Primary Risk Rules for All Types of Properties

  • Outside is Good. Inside is Bad.
  • Vacant rooms are Good. Crowded rooms (and outdoor spaces) are Bad.
  • Assume you, and everyone else, is infected.
  • You get infected by breathing another person’s breath, primarily.
  • Wearing a face mask is Good. No face mask is Bad.
  • Air flow is good. Poor (or no) ventilation is bad.
  • Time you spend in a risky space: as little as necessary.
  • You decide your own risk level.

The August issue of Appraisal Today, sent Monday, August 4, 2020, focused on appraising homes. The risks for appraising other types of property is similar when inspecting the interiors. The newsletter discusses many of these issues in more detail. To download a copy, go to

For lots more information, go to my new Covid blog

Some of the factors for all properties:

  • Crowding – Very important for apartments. How many people in a space. Many properties have break rooms in an office, such as grocery stores, offices, etc. Employees take off masks to eat, sit close together, etc. Warehouses and factories can be crowded with workers. Stores can be crowded, especially small grocery stores. High ceilings can help disperse airborne virus particles.
  • Time you spend in a risky (occupied) space must be as little as necessary.
  • Face masks: all occupants must have, plus the owner or property manager.
  • Keep your face mask on and do physical distancing when speaking with anyone. (more than 5 minutes speaking without masks and physical distancing is risky.)
  • Ventilation. Open vs. closed windows, safe recirculation. (Note: I have not written on this yet.)

What about apartments?

To me, 2-4 unit properties are the most difficult apartments to appraise, due to different types of buyers (owners, investors, etc.). They can also be more tricky to inspect and keep safe from Covid. Larger properties focus on income.

I have appraised many apartment properties, from duplexes to hundreds of units. From converted Victorians to new construction. The fewer the units, the more difficult the appraisals, for appraising and sometimes risk, such as all the units have a different floor plan or a converted Victorian with difficult to measure unit locations.

Face Masks: You and every occupant must have a face mask. Bring extras, such as inexpensive disposable or re-usable cloth masks which you can re-wash. Your PPE: The usual: mask, gloves, etc. Do not re-use masks at another property. Hand sanitizer in car. Gown for apartments with lots of personal belongings.

Minimize the risk of going into the units – time, unit selection, etc.
Time. The goal is to spend as little time as possible inside each unit. Do as much work as possible outside, such as estimating the size of individual units.

Ventilation – if possible, have the tenant, owner or manager open the windows as long as possible before you get there.

Tenant notification
Be sure that when the property manager sends a letter notifying the tenants, it also includes information on what you will be wearing, etc. and windows open, occupants must wear face masks, etc. Maybe fewer occupants will be there.

Unit Selection. Get as much information as you can from the owner or property manager before going to the property:

  • What types of floor plans? Measure each one, if needed, preferably in a vacant or unoccupied unit. Do a rough interior sketch with room locations. The owner or manager may have floor plans. Get the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in each floor plan also.
  • Go inside as many vacant units as possible to inspect and measure.
  • The laundry room vacant, or the tenant will leave when you go inside.
  • Vacant units (not rented). Top priority. Not risky.
  • Units with no occupants at the time of inspection. May have residual airborne virus particles.
  • How many people living in each unit (including “visitors”). Very important to determine crowding. Select units (if possible) with fewer people.
  • Long term tenants (Could have lots of personal belongings which you may need to touch). Or, go through quickly to see the condition of these units.
  • ——————————————–

For 2-4 unit properties I have always seen all the units. With COVID, a sample of 2 or 3 may be okay and explain why you didn’t go inside all the units.


Appraising commercial, office, warehouse, etc. properties

I have appraised many types of non-residential properties such as restaurants, mid-size shopping centers, retail stores, warehouses, office buildings, hair salons, medical/dental and veterinary buildings, private schools, manufacturing, etc.

They are not as risky as apartments, as they are not occupied for up to 24 hours a day. If it is a mixed use property, my comments above on apartments are useful.

I strongly advise you to insist that the building have only the owner or manager there (and possibly the tenant), wearing face masks. No customers or employees. If necessary, you can come back another time when they are occupied to see the traffic flow, etc. How many people always wear face masks varies widely, depending where the property is located.

Be sure to maintain physical distancing when speaking with owner/property manager or tenants. Both of you must have face masks.

Almost all buildings have break rooms, where people congregate. Break rooms can be are crowded periodically. Restaurant kitchens can be very crowded.

Ventilation – High ceilings are less risky than 8 ft. ceilings, such as in stores, warehouses, etc. as airborne particles are dispersed more easily than lower ceilings. Have the tenant, owner or manager open the windows for as long as possible before you get there.

Property manager or owner: be sure the person wears a face mask. Bring an inexpensive disposable face mask if they don’t have one (or “forget” to bring one).

Tenant notification by owner or property manager
Be sure that when the property manager sends a letter notifying the tenant(s), it also includes information on what you will be wearing, etc., windows need to be open (if possible), what you will be looking at, how long it will take, etc.

Get as much information as you can from the owner or property manager before going to the property if it will be occupied when you go there. Also, occupants must wear face masks, social distancing, etc. (Bring disposable masks or your own washable face masks). Customers may or may not use face masks, depending on your location.

Please leave your comments below!! We can all use some advice, differing opinions, etc. on these ever-changing Covid issues!!

For lots more Covid information, go to my blog at


Ann O’Rourke, MAI, SRA, MBA
1826 Clement Ave. #203
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: 510-865-8041

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