The difference between a residential and a commercial multi-family property depends on the number of units to be inspected. Most state regulations define a residential building as a structure containing four or fewer dwelling units. By that definition, a commercial building is a structure containing five or more dwelling units, so it should be as inspected as a commercial property using the ComSOP, instead of referring to a residential standards of practice. Commercial property inspectors should refer to the regulations in their jurisdiction for the appropriate categorizations and their definitions.
A common question among novice commercial property inspectors is, “How do I organize a multi-family inspection report?” There are two main approaches:
- cumulative style; and
- summary style.
Inspectors may choose to create a report template for each approach and use one or the other, depending on their clients’ needs.
Cumulative Style Report
A cumulative style report is a report that creates an individual report for each unit in a building. It presents each unit separately. For example, a 10-unit building would have a separate report for one unit and its features, including the bathroom, kitchen, living room, HVAC, plumbing, etc., then a separate report for the second unit and its related features, and so on. This type of report can be very lengthy.
Summary Style Report
A summary style report combines the findings of the multiple units and presents the issues in a concise format. For example, a 10-unit building inspection would generate a single report and present the related issues for all the units under one heading. Hence, all bathroom-related issues are presented under a “Bathroom” heading, etc. An example of a comment for this type of report would be, “The toilets are loose at their attachment to the floor in units 2, 4, 6, and 8.” This type of report allows the client to see all of the similar issues for a property all together, instead of reading through 10 individual reports.
Pro and Cons: Which Report Style Is Better?
The approach may differ between jobs and depend on the client’s needs. During the initial phone interview, the client will often express their goal for the inspection and particular use for the report. For example, if the client is looking for negotiating power and wants to see the overall condition of a property, a summary style report might be the best fit. It provides an easy-to-read format for determining action items. However, this reporting style typically requires extra effort to organize and write based on sufficient notes and photos from the inspection.
On the other hand, a cumulative style report might be a better fit for a client who doesn’t necessarily need negotiating power but wants to understand the building on a per-unit basis. It is especially beneficial as each unit becomes vacant. The client might use this report for creating preventative and predictive maintenance plans, or projections for repairs. The organization for this reporting format typically follows the flow of the actual inspection and is straightforward to write.
Remember that the inspection report is the inspector’s product. The inspector has the power and ability to determine the level of service and style of their report provided to their clients. Neither reporting style is necessarily superior to the other. Inspectors may choose to exclusively offer one type of multi-family report, or both. It is entirely up to the inspector and inspection firm. However, it is typically in the inspector’s best interests to assess and customize a report based on their client’s needs.
Multi-Building Inspection Report
A commercial inspection might also encompass several different buildings on the same property or project. This could be a campus-type inspection, or a main building with several different outbuildings. In most cases, each of these buildings is unique, including their structure, architecture, level of maintenance, and other factors. It is because of this that it would be very difficult to assemble your findings for these buildings into one report.
Lumping multiple building inspections into a single report can be very confusing for the client, and a confused client is not a happy client. It is typically best for each building be represented in a separate report. Some inspectors might merge all of the individual reports together into one large document, while others will leave them separate.
Takeaway for Commercial Property Inspectors
There are two main approaches to organizing a multi-family inspection report. The cumulative style provides clients with a separate report for each unit, while the summary style compiles information and related defects for each unit under one heading, resulting in a single report. It is up to the inspector and inspection firm to determine the best approach for the specific project. Each style has pros and cons and will serve clients differently. It is typically in the inspector’s best interests to customize their report based on their client’s objective.
Article Written By: Rob Claus, CMI®