Convert And Upgrade For A New Potential


One of the ways to increase income and value is to upgrade an older property. In every community, anyone who looks can usually find a number of commercial buildings, apartments or offices that need to be modernized. Some are for sale because the present owner may not recognize the increased return that they could get or do not want to make a further investment. The property might be purchased at a bargain price that is based on the current cash return.

Don’t overlook properties that are still productive but may have a much greater potential after a conversion. Factories have been converted to shop­ping centers all over the country. Old Movie theaters have been converted to multi-screen facilities. Garages have been converted to condominium parking buildings. Seeing potential profits in older buildings takes imagi­nation.

When you set out to upgrade an older building, you will encounter either deterioration or obsolescence. 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.

Ways To Upgrade

There are several ways used to upgrade a building.

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 elevator to a modern one.

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.

Why Do The Upgrade?

When an investor is looking for the proper property, 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/she would in new construction. He/she 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 her/him into a very competitive position.

Convert To A 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 theater 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 or a shopping mall.

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