By Leo Cannyn, PMP, P.E., ENV SP
Principal Project Manager
Beryl Project Engineering

Condos and apartments can be a great option for people who want to live in a convenient, low-maintenance place. Being a part of a community and having instant access to common areas with many amenities is inviting. However, when helping clients purchase a condo or apartment, it’s important to remember, like any building, it can be susceptible to structural damage.

With the Surfside condo collapse in Miami still on the minds of many, condo owners and potential buyers across Florida are concerned about the structural integrity of their homes. On the positive side, the devastation from this event has brought about necessary changes. Specifically, new legislature mandates that your Condominium Owners Association (COA) schedule a Structural Integrity Reserve Study with a Phase 1 Milestone Inspection, and it can only be conducted by a licensed engineer or architect. These assessments must also occur on a scheduled basis. Additionally, the visibility of this issue has created more awareness, and people are asking thoughtful questions about how to keep it safe for their families before buying.

When helping your client purchase a condo or apartment, previous maintenance records can give you clues about the health of the property, but they can be difficult to obtain. You could also request a copy of the building’s last inspection, or the minutes of record from the most recent board meeting. Look to see if there are any current maintenance issues. Pay close attention to the history of any special assessments that have been made. If there are too many, this can be an indicator of not budgeting for emergency repairs, or having the necessary amount of funds in the reserve.

The Common Areas Say a Lot

The surrounding areas could be your most glaring warning sign. While you and your client walk the grounds, pay attention to the condo or apartment complex’s cleanliness. Many times, care and maintenance depend largely on the COA. Observe all common facilities, including the pool or gym. Look at the trash, light fixtures, walls, and floors. A well-maintained building looks like a pristine, upscale hotel. When touring the grounds, be aware of wear and tear in common areas, such as peeling paint, signs of leaks, uneven floors, or warped walls. These are telltale signs that management is doing their job well or not.

Your experience and ability to help navigate these crucial steps can save your client from making the wrong investment. The goal of a realtor is to find the best property for their client; this includes not only the design and location but also the longevity of the property too.

Additional steps you can take to provide your client with peace of mind that their investment is sound include:

  • Ask questions: Ask the property manager about the building’s history. Has it been damaged in the past by a hurricane? When was the last time it was inspected by a structural engineer?
  • Look beyond the room’s layout: If you notice cracks in the walls, ceilings, or foundation, you may have structural issues. Sloping floors or doors that don’t close properly can also be a cause for concern.
  • Get an inspection: Have your client get a home inspection. A qualified structural engineer should inspect the building before any purchase is made.

Take time for extra due diligence to verify the condo or apartment is the right choice for your client. With more than a decade of experience, Beryl Engineering & Inspection has inspected thousands of homes throughout the Tampa Bay area. We understand the Florida market and can provide your clients with valuable insights into the condition of their potential property.

For more information about our inspection services visit our website or contact us at 813-616-3301.