed. Additionally, many retiring contractors view home inspection as a part-time career. Consequently, many new inspectors are encountering the same obstacles that frustrated you.

Gaining experience is a serious challenge. As difficult as it is, some people overcome the resistance. As in most fields, perseverance and determination are essential for success.

DEAR BARRY: In a recent article, you discussed the problem of ungrounded electrical outlets in old houses. In my home, the screws that hold the cover plates on the outlets turned out to be grounded. Is this the case in all older homes? -- Al

DEAR AL: The screw at the center of the outlet plate is grounded only if the wiring system in the home includes a ground wire to each outlet box or if the wiring is contained in metal conduit. In many older homes, there are no such ground wires or conduits.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

Distributed by Access Media Group