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Starting a business

Before You Move In: Commercial Property Inspections

Leasing or buying a commercial space can be costly for a small business. Before you lock your company into a legal agreement, it’s a good idea to schedule a commercial property inspection to protect your interests. A professional inspection can rule out potential problems and ensure the new office space is a worthwhile property investment.

Whether or not you’re hiring a professional inspector, make sure you know what goes into a building inspection so you can monitor the process and ensure the inspector covers all bases. Although Canadian provinces require inspectors to be licensed, no central agency sets the standards for commercial inspection.

Parts of a Commercial Property Inspection

An office space inspection should check the condition of every part of a commercial property, from the parking lot to the HVAC systems. At a minimum, you should check the essentials:

  • Structure: Foundation and roof
  • Internal systems: HVAC, electrical, and plumbing
  • Exterior: Parking lot, sprinklers, and drainage
  • Interior: Light fixtures, ceilings, and windows
  • Accessibility: Emergency exits and wheelchair access

In each area, take care to look for signs of wear or damage. Cracks in the foundation, water damage, or warped walls can point to structural problems, while blocked emergency exits, potholes in the parking lot, and crumbling steps can cause accidents and accessibility issues. To head off electrical code problems, check for frayed wires, inoperable outlets, or damaged cables leading into the building. Around windows and doors, test for leaks and drafts.

Choosing an Inspector

For the most thorough results, hire an experienced building inspector. A good starting point is the website for CanNACHI, Canada’s Commercial and Home Inspector Association. Carefully vet each candidate to ensure they have experience in commercial inspections, since these are different than home inspections. Verify licensing with your provincial government, and ask to see proof that each inspector has current building code training. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous clients with similar business interests. Once you choose an inspector, have your legal representation draw up a contract laying out each area of the inspection.

What To Do With Inspection Information

At the end of the inspection, you should have the information you need to enter into negotiations with the property owner or manager. If you’re buying an office building, this information can give you a leg up; you may be able to negotiate a lower sale price to compensate for outdated systems or needed repairs. In a rental transaction, your inspection results can net you better lease terms or convince the owner to make repairs before you sign. After all, building issues can have a big impact on your finances, operations, and legal standing, not to mention the safety of your employees and customers. In some cases, an inspection that turns up major problems is reason to walk away from the transaction.

A commercial building inspection gives you a better picture of the status of an office building. When done right by a reputable inspector, the results can help you make an informed decision about a rental or purchase so your company can focus on meeting its full potential.

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