Born in Germany, Uli Sommers
relocated to the United States in 2000 to follow a job opportunity for her husband. His Portland-area assignment was supposed to last for one year. Now, 15 years later, Uli and her family live in Beaverton, OR, and Uli has dual citizenship and works full time as a home inspector.
Embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, Uli and her husband bought their first house there 12 years ago. She said, “It was a foreclosure situation, a real fixer-upper. As we met with the home inspector, we said, ‘You can skip over telling us what is not working. Just tell us what is working. We’ll be done a lot faster.’ Over time, we rebuilt the house the way we wanted it to be.”
Throughout the process, Uli found she enjoyed learning how to do things the “right way,” and her home improvement skills steadily improved. Her next projects involved remodeling an investment property, as well as parts of her friends’ homes. She said, “Soon my kids were old enough that I could pursue becoming a home inspector, which had become my personal goal because the projects I was doing were so satisfying.”
When Uli started out, she only knew a couple home inspectors. After going to her first ASHI chapter meeting, she called another female inspector who was a member. Uli appreciated that this person took the time to talk with her. “She was very supportive and encouraging. Also, another friend I made by attending chapter meetings encouraged me to ride along with him to inspections, and I learned so much by doing that. Then I went to the ASHI School and eventually took all the tests to become certified.” Now Uli is an ASHI Certified home inspector in Oregon and serves as treasurer of the Portland ASHI chapter.
At first, Uli only knew a couple Realtors who were friends of her friends. Soon, she began getting a steady stream of calls for home inspection work. She added, “I also made a flier and took it to local Realtors. I offered a free radon test, and that helped get things going. After about six months, I didn’t need to advertise to keep busy.”
This year, Uli’s schedule has been especially packed with inspection work — she credits the housing market that has really picked up in the Portland area. Uli said, “Usually the winter months are not very busy, but ever since I returned from InspectionWorld in Philadelphia at the end of January, my phone has been ringing for appointments. With not a lot of houses on the market, multiple offers as well as cash buyers from out of state have become very common.”
“I am amazed at how easily it has all fallen into place. I think, for me, it is an advantage to be a woman — it certainly hasn’t hurt! Maybe it’s because the Portland area is known for being so progressive, but I’ve noticed that some people even request that a woman be the home inspector. That said, I can relate to other women’s stories I’ve read in the ASHI Reporter. Many times people think you are the Realtor when you arrive, and then they are surprised to find out you are the home inspector. You have to earn people’s trust.”
Uli admits that sometimes keeping up with the paperwork can be a struggle. She said, “Right now I do it all myself —schedules, reports, everything — and all that behind-the-scenes work can take a lot of time. Most weekdays I’m working in the field, and on the weekends I’m taking care of bookkeeping and other details.”
“My advice to others is that it’s very important to be always available. It may limit your free time, but it’s worth it to build solid relationships. My clients know that I’ll take calls from 6 am to 11 pm, and they appreciate and depend on my availability.”
“I love my job, and I think people can see that. If you love what you do, it’s easy to keep the energy going. Meeting people every day — it’s just my cup of tea. But I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband and my three kids. I realize sometimes that I can’t take it all on … but I still try!”