Rick Deboard has been active in the construction trades for the last 34 years, intimately involved in aspects of constructions from design to final completion.  He has been performing commercial property inspections since 1991.  Developer of the specialty "Pre-spect ASTM Commercial Report Writer Focus Edition" of 3D software, Rick shares his philosophy about these types of "Due Diligence" inspections and the ASTM standards.

What’s All This Talk About The ASTM Commercial Inspection Standard?
A growing number of home inspectors across the nation have been venturing into the arena of commercial inspections, commonly called “Due Diligence” inspections. For the last several years, the commercial inspection demand has steadily increased, and I believe that this trend will continue. Home inspections are almost mandatory in many parts of the nation, and I believe that the knowledge of the home inspection industry on the part of investors and Realtors has spilled over into the commercial realm, and they can see both the importance of having an inspection and the possible pitfalls of not having one performed.
Commercial inspectors use a variety of reporting formats. They also inspect according to a variety of different criteria, based on what they believe a commercial investment client might like to have included as part of the findings. For the better part of a decade, there has not been a clear consensus of what a commercial investor desires and/or needs in regards to a Due Diligence inspection.

When I first started doing commercial building inspections in 1991, I had no idea what was expected in the way of a commercial building inspection and report. What a surprise it was to learn that there was no Standard of Practice for inspecting commercial properties. Every inspector doing commercial work was simply doing whatever he or she thought to be best, most were simply tweaking their home inspection standards to apply to commercial properties.

ASTM Answers the Call
ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), was formed over a century ago, when a forward-thinking group of engineers and scientists got together to address frequent rail breaks in the burgeoning railroad industry. Their work led to standardization on the steel used in rail construction, ultimately improving railroad safety for the public. Now, they are recognized world-wide for creating manufacturing standards for a large variety of building materials and other products, including the E1527 Standard for Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments.

In 1999, ASTM released the E2018-99 Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments (or “PCA’s”, the new term for due diligence inspections).
The ASTM E2018 Standard Guide for PCA’s is a voluntary guide at the time of this writing, however, it is quickly becoming known in the commercial real estate community as the standard of care for PCA’s. And rightly so, as it clearly defines the parameters for inspecting and reporting on commercial properties.

It is also becoming popular among commercial inspection firms for several reasons:
  • It is formatted to work for any type, size and age of structure or any combination of structures.
  • It is the only nationally accepted standard, (CREIA now has a Standard for commercial properties, but is only for use in California).
  • The major commercial inspection training organizations, such as Carson Dunlap and ITA have adopted the ASTM E2018 as a guide for their training programs.
  • It provides for cost estimates for immediate repairs as well as estimates for major projected expenses, which most investors greatly desire.
  • It protects the inspection firm from unjust claims and litigation, just as home inspection standards have done for the last several years.
The following is a quote from Bob Pearson, of Allen Insurance Group, one of the leading E & O insurance providers in the nation for property inspectors. “Performing a commercial inspection according to a Standard of Practice is a must, if we are going to be able to defend you in case of a claim, and there are no Standards as well respected as those of ASTM.”

What About Reporting Software for PCA's?
Commercial inspections require a massive amount of office time for preparation of the report. If you’re like me, you enjoy the fieldwork, but hate the office part of the job. With the hurdle of a standard of practice out of the way, I began to look for a commercial inspection software which included a formset correlating to the ASTM E2018 Guide.

I felt that a good reporting system would allow all of the following:
  • One that could be used on every type of building or combination of buildings, no matter how large or complex.
  • One which would have a preprogrammed library of menu selections to enter remarks at the touch of a keystroke.
  • One in which the library menu selections could be revised and added or deleted.
  • One which would have a method of recording information on an unlimited number of electrical panels, water heaters and HVAC units, and do so in a way that is meaningful to the end user.
I was unsuccessful in finding a formset which was flexible enough to do all of the above, so I created my own. It runs in conjunction with the 3-D Inspection System software, which I believe is the most flexible and adaptable report writing software available. If you don’t have the time to invest in creating your own commercial formsets (it took me 4 years), then you might consider checking out my ASTM PCA formsets.

In Review: My goal in writing this article is to help bring the nationwide pool of commercial inspectors into one accord in regards to a Standards of Practice. The ASTM E2018 Guide helps us to do our job in a way that benefits our investor clients, the Realtors who refer us, as well as ourselves. Performing our job in a way that is consistent with a common standard will promote greater trust within the investment community will insure that our future in the field of PCA’s will continue to flourish.

Rick DeBoard
Pre-Spect, Inc.
The ASTM E2018 Guide can be assessed at the following URL.