Karen Warseck, AIA
veryone will, at some time, have the unpleasant experience of purchasing a product that fails to fulfill his/her expectations. When the item is small, often the aggravation exceeds the monetary loss. Should the item be of major proportions, such as a real estate acquisition, the loss can be staggering not only financially, but also in reputation and in the case of building failure, of life.
It can also be avoidable. An architectural and structural investigation of an existing building should be performed prior to any purchase, as routinely as the market analysis. The inspection should be done by a qualified professional architectural/ engineering firm; one that has done such inspections before, is aware of the myriad hidden problems of existing buildings and knows what their causes are and how to remedy them. Why should a professional architectural firm be employed for this task? A RE professional, although quite knowledgeable in the potential market value of a structure, can miss architectural and structural defects that can prove costly in the end. The seller cannot be relied upon to conduct an unbiased investigation as he may be unaware of, or unwilling to admit to, the building's problems.
Contractors may not be a reliable body to undertake an investigation due to possible conflict of interest and an inadequate understanding of the symptoms observed. An incorrect diagnosis often leads to extensive and costly treatment of the symptoms as opposed to a permanent cure.
The most efficient and accurate recognition of the signs of building distress, and the translation of those symptoms into the least costly and most permanent solution, requires the ability of experts. One such firm, Hoffmann Architects in Hamden, Conn., specialists in the rehabilitation of existing facilities, has been inspecting buildings and evaluating and solving their problems nationwide for such prestigious clients as the RE investment departments of The Prudential Insurance Co. of America and the RE and construction operations of the General Electric Co.
These large corporations, as well as many other clients large and small, have learned that almost anyone involved in the acquisition or maintenance of existing facilities can benefit from an architectural inspection. For the corporate investor, the services of the professional architectural investigator can provide an opportunity to maximize the investment dollar. When a building's faults and failures are clearly understood, more advantageous negotiations may be made on the purchase price.
In addition, should the transaction be completed, the purchaser has the professional resources at hand to have remedial work done correctly. If the building is too severely deteriorated and to fix it would be beyond the potential indicated by the market analysis, then the purchase can be abandoned.
Property management also may benefit from periodic inspections of a building. Many parts of a building, such as masonry and roofs, are never even thought of until problems appear. By regularly inspecting these "out of sight, out of mind" areas, needed maintenance may be uncovered before expensive and sometimes irreversible damage is done.
If repairs are done when necessary, tenant complaints can be minimized. Tenants are more likely to remain in what is, to them, a trouble-free building.
For investors, property managers, indeed, all those who care about quality and value in their RE, the services of a professional architectural investigative firm can provide increased profits and an enhanced RE portfolio.
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Karen Warseck, AIA. CSI, is president of Building Diagnostics® Associates, a Hollywood. Fla., firm that specializes in the analysis of roofing and waterproofing problems.
This article was reprinted from the May 21, 1982 issue of the New England Real Estate Journal.