When purchasing any property, an inspection to ensure that the property is in good shape is a must.
When it comes to purchasing multi-family properties, inspections are even more crucial. Purchasing a multi-family or multi-unit property faces its own set of challenges that need to be addressed.
Compared to a traditional home inspection, multi-family inspections are usually larger in scope due to the size of the property, its systems and it’s use by non-owners.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind to ensure a thorough and proper multi-family inspection.
What is a Multi-Family Property?
Simply put, a multi-family property is a residential property that houses more than one family. This could be as simple as a two story house in which each story is a separate rental unit or as complex as a 100-unit apartment building. Common multi-family properties usually include duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhomes, apartment buildings, and apartment communities.
Each property faces its own challenges when undergoing inspection.
Generally, the larger the property, the more involved the inspection will be, and the more difficult it may become. In multi-family properties, each individual unit has the ability to affect the units around it. Additionally, there are some inspections that multi-family properties will need that are typically not required for single-family homes.
Quality Over Speed
Because of the connected nature that multi-family properties require, an inspection of this type will take longer than what it would on a single-family property. It is also of the utmost importance that these inspections are thorough and detail-oriented due to the impact each individual unit can have on the property as a whole.
Systems For Inspection
Many of the systems that require inspection in multi-family homes are similar to that of a single-family home – just larger in scope. The following are some of these more common systems.
The roof of a multi-family property is an element that is probably most similar to that of a single-family property. Roofs need review for both their condition and their remaining useful life. The challenge in inspecting the roof on a multi-family property comes from the need to inspect it in different units. Not all multi-family properties are organized identically, and the access to the roof may need to be inspected in each unit individually, making for a lengthier process.
Structure and Foundation
Similarly to the roof inspection, structure and foundation inspections may require more time during multi-family property inspection compared to a single-family property inspection. Additionally, structural inspections in multi-family properties typically involve looking at more structures, as the units have their own structures to account for that separate them from one another.
Most importantly, multi-family property owners have a legal obligation to keep their structures safe for residential living and are responsible for the lives of those tenants living in the property.
The inspection of electrical systems in multi-family properties also lends itself to being more tedious than that of a single-family property. Each individual unit can have its own circuit breaker and electrical panel. The wiring in each unit is specific to the unit itself, as well. This can often mean issues in one unit may not be present in another unit.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in multi-family properties can include individual central units, individual window units, on one centralized HVAC system for the entire property. Scope of HVAC system inspection depends on the size, type, and integration of the property’s system being inspected.
When inspecting a multi-family property, plumbing inspections are crucial. Not only does every unit require a thorough inspection, but the entire plumbing system as a whole should be thoroughly inspected. Problems in one unit may originate somewhere else. For example, a leak in a downstairs residence can be traced to an upstairs unit – or the roof. Leaks that go unnoticed can have a major, long-lasting impact on the health of the property (and the tenants, via mold exposure).
Areas Unique to Multi-Family Properties
When comparing single-family properties to multi-family properties, there are some systems that are unique to multi-family properties. Here are some of the more common ones.
Pavement System Inspections
Unique to multi-family properties like apartment complexes or apartment communities, pavement system inspections can sometimes be required in a multi-family inspection. Pavement systems can refer to parking lots and sidewalks in complexes. They can also include any paved roads that are in the complex itself that need to be maintained by the property manager.
Foundation System Inspections
The foundation of a multi-family property is worth mentioning twice, as it’s the basis of the entire building. When there is foundation damage, it’s likely that every unit in the property is being affected. If any sort of foundation damage is found while being inspected, it needs to be reviewed more thoroughly and immediately, as the damage will have a compounding effect.
When looking to purchase a multi-family property, the first thing you’ll want to ask for and review are the maintenance records. Multi-family properties are almost always used as rentals, and as such, the owners of the property are responsible for the maintenance.
Property maintenance records can play a huge role in the scope of work required to fully inspect a multi-family property. The absence of proper maintenance records can mean more time that a home inspector spends familiarizing themselves with the overall foundation of the property’s systems.
These records can be imperative to inspections as they help to inform the list of priorities that need to be taken into account. Without them, an inspection can become a more monumental task requiring more in-depth review where it could be avoided.
Scheduling an Multi-family Inspection
If you are looking to purchase a multi-family property, it is important to have a proper inspection completed prior to signing anything. A multi-family inspection report provided by a certified home inspector can mean the difference between a great investment and a money pit.
At ARTI Home Inspections LLC, our home inspectors have experience inspecting a wide range of commercial and multi-family properties.
Contact us today to get a specialized multi-family inspection quote.