QDEAR BARRY: I'm preparing to start a home inspection business. My background is in aviation maintenance and home remodeling. In researching the topic, I see many more negative comments than positive ones concerning the effectiveness and competence of home inspectors. I believe statistics show that 30 percent of new inspectors go out of business in the first year because of litigation. It also appears that many home buyers are unaware of the number of unqualified inspectors. Is there any good news out there for potential inspectors? -- Bill

ADEAR BILL: Home inspection, as you've discovered, is a minefield profession, with more than a few unqualified practitioners. Home buyers expect that their inspector will find every overt and latent defect in a home. Lawyers stand ready to deal with those who do not meet this expectation. A common saying in the profession is that there are two kinds of home inspectors: those who have been sued and those who will be.

To become truly qualified as a home inspector requires years of full-time field experience. In the meantime, each home inspector is actually an inspector in training, pretending to the world to be fully qualified. Getting through this period without being sued requires miraculous good luck. To make things worse, there are litigious individuals who will sue an inspector who has made no professional errors at all.

Nevertheless, there are those who manage to enter the business and succeed. Before becoming a home inspector, you should spend at least a year in preparation. Enroll in an inspection course from a qualified school such as Inspection Training Associates or American Home Inspection Training Institute; attend the building code classes offered at many community colleges; and join a recognized association such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or a recognized state association.

DEAR BARRY: When I bought my home two years ago, the builder's purchase contract said nothing about hazardous soil conditions. Last month, my friend bought a new house in the same area and from the same builder, but this time the contract disclaimed liability for soil hazards such as asbestos fibers. Why would this concern have been added to the contract for a home in the same neighborhood? -- Leon

DEAR LEON: Liability disclaimers are an ever-expanding part of business contracts. Year by year, new contract clauses are devised in vain attempts to construct lawsuit-proof agreements. In this case, the builder's lawyer probably advised the asbestos clause, in response to somebody having sued somebody else, somewhere.

If you have concerns regarding possible asbestos in your neighborhood, soil samples can be tested. Contact a certified asbestos lab for details.

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.

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