Commercial Building Inspections – Tips for Finding a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector

If and when planning to purchase a commercial property, the question often arises, ‘How Can I Find a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector for Conducting a Commercial Building Inspection?’ While one could easily write an eBook on this subject matter, this article offers several tips to help you hire a reliable and competent inspector for the purpose of obtaining a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. So without further ado, let me begin by telling you ‘What Not to Do’.

Never hire a commercial building inspector who was referred to you by the real estate agent or any other outside party who has a vested interest in and stands to gain from the sale of the property.

Although this statement goes without saying, it’s worth mentioning simply because many of those looking to purchase commercial real estate believe it is standard protocol to rely upon the realtor’s recommendation for hiring an inspector. In reality, this practice poses a conflict of interest that can have dire consequences for the party purchasing the property. Unfortunately, real estate agents who knowingly partake in this practice along with inspectors who continue to burn the candle from both ends know exactly what they’re doing and how to get away with it. While there may be a few exceptions to what I am telling you, I can assure you that the majority of inspectors who rely heavily upon referrals from real estate agents for their business are not going to rock the boat by disclosing any information to the client during the course of an inspection that may later serve to jeopardize their relationship with the broker or real estate company who referred them in the first place.

Never hire a Home Inspector to conduct a Commercial Property Inspection.

As for hiring a home inspector to conduct a commercial building inspection, suffice it to say that in most cases, conducting a commercial building inspection is altogether different from performing a home inspection for reasons too numerous to list in this article. However, the proliferation of home inspectors over the past twenty years (everyone wants to be one, especially in those States where home inspection licensing has become mandatory making it relatively easy for anyone to become licensed), hasn’t helped either as this has spawned an increasing number of home inspectors who are still unable to properly inspect a home, much less a commercial building, even if their life depended upon it. Moreover, given the number of significant and distinct differences between residential and commercial property, while experience in inspecting homes may well serve as a prerequisite, it is by no means a substitute for the vast amount of knowledge and experience required and yet to be learned by most home inspectors before they can even begin thinking about conducting a diligent and thorough building inspection.

Aside from ‘What Not to Do’, there are also other criteria you need to consider or at least be aware of in your quest to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector. namely:

Know the fundamental difference between a Commercial Building Inspection and a Property Condition Assessment (PCA).

Although this topic warrants a separate discussion, it’s important to note that the terms ‘PCA’ and ‘Commercial Building Inspection’ are often used interchangeably in the commercial sector. This in turn has resulted in a lot of confusion not only among real estate investors and others looking to purchase commercial property but real estate agents as well who more often than not simply do not know much less understand the difference. To make matters worse, the ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) has also gotten in on the act by promulgating their ASTM Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA. What this means is that since they happen to be a nationally recognized organization in the construction industry, in certain respects they’re similar to the AMA in the medical profession meaning anything and everything they write on a particular subject happens to bear a lot of weight. The problem arises in that the Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA are often misunderstood by many in the profession and seldom if ever read by those buying and selling real estate.

To simplify things, all one really has to know is that the difference between a commercial building inspection and a Baseline PCA is like night and day since the later can be performed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. The reasoning behind this is pure and simple in that a PCA is essentially a cursory walk-through of the property that relies heavily upon second hand information obtained through interviews and documentation (that may/may not be readily available let alone veritable) normally obtained through the owner and/or occupants of the property. Hence, my advice to anyone who is seriously considering having a PCA in deciding whether or not to purchase a commercial property is to forget it since in most cases a PCA is a total waste of time and money in providing information contained in a property condition report that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Try to obtain as much information as you can about the company and the inspector beforehand

This is another statement that goes without saying but I mention it because many people feel uncomfortable in asking questions of this nature especially when speaking with someone they don’t already know. However, if you reflect upon what I’ve just said for a moment, the fact you don’t know anything about the company or the inspector should be reason enough to ask all the questions you can to solicit answers without being embarrassed.

Be sure to ask the company or building inspector for references

Last but not least, do not be embarrassed to ask for bonafide references regarding recent clients for whom they have conducted similar commercial building inspections. If the company or inspector is reputable and if they have confidence in the service they provide, they normally will not have any reservations whatsoever in providing you with this information.

My next article will provide tips as to what questions you need to ask and what else you need to be aware of in looking to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector.

10 Great Commercial Construction Tips

Commercial construction can be a big undertaking, both literally and figuratively. You might think you have it all under control, but do you really? Here are ten tips that will help make your next commercial construction project a success.

1. The lowest bid is not always your best choice. It’s a counter-intuitive thought compared to everything we have been taught. But even in these times of wanting to be sure to keep the bottom line in check, it’s important to find the best price for the project. Sometimes the low bid is that way because the contractor has no idea what the job entails, and other times they will come in low, get a payment or two, and then abandon the job.

2. Go online and do your research. Check references, run the contractor’s board numbers, and study the backgrounds of your contractors so you can know before you sign on the dotted line just what you are getting. The internet can also be a source of information about current trends in commercial construction.

3. Find a contractor who specializes in what you want done. Sometimes the biggest isn’t always the best. A smaller contractor who is more adept at smaller jobs might be just the right thing your job needs. If you are revamping a store, consider finding contractors who specialize in retail space renovations.

4. Start with the general contractor and build from there. By bringing the general contractor into the job first, you are able to use their knowledge on the job from the beginning and have them help guide the project.

5. Go ahead and add on that maintenance agreement. Once the job is done, you want to ensure that your project will last for years to come. A good maintenance contract that checks over the equipment is a great idea to clean and maintain things like your furnace or drain pipes. A quick cleaning now is much cheaper than an expensive repair later.

6. Does the goal of the project further your company’s image and brand? If it doesn’t, it might not be the right project for you. This is a big capital expense, and you want it to pay off with a solid return on investment for you.

7. Your project should make sense. Do you have custodial closet doors that open inwardly? Did the customer service booth end up with only a small front-facing window? Double check the design proposal before you go out to bid to ensure that the concept diagrams and blueprints make sense and lead to positive workflow.

8. Along with number 7 goes ensuring that the areas like the office supplies and the copier are easy to get to and are going to keep things efficient in the office or administrative area.

9. Decorate in such a way that the colors and furniture enhance your brand and your company’s image. Your customers should feel like they are welcome in your new place, so be sure your contractor includes an interior decorator in the plans.

10. Be sure your contractors are all on board with the project and are capable of meeting the deadlines. This point is probably the most important one of all. Any delays are costly both financially and in terms of getting your business going again in the new location.

Hopefully these tips will help get you going in the right direction for your next project. Happy building!

Tips for Outgoings Management and Budgets in Commercial Property

When you manage commercial real estate, the outgoings within the property will require focus and financial control. When the property market slows or gets tougher, managing the outgoings is really important; the outgoings form part of the financial strategy for the landlord and will impact the net income for the property. If the outgoings get too high, the property will be hard to lease and hard to sell.

Set Some Rules

You can split the outgoings into a number of categories and this is normally done to identify and track the cash flow by expense streams. Most importantly there are two sides to the outgoings equation. Some of the items will be controllable and others will be uncontrollable. This means that the landlord can exercise control on only some of the outgoings.

The uncontrollable outgoings are those which are imposed on the property and have to be paid without any opportunity for cost savings, adjustments, or budgeting. Those uncontrollable items are normally council rates, land tax, and water rates. To a degree, insurance and energy costs will also fall into that category although some cost controls are possible with these items.

To manage the property outgoings effectively it pays to adopt a process similar to the following:

  • Create a budget for the property prior to the commencement of financial year
  • Track your expenditure to budget monthly. Adjust expenditure when you see a need and reason; early adjustment prevents bigger blowouts.
  • Look at the history of the property expenditure over the last few years to identify any excessive spending or items that are beyond the averages in the local area. The history of the property will allow you to adjust your budgets and cash flow expectations.
  • Make sure that you have removed the capital expense items from the normal repairs and maintenance for the property.
  • Talk to the owners of comparable properties in the same area. The outgoings between your property and their property should be similar. If not, you need to know why and take steps to fix that. Share information of outgoings costs with other similar property owners for this very reason.
  • Monitor the annual valuations for rating purposes. When these valuations are done, you will soon see the statutory charges and council rates rise soon after. It is not unusual for landlords and property managers to dispute the valuation in an effort to keep the statutory charges at a lower rate.

In preparing an expenditure budget for the property, you should time the expenditure so that the larger costs are expected; hence ensuring that the cash flow is suitably adjusted in preparation.

The controllable outgoings are those that the landlord can exercise decision and timing. Normal items of repairs and maintenance together with the contractor maintenance will fall within this category. If the landlord chooses to delay the expenditure with the controllable outgoings, then they can spread the impact of those items on the net monthly income from the property.

In summary, the property manager working on behalf of the landlord should exercise due care and diligence in the budgetary process for property expenditure. A well-managed landlord cash flow in an investment property is a correct balance of income against expenditure given the tenancy mix pressures on the building and the existing vacancy factors.

How To Start A Realtor Sign Installation Business – Tips And Strategies

When you start a Realtor sign installation business, you have access to a wide variety of potential business sources from residential to commercial to vacant land. You will also need to establish the geographical area that you can cover reliably.

In considering how to start a Realtor sign installation business, the first consideration has to be arranging for the production of signage materials. To print custom logos and colors you will need to set up arrangements with a silk screen printing company. This is a specialized process where the pattern is created on fabric with a resist material, then ink is pressed through in multiple color passes. You are also going to want to arrange for storage of the completed signs in a covered dry area with separators to protect their surface when not in use.

The signs themselves are almost universally mounted on four by four standard construction grade Douglas Fir posts, apart from larger commercial real estate signs which occasionally may require four by six posts. The plywood for lettering should be plywood with exterior grade glue and a smooth PTS “plugged and touch sanded” surface on both sides. Half inch thickness should suffice for most applications.

You will need a good knowledge of the area to accurately locate the sign placements. A GPS device is useful here, and you will also want to be able to read County Assessor plat maps if you are going to place signs on vacant land. You will also need to check local sign ordinances in developed areas. Know the restrictions on sign placement in gated communities, within homeowner association controlled developments, and in all areas with covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs) such as planned unit developments or town homes.

You also need to have reliable transportation consisting of a full size pickup truck with wood separator fixtures fashioned to secure the standard yard signs during transport.

Once your production capacity and storage arrangements are in place but not yet activated, you need to secure your accounts. In addition to marketing to conventional real estate offices, you will also want to pursue the bank REO (real estate owned) departments that need to liquidate foreclosed holdings and the independent agencies that are selling foreclosed properties in bulk.

Establish your pricing and service by comparison with sign companies in areas adjacent to your service area. Much of your marketing will be establishing contacts in person with the real estate office managers in your area. Be presentable, be persistent, be cordial, and be businesslike. These people need to know they can trust you to promptly and reliably place and remove their signs.

Almost every business today can benefit from an online marketing presence. A digital camera can provide you with promotional photographs for your web site, and templates are available online to simplify the process of setting up your site. Be sure to include a call to action on every page to encourage your visitors to request an estimate by e-mail. Also obtain their name and telephone in your online form to follow up with them consistently. The forms can be found by searching online for reply forms.