Special Inspections 

Investing, Customizing or Flipping Properties,
An Architect's Perspective

By John A. Salat A.I.A.
Investing in properties whether to build on empty lot, flip existing dwellings or to hold continually so to ascertain maintenance cycles for the long-haul always involves professional research.

We can lead you through initial consultation steps before you purchase empty land or purchase existing home while working with your real estate prior to closing escrow. As an ally, an architect can define the conditions of escrow while making your selection of either an empty lot or improving existing home, thus leads you with the best choice of decision to your primary investment.

For existing structures, some clients may love the location but not the current layout or theme of the homes design. In this case an architect can protect the buyer knowing the cost upfront to modifications and to their custom preferences and taste by making site comparisons in the feasibility to existing dwellings that allows for sound decision to ones investment from the prospects encountered.

Engaging an architect to evaluate the property before it is acquired during/before escrow will eases all tensions and guesswork. An architect can provide a broad insight to bridge where other inspections normally leave off.

Traditional home inspectors only provide a narrow scope of work and are not regulated by government. A licensed architect, on the other hand, goes beyond common inspection protocols, covering details of desired changes and the feasibility to making adjustments while assessing any other building code deficiencies that not all traditional inspection companies know.  An architect is in the best position to know that before you closed the deal.
Also before you purchase your property, be sure to factor the cost of any proposed work into the asking price. A professional architect can package the improvements into a complete and seamless whole, resolving maintenance problems, bringing construction deficiencies to code, and altering building aesthetics, retrofits to increase the value of the property. The results to these survey inspection builds confidence with buyers in widening options for whats listed in the market place. Knowing existing homes require construction repairs/modifications may favorably lend to a total makeover. No matter the scope, the true goal for any alteration is to enhance the property value that maximizes ones investment.

While an architect can help bridge buyers and sellers who need confidence before exchanging their investments, an architect can cleanup a floor plan to making it less clumsy, modify the theme and seek retrofit options to assure feasibility lies into one single design solution. Weather its adding rooms to tie in professionally for expansion, remodel, modernize and even change the character, an architects professional representation can package the design aesthetically into securing all proposed work as permit ready.

If you're buying to flip, one option is to rent the property from the existing owner as a short-term lease, to prevent it from being sold while the major design work is being done. Do not assume your design and permit-ready drawings will be completed in a matter of weeks, as the permitting process alone may take months before actual construction can begin as an architect can help establish  timetables. Each jurisdiction has different zoning ordinances, and determining these cases can be tricky. Local ordinances and codes have been known to change monthly. Also, agencies are reluctant to respond to ad hoc questions from a prospective purchaser. However, an architect can set up a pre-evaluation meeting with the local planning department for a quick, over-the-counter concept review with rough graphics and a checklist as there is no waiting to get the immediate prelim answers up front. This informal preliminary submittal reduces the odds of unhappy surprises before you have finalized escrow or completed engineered drawings. Have the buying agent place an Architect's Review Pending contingency in escrow docs before closing to further protect you from being stuck with a property not suited to your purposes.

On the buyers end to representation, an architect's forensic efforts will track the entire permit history of construction activity and compare the current property to original city records. With further investigation, an architect can obtain maintenance receipts from past construction trade activities, including warranties to determine the remaining life span of improvements, perhaps revealing deficiencies of construction not visible to the naked eye and therefor ordering selective demolition to bring the structure up to code.
So why bother with forensics?
Sellers are not aware of permits and codes as can be confusing. Regardless of the scope of the total project, any building elements that are altered, modified or expanded overtime require permits--no exceptions. Avoiding the permit process not only exposes liability to seller but the buyer also inherent this once property title is changed.
A forensic audit is an inexpensive way to ascertain the actual condition of the property. Hire an architect for a simple walk-through or can go more extensively to further assess design opportunities, and structures integrity. You can continue using an architect with broad scope services to compare multiple properties, determining which is most feasible for your purposes, narrowing the site selection process if comparing other possible site acquisitions that can focus towards making your decisions, including providing a forecast of the longevity cost and future retrofits. No matter what your goal is, your major life investment will be now protected in the future which is a small price to reduce your risk.

More info on this topics licensed professionals, we expand our services beyond typical buyer/seller inspections for the real estate market.
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