Appraising from Blueprints

In Insurance Appraisal by Patricia Staebler

Using the construction plans for an insurance appraisal is like a second leg to stand on instead of trying to balance on just one leg. If an appraiser inspects a building, most of the important items are hidden within the construction. We cannot take the building apart to see if the roof trusses are wood or steel, we cannot see if the beams are fire resistant or if the building rests on piles or footers.

To comply with Citizens requirements, appraisers have to classify the building in one of the six ISO classifications and without the construction plans this can be very challenging. If dealing with an old building, which rests on a crawl space, it is very obvious what the makeup of the building is. But, if for example a midrise condominium building is the subject property, the appraiser needs to know several components of the building to be able to classify it with utmost certainty.

Appraising from Blueprints

The inspection of the property is necessary in order to become familiar with the building, to take photos and to verify measurements; but the construction plans go a step further and reveal everything an appraiser needs to know to accurately estimate the cost of the building.

It is impossible to determine the percentage of interior concrete block walls upon inspection, but the blueprints contain that information; during the inspection it cannot be seen if a flat roof has wood trusses or steel trusses, but the construction plans will tell the story.

Depending on the age of the building, construction plans might exist or not. If the property owner is not in possession of the blueprints, the appraiser has to go the extra mile and visit the local building department to obtain the plans. The Florida Sunshine Laws make it happen; each building department will work with an appraiser to find the necessary information. In some cases it is free of charge, sometimes a nominal fee has to be paid. If the building is very old, one might run out of luck and even the building department will have no plans on files or only limited microfiche information. But limited information is better than none.

Another visual aid for the appraisal process can be the condominium plat book which contains the surveyor’s measurements, often in astounding detail, for example revealing the wall’s construction material and thus enabling the appraiser to determine the percentage of interior block walls versus framed walls. This, for example, is an often overseen detail that can contribute a lot of construction dollars to a building.

When you are ordering your next insurance appraisal, try to have the construction plans ready for your appraiser or work with your appraiser to locate the plans at the building department. And remember, the blueprints are like an X-Ray of the building that will help to make the appraisal more accurate and might even save you and your association money.

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