Although some roofs require top physical shape to get up, my favorite moment is to stand up on top of that roof. That is the moment I “own” the building, the moment I am in touch with all the sticks and bricks. Might sound strange, but during my time as real estate cost estimator on construction sites, I became accustomed to the feel, touch and smell of buildings. Like a tree hugger is in touch with nature, I need to be in touch with the buildings I am about to appraise for valuation analysis.
Here is how a complete and thorough property inspection should unfold:
- First of all, before even going to the said property, I need to know as much as possible about the building.
This means I have to sit down and do my homework: pull public records, plat books, construction plans, aerials which will help to locate multiple buildings and site improvements, labeling of the buildings, and a plan how to approach the campus.
It is a waste of time to start a property inspection without a layout map and a clear plan. Labeling the buildings for example A to F, I then start with A and work my way through all the buildings. Having a system in place is of utmost importance.
- Next, getting ready for inspection day includes getting the gear ready, which consists of video camera, digital camera, recording device, graph paper, pen, measuring wheel, tape measure, pitch and slope locator and the construction plans, if available.
Upon arriving at the property, I first scope the entire area and document my first walkthrough with video and/or photo. Even if the building is not in a flood zone, I want to see the interior build-out to get an idea of the overall quality of the building.
Remember, an insurance appraisal for a building which is not located in a flood zone, needs only one replacement value for wind/hazard, which excludes the interior build-out. But to complete the overall impression of the building the interior build-out should be inspected.
Any real estate appraiser can never have enough photos and therefore I shoot a lot of photos, which will become part of my work file. The photos, which ultimately end up in the report are just a fraction of the photos I shoot during an inspection.
If the property is complex I might decide to videotape the inspection with a voice recording to help me to remember the tiniest details. I make photos of every building and all site improvements including pools, spa, decks, fences, walls, and other site improvements.
At the end of the photo session it is then time to assess the roof. Whenever possible, I will get up on the roof to see the quality of the roof cover, scope problems like ponding, and count the AC condenser units. Usually I get some good shots of the roof and of the building from the roof. This provides a perspective of the building, which can assist to see things, which normally will not be noticed.
In regard to water ponding: it is not the scope of work for an appraiser to scope damages or shortcomings of the building. But isn’t it a best practice and an extra service to report to the property management that there might be a problem in the future and to prevent damages they should hire a contractor?
In the end it all comes down to client service, doesn’t it?
After the photo and video inspection I switch gears and bring out the measuring devices and my notebook. In most cases I will have construction plans or the condominium plat book with surveyors measurements of the buildings. In this case, I will verify measurements from the plans by sampling some of the measurements. If the dimensions on the plans conform to my sample measurements, I will rely on the construction plans.
In some cases, the appraiser is out of luck and there are no construction plans and no plat books with measurements. In this case: happy measuring. There is no way around it; a complete sketch with measurements has to be drawn on-site. Young, inexperienced appraiser will have a hard time in the beginning with sketches, but over time it is possible to develop some nice sketching skills. It is really important to measure accurately, as the measurements are the basis for the square foot calculation, which in turn will have an impact on the value.
After the inspection of the buildings, the site improvements need to be documented. All site improvements have to be measured for proper valuation. Size of pool, deck, spa, length and height of fences and walls, gazebos, tennis courts, and so forth.
- A complete inspection should include an interview with the property manager or the person, who is responsible for the upkeep of the property.
Some larger campuses have an on-site engineer or contractor, who knows the building inside out. These persons are your best sources to learn as much as possible about the building, especially when no construction plans are available.
It has happened often, that I had to inspect a high rise, built in the seventies, and no construction plans were available. But, there was that one person on-site, who is the “caretaker” of the property, and that contact was as good as having construction plans!
- Naturally, the appraiser needs to ask the right questions; otherwise the interview is purposeless.
A thorough inspection of a mid or high rise building will last between two and three hours, depending on the availability of construction plans; a subdivision with lots of site improvements and several buildings will require several hours, maybe even an entire workday.
The next time you have an appraiser on-site, make sure he/she checks in and out with you; this way you have control over the time that the appraiser has spent on your property.
An appraiser zipping in and out of a property will most likely miss the boat.
As always, thanks for reading my blog, please leave comments or email me directly if you have questions.
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