Home fault finder

At Work

From attic to crawlspace, a Southern Maryland house inspector knows what to look for


November 01, 2006|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Cindy Thalman

Home inspector

AmeriSpec Home Inspection Service, Waldorf

Salary --$55,000

Age --40

Years on the job --Five

How she got started --With a background in engineering and a degree in psychology, Thalman found herself working as a customer service representative for a builder and became a superintendent there. With three children, she was looking for better hours and more flexibility so she took the job as a home inspector.

Typical day --She usually makes three daily inspections, five days a week. But she has flexibility in that she can submit a monthly schedule with the days she can work. The company schedules inspections seven days a week at 8:30 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. An inspection of an average-sized home costs about $250. Each job takes about two hours and covers the heating and air-conditioning systems, wiring, plumbing, roof and the structure itself.

"We go top to bottom outside. We go top to bottom inside." A 27-page report is given to the customer after the inspection. The company inspects homes from Point Lookout to the Pennsylvania line, but Thalman says her inspections are usually in Southern Maryland.

Fluctuating market --The recent downturn in the real estate market hasn't affected her work. But because she works strictly on commission, she must make adjustments for anticipated slower months during the winter. Right now she averages 15 to 17 inspections per week.

Customers --Thalman says she prefers that customers accompany her during the inspection, so she can explain what's important about the house.

Forgoing a home inspection --Thalman said there was never an inspection where she didn't find something wrong with a house. "This is a 30-year purchase for most people. The biggest purchase they are going to make in their lives and knowing what they are getting is a proactive step."

Most common flaw --Usually simple items. The heating and air-conditioning systems might not be working as they should, small electrical problems and minor roof leaks.

The good --"It never gets boring."

The bad --"I don't do snakes." Encounters don't happen often, but when they do it's usually in the tight crawlspace below a house.

Degree in psychology --"I use it everyday. It gets tricky. My job is to find out what's bad, what's wrong, but you have to put it in a way that it won't scare them to death, but lets them know how significant or insignificant it is."

Being a female in a male dominated job --"Sometimes I feel I have to prove myself." But she said she usually wins customers over.

Certification --Thalman's background in engineering and construction qualified her to work as an inspector. Soon Maryland will require home inspectors to be state certified. This certification is expected to be phased in starting Jan. 1.

Philosophy on the job --"To educate [customers] about the house or to find the issues they need to be aware of before purchasing a house. My goal is to be able to help them."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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