Modernize An Older Building

When you want an increased return on an older property it may be time to modernize the property. When you look around a community, you will usually find a number of properties that need to be upgraded. Some existing owners do not recognize the increased return that they could get or do not want to make the necessary investment. Often these buildings can be acquired at a price that reflects the return based on the current condition and income.
When you set out to modernize an older building, you will encounter three kinds of deterioration or obsolescence: The first of these, physical deterioration, starts immediately after the building is completed and continues throughout its entire life, unless it is handled along the way with proper maintenance and repair. This type of deterioration usually can be taken care of by routine repairs and replacement of parts. Anytime the acquisition of a run-down building is being considered, the investor must be certain that the deterioration has not become so bad that the building will have to be demolished.
Functional obsolescence happens when the property loses its usefulness as a result of changes in styles or in the needs of tenants. As an example, an older apartment property could have an electrical system that is inadequate to handle modern appliances such as air conditioning, microwave ovens, computers, television or other recently developed equipment. This type of obsolescence can be cured usually by installing updated equipment.
Economic obsolescence is a change in value that is caused by circumstances that are not directly related to the property. Often this is a change in the neighborhood, such as a change in the use from residential to commercial or industrial. When this has happened, modernization of the building may not be worthwhile. If the building is structurally sound, it could be a good prospect for conversion.
When a building is quite old, structural changes may be needed for safety reasons. Before you purchase the building, a professional engineer should make an inspection. This can determine whether the building is structurally sound and what changes, if any, will have to be made.
The building can be partially redesigned with architectural changes during the modernization. If a building has very distinctive architectural features rather than a plain exterior, some investors feel that the property has a greater investment potential.
Functional changes and mechanical replacements can reduce costs in an old building and increase efficiency. Wiring will usually need to be replaced to provide safety for modern electrical and computer equipment. Old heating systems will usually be inefficient and cause high maintenance costs, and should be replaced. An example of a mechanical replacement would be a change from an old slow electric elevator to a new high-speed model (often done by simply changing motor and electronic controls).
Aesthetic improvements are the sprucing up of the property and can usually be done at a relatively little cost. When an investor is looking for a quick resale, this type of improvement may be done rather than some of the others. Cleaning up the property, inside and outside, installing new lighting and repainting the building can be enough sometimes to make a quick, small profit.
Modernize For Profit
When an investor is looking for the proper investment, older apartment buildings in good neighborhoods often look better for a long-term commitment than new construction. When a property is modernized, rents can be raised substantially and, if the work can be done without disturbing the existing tenants, the investor will not have the expense of carrying the property as he would in new construction. The investor would also hope that most of the existing tenants would stay and pay the increased rents, so the costs related to acquiring new tenants, as would be needed with a new construction, would be avoided.
Finally, the overall costs may be less. Although the price of the property may be high in relation to the current rents, the final cost after modernization may be far less than the cost of new construction. With this lower cost, the investor may be able to charge lower rents than new buildings nearby, putting him into a very competitive position.
Converting To New Use
Unproductive properties can present opportunities for big profits. When a building is bringing in little or no income because obsolescence or because of changes in the neighborhood that have made the location unsuitable for the original use of the building, converting to a new use can make a new profitable income stream. As an example, a movie theatre in an area converted to industrial might be changed to a factory or warehouse. Some neighborhoods have changed from warehousing and factory areas to residential. A factory building that is no longer being used could be converted to a residential condominium project, a small shopping complex, or an office building.
Don’t overlook properties that are still productive, but may have a much greater potential after a conversion. A chocolate factory was converted to a shopping center on the west coast. Movie theatres have been converted to supermarkets. Garages have been converted to condominium parking buildings. Seeing potential profits in older buildings takes imagination.
Give our office a call if you see a building that has potential for another use.