Tracy Smith is a self-employed home inspector who loves her job.
She just earned her certified technician designation, which makes her the only woman in B.C. who is a certified home inspector and certified technician with Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C.
One type of inspection she provides are pre-purchase real estate inspections for real estate. This includes checking the roof surface, attic, insulation, HVAC system, plumbing, structure, foundation, electrical system and many other aspects of the home.
“My daily tasks include being onsite at a house for about two hours before the client arrives," she says. "I have an app through Kamloops and District Real Estate Association that provides me access to the house like a realtor. That time gives me a chance to have a thorough look at everything."
Smith and the client spend an hour walking through the house together, discussing any issues or upcoming maintenance needs. She then spends the afternoon in her office writing a report and uploading the photos. She takes at least 200 photos for each inspection. Inspectors look for system and major component defects and deficiencies, improper building practices, those items that require extensive repairs, items that are general maintenance issues, and some fire and safety issues.
“My favourite part of pre-purchase real estate inspections is explaining to clients the pros and cons of the house they are considering buying. It is easy to fall in love with the colour of exterior cladding or countertops but I like helping them see more than that," says Smith.
"The best real estate inspections are the ones where we find no significant deficiencies and we can talk more about preventive maintenance. Sometimes clients have been looking for a new home for a long time and the inspection is usually the last step."
In Kamloops, depending on the age of a home, there are certain flaws to look for. Houses built in the early 1970s may have aluminum wiring. Homes built in the early 1990s may have polybutylene potable water piping.
"Neither of these are ‘deal breakers’ but a buyer should be aware of what they are buying," says Smith. "I find most realtors are aware of common issues and have often prepared or addressed these issues with the client before the home inspection."
Inspecting homes can be hazardous. Everything from spiders and snakes to heights and confined spaces.
"Black Widow spiders had a strong showing in the summer of 2016. They were everywhere," she adds. "But seriously, it is like any job. You get used to the challenges and I’m a really curious person, which gets me through. I’m confident climbing onto roofs and crawling under manufactured homes. The training I took prepared me and the emphasis is always on personal safety."
Smith took the Okanagan College home inspector training program. Taking a college program instead of an online course gave her a good, basic foundation in building sciences plus hands-on practice. She also had a fantastic mentor.
Her advice to others who are considering going into the field?
"Start your basic training through BCIT or an equivalent college program. Apply for membership to Applied Science Technologists and Technicians. A good professional membership keeps you current, provides connections, experienced mentors and additional career opportunities," she says.
Also, keep adding to your credentials.
"Say yes to every career opportunity and chance to promote your field. I volunteered with B.C. Women in Technology when I first started."
Being well qualified allows for unique opportunities, according to Smith. This year she worked for Mike Holmes through his Holmes Approved Homes program, where builders are chosen by the Holmes Group because of the quality of their work.
"Good builders want to do more than meet the minimum standard set out in the building code, and I help them monitor their projects to achieve that," says Smith.
What does the future look like for home inspectors? Well, that partly depends on the real estate market, which has been strong in Kamloops for a few years now.
In my opinion, if you follow Smith's advice, when the real estate market has a cooling trend you will still be a winning competitor in an ever-changing industry.
To get in touch with Smith, you can get in touch via Facebook. Click HERE.
Talking Trades is a regular KamloopsMatters column by Shannon Ainslie. Ainslie has worked in the trades for many years and loves to blog on the side. You can follow her at kamloopscoffeetalk.wordpress.com or on Twitter (@ainslie_shannon).