A cold hard realty in these times is that we often have to deal with vacant buildings, both commercial and residential. Here I will focus on commercial vacancies, typically industrial, warehouses, and office, which are worth saving. Buildings such as those depicted in this picture, might not be worth saving, and it is time…
When a building is closed, owners typically don’t want to deal with additional expense. Often they would like to lease a building up or sell it and wish to forget any new expenditures. Here are a few tips I give to vacant building owners:
- Turn off all water, preferrably at the street. Drain all water out of the lines, including toilets, sinks, sprinkler systems (often forgotten).
- Have a plumber help with this task.
- Have all drains filled with environmentally safe anti-freeze (usually pink RV anti-freeze).
- Don’t forget the sprinkler system.
- Boilers not in use can freeze, don’t forget them, or plan on replacing them (here in the Midwest).
- Heat the building in the winter, in hotter climates, especially humid ones, have some air conditioning. If you don’t heat or air condition a building, it will impact the following:
- Floor tiles will begin to “pop up”, meaning you will have to replace tile later on.
- Painted walls will begin to peel. Paint expands at a different rate than say dry wall or concrete, thus, it peels…
- Roofs will experience more problems if left unheated.
- In humid areas, you can see mold literally explode throughout a building. When this happens you are in for a really big expense, and you may have a “tear down” on your hands. Condition your air, reduce the humidity when needed.
- This happened in a building in the Midwest. It was mold free, or seemed to be, and two weeks later it was covered in mold, after a particularly humid period.
- If a building has sprinklers, and is left unheated, the spinkler mechanism may burst. Some sprinklers have a heat sensitive glass vial, that breaks if it gets hot, setting off the sprinkler. Guess what, they also “pop” when they freeze, and they make a mess. Heat a building with sprinkler systems.
- In the colder climates, keep the heat above freezing. Target 50 degrees (F).
- Have someone check the heat regularly in cold temps. Make sure the cold zones are checked, often the northwest corner of a building.
- Put thermometers (buy some at your local hardware store) around the building, check regularly.
- Keep in touch with your local Fire Department, often they require a sprinkler system to be on, which automatically means you need to keep a building heated.
- Be a good citizen, let your local Fire and Police Departments know a building will be vacant.
- Keep alarms on if you can. Copper theft is rampant throughout the country, and once it is stripped, you now electrical wiring issues, plumbing issues, etc. Read that as expensive!!!
- Set up air movement within the building. Set up “barn fans” throughout the building.
- Here is a tip that Police use. Buy a long flashlight, one that uses multiple batteries, it can double up as a self protection device. Better yet, don’t go into a vacant building by yourself, be safe and smart. Yes, you might discover someone in the building. Stealing copper is a problem these days. Call for help immediately. Don’t be a hero.
- If the roof begins leaking, fix it. The roof is key to your buildings value, a roof that goes unrepaired will be greatly devalued in the future.
Note to brokers. If your owner does not heat a building or repair roofs, prepare them for bad news. This can impact price, time to sell, and severely limits your marketing ability. A building with a leaky roof, mold, and a frozen boiler is tough to sell, unless it is in a prime location.
I always suggest that you get professionals involved, such as plumbers and HVAC experts, architects at times. These are just a few suggestions for vacant buildings, and there are more to watch out for.