Ok, I’m taking a brief break from my typical soapbox. Actually it’s in the back getting repaired, so I thought I’d change gears and address another aspect of property purchasing started in two earlier articles. In other words, before you buy that building or property (like I said before)…wait!
If you are about to smash your piggy bank to buy that great building or piece of land with the spectacular view, take some time to find an architect and get professional advice. It could save you an incredible amount of money. Most architects offer some type of service where they provide a preliminary assessment of real estate. Call it a feasibility study, due diligence study or whatever you prefer. You need to speak to a professional about the important overarching issues and whether it makes sense for you to lay down your money for this purchase.
I provide this service on a regular basis for people interested in both buildings and land. The report can be brief and address only a few issues or it can get quite lengthy and even go as far as to pursue a series of sketch design concepts with detailed cost estimates. The beauty of it is it can be tailored to address the depth the client wishes to pursue and invest in at the earliest stages of a project. It is also a great testing ground to whether the client and architect are compatible.
So if you are not an architect, you may be wondering what happens in this report or what should I ask for or expect? To me there are two major questions to answer. What are the external influences that have an impact on this purchase and what are the internal influences.
The outside influences can be items such as the regulatory environment. In other words, zoning ordinances, building codes, or other ways the municipality has jurisdictional control over your project. No it’s not really a free country, but it’s as close as you’re gonna get my friend. A few other items we commonly review are soil conditions for property purchases. This can be as simple as previous mining activity research and land subsidence data and can go as far as environmental studies if the site has the potential of sub-surface contaminants. That doesn’t mean Jimmy Hoffa or a maverick VW bug is buried there, it means harmful substance like gasoline or petroleum products from a previous gas station or all kinds of other nasty stuff could be underground. Lastly, it’s good to study less tangible influences like the overall context, the neighboring structures, and the location with respect to other houses, businesses or other items that could affect your business. Simply put, what is outside of the immediate site that may have an impact on your plans to improve the property and should you be concerned. I have many other questions to ask when it comes to vacant property purchases, but you’ll have to hire me to hear them.
Internal influences are varied too, but can include things such as the condition of the existing structure. What condition is it really in and should you be concerned. For a house, this is often summed up with a home inspection, but for a commercial building, having architects and engineers involved is an investment that will pay you dividends. If you are considering buying a house (or even a commercial structure) with any intention to alter it or add onto it, I highly recommend bringing an architect with you to discuss the possibilities. What condition is the structure in and was there every anything like a fire that could have compromised it. Is it adequate to serve the new use? We also look at features such as the roof, walls, windows, floors and similar building features and report on their current condition and make recommendations or suggestions on what remedial actions may be required based on the intended use. One example is if you plan on using a building for a church and the shallow floor joists bounce and vibrate like a trampoline, you may wish to reconsider or have your architect investigate the potential cost of rebuilding or reinforcing the floor. Another feature that shouldn’t be discounted is spatial opportunities and other design ideas. Will your business fit in this building or on this site? If it does, do you have room for future growth? Is the character of the space or site something that fits within your image or taste? Will it represent your business consistent with your expectations? Again, these are tough questions that can’t fully be answered with a report, but can be addressed to the degree to give someone confidence in signing on the dotted line. People have often made the mistake of buying a building only to find out later that the building code requires changes for the new use and the costs will absorb the entire budget. Now you’re stuck with the building. Or you buy land and for some reason find out you can’t build on it as intended. What do you do now?
Ok, now you know what you ought to do. Pick up the phone, call an architect and for goodness sake pay them to see the property and answer your big questions. It’s money in your piggy bank.
top photo is from beriliu’s stock photo gallery on Stock.Xchng (used under the Standard Restrictions)