The COVID-19 pandemic caused a mass exodus as people moved out of New York City in favor of more space and more relaxed restrictions. Lower housing prices have people now scrambling to buy in the city, and home inspector Jacqueline Gathers is taking advantage of the trend.
A report by Douglas Elliman Real Estate brokerage released in April showed that Manhattan home-buying increased 2.1% in the first quarter of 2021 from the same time last year. While prices aren’t exactly dirt cheap, more people at all income levels are looking at options to buy.
A Staten Island resident, Gathers is a licensed home inspector and owner of a Pillar To Post Home Inspections franchise. She is the first Black woman to own a franchise. She retired after 30 years of service with the New York City Housing Authority in 2017 before getting into home inspecting.
Along with inspecting homes, Gathers also conducts workshops on the importance of the home inspection process with various non-profit organizations and real estate teams throughout the city.
A native of the Bronx, Gathers graduated from the historically-Black Fisk University in Tennessee. Shortly after graduating she started her three decade career with NYCHA, which she said was a rewarding career.
“I liked NYCHA because I could alway work in the borough where I lived,” said Gathers during an interview. “I worked in a lot of different capacities. I worked in the law department, the anti-graffiti program.”
Gathers said she retired from NYCHA after her husband became ill with cancer. He later died in 2017 just after they bought the home inspection franchise. She was initially going to work with her husband on the business, but got inspired to continue their dream and do it alone.
Starting out, she ran into some challenges. The home inspections industry is white male dominated with very few women and even fewer Black women.
“Out of the gate it was difficult for me to get business because I live in Staten Island,” she said. “They gave me an area right across from the Verrazano Bridge, which is the Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights area in Brooklyn. That area is not very diverse and known for racial tensions and I didn’t get any business there.”
She spoke to the franchise and requested to expand to the neighborhoods of Flatbush, Canarsie, East New York and Bed-Stuy and business started picking up. Her work consists of inspecting homes, co-ops and condos people are interested in buying. She makes sure the homes are adequate and up to regulations to be inhabited.
“They want to know what the issues are with the property, so they can make an intelligent decision whether or not they want to purchase,” Gathers said. “Our business is generated by the real estate market. My clients are mostly first-time home buyers.”
Since her own success in the home inspection industry, Gathers wants to diversify the industry and bring others along. She says now is a good time for recent college graduates and those looking for a career change due to more people buying homes. Inspectors must be licensed by the state, and get 100 classroom hours and 40 field hours before taking an exam.
“I get a lot of emails from young people interested in becoming home inspectors so I tell them what they need to do to change the face of the industry and bring in more minorities,” Gathers said. “You can make six figures doing three or four jobs a week. It’s not a complicated job.”
As for the future, Gathers said she wants to continue to grow her business. She currently has another home inspector in her franchise and is looking to expand her business to co-op and condos.
“With all of these new buildings in Downtown Brooklyn, people looking to buy don’t think they need home inspection done, but you do,” Gathers said. “That’s one of the things I’m really pushing is educating first-time homebuyers about the whole process with co-ops and condos in new construction.”
Gathers is a board member of The Bedford Stuyvesant Real Estate Board, member of The Women’s Council of Realtors, Brooklyn Board of Realtors, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, BNI Chapter #44 (Bryant Partnership) and The American Society of Home Inspectors.