“I just found a commercial building I want to buy, and I need an inspection.”
That’s what I hear every day when I pick up the phone.
Often it is an investor who was burned by buying a property in the past without engaging an experienced professional. Usually, I don’t have to sell the value but only explain what we include and when we can get it done….and of course share the fee involved.
But sometimes. I talk to someone who isn’t sure they need an inspector. So, I pulled together this short article on some of the things we see with some example pictures added.
The commercial building inspector’s role is to protect investment and reduce risks. They do this by ensuring the safety, functionality, and compliance of commercial properties. Their inspections reveal a wide range of issues that could impact the integrity and value of these investments.
In this article, we’ll look at the top three issues inspectors I have been finding lately. These change as the behavior of owners change and markets change. For example, during the Covid years we saw most maintenance stop and with failing resources property owners stopped keeping their properties in good condition. Now that more and more investors are facing these properties many are in for a bit of a shock at what they see and later by what they did not see. Our role as inspector has become more important than ever.
1) Structural Integrity Concerns
One of the primary issues that inspectors frequently uncover in commercial buildings relates to structural integrity. This encompasses a wide range of issues, including foundation cracks, deterioration of load-bearing components, improper construction techniques, and inadequate support systems. Structural deficiencies can compromise the stability and safety of the building, posing significant risks to occupants and potentially leading to costly repairs or even structural failure. When we suspect there is foundation movement, we map the lower level to measure to a tenth of an inch any elevation changes. We may have to recommend a structural engineer to evaluate further.
Inspectors meticulously examine the structural elements of commercial buildings, assessing the condition of foundations, walls, columns, beams, and roofing systems. Common indicators of structural issues include visible cracks, sagging ceilings, uneven floors, and signs of water damage or corrosion. Identifying these issues early on allows property owners to implement corrective measures, such as reinforcement, repair, or rehabilitation, to ensure the structural integrity of the building and mitigate potential risks. The structure and roof of a building are going to be the big expenses most of the time.
2) Electrical System Hazards
Electrical system hazards represent another latest concern encountered by commercial building inspectors. Electrical deficiencies pose serious safety hazards, including the risk of electrical fires, electrocution, and equipment malfunction. Inspectors scrutinize the electrical infrastructure of commercial properties, evaluating the condition of wiring, circuitry, distribution panels, and electrical outlets. We are seeing more and more non-licensed repairs on even newer buildings. So we are looking deeper anytime we see updates or remodels because it may mean a licensed electrician did not do the work.
Common electrical issues identified by inspectors include overloaded circuits, outdated wiring, inadequate grounding, faulty connections, and code violations. Additionally, inspectors assess compliance with electrical codes and regulations to ensure that installations meet safety standards and mitigate potential liabilities. Addressing electrical system hazards promptly through repairs, upgrades, or system replacements is essential to safeguarding the well-being of occupants and minimizing the risk of property damage or litigation.
3) Deferred Maintenance
Almost all properties we inspect have some repairs that have been ignored, hidden, or put off due to expenses. In fact, we can tell very quickly who has actually been doing maintenance and repairs on a building and it’s usually not a licensed trade. We know regular maintenance is important to reducing premature aging and loss of utilization of a building. Regular maintenance should be documented whether it is done internally or by third party vendors and buyers need to ask for access to all maintenance logs and records.
Inspectors often recommend buyers prioritize preventative maintenance to avoid costly repairs down the line or worse failure of systems. Establishing a regular maintenance schedule for essential building systems such as HVAC, plumbing, and roofing can help identify potential issues early on and address them before they escalate. This proactive approach not only reduces maintenance expenses but can add value to an aging property.
I have included some examples of the bad and sometimes ugly things we have found. From roof drainage that is blocked, and the roof is now a pond to electrical panels that are fire hazards and much more.
As you can see, now more than ever commercial building inspectors play a vital role in identifying and addressing the top three issues encountered in commercial properties: structural integrity concerns, electrical system hazards, and deferred maintenance. By conducting thorough inspections and collaborating with property owners to rectify these issues promptly, inspectors help mitigate risks, enhance safety, and preserve the value of commercial investments. Proactive maintenance and adherence to regulatory standards are essential for ensuring the long-term viability and sustainability of commercial buildings.
We recommend property owners, especially those with triple net leased property ensure a certain level of maintenance has been kept up by having buildings inspected annually. The time to find out major systems or parts of a building are in trouble is as early as possible…not when you are showing the property to the next tenant.