Trailblazing home inspector explains what to look out for when buying a house in red-hot real estate market

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Home inspections are one of the most important steps in buying a house.

Jacqueline Gathers familiarized herself with common plumbing and heating issues in her 30 years working for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). When her husband died of cancer in 2017, she took over the franchise for Pillar to Post, which he had purchased a year earlier.

"I was very, very nervous because the home inspection industry is a white male-dominated industry. So, I had concerns about how I would get business," she said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

Gathers became the city's first licensed Black female home inspector.

"Once I started and I kept at it and I'm really good at what I do, I know what I'm talking about, people just kind of disregarded the fact that I was a female and an African American, and they started to give me business based on my expertise," said Gathers.

She began pitching her services to realtors by going door-to-door to introduce herself and offering free inspections.

"I know all the realtors had a guy that they used, but I just wanted them to give me an opportunity to do business with me."

Gathers would produce home inspection reports within the same day, which she called a "game changer" for her business.

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She told WCBS 880 she and her three full-time home inspectors are busy, sometimes, with multiple inspections per client because cash buyers are gobbling up homes so quickly. She says people are eager to buy in New York City and stresses the value of home inspections for co-ops and condos even in new buildings.

"What we look for in co-ops and condos is moisture in places that's not visible to the eye," said Gathers. "We check the outlets, particularly the kitchen and bathrooms, to make sure they're properly GFI so if water gets in them, it won't spark and cause a fire."

Foundation issues are the primary reason why clients may walk away from a deal, but Gathers said that only happens in about one percent of cases at Pillar to Post.

"When we look at houses, we always like to let our buyers know that the cosmetic stuff we're not concerned about. It's the main arteries of the house like the roof, the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing, the heating and cooling systems - those are issues that will cost you money down the road and that's what we really kind of focus on."

See more home buying tips on the Small Business Spotlight video above.