Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Building Update #2

Funds Raised - $650,000   Days Remaining - 13

Hey Folks,

On Monday I said that I'd go into the whole inspections and estimates part of the process later because it was a long post.  That follows but, if you're not interested in all those details, you can skip the end of this note.  But I do have some other stuff that might interest you.

First off, we're in the news again.  Both Hoodline and Mission Local posted pieces about what we're doing:
Mission Local -
Hoodline -

Secondly, with Jeremy's invaluable help, I've put up a section on our website about this project.  There are some documents up there that give more details about the building. There's also a current picture.  If you looked at the place on Google street view it was a uniform (and ugly) gray color.  It's been painted since and the current picture is much more appealing.  Go to  It's password protected -- if you want access, please drop me a line.   I'll be adding anything of interest, including some more pictures, up there as I get it.

Now, how about a deep dive into building inspections?

Inspections and Estimates
When you're buying a building it's important to know what you're getting into.  Damage and problems with the building systems can be very expensive to fix (e.g. just replacing the main sewer line and "house-trap" for a building like this one is an easy ten to twenty grand).  During our inspection contingency we have a chance to hire people to examine specific parts of the building to help avoid surprises a month or a year down the line.

Side Note:  When I say "building systems" I mean any of the combination of building elements that, in concert, make the building function.  Examples are things like the electrical system (main service that brings the power into the building from the street, the distribution panel(s) which house the circuit breakers, the wire runs which go from the panel out to devices like wall outlets, switches and lights, and those devices themselves); the drain, waste and vent system (commonly called "plumbing"); the structural system (foundation, floor and wall framing, roof framing -- the skeleton of the building, if you will) and so on.  All those systems are semi-independent but, if one fails badly, you've got a building that is uninhabitable (and, possibly falling down or on fire).

Thankfully the seller had a number of inspections done already (probably to help the sale go through smoothly -- both the seller and his agent are reasonable and professional folks).  We don't need to worry about a Pest Inspection (required in California -- checks for termites, rats and mice, dry rot, wood boring beetles, and other critters large and small), an Underground Tank Inspection (old storage tanks must be removed by law in San Francisco and wow, can it be expensive -- just imagine what it's like if the tank is under the foundation!), and a couple others.

But, one of the most important inspections is the General Inspection.  That's the one that considers, in a general way, the whole building and all its systems.  That inspection gives you an idea of everything that is wrong,  sub-standard, or damaged throughout the building.  There was one done by the seller but I didn't like how thorough the report was and it omitted several things that I noticed myself when I was looking around the place.  So, we're going to get another one.  That's scheduled for Monday, the 23rd.

I'm also going to get a structural engineer to take a look at a couple of things that could be concerning.  It looks like there was some poorly done work on the framing in the basement at some point in the 1970s.  It might be completely sound or it could be something that needs repair / reinforcement.  The SE will be able to tell me immediately. The back yard also has a retaining wall that the seller's inspector wouldn't comment on (to be fair, it is covered with ivy) so I'd like the SE to look at that too.

The final inspection (at least unless we find some surprises) is to have the main sewer line "scoped".  The inspector will push a video camera all the way down the drain line to the street to make sure it isn't damaged or clogged.  He'll also check the "house trap" (a big, brick box at the end of the main sewer line that serves as the connection between the building's plumbing and the city's).  House traps are sometimes very old and they can collapse, which is not good news for the drains (or, often, for anything stored in the basement 'cause the water and other . . . stuff . . . will back up and come out at the lowest point in the building).

The last bit of business will be to get an estimate of how much it will cost to replace the roof.  It's been there for at least 20 years and that is a long time for a roof to last, even in sunny California.

All of those inspection should take place on Monday.  It'll take a little while for the reports to come back to me but, once that's done, we should have a very clear idea of the condition of the building and what needs repair.  Going into this I expected that the roof would need replacement and that there would be some other minor work (a couple of windows look like they're getting to the end of their lives for example).  But, if there are any surprises like major structural issues, it may mean that I'll need to walk away or talk with the seller about lowering the price.  Foundation and major framing work can get very expensive very quickly.

And there is probably more than you ever wanted to know about building inspections.  I'll be sending out another update near the end of this week.  Until then, keep the good thoughts coming.


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