While apartment buyers are as individual as the apartment projects they plan
on purchasing, one thing they do share is the desire to ensure that the
property they will call their own is as good beneath the surface as it
appears to be.
Will the roof end up leaking? Is the wiring safe? What about the plumbing?
These, and others, are the questions that the buyers looking at your
apartment project will perhaps seek professional help to answer.
According to industry experts, there are at least 33 physical problems that
will come under scrutiny during an apartment property inspection. I have
identified 11 of the most common of these and, if not identified and dealt
with, any of these 11 items could cost you dearly in terms of repair. In
most cases, you can make a reasonable pre-inspection yourself, if you know
what you are looking for and knowing what you are looking for can help
prevent little problems from becoming large ones down the road.
1. Defective Plumbing: Defective plumbing can manifest itself in two
different ways - leaking and clogging. Visual inspection can detect leaking
and an inspector will gauge water pressure by turning on all faucets in the
highest bathroom in the building and then flushing the toilet. If you hear
the sound of running water, it indicates the pipes are undersized. If the
water appears dirty when first turned on at the faucet, it is a good
indication that pipes are rusting which can result in severe water quality
2. Damp or Wet Basement or Foundation: An inspector can inspect your walls
for powdery white mineral deposit a few inches off the floor and will look to
see if you feel secure enough to store things right on your basement floor.
A mildew odor is almost impossible to eliminate and an inspector will
certainly be conscious of it. It could cost you $300 to $1,000 to seal a
crack around your basement foundation, depending on the severity and
location. Adding a sump pump and pit will run around $1,000 and complete
water proofing could amount to $8,000 to $15,000. You will have to weigh
these figures into the calculation of what price you want to net on your
3. Inadequate Wiring and Electrical: Your apartment building should have a
minimum of 100 amp service and this should be clearly marked. Wires should
be copper or aluminum or knob and tube. Home inspectors will look at octopus
plugs as indicative of inadequate circuits and a potential fire hazard.
4. Poor Heating and Cooling: Insufficient insulation and an inadequate or
poorly functioning heating system are the most common causes of poor heating.
While an adequately cleaned furnace without rust on the heat exchanger
usually has life left in it, an inspector will be asking and checking to see
if your furnace is over its typical life span of 15 to 25 years. For a
forced air gas system, the heat exchanger will come under particular scrutiny
since one that is cracked can emit deadly carbon monoxide into the property.
These heat exchangers must be replaced if damaged - they cannot be repaired.
5. Roofing Problems: Water leaking through the roof can occur for a variety
of reasons, such as physical deterioration of the asphalt shingles, i.e.
curling or splitting, or mechanical damage from a wind storm. When gutters
leak and downspouts allow water to run down and through exterior walls, this
external problem becomes a major internal one.
6. Damp Attic Spaces: Aside from basement dampness or lower level dampness,
problems with ventilation, insulation and vapor barriers can cause water,
moisture, mold and mildew to form in the attic. This can lead to premature
wear of the roof, structure and building materials. The cost to fix this
damage could run around $2,500.
7. Rotting Wood: This can occur in many places, door or window frame, trim,
siding, decks, etc. A building inspector will sometimes probe the wood to
see if this is present, especially when wood has been freshly painted.
8. Masonry Work: Re-bricking can be costly, but left unattended these
repairs can cause problems with water and moisture penetration into the
property which in turn could lead to a chimney being clogged by fallen bricks
or part of the foundation which falls onto the ground. The cost to rebuild a
5 foot chimney, for example, is probably around $500. To repoint a 5'x10'
area would run probably around $300.
9. Unsafe or Over-Fused Electrical Circuit: A fire hazard is created when
more amperage is drawn into the circuit than was intended. 15 amp circuits
are the most common in a typical home with larger service for larger
appliances such as stoves and dryers. It will cost you about $600 to replace
your fuse panel with a circuit panel.
10. Adequate Security Features: More than a purchased security system, an
inspector will look for the basic safety features that will protect your
tenants, such as proper locks on windows and patio doors, dead bolts on the
doors and smoke detectors in every unit. To install a carbon monoxide
detector would run around $ 200. You need to invest about $150 to install
two dead bolts and further, less than that to install smoke detectors in your
common areas and each unit.
11. Structural and Foundation Problems: An inspector will certainly
investigate the underlying footings of the problem as structural integrity is
fundamental to a good project. It would cost you about $300 to add a new
footing and to install a post and around $1,000 to replace a 40 foot beam.
When you put your project on the market, you don't want any unpleasant
surprises that could cost you the sale of the project. By taking an
understanding of these 11 problem areas with you as you walk through your
property, you will be arming yourself against future disappointment.