And I thought I was the really jaded one. Nice to see someone as pessimistic about NC as me. Good going Seth.
Is it possible to build NC split face block buildings properly, Yes.
However, a majority of NC, i.e. CMU, split face block, cement block, whichever term you want to use is not built properly. Yes there are differences in the material but it is essentially the same thing.
Part of the problem is this is essentially limited lifespan strip mall technology that should have never been allowed in our climate.
When built in the right way with all the proper components the structures can work well enough and not have any more issues generally than other types of buildings. Unfortunately, building them properly with the right components costs more money, which we all know developers don't want to spend. I've done construction inspections and witnessed guys first hand doing it 'designed to fail'.
We have a working group that is slowly working on putting together new, higher standards for this type of construction in the City. A number of us have had discussions with Aldermen and City officials about this over the years with little success. I also have an article about this subject on my website. Preferably we'd love to see CMU banned in the City but that will never happen.
If you are looking at these types of buildings for a Condo purchase, I suggest you pay attention to the building itself more, rather than just concentrating on the pretty granite and soaker tub. Water intrusion into the building is common and structural failures have occurred. There are some 'decent' CMU buildings out there. Newer construction ones coming on the market have been improved upon over stuff that was built during the 'anything goes' boom. You could do ok, you could end up not doing so well.
For a new buyer the most common issues are water intrusion, poor conditions and additional investment costs. Many times new condo associations get stuck with big remediation bills in the first 2-5 of ownership.
For those who think I am being harsh, believe me when I say I am working very hard at toning it down. Whatever you do as a buyer, hire a good inspector from the City who deals with these types of properties. Stay away from the checkbox idiots who come in from the suburbs and have no idea what they are looking at.