A real estate investor’s best friend: Their engineer

They say that things are never too bad if you’ve got your best friend by your side. For a real estate investor, that person is often their engineer.

There are numerous challenges for the real estate investor. One of the biggest is analyzing properties and getting a good return on investment. That’s why you should make an engineer your best friend. The sooner they get involved, the better decisions you can make. This can save you time, money and headaches.

How an engineer can help real estate investors save money

A lot goes into deciding which properties are worth your investment dollars. An engineer may find those items that make an outwardly profitable property less so. Factors like how much it may take to develop the land, rehabbing an existing building and structural issues could cost major bucks that you weren’t planning to spend.

Even the best looking properties can have hidden problems. Structural issues, drainage troubles and underground root growth are just a few of the issues that can eat up your investment and blow your budget. Having a qualified engineer walk through a property with you to point out potential problems can help you avoid making risky investment decisions.

Finance is also a huge part of real estate investing and engineers are not afraid of math. As such, they might help you work through the numbers to manage costs, organize bids and make sure you are getting the best possible deal.

To be successful as a real estate investor, you need to build a team of qualified professionals with the right expertise to help you. The field of engineering is multifaceted and broad and there are numerous specialties you will need along the way.

While you may hire a home inspector to look at potential properties before purchase, a better option could be a mechanical engineer. Home inspectors are typically more like general practitioners, looking for signs of possible troubles. These professionals usually recommend consulting an expert, like a mechanical engineer, for further review. It’s the equivalent of going to your primary physician for a check-up and then being referred to a specialist for a more complete observation and comprehensive tests.


How an engineer can help real estate investors save money (cont)

Also of note, engineers can work on the problems they locate; many home inspectors are prevented from doing this. Engineers are able to conduct a more exhaustive, thorough evaluation of a property.

You can find structural engineers to answer questions about the safety and durability of a property. For example, they can help determine if the roof can support a large HVAC unit or whether it’s possible to tear down walls.

Software engineers can design programs that help you reach more customers and streamline processes. They can also be used to help you find investment opportunities. Everyone knows that smart real estate investing can be like looking for a polar bear in a snowstorm; in other words, finding those hidden gems that can bring in a big ROI. Those with a software engineering background are in the habit of using networks and creating systems to filter through lots of information and find what you need.

If your investment involves disturbing the land in any way, you need a civil engineer. Some states or areas actually require a report signed and delivered by a civil engineer for even a 50 square foot disturbance.

Civil engineers who specialize in land development can help with zoning ordinances, property impediments and any soil problems. They stay up to date on local, state and federal land regulations to help you avoid surprises.

In addition, civil engineers have experience in construction, managing contracts and completing construction projects. This kind of familiarity with contractors, project management and building codes can be invaluable in the course of real estate investing. It can help with cost estimation, land development, overcoming obstacles and time management. Also, having this kind of knowledge at your fingertips may put you in a better position for negotiating and property analysis.

Unknown issues could be lurking just below the topsoil of a property. Sometimes environmental engineers might be needed for site assessments or regulatory compliance help. Electrical engineers can be beneficial if you want to make major electrical distribution changes or for troubleshooting and repairs.

Real estate investors can also benefit from the services of a project engineer. This is someone you can use to communicate with design teams, obtain permits, prepare estimates and write contracts.

It’s also possible to partner with an engineer that has experience in fixing old homes or solving home improvement challenges. Who better to advise you on purchasing a home or building than someone who has actually built one? With this kind of assistance, you could gain more freedom to take on those investments others may pass up, giving you an increased range and more profitability.

How an engineer can help a real estate investor avoid headaches

Engineers often have a unique vision and way of thinking that helps them transform problems into opportunities. These mental tools and analysis skills translate well for the real estate industry.

Engineering is about discovering how things work and finding solutions. Since real estate investing involves a multitude of problems, it’s helpful to have an engineer working alongside you so that when issues arise, you can rely on his keen eye for detail and problem-solving expertise.

Purchasing a building or property is a painstaking and complicated process. You need someone with the patience and penchant for thoroughness that engineers have come to be known for.

Engineers are also accustomed to being very project-focused and task-based. As a result, they know how to see a job through to its conclusion.

The field of real estate investing can be tricky, uncertain and confusing. You need someone you can trust for sound advice to make the most of your investment dollars. Proper planning, financial management and the skills an engineer brings to the table are all vital for your success.

10 FAQs every structural engineer hears

To find the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. When it comes to questions about homes and buildings, who better to ask than a structural engineer?

Still, you need to know if the answers you get are correct. With that in mind, here are some of the most common questions every structural engineer hears and how the top-quality pros should respond.

1 – What, exactly, does a structural engineer do?

Structural engineers specialize in determining the integrity of a home or building. They evaluate problems and establish solutions.

A building or home must withstand numerous factors throughout its lifetime. Weather, gravity and the pressure that a structure affects upon itself can all lead to major consequences if it cannot endure against these forces. In the event that something goes wrong, you need to call a structural engineer in your area.

These are licensed professionals educated about the physics, materials and calculations that can affect how a structure will hold up under various conditions. They can determine the strength, durability and safety of a structure. This usually includes the building as well as related structures such as retaining walls, garages and new additions. If damage has been done and repairs are needed, a structural engineer will give you an objective breakdown of the issue and recommend the appropriate next steps.

Most importantly, a structural engineer can help allay your fears. Often, homeowners are told they have structural damage that requires extensive repairs, especially older homes. These reports can come from contractors, inspectors or builders, telling homeowners the work will cost $10,000 or more. Many times, a structural engineer will conduct an impartial, third-party review and determine that while some repairs are necessary, it will be far less than the tens of thousands of dollars in the original estimate.

2 – There is a crack in my foundation. Should it be repaired?

The foundation is undoubtedly the most vital part of any home or building. A structural engineer can look at the loads transferred and determine the root of the trouble. Load transfer could be the cause but sometimes, it may be a design issue. You might also be facing a drainage problem or too much root growth. He will determine the true cause and advise next steps.

3 – My building was reviewed by a home inspection company. Do I really need a structural engineer, too?

A home inspector is typically a generalist who looks for signs of a potential problem. If they find something of note, they will usually advise you to consult a specialist to look at the issue in depth.

A licensed structural engineer will know what to look for. In addition, he will have more knowledge and training on the problem than a home inspector would. Think of it this way: if you had a medical issue, a registered nurse could give you sound advice but for an expert opinion, you would ask a trained physician. Whether buying or selling, it’s crucial to hire your own structural engineering experts.

4 – What structural issues should I be concerned about when remodeling?

In addition to the cost and time commitment of improvement projects, there may be many structural concerns. For example, before removing a wall, you need to know if it is load bearing. You might also want to correct sloped floors or bowed walls in basements.

Prior to any significant retrofitting or remodeling project, it’s important to consult a structural engineer. They can make recommendations, conduct a review and keep your newly redesigned structure from falling down around you.

5 – What structural problems can be handled by a structural engineer?

Soil movement (especially on a hill), damage from the weather or other natural causes, and destruction to load bearing wood by termites can be disastrous. There could also be issues regarding either interior or exterior stairs.

6 – How do I know you are qualified?

Every state and the District of Columbia require structural engineers to be licensed in order to provide services. There are different fields, such as electrical engineers or chemical engineers, so be sure the professional you hire has the appropriate specialization.

To obtain a license, they need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Additionally, some states require at least four years working in the field and passing the licensing exam.

After receiving the license, structural engineers are assigned a special identification number. This number will appear on all approved plans and prepared reports. Beware of any structural engineer who will not or cannot provide his or her license number.

7 – What are some of the signs that I might need an inspection by a structural engineer?

A cracked foundation or walls, sagging ceilings, windows that stick or won’t close completely and doors that jam or can’t be closed properly could all be signs of trouble. You might also notice leaning walls outside, a bulge or curve in a concrete wall or weakness and chipping in your concrete foundation. Other problems can include moisture in your basement or crawl space and cracks in ceramic or vinyl tile on your floors.

Many of these troubles indicate a problem with the foundation. It’s best to fix smaller issues today before they become big headaches tomorrow.

8 – How can I know for sure that your work is high quality?

You should ask for and expect a portfolio of recently completed work and references. Some good questions for references include whether the work was delivered in a timely manner and whether the project was explained in easy-to-understand terminology.

9 – What should I expect from an inspection by a structural engineer?

All visible areas of the foundation are examined for signs of stress or deterioration

Basement and crawl space is looked at for any evidence of moisture

The framing should be inspected for signs of insect activity, rot and weakness

Elements of the roof, such as flashing, surfacing and gutters are checked to ensure the best performance and no leaks

10 – How much does it cost to have an inspection done by a structural engineer?

When buying or selling property, the costs can really add up. Many people don’t want to tack on the added expense of hiring a structural engineer to offer yet another opinion. On average, a structural engineer will charge $300-$500 an hour. Others may determine price based on a percentage of the total cost of a project.

Although some companies offer free assessments, customers may still be worried that the engineer will over estimate the necessity of fixing a potential problem, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs. However, the price of any inspection is small change compared to repairing a major structural issue in the future.

Do you have additional questions in mind that weren’t covered above? Contact one of our knowledgeable structural engineers at e2 engineers in CT, today!