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    Ask an architect...

    Because we're looking for ways to help, even if the path to it is a bit obscure (at first).

    A while back we got a call from a woman seeking an architect to certify that a condominium she wanted, was as described by the seller. Being a first time buyer, she wondered if we provided such a service.

    Initially I was at a loss as to how we could go on record claiming that a dwelling unit's configuration, composition, and fitness for habitation corresponded to the seller's claims. Especially since the unit in question was in a building that we didn't design, didn't know, and had never seen. I suggested that she get the seller to certify his claims, as doing so seemed more appropriate and binding.

    She persisted.

    I resisted.

    Eventually I empathized with her. Deciding that I could help her in the form of a field observation with an annotated drawing commenting on what (specifically) was observed. Basically I'd have no problem certifying my own observations.

    I hear you - wondering if "asking an architect" helped her. I'll let you decide. Read on...

    The seller claimed that the unit (a studio apartment) included a fairly large area of outdoor space in the form of a private, occupied rooftop. What I initially saw was (literally) a section of rooftop, accessed via a window, bound by a six-foot high wooden fence on three sides, with the exterior wall along the fourth. Presumably for the unit owner's private use.

    Upon closer observation, what I saw frightened me:

    • There was no deck. No properly isolated structure suitable for inhabitation. Just a roof surface covered by a roofing membrane. I could imagine the membrane becoming damaged from use. Enabling water to leak into the unit below damaging structure, finishes, and property.
    • The fence was deteriorated, and anchored(?) at the base with sheet metal cleats to...something. I could imagine this fence giving way under the weight of anyone who leaned upon it. Sending this person (and the remains of the fence) plummeting to the ground three floors below.
    • There was no second exit. No means of escape from the roof should it be necessary to do so. I could imagine...the worst for anyone who found themselves trapped upon this roof.

    As I made these observations. A creeping realization came over me as to how asking an architect (specifically me) is helpful.

    • Architects are knowledgable - We're versed with building systems, and codes. In a manner that escapes the "garden variety" real-estate agent.
    • Architects are impartial - We're not trying to convince you to buy property. We're not brokering property sales.
    • Architects are honest - We'll tell you the truth. Even if that's not what you want to hear.

    I think we helped her. One day, I hope we can help you too.