Want To Buy An Old Apartment Building On The West Coast? Soft Story Retrofitting Is A Must

18 January 2022
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


If you are looking to purchase a multi-unit apartment building that is a bit outdated and was built decades ago, there are structural concerns to be aware of. Restoring and revitalizing an old building is a great way to preserve building materials, save money, and keep historic significance, but you have to make sure the building is safe. Here are things to consider when making an offer on this type of property.

Inspection Options

Before purchasing a large, expensive, and outdated commercial property have the available inspections done by professionals. This includes inspections that look at these things:

  • Structural safety of the building
  • Condition of the roof
  • Foundation
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Plumbing and electrical

Be sure that you also test the building for radon, asbestos, and other harmful toxins that could be an issue because of the location and age of the building.

Hazards Related to the Buildings Age

Buildings built decades ago weren't built with the technology and knowledge that is common today. This means that the building may not be structurally prepared for an earthquake or another natural disaster, and there could be hazardous materials throughout the building like lead and asbestos.

If you know these are going to be concerns, have an asbestos abatement company come to the property to evaluate what areas are affected by asbestos, and what other materials may have to be removed with lead.

Soft Story Retrofit Needs

The building may need a soft story retrofit. If it has been compromised by past earthquakes and you worry an earthquake could damage it in the future, you want to have this done. This process includes:

  • Replacing wood beams with steel beams throughout the building
  • Installing prefabricated steel or plywood shear walls
  • Adding special moment frames where needed

The size of your building, the age, and the new plans you have for the space will determine what type of work that needs to be done.

If the building was constructed before 1978, has underground parking, and there at least 2 or more stories that have a wood frame composition, this retrofit is a must. Meet with professionals to get a quote on the property before you purchase, so you know how much it's going to cost to get the building up to date. This is one of the first things you will need to have done once you take ownership of your new property.