When you’re away from your San Juan Island home, who watches to ensure its safety and security?
Island Homewatch is San Juan Island’s go-to house-watching service — license, bonded and insured to protect your property giving you peace of mind.
“The point is that there are a lot of houses that are vacant around here for long periods of time, especially during the winter,” owner Margie Smith said. “At least they’ve got some sort of eyes and ears on the island here to go check on their house for them.”
Smith has lived on San Juan Island since she and her husband first landed their sailboat on its shore 40 years ago. Since then, she has built cabinets for houses all over the island, gaining the trust of many an island homeowner.
Unofficially, Smith has been watching vacant homes for people for much of her time on the island, but officially became a business around five years ago.
“When it became obvious that it was a need that people had, I became licensed and insured and bonded to do that,” Smith said.
The service Smith provides is an indoor and outdoor check of a property for things such as leaks, ensuring appliances are still working and more.
“Any number of things like that,” Smith said.
Smith also will work as a liaison between homeowners and contractors for tasks such as painting, pressure washing and roof cleaning. She arranges the projects and supervises in the place of the homeowner.
“Having a neighbor stop in periodically to check your home as a favor may initially seem like a good idea. But when a serious issue arises, or you need someone to take swift action on your behalf, your property can quickly become an imposition for a neighbor,” Smith wrote on her business website. “That’s when it is important to have a professional available and familiar with your home to regularly inspect and have the ability to swiftly coordinate licensed professionals to assist with a repair when needed.”
Thankfully, Smith explained, the COVID pandemic didn’t have much of an effect on the company. She said it was helpful to her business, in a sense, because many people didn’t return from their winter homes as early as they usually did.
“I was glad I was in a position where I could do that for them,” Smith said.
Smith never dreamed she would have a self-employed career in cabinet making and home watch, she said, but the island is the perfect place for that. She and her husband Allan, with whom she’s been married to for more than 40 years, also own another island business, Hoot Creek Homecraft.
“The island is one of those places where everybody puts on a lot of different hats,” Smith said, adding that she knows many women who do many different jobs. “I think that’s wonderful.”
People were usually totally surprised that a woman built custom cabinets, Smith said. She was thankful for cabinetmakers on the island who took a chance on her and taught her how to build cabinets. It helped, she added, that she and her husband, built their sailboat and they ultimately built their own home on the island.
“It’s really nice that the island is flexible in their way of thinking,” she said.
Smith said it was also nice to own her own business so that she had flexibility in her hours to spend with her sons Devin and Ryan as they grew up on the island. These days, she uses her flexibility to spend time with her grandchildren.
When she’s not in the shop building cabinets or checking in on clients’ houses, Smith loves to garden and hike the island’s many trails. She said she enjoys being out on the water and visiting the many park islands around the county. Music is also a passion of her’s, she has both played and taught marimba classes for several years.
Her suggestion to people interested in starting their own island business is: “Don’t be afraid to do it.” She said it’s possible, you just need to take a good idea and run with it. All you need is a desire and the stamina to face the difficulties that may arise, she said.