Since I didn't know any inspectors who specialize in older multi-family buildings, I put out a call on Facebook and Linkedin for suggested names. I received a variety of responses and upon further consideration, realized that this might be a topic worthy of a post on this somewhat neglected blog.
Firstly, here are some of the Facebook comments I received:
- Read the minutes carefully. Spidey senses should tingle with mentions of unexplained problems being investigated -- balcony repairs meant (for us) wood rot.
- Hopefully she will check out the functioning or dys-functioning of the strata council
- Ed Witske if he is still around. The best there ever was. Realtor's hate him
- nothing you can do about inspectors. The banks require you to get one to apply for a mortgage. And the courts exempt them when things go bad. There's a clause (in fine print) on all inspectors reports that states, "this is only their 'opinion', and therefore, is not binding in a court of law" So why are you needing an inspector? We know this by personal experience. Sorry I am not helpful.
- Hansen Home Inspections was very good for single family, not sure of multiple residence
- I've learned, after several disappointments with inspectors, to use a trusted contractor -- the guy we bring in to do our renos. And we always ask to examine a sampling of the plumbing and behind the cladding -- our own expense and we put it all back together.
- Just call one of your friends who is an envelope engineer and find out how much she should set aside for future repairs. When I called for my son several years ago it was the only thing relevant.
- Sean Moss: 604.729.4261 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- I always refer my clients to the local inspectors ASTTBC certified through BCIT: http://www.bcipi.com/findi
- Always good to use someone with a background in engineering on multi-family inspections. They may cost a bit more, but their skill and level of accountability is much higher. It's also a good idea to talk to the resident manager about what's really going on in the building. Make sure the inspector get's up on the roof, and into the mechanical rooms. It's usually important to book that with the Strata manager well in advance. Many buildings now charge a fee for that service.
As I thought about it, I realized that any real issues would likely lie outside the unit...the condition of the roof; the exterior wall construction; etc. Did she want to pay for someone to check out the entire building? Since it was a relatively new concrete 'loft' building form, with a 'rainscreen' masonry and metal panel exterior, I was not concerned with the potential for wood rot, or some of the other envelope problems that so many lower mainland buildings experience.
Upon inspecting the building, I noticed that it was in need of a good cleaning. However, I then found notices in the elevator that the building was to be power washed the following week. We did review the Strata Minutes and did not find any serious cause for concern. I also looked at the budget. The building is managed by Crosby Management, a large and capable firm. While I was concerned that the replacement reserve budget was modest, sadly this is the norm in British Columbia where we do not mandate higher replacement reserves which is the case in other provinces.
We spoke to some of the residents, all of whom loved living in the building. Most of the suites are owner-occupied which is often a good sign...while rentals were permitted, the number was restricted.
I contacted the developer, a friend of mine, who told me that he understood that the residents loved the building and he wasn't aware of any problems.
In the end, we decided not to arrange for a complete inspection. Hopefully we will not regret this decision. However, I do have a suggestion for everyone living in condominium buildings and those considering the purchase of a condominium.
Every Strata Council should arrange for an independent inspection of its entire building from time to time, that can be shared with suite owners and prospective purchasers. This would seem to be a benefit for everyone. While there is no doubt that such inspections would likely identify issues to be addressed, my experience is that it's better to attend to them sooner, rather than later...sort of like the Fram Oil Filter advertisement.
I would like to think that most responsible Strata Councils would do this. And if they don't, or don't want to make an inspection report available to potential purchasers, then maybe that's a building to be avoided. And if this impacts the market value of the units, then perhaps the owners will reconsider the need for a regular inspection report.
What do you think?