Originally Posted By: gromicko
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PACIFIC BUSINESS NEWS
From the June 24, 2005 print edition
Home inspectors ride the housing wave
Pacific Business News
It's a good time to be a home inspector in Hawaii.
With the real estate business booming, demand is up as home buyers seek professional proof that they are purchasing a structurally sound home.
At the same time, more people are jumping into what's becoming a lucrative trade that can be self-taught, with a flexible schedule and path to self-employment.
The state has no licensing requirements for home inspectors, and thus, no official count of the number of inspectors is available.
But Realtors are creating a growing network of referrals, and the listings in phone directories are growing, as are the number of national home-inspector franchises.
Rates for an inspection typically range from about $200 for a condo to $400 for a home. If the home is older or with extra bathrooms and kitchens, rates can be higher.
While there is no legal requirement in Hawaii that a home be inspected before it's sold, it's become standard in nearly every transaction.
"We always recommend a home inspection," said Judith Kalbrener, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors. "Even for condos, because there can be all kinds of problems."
Four years ago, Kit Beuret, a former radio host and spokesman for Oceanic Cable, decided to launch Oahu Home Inspection Service. He's armed with a degree in electrical engineering, plumbing apprenticeship and hands-on experience in home repair and maintenance.
"You work to learn the character of a house," Beuret said. "Like people, houses are complex, made up of many different, but coordinated systems. The grounds, structure, plumbing, wiring all have to work together to make a livable home. The older the house, the more it is an individual and the more quirks you find."
Beuret is certified with the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors www.nachi.org , which requires passing a comprehensive exam.
Other home inspectors, like Tom Therrien of Kailua-based House Doctors, choose to forego the exam.
Therrien says he worked in construction for seven years before starting his home-inspection business, and has built homes from the ground up.
He thinks the ideal qualification for a home inspector is a varied construction background -- not just plumbing or electricity, but everything.
"Everyone's coming out of the woodwork," Therrien said. "A lot of these guys are just reading a book, taking a test and becoming a home inspector. It's a lucrative business, if you're good at it."
Inspections usually take anywhere from one to three hours -- and it's not uncommon to do up to three per day.
Certified and insured
The primary motivation for hiring an inspector is for the home buyer to cover all bases before going forward with a major purchase.
Inspections have become another essential step to completing the transaction of a sale, along with the formal appraisal and state-required termite inspection.
Realtors can either love inspections or hate them -- depending on which side they're representing.
Any item on a home inspection report can be cause for potential buyers to cancel the contract or change their minds.
Likewise, home inspectors may be held liable for any major problems they failed to note, even though most require clients to sign a waiver absolving them of liability if something is discovered later.
"You take on an important role when you help someone decide whether or not to invest half a million dollars or more in a house," Beuret said. "And you better know what you're doing because there's a heck of a legal liability."
For that reason, most real estate firms recommend only home inspectors who carry so-called errors and omissions insurance.
Every home inspector has his or her own style -- some will provide a three-ring binder with 50-plus pages of information, others will offer a simple checklist.
While it doesn't take an expert to note that an oven light is not working, it does take an experienced eye to examine whether electrical fixtures are hooked up correctly or if there are cracks in the foundation.
Beuret makes it standard practice to climb onto roofs, walk around a home's perimeter and crawl beneath it.
Once he discovered that a Kaneohe Bay Drive home was dumping water directly from the bathroom shower onto the ground.
The potential buyer decided not to go ahead with the purchase.
Another time, a hillside home with a spectacular view appeared intact. It was only 5 years old -- but a 20-foot retaining wall was listing and Beuret said it would have cost $75,000 to fix.
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? 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.
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