Forensic Remodeling

Bob White, CGR, has found an interesting way to expand his remodeling business. He frequently performs autopsies--on buildings.

February 17, 2000

Bob White, CGR, has found an interesting way to expand his remodeling business. He frequently performs autopsies--on buildings.

Located in Jacksonville, Fla., a popular vacation destination, the forensic remodeling segment of White’s business, R.G. White Construction, is thriving.

Cutting into Forensic Remodeling

Attorneys know the law, but they often need a professional remodeler to guide them through the building process. Here are some helpful hints for those interested in a foray into forensic remodeling:
  • Be aware of opportunities. You’ve probably already had requests from clients to supply an attorney with remodeling repair estimates.
  • Meet face-to-face with attorneys and sell yourself as a team player. Offer expert witness testimony and consult on depositions.
  • Keep extremely detailed records.
  • Be thick skinned. Opposing attorneys can be very aggressive.
  • "It’s not unusual for people to purchase a condo in the area and rent it out for several years," says White. Only after moving in permanently do the homeowners discover the residence has a host of problems. On the surface, these shortcomings, such as creaky floor and leaky pipes, are annoying, but may signal deeper structural problems, according to White.

    "They find out the condo they’ve been holding all these years wasn’t built well," he says. Although White can speculate as to the cause of the building’s maladies, most require dissection to reveal the underlying problem.

    "The only way to know is to take a few units out of service and take them apart," White says. He assembles a team and takes numerous photos of the home before the process starts. After carefully documenting the way the house looks, White removes the knick-knacks, furniture, carpet, doors, floors and ceiling.

    Once the source of the problem is discovered, White recommends a professional remodeler to correct it and turns his findings over to the homeowners’ attorneys. He rarely performs the corrective work himself; doing so would taint his ability to offer expert testimony during depositions and court proceedings.
    After the remodel is finished, White uses the photographs to replicate the building’s original look. He stretches the carpet, replaces all furniture, and even replaces the knick-knacks, having measured their distance from the edge of tables.

    "When those people walk back in, they can’t tell anyone was ever there," he says. Because of his thorough and fastidious methods, White frequently receives referrals from attorneys for additional jobs. He sees forensic remodeling as a growing niche within the industry.

    "Here in Florida, it’s going to be a big, big deal," White says. "There’s a building boom going on."

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