Covid Safety Tips When appraising apartments and non-residential buildings

Apartment Risks

All types of properties have Covid risks inside. To me, 2-4 unit properties are the most difficult apartments to appraise, due to different types of buyers (owners, investors, etc.). They can also be more tricky to inspect and keep safe from Covid. Larger properties focus on income.

I have appraised many apartment properties, from duplexes to hundreds of units. From converted Victorians to new construction. The fewer the units, the more difficult the appraisals, for appraising and sometimes risk, such as all the units have a different floor plan or a converted Victorian with difficult to measure unit locations.

Face Masks: You and every occupant must have a face mask. Bring extras, such as inexpensive disposable or re-usable cloth masks which you can re-wash. Your PPE: The usual: mask, gloves, etc. Do not re-use masks at another property. Hand sanitizer in car. Gown for apartments with lots of personal belongings.

Minimize the risk of going into the units – time, unit selection, etc.

Time. The goal is to spend as little time as possible inside each unit. Do as much work as possible outside, such as estimating the size of individual units.

Ventilation – if possible, have the tenant, owner or manager open the windows as long as possible before you get there. Or, if the property has HVAC with HEPA filters, turn it on before you get there.

Tenant notification Be sure that when the property manager sends a letter notifying the tenants, it also includes information on what you will be wearing, etc. and windows open, occupants must wear face masks, etc. Maybe fewer occupants will be there.

Unit Selection. Get as much information as you can from the owner or property manager before going to the property:

What types of floor plans? Measure each one, if needed, preferably in a vacant or unoccupied unit. Do a rough interior sketch with room locations. The owner or manager may have floor plans. Get the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in each floor plan also.

Go inside as many vacant units as possible to inspect and measure. Vacant units (not rented). Top priority. Not risky. Units with no occupants at the time of inspection. May have residual airborne virus particles.

The laundry room should be vacant, or the tenant can leave when you go inside.

Crowding: How many people living in each unit (including “visitors”). Very important to determine crowding. Select units (if possible) with fewer people.

Long term tenants (Could have lots of personal belongings which you may need to touch). Or, go through quickly to see the condition of these units.

For 2-4 unit properties, I have always seen all the units. With COVID, a sample of 2 or 3 may be okay and explain why you didn’t go inside all the units. All types of properties have Covid risks inside.

Commercial, office, warehouse, etc. properties

I have appraised many types of non-residential properties such as restaurants, mid-size shopping centers, retail stores, warehouses, office buildings, hair salons, medical/dental and veterinary buildings, private schools, manufacturing, etc.

They are not as risky as apartments, as they are not occupied for up to 24 hours a day. If it is a mixed-use property, my comments above on apartments are useful.

I strongly advise you to insist that the building has only the owner or manager there (and possibly the tenant), wearing face masks. No customers or employees. If necessary, you can come back another time when they are occupied to see the traffic flow, etc. How many people always wear face masks varies widely, depending on where the property is located.

Be sure to maintain physical distancing when speaking with owner/property manager or tenants. Both of you must have face masks.

Almost all buildings have break rooms, where people congregate. Break rooms can be are crowded periodically. Restaurant kitchens can be very crowded.

Ventilation – High ceilings are less risky than 8 ft. ceilings, such as in stores, warehouses, etc. as airborne particles are dispersed more easily than lower ceilings. Have the tenant, owner or manager open the windows for as long as possible before you get there.

The property manager or owner: be sure the person wears a face mask. Bring an inexpensive disposable face mask if they don’t have one (or “forget” to bring one).

Tenant notification by owner or property manager

Be sure that when the property manager sends a letter notifying the tenant(s), it also includes information on what you will be wearing, etc., windows need to be open (if possible), what you will be looking at, how long it will take, etc.

Get as much information as you can from the owner or property manager before going to the property if it will be occupied when you go there. Also, occupants must wear face masks, social distancing, etc. (Bring disposable masks or your own washable face masks). Customers may or may not use face masks, depending on your location.

Remember that all types of properties have Covid risks inside!

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