Five Questions With: Joshua LeBeau

Joshua LeBeau is the licensed home inspector behind the Pawtucket-based Home Inspections by JML, a home inspection service that he’s operated with his wife, Michelle, for the past six years. LeBeau was a computer programmer for three decades before making a career move into home inspections, becoming interested in the field after a real estate agent suggested he and his wife do a pre-listing inspection for their home.

The aim of JML is to help clients make more-informed decisions about the home they’re planning to purchase, providing them with a comprehensive report about potential health hazards, maintenance problems and other issues. The Rhode Island company also offers pre-listing inspections to home sellers, allowing them to identify problems and resolve them before putting the property on the market, or sell as is.

PBN: How busy has the home inspection business been in Rhode Island, compared to six years ago when you established JML Inc.? How would you describe the state of the business right now?

LEBEAU: In October 2017 there were approximately 3,689 homes for sale. As of June 2023, there were approximately 961 homes for sale. Right now, business is not only slow due to the lack of inventory but also because some buyers are waiving inspections to be able to submit a more competitive offer.

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PBN: How can you measure the impact or benefit of getting a home inspection for the homebuyer? What about pre-listing home inspections for the home seller?

LEBEAU: A home inspection is a snapshot in time of the condition of the house. It informs the buyer of issues that are found, big and small. It gives the buyer the information they need to make an informed decision as to how to proceed. When you make a decision as important as purchasing a home, having the information that a home inspection and radon test provides is invaluable.

A pre-listing home inspection is the same home inspection performed for a seller. They receive a report and now know the issues present in their home and there are no surprises on inspection day. They now have the opportunity to address the issues before they place the home on the market.

PBN: What are some of the biggest concerns or points of emphasis you have for new homeowners, in terms of getting tests done on their home? What are they looking for, and if they find a hazard, then what do they do?

LEBEAU: A home inspector is generally looking for defects and safety hazards. There will be pictures and videos in the report of what was found along with a recommendation of what is needed to solve the issue.

A radon test is very important for everyone. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. One in five homes we test has an elevated level. We own our own machines and perform the test ourselves. A radon mitigation system is installed to resolve the issue.

We coordinate well, septic and lead testing when needed. The buyer is educated on the issues and given solutions by the companies that perform the testing and inspections.

PBN: What’s the 120-hour course that’s required to gain home inspection certification? How hard is it to get through?

LEBEAU: The course was not required at the time I became an inspector. I felt it would be beneficial to myself and my clients to complete the certification before I started. I was interested in the subject matter; therefore, it was not hard at all.

Although there were some things that were not quite as applicable to Rhode Island, such as what to look for in an inspection that pertains to earthquake guidelines. The course was an online course, study at your own pace. Sessions were specific to areas of a home such as exteriors, plumbing, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning], electrical, etc. There were tests to take. It took me about three weeks to complete. I treated it as a work week, 40-plus hours of study until I was done.

PBN: How has your career in home inspections compared to your prior experience in computer programming? What’s it like working with clients on these property inspections?

LEBEAU: Total opposites. Programming is sitting at a desk for eight hours a day with little interaction with others outside the workplace. I loved programming, but it was time for a change. Now I meet new homebuyers and Realtors at each inspection. I travel all over the state and into nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. The buyers want to know what the issues are in the home they are purchasing. They are very appreciative and such a pleasure to work with, it makes going into 120-plus-degree attics worth it.

Marc Larocque is a PBN contributing writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockObama.