So, once you have showed City Hall your $5,000 golden ticket (i.e. proof of funds) and scheduled an appointment, it is time to put on your big kid boots and do the walk-through. Be on time, be sober, be dressed in clothes that can get dirty. Someone from the maintenance department will be the one letting you in, the ones I have met have been good folks. Even let me borrow a flashlight when I was not wise enough to bring my own. So add that to your gear list. A boarded-up house is a dark house, and you will want to be able to see the floors and stairways clearly. Wood, once cut from the forest, is on a mission to become dirt, via rot. Dirt is walkable in a pile, it does not hold the shape of stairs and floor joists very well. Falling through a floor is a bad feeling and I do not want that to happen to you. Bring a light, and look before you step.
You will also want a camera. Take many pictures, so you can refer back to them to strengthen your resolve when grappling with City Hall, as well as show them to folks who know buildings and their various ailments. Since this is your one time to check the place out before deciding how to proceed, you really cannot have too many pictures. Try to take photos that put details in context, and not just the gigs and gigs of detail shots I took on my first building walk-through several years ago. Ten square feet of plaster wall with a crack in it does not tell you much about the overall condition of the house, but a photo of an identifiable room with a water damaged ceiling does. A modern digital camera with an “Auto” function is very handy here. (Note: those are not ghost orbs in the photos, those are dust particles in the air reflecting your flash.) In the next post we will talk a bit about some things to look for in terms of the house’s condition.
A clipboard or notebook is also essential for recording observations during the walk-through. One of those hand-held audio recorders would also be great for recording spoken observations. You might organize your notes by listing intact features of the house versus obvious needed repairs. Sketching the floor plan is handy as well. Figure out how many bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens there are. How many windows, and facing which direction? Type of flooring? Number of electrical outlets in each room? Etc.
I find it tricky to get good photos while taking good notes, so another useful thing to bring is a friend.
Optional accessories include a tape measure (a floor plan is even better with dimensions to the rooms), a level (to see how level are the floors and how plumb are the walls) and a granola bar (in case you get hungry during all this investigation).