21 Questions: On Real Estate Site Data

by John Wilhoit Jr. on

Answering these twenty-one questions about a site will provide an excellent ”snapshot” of a specific location.  Every appraiser in the country would “love” to have this site data prior to beginning an assignment.  As a buyer of real estate, these questions are imperative to understanding the “place” and its surroundings. 

A review of the answers provides an initial gestalt. The real value is in having all of this information in one place and accessible to those that are parties to the transaction, namely; those on your transaction team.

Whether reviewing a real estate asset for acquisition, financing, or some other  purpose, collecting this baseline data can jump start the process and save tons of time over the course of completing the transaction.  Most of the data points are common sense, some require cursory research or a phone call.  All of these items are for independent verification and best accomplished “on the ground” during a site visit.

 1. Name of the site.  What is the common and “street name” of the address.  Many commercial assets have a name, a street address and aka (also known as). Some have a well established name, others do not. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is also know as “The Met”.  Document all  known names in the site data.

2. Address including zipcode.  The address and zip are imperative for accomplishing further layers of research, like obtaining traffic pattern data, census and block group numbers and crime statistics. 

3. Site Contact Information. This will vary depending on the type of transaction, but  assuming the site is something other than raw ground there should be “someone” on site.  However,  the site person may not be the contact person for the business at hand.  Who/where is the real contact person for getting the deal done?

4. Location. A short description of how to find the place.  We have the address, but  what are the cross streets?  What part of  town?

5. Legal Description including lot and block number.  Some refer to this as the description of boundaries.

6. Lot size with dimensions.   This includes length and width, preferably with a rough drawing that reflects proximity to streets.

7. Gross acreage.  This is a simple number extracted from the lot size dimensions and converted to square feet.  For example, a lot size of 150 X 400 = 60,000 square feet, or 1.377 acres. 

8. Zoning.  What is the existing zoning? Are there zoning changes in process?  Is current zoning aligned with current usage? What about zoning of appurtenant land?

9. Improvements.  A paragraph describing existing structures and landscaping.  Total square feet, year built, current usage.  A short narrative on condition.

10. Site Characteristics. Write down what you see. What is the contour of the ground, height of the building.  Give the reader a “sense of place” in a few short sentences.

11. Fire District.  What is the official name of the governmental agency charged with fire response? Where is the closest fire hydrant and fire station.

12. Water/Sewer provider.  Name and telephone number of who to call to turn on/off basic services.  Sounds simple, but with so many overlapping jurisdictions it can take more than a minute.  Important to know for verification of utility billing specific to an address.  On more than one occasion a seller has provided utility bills that were  for a property other than the one being sold.  Also inquire about any necessary deposits to initiate service. 

13.  Electrical service provider.   Name and telephone number of who to call to turn on/off basic services.  See #12.

14. Gas/natural gas provider. Name and telephone number of who to call to turn on/off basic services.  See #12.  Newer properties may be all electric.  If this is the case, then state that here.

15. Flood Plain information.  Is the property in a flood plain?  If yes is it a 100 year floodplain or something else? Placement in a floodplain impacts insurance rates, so this is “must know” information.

16. Taxing Authority.  Who does the real estate tax bill come from? What is the mil rate? When was the last assessment?  When was the last increase?  Does a title transfer initiate a new assessment?  One phone call, at least five questions to ask…  

17.  Police and 911. Telephone number of local police responder.  Depending on location, this could be local police, Sheriff, State Troopers.  Find out.  And get their phone number.  Also, is 911 operational and what are  average response times to calls? 

18. School District.  What is the name of the school district.  Name of High School attended by people residing at the site address (if any).  Name of middle school and elementary.  Any private schools nearby?  What is the graduation rate from this high school? What is the average SAT/ACT score of graduates from this high school?  What percentage attend four-year colleges upon graduation?

19. Distance to nearest Grocery anchored shopping. People are creatures of habit.  Aside from work and school, gathering food is a regular occurrence.  The travel time to obtain milk, eggs and bread is important.  Often there is more than one within one mile, two miles, etc.  How many are there and what other shopping is near the grocer?

20. Distance to nearest emergency medical services. Medical service providers congregate near medical facilities. What is the distance to these facilities and service providers?  Is there an urgent care facility close by?

21. Mini-SWOT. In a few lines, write down the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats that come to mind from being on site.

Mr. Wilhoit is the author of two books: How To Read A Rent Roll: A Guide to Understanding Rental Income and Multifamily Insight Vol 1 – How to Acquire Wealth Through Buying the Right Multifamily Assets in the Right Markets.

For information on property management audio courses, books and our live weekly leadership academy, visit PowerHour Books and Courses page at http://powerhour.com/propertymanagement/booksandcourses

 For 2 property management audio courses, 3 books and live weekly leadership academy–surf here, http://powerhour.com/propertymanagement/booksandcourses

About This Blog
Multifamily Insight is dedicated to assisting current and future multifamily property owners, operators and investors in executing specific tasks that allow multifamily assets to operate at their highest level of efficiency. We discuss real world issues in multifamily property management and acquisitions. This blog is intended to be informational only and does not provide legal, financial or accounting advice. Seek professional counsel.  For more information, visit: http://www.MultifamilyInsight.com

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (they're free)!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: