What I'm Seeing Now

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Permits? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Permits!

Things have gotten to the point where I can walk into a basement and almost smell if there's no permit pulled when they finished it.  It's like the basement is saying, "Permits?  We don't need no stinkin' permits!"

BUT YOU DO!  A PERMIT SHOULD ALWAYS BE PULLED!

If for no other reason to make sure you don't do something that makes it impossible to do future repairs!

Backing up the wagon now.  Case in point.

This is a finished bathroom.  They used the roughed-in plumbing left by the builder.  Fine and dandy.

The plumbing hardware is all along an interior wall.  Perfect!  The builder left it that way for two reasons -

1.  So it would never freeze (if above ground) and so you can get to the plumbing.
2.  Because the back side is in the furnace room, which they ASSUMED would never be finished.  That way the plumbing hardware would always be available for repairs, replacement, etc.

Well, don'tcha know, that the furnace room had so much room, the homeowner decided they would move the laundry room just off the garage entrance into the basement AND, since the lady has a dog-grooming business, add a dog grooming sink beside it! 

Well, don'tcha know, all that plumbing is there, and they could just tap into the drains left by the builder, which were then behind the bathroom.

But that would require it's own wall behind the laundry/sink area.

Then, veeeola!  We got us a basement amusement park!

Problem is the laundry room wall is 9" from the backside of the bathroom wall!

And all the drain lines make it impossible to even see back there to get to plumbing fixtures for repairs or replacement!

No point in showing the plumbing fixtures for the laundry room/grooming sink!  But the handles for everything barely protrude the drywall and the washing machine hook drain goes through a hole in the drywall!

WHEN A PERMIT IS PULLED, THE FIRST STEP IS TO PRESENT A DRAWING OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO TO THE LOCAL JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORITY SO THEY CAN LOOK AT IT, MAYBE COME TO YOUR SITE, AND THEN APPROVE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

Then they make a pre-drywall and final inspection to insure that you aren't doing stuff like this!

I always get the same question from clients.  "Can a permit be pulled now?  Will the county come out now to look at it?" 

Some yes, some no.  But there is no way this would be approved.  To do repairs on one side, you would have to tear the other side out!

WE HAVE A CLASSIC DILEMMA HERE! 

My clients are thinking, should we buy knowing this and try to fix it later, or pass altogether?

You can see the wheels turning inside the clients heads when we get to this point in the inspection.  And believe me, A LOT of homeowners finish their own basements without permits!

Believe me when I say this was only one problem found in this basement!  It is a shame, because this is a very nice house, in a wonderful location, and gorgeous throughout.  But this is a basement with so many problems, and some dangerous problems, that the house has been altered dramatically for the worse.  This is a problem!

My recommendation:  when you see remodeling, of course permits are essential.  They protect your buyers from unsafe or unthinking construction.  Ask for copies of the permits, with all the county inspections verified.   Very importantly, permits make sure insurance coverages are in place and no insurance issues will arise in the future!  And this is all a very, very big deal!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 114 commentsJay Markanich • September 22 2011 05:39AM

Comments

Jay: We see so much of this stuff. Permits are there for a reason and circumventing the process can create situations just like this. The sellers saved some money along the way, but problems like this can affect the sale price or even the ability to sell. Penny wise...

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Anne - I don't know how far they will get with this sale.  All added up, this basement presented a lot of problems.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Lots of DIY in my area too.  While I applaud "some" of their ability, it is always in everyone's best interest to get a permit so you can get the addition/change inspected and ensure you are within code. 

Posted by Anita Clark, Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA (ColdwellBanker SSK Realtors ~ 478.960.8055) almost 7 years ago

Agreed Anita!  But in this case the code would not have been very useful.  It requires 18" between walls, for access.  But the way they did the drain lines, there was no access behind there, even if the 18" had been present!  They should never have added that laundry/grooming area, and the code would have allowed it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Wow, yes, I can see how this would be a major issue if/when something goes wrong, and it's prob. just a matter of time. Maybe they can negotiate down the price so they have money to fix that whole wall and all the other issues.  Was this basement listed as being a finished basement?  Sounds very fishy. 

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 7 years ago

Oh Jay, constant issues with homeowners that i go on listing calls for that have put additions on without permits too...sorry can't market it with that room...what! Well I guess you aren't the realtor for us- you are right i am not.  The classic homeowner who does this thinks less $$ out of their pocket & doesn't think of consequences as you mention...especially with insurance if a disaster such as a fire occurs & guess what the insurance company won't pay...guess why?!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Debbie - that may be a lot of negotiation!  I think the county would fail this basement and force a complete re-do.  And these buyers would inherit that liability!

Ginny - I try to explain the insurance implications to my clients all the time!  Almost never does the client, or agent, think that far.  The agents who have heard my spiel about insurance do though!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

You are gaining nothing by posting here vhbe!  I am gaining points though.

You can go away now.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

That's a pretty bad reno Jay. People think of basements as 'free' space they can do with as they wish. And thats generally true, but professional guidance is needed to prevent just the knid of problem you show here.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 7 years ago

Robert - that's why I posted it!  I have posted before on things like permits, but this was such a good lesson I thought it should get out there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thanks again.  Bye bye...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay - I've seen (as I'm certain many of us have) numerous "jobs/projects" that have had permits pulled.....sad, the homeowner "thinks" the inspector will commend them for their creativity!

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) almost 7 years ago

Good morning Jay. Nice if we could fine the spammers and use the fines towards our fees. lol. Not sure why people are so affraid of involving the Permit process. In the end everyone wins and future owners will appreciate it.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 7 years ago

Jay, the real issue would be 'if they can buy". With banks being so tight with money, when an appraiser goes out for the bank, they will see this wonderful finished work but no record of it on the town's records. The bank doesn't want to give a mortgage to a property that has a potential for a big financial drain that could impact the mortgage payments

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 7 years ago

I just had one of them...inspection was great except for most things the seller's deceased husband touched!

Posted by Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC, ... a small office, delivering big service! (Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC) almost 7 years ago

It is important for buyers to ask if there were permits for the work that was done .

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Good information about the need for permits.

 

I always tell my client to check with the town for any improvements.

Posted by Keith Lawrence, ABR, CDPE, SFR, 203K Specialist (RE/MAX Properties) almost 7 years ago

I know way too many home owners that finish the basements without permits as well. Lots of these are now short sales and bank owned homes and the buyers are force to deal with them.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) almost 7 years ago

Jay, the City of Minot ND is trying very hard to make sure things like this don't happen as many of the 10,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed by our flood are being rebuilt. The permit process is a neccessary pain in the rear and of course very frustrating to both the DIY who knows what he/she is doing as well as the DIY who hasn't a clue.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Broker Associate, Alliance Real Estate (Alliance Real Estate - Minot) almost 7 years ago

Jay..as we all know, (almost) anything can be remedied at a price.  If the house is otherwise "the one", no reason why remediation can't be negotiated into the purchase price.

Posted by Howard and Susan Meyers (The Hudson Company Winnetka and North Shore) almost 7 years ago

Here is another thought....while new construction is not really "all the rage" at the moment...If you know of even suspect when you are building that "someday' the lower level will be finished...you may want to have those plans in place when you build....or the next owner may not want the mechanicals located everywhere instead of in one place...plumbing roughed for bath, sink, wet bar etc...fail to plan, plan to....spend more money.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I never ran into a basement issue, but I did have a problem with a listing where the previous owner put a deck on without getting a permit. It was initially built to code; however, when it came time to sell several years later, it didn't meet code.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 7 years ago

Besides the physical problems, there can be considerable legal liability for the seller from a new buyer.

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) almost 7 years ago

Jay, buyers are always going to be concerned if the inspector is concerned. Sellers need to think about all those things when they put their home on the market... Great post!

Posted by Peg Barcelo, The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC (Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I thoroughly enjoy your blogs on subjects such as this. Here in South Florida we don't have many basements (although they do exist and I've sold several over the years). Our biggest problem has been carport and garage conversions into rooms (sometimes blocking the only window to a bedroom....big fire safety no-no) and turning single family homes into illegal duplexes. Some municipalities started requiring what amounted to 'zoning' inspections prior to Closing to crack down on them.

I am curious? Do you see similar "City Inspections" in the municipalities you cover?

Posted by Beverly Jo Cole (Southern Cross Real Estate, Inc.) almost 7 years ago
Jay....it boggles my mind first of all that the homeowner didn't think to at least inquire about permits and that the plumber didn't get them in the second place. Oh wait, it probably wasn't done by a licensed plumber!
Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - www.BuyersBrokersOnly.com) almost 7 years ago

Jay, in DC, permits are the exception to the rule.  For any redo, the contractors give two prices for the same work.  One with.  One without.  And most homeowners opt for without.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I have had 3 drafting jobs this year from people that did work without a permit.  Two had to modify the work.  The other just built his barn too close to the property line.

With our shallow frost line there aren't many basements here.  Maybe when I invent a wall system that is as cheap as wood studs that can withstand the soil pressure I will make millions building nice cool basements.

Posted by Loren Green, Phoenix Home Inspector & Designer (Greens Home Design L.L.C.) almost 7 years ago

Jay, you are so right about permits. I may have had a issue in the past myself (lol) luckally it was an easy fix.

And the only thing worse for people is the insurance issue. Should a problem arise where a claim would need to be put in they might just find themselves getting SHEERED.

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) almost 7 years ago

Good one Jay....I was always against permits becasue of the fees and the time it took to get an inspector out not to mention my fears that while there, he would see something else and just shut the whole thing down. I am talking about remodel and small jobs here BTW. The flip side which I now support is that you eliminated a professional set of eyes and also getting your monies worth from the person performing the work....I learn things eventually

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 7 years ago

Jay, 

Most people are short sighted when it comes to pulling permit. All they think of is cost and how much more it would cost. They forgot the real reason why it is needed. Great post.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) almost 7 years ago

Decks, sheds, swimming pools, wood burning stoves and finished basements are the bane of real estate closings in the Hudson Valley.  Sellers usually do not get permits for these improvements.  99% of them know they need to get a building permit and certificate of compliance. But their contractor tells them it is not necessary and if they get a certificate of compliance their property taxes will increase.

If the improvement is external the town assessor is probably going to find out and add it to the tax roll anyway.  The assessor will probably notify the building inspector and a violation will be added to the file. But for some reason the building inspector will generally not send a violation letter (maybe does not want the additional work) and the violation is open until the property is sold or refinanced.

The seller has to bring the improvement to meet the current building code. I can't count how many times a seller has had to dig up a deck footing or change the distances between deck railings to meet the new building code.  Then the seller is scrambling to get the certificate of compliance so he can close.  Too many sellers do not listen to their Realtors and attorneys and just hope these issues slide by and they rarely do.

 

Posted by David J. Stiles almost 7 years ago

I'm not a betting man but would feel comfortable laying down a wager that in our area, 75% of homeowner finished basments don't have permits.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 7 years ago

Thats the old, Nothing is illegal until you get caught!

Posted by Glenn Freezman (Nucazza LLP & Home Buying Evolution, & Family Abstract, Inc) almost 7 years ago

Well said, Jay. Getting the permits is essential. I see this all the time... It's unfortunate.

Posted by Colleen Sample, REALTOR, GRI, CDPE - Your Treasure Coast Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX of Stuart) almost 7 years ago

Jay, great information, on an issue that occurs often as homeowners take the do-it-yourself approach to home projects and neglect to acquire the necessary information

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

Jay - Our market here in Los Angeles & Ventura counties is absolutely overrun with unpermitted properties with construction issues.  Most are run-down, dilapidated, dumpy REOs where the bank sellers couldn't give a rats patootie what kind of condition the property is in so these properties often become cheap properties for cash investors, further driving prices down in our declining market.

Furthermore, many of those cash investors simply become tomorrows slumlords because they do almost nothing to the property before turning around and renting it out are market value.  Around here, our rental market is probably hotter than our real estate market.  Rents are going up and vacancies are down.  Many of the cities bldg depts have been getting smart though and placing liens on properties with excessive code violations and now the bank sellers can't transfer title until the code violations are addressed and the fees paid.

Just recently, the city of Los Angeles filed a suit against Deutsche Bank because of the run-down and dilapidated condition of more than 2,000 of their dumpy REOs and all the code violations.  Personally, I would like to see more cities doing exactly this to the bank sellers in my market who do not maintain their properties and are selling them with code violations on them.

Posted by Donne Knudsen, CalState Realty Services (Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA) almost 7 years ago

Looks like a suit in the making. It's a good thing for the cities to go after the banks and have them fix the issues on their properties.

Posted by Robert L. Brown, Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic (www.mrbrownsellsgr.com) almost 7 years ago

The Atlanta market is filled with renovated 1920s and 1930s homes without even one permit.  It is amazing!

Posted by Kerry Lucasse, Your Nest Atlanta Real Estate Consultant (eXp Realty - Nest Atlanta Team) almost 7 years ago

Do-it-yourselfers are so confident/arrogant, they don't believe anyone knows more - not even the professionals.  I don't recall ever seeing a home-owner modification that had a permit.

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

As always, you blogs are very informative. I have completed many closings that had repairs without permits. Some think it is always a savings and others think they are above getting the right documentations and permits. The same goes with HOAs. No permit, No structural changes. If you make a change without a permit, you have to remove the structure.

Posted by Carolyn Nelson, The Best Broker in Alamance County! (REALTYONE 247) almost 7 years ago

We are getting a new range for the kitchen - gas instead of the old electric - and one of the contractors contacted told us the permit was optional.   In checking the city codes found that was NOT the case - so are getting the permit.    One problem is that on some types of work, the code allows a homeowner to do the work without a permit - but then, as in this case he can be punished (financially at least) for doing it that way.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Jay - A no brainer here. Permits must be in place and the homeowner is responsible period... I've seen many a buyer walk away from a situation like this... bye bye....

Posted by Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618, Bergen County NJ Real Estate (Keller Williams Valley Realty) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I have seen whole structures having to be opened up to get the proper inspections done.  Much cheaper to just do it right from the get-go

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

I'd love to see a title person replying on this post since many title policies nowadays cover issues related to work done without permits. I'm wondering if that's just for additions or if it would cover completion of unfinished spaces?

Posted by Reba Haas, Team Reba, CDPE (Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Eastside www.TeamReba.com) almost 7 years ago

Carol - their creativity isn't likely to get too far with the local jurisdictional authorities!

Randy - it's usually a matter of safety, and not money!

Ed - you are right!  And these kinds of things could really impact a mortgage, especially if something goes drastically wrong.

Gary - and then you are all in the hard place!  But, what must be done, must be done.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

And why not Gita, you are right!  They are buying the house!

Keith - you have to be able to give the proper information to your insurance company too!

That's right Chuck.  And where do you go for redress?

That will be a huge undertaking Bob, even on little houses like yours!  That sounds like quite the disaster!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, good reminder for all listing agents to have a Seller's Disclosure on file and for a Buyer's agent to request one.

In the revised Florida REALTORS & Florida Bar Residential Purchase Offer (6/10) there are two specific paragraphs devoted to this issue.

1) Repair Costs from Seller: " costs associated with closing out openor expired building permits and obtaining required building permits for any existing improvement for which apermit was not obtained (“Permit Limit”)."

2) Inspections for the Buyer: "Buyer may have an inspection and examination of records and documents made todetermine whether there exist any open or expired building permits or unpermitted improvements to theProperty (“Permit Inspection”). Buyer shall, within the Inspection Period, deliver written notice to Seller of theexistence of any open or expired building permits or unpermitted improvements to the Property.(ii) Close-Out of Building Permits: Seller will, within 5 days after receipt of Buyer’s Permit Inspectionnotice, have an estimate of costs to remedy Permit Inspection items prepared by an appropriately licensedperson and a copy delivered to Buyer. No later than 5 days prior to Closing Date, Seller shall, up to the PermitLimit have open and expired building permits identified by Buyer or known to Seller closed by the applicablegovernmental entity, and obtain and close any required building permits for improvements to the Property"

These are new to the Purchase Offer Contract this last year.

 

Posted by Clay R. Seay (Florida Homes Realty & Mortgage) almost 7 years ago

Howard and Susan - in this case the cost might be a complete re-do and it is likely that will not get negotiated.

Sure Sally and David.  Those are always best planned for up front.  The rough ins were used here, but in the end not correctly.

Michael - around here - you never ran into the basement issue!!?  When we built our deck, I pulled a permit and it was done properly.  There was no homeowner association yet.  Now they are telling me I never built the deck with HOA permission!  Ummm....

Brian - sure.  But who's going to go there when they first look at a house?  Even now, who knows what will come of this!  I just do my thing and identify stuff.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thanks Peg.  I doubt these sellers considered it.  They are selling without an agent... through one of those MLS services.

Beverly - thanks!  There is no common finish job here as you describe there.  The local jurisdictional authorities do come down on things when they are notified.  But there has been no general sweep.

Given what I see, likely not Christine!  Here a general contractor is required to pull permits or lose his license.

Pat - that does present problems!  Especially when things aren't done safely and insurance has to get involved!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Wow Loren!  Let me know when you do!  That barn did not look into the set back apparently!

Don - that is the thing that bothers me most.  Especially if there is a disaster and someone gets hurt!

Richie - glad you converted!  It's important to do things safely and correctly.

All true Mike!  There are more costs than money.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thanks David for that explanation.  Another case when change and hope don't pan out!

Justin - that is probably really close.  And certainly from my experience.

Glenn - it hasn't gone far enough for illegal yet, but that ball might be rolling!

Colleen - I think it's unfortunate too!  But people make their beds, and they sometimes have to lie in them!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Chris - so many people don't bother to check things out before they do them.  It's too bad.

Donne - California has problems at every turn!  That sounds like a huge mess!

I don't know Robert.  It is probable that the buyers just back off.

Kerry - that is very hard mixing old with new!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Margaret - that may be right!  Who knows!  But sellers always balk at things I have to say, that is for sure.

Carolyn - if the HOA sees it and they don't approve, they become the local jurisdictional authority!

Steven - I can't imagine any jurisdiction allowing new gas installations without a permit!  That guy would be illegal here.

Lisa and Robert - so have I!  And they call a couple of weeks later for another inspection!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Charlie  Duckie - one county here will cut a few holes to see how things are done randomly, and if they are satisfied they allow the whole thing.  But that is only ONE jurisdiction of many.

I didn't know that Reba.  That could present a lot of title search problems!!

Thanks Clay.  That's pretty specific verbiage!  It should make some changes for sure!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Fabulous information.  I can't count the times I've seen home owner improved basements.  I see so many problems.  No fan in the bathroom (required everywhere if it's a recent improvement 

Those tight places are so clearly a RED FLAG.  Sometimes I think that owners assume that nothing will ever leak, fail or have to be repaired. 

Great post.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Lenn - thank you!  Just had a basement bathroom without a fan today!  And no smoke detector on the lower, newly-finished, level!  That particular tight space was a disaster.  No repair can be done to anything without removing a wall!

What are you doing up so late!?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Another great post, Jay.

In our area, basements are a rarity. What are very common are garage conversions. When the garage has been converted to living space there is a 99% chance that a required permit was not obtained. If a bath was added in the garage, the probability that it was done without a permit is even higher. Many homeowners who have made garage conversions believe that they have added value but many prospective buyers are turned away by the lack of permits.

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) almost 7 years ago

Juan - thanks!  There is a lot you inherit when you buy a house, so it's best to know everything you inherit!  Nothing should be hidden.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I've been on the phone with my domain registrar stopping the auto-renew on 44 domain names.   They all have "mls" in them an the NAR says we can's use domain names with mls in them.  Of course, many agents do use them.  But, when I found out about the rule, I made the all pointers to Homefinders.com.

I just got notice this a.m. that 44 domains are auto-renewing next month.  I needed to dump them. 

It's only 7:00 p.m  I don't believe I'll make it to debate time at 9:00 p.m.  Oh well. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I am an advocate and supporter of pulling permits. Unless a buyer is a contractor and/or has the financial means to fix a non-permitted mess ... sometimes it makes sense to pass and go find another property.  Well deserved Feature Post!

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) almost 7 years ago

Inarea, not having the proper permits for obvious, and sometimes not so obvious, work that has been done to a home or modifications that have been made, is a quick way to get an email from either the lender or the title company asking about them. Without the proper permits issued and then CLOSED, the lenders will not fund and the title company will not offer coverage. This can be a real mess, especially when it occurs late in the transaction. Agents here would be well advised to learn their way around the county's online permitting site where we can pull up and print records that usually satisfy lender or insurers.

Of course, even if you sneak something by someone this time, work that was done without the proper permits is still (in my mind anyway) a material fact that should be disclosed to the buyer since he/she will inherit the problem if the sale goes through and the county catches the unpermitted work at some future point.

Posted by John Elwell (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Such a great post!  I am now in the habit of searching building permits on my listings and sales -- it is simply amazing the things people think they can get away with.  I have found sellers that failed their final inspection by the county, never obtain an occupancy permit and they move in to the house and the county does nothing.  Kind of alarming that a bank closes out a construction loan and never requires finals or occupancy permits. 

Posted by Craig Alexander, Associate Broker in Virginia (Coldwell Banker Premier Properties) almost 7 years ago

It's in our purchase contract, something like "seller knows of no work for which a permit was required". Clearly written by a state attorney, but the point is clear. We try and try to get people to 'fess up during listing appointments, and they don't think it's important until the deal falls apart during attorney review....sigh....

Posted by Leslie Ebersole, I help brokers build businesses they love. (Swanepoel T3 Group) almost 7 years ago

Who needs permit? Aren't they overrated? I had a transaction that the seller had to get the city back out to inspect what he had done. That was a good lesson that I advise any of my clients to make sure that proper permit are pulled for anything to do with their home.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Frisco TX Real Estate Co.) almost 7 years ago

What are people thinking anyway, their largest investment and they are going to gamble everything to save a few bucks and do it wrong, too bad.

Posted by Mary Macy, Top Agents Atlanta Metro (Top Agents Atlanta Metro) almost 7 years ago

Jay:

I shudder when I view a house for the a prelisting appointment and see work done when I know the work was not done with permits.  I suggest to the sellers that they have the work done by a professional and that they get a permit to correct the work.  Otherwise, buyers will want to reduce the sales price an inflated value of what they think the repair work would cost.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) almost 7 years ago
Very timely for me, Jay. We're having our basement finished soon so these are issues to ask the contractor. (We have no intention of adding a dog grooming business tho.)
Posted by Yolanda Hoversten, Broker - O Fallon, IL Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties) almost 7 years ago

There is a lot of "unpermitted" work out there Jay. I can see the buyers dilemma. It just seems that it would have been easier to just do the right thing originally. Oh well.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 7 years ago

Lenn - none of mine are on auto renew.  They ask me.  And over the years I have dumped a couple.

vbjrt - funny.  But I'll take the points.

Thanks Kathleen - not pulling those things often creates a big mess.

John - sometimes things look really good on the outside and it is hard to tell they were done without permits.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Craig - that's probably a pretty good practice.  You could ask your sellers too, but something could pre-exist them and they don't know!

Leslie - that clause in every contract would surely eliminate a lot of problems.

Loreena - apparently a lot of people out there think they are overrated!

Mary - I suppose that in the end it does not save much at all!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Evelyn - that is being honest up front and might just cost you a few listings!

Yolanda - if the contractor says you don't need permits run the other way.  Before you do anything, call your county and find out just what does and does not need permits!

Tom - this is a huge dilemma!  Look at that work!  That is only ONE example of what I found in this house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I always recommend that people go through the proper channels when doing things like this for the very reason you mentioned.  Do they listen??  Apparently not!  I'd love to know what the buyers of this property decided.

Posted by Nancy Pav, Nancy Pav, Your "GottaHave" Realtor (Long & Foster) almost 7 years ago

Well, Nancy, I think they listen and the initial surge in desire goes away.  Then, eventually, when nothing bad happens, the feelings fade completely!  Until the disaster...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- I couldn't agree more.  A basement amusement park?  Good one. Yes, I've seen those as well. I am a permit hound. Added bathrooms in the basement always come up and those finished basements?  Not so 'finished' in some cases. I have been trying to write a post on (lack or) permits for so long. Yours is great and it needs to be said and highlighted more.

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (RealtyQuest/Kinard Realty Group, Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Thank you Barbara.  This issue comes up very, very often.  And sellers sometimes get upset with me for bringing it up!  One said it wasn't my business to ask!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago
Wow, that insurance coverage statement near the end really stops you in your tracks.
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) almost 7 years ago

It is true.  Most people think that insurance covers everything and it just doesn't.   Always good to talk to your insurance agent.

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Enjoyed the post. In our area everyone seems to be a contractor and there is no permitting outside the towns and not even all of them. Keeps things interesting.

Seems like we are getting a lot of on-line shopping "opportunities" lately.

Posted by Marshall Brown, BSEE, CHI (Mid America Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

For years I have warned my clients about that Cheryl.  I think it's a huge problem.

That's right Yvette.  Most policies are taken off the public record and if a remodel job isn't in the public record, good luck getting coverage!

Too much Marshall.  That stuff has to stop.  And thanks about the post!  I think a lot of the DIYers see it on TV and think they can do it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

One of my pet peeves, finishing off basements and attics without permits, when it comes to selling this can be an issue.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) almost 7 years ago

Almost always, David, if they have an inspection and it is discovered!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I had a plumber friend hooking up a line for gas logs.  He ask who was getting the permit.  My buyer said, "Why do we need one?"  The plumber said, "Assume we did it without a permit.  Also assume, you have a fire in 5 years on the other end of the house caused by an electrical short.  If the insurance co. sees the gas line modification, could ask the county/city for the permit.  Assuming no permit......they could refuse to pay for your fire damage!"

Scary!  But, what if your buyer didn't do the "unpermitted" repair!!!  Could he/she be left out to dry?

Posted by Woody Edwards, A Realtor® Who Answers His Phone! (First Choice Realty, Inc) almost 7 years ago

Yep, just think of all that money they saved on getting a permit! They certainly aren't going to lose more than that now are they?

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) almost 7 years ago
In our area, the big thing is converting garages. Appraisers are all over the map with it, some will count the extra GLA, some dont. Its amazing how many agents will count a DIY conversion and actually put that sq footage and an additional BR in the MLS, even tho the work was not permitted and not to code. A non insulated garage here in Palm Desert is not a bedroom.
Posted by Joy Tiz, SFR (Desert Homes & Land Inc, Palm Desert, CA) almost 7 years ago
In most NJ owns, a certificate of Occupancy is required to close. Once of the things checked are permits. Without them you don't close!
Posted by Glenn Elliot (ERA Justin Realty Co.) almost 7 years ago

As the buyers agent, I always recommend that my clients visit town hall to do their due diligence on the property that they are buying.  I've seen too many deals fall apart because the buyers want the permits and the sellers refuse to do so, but then it becomes a disclosure issue for the listing agent so no one really wins in the long run because few people will buy a home knowing that there are potential Code or unsigned permits outstanding.

Posted by Martin Kalisker, Professional Standards & Legal Assistant (Greater Boston Association of REALTORS) almost 7 years ago

Jay there are no problems like water problems. The question is not if this house will have a problem but when.

Posted by David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation, Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential (Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC ) almost 7 years ago

Jay,

good post.  I just had a new tankless hot water heater installed to replace my old (almost 20 yrs!) tank.  I always ask if a permit is going to be pulled when I hire someone, and the installer did say yes, we discussed it, he told me the cost of pulling the permit, and the proceeds to tell me that a LOT of people don't want to pay for the permit so they just don't get one!  I have heard MANY horror stories from friends and clients like yours.  A $60 permit is CHEAP compared to the alternative - like not being able to sell your home when the time comes because of issues like this.

 

Posted by Valerie Sullivan (Sullivan Enterprises, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Around here I've seen a few 'flipped' homes with this type of work. I'm sure there were no permits there either.

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) almost 7 years ago

What Woody says (#89) about insurance companies refusing to pay claims that are the result of non-permited work causing fire, flooding, etc. IS SPOT ON.

Great post topic and coverage Jay!

Posted by Kent Dills, Real Estate 817-495-8028, Bellingham, Washington (Broker, Dills Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Jay--Great advice for those looking at remodeled properties.  So many times, the one doing the remodeling thinks that plumbing or electrical is so easy they'll just "do it themselves" and end up creating the kind of situation you described above.

Posted by Tamara Perlman (Referral Network Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Good advice regarding the permits.  Unfortunately, many times permits are very costly (i.e. several hundred dollars or more) and so they dissuade homeowners from gettting them.  This defeats the very purpose of the permitting process.

Posted by Jim McCormack, Nashville Short Sale REALTOR - Stop Foreclosure (Nashville Short Sale Specialist - Jim McCormack - Edge Advantage Realty, LLC - 615-784-EDGE (3343)) almost 7 years ago

Jay,  That is so true.  There is a radio ad that runs down here in Florida regarding water damage remediation and they use that "permits what stinkin' permits?" line and I have to laugh every time I hear it.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 7 years ago

I've had other permit nightmares...where the "flipper" cut corners...added square footage, converted a garage into a "studio" with a new 1/2 bath.  All this, while knowing that the city inspector would be coming out to check the electrical, the new kitchen, etc.  Somehow, they didn't think the inspector would notice those other things. 

Sad thing is that this flipper usually does get away with it.  Not on my buyer's house though...busted.  Then the city inspector decided to punish this flipper...and rightly so.  They kept them tied up for over 6 months.  Unfortunately, my buyer couldn't wait...lost his dream house.  C'est la vie.

Posted by Jayne Clement, Los Angeles Short Sale Agents (Keller Williams Realty) almost 7 years ago

Jay....   But Unlce Eustus was a vacuum cleaner salesman.  Of course he knew about building codes and them there permitty things.  I am sure the permit has just been misplaced... 

HGTV and DIY channels have done more harm than good when it comes to repairing and remodeling homes.  There should be a warning at the beginning of each and every episode that states these are do-it-yourself shows and that they do not necessarily meet any current codes or safety regulations.

 

Posted by Stephen Stanczyk, Home Inspector - Puyallup WA (Safe Haven Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

But Steeeephennnnnnnn, Uncle Eustus was also a fixer upper on them there pickumup trucks, a snake oil salesman part time, and won the local spittin' contest every Wednesday nite!  Lol!  It's a shame, that that could not only cut a ton off the price of the home, but have it NOT sell altogether.  Kudos to you for the eye opener! 

Posted by Christine Gerbehy, Making waves, one home at a time... (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox and Roach Northfield) almost 7 years ago

Woody - I tell a story similar to that one to every client who hears my spiel about not having a permit!

Than - the cost of the permit is minimal.  I think people worry about the "huge" taxes the remodeling will cost them in the future!

Joy - you are right, 'tis not!  Our big thing here is finished basements.

Glenn - that solves that problem!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Martin - that is a great recommendation!  May I recommend you put your name in your AR signature?  It makes it easy to answer you personally and know who you are!

David - that is probably very true!

Valerie - just check your jurisdiction to see if they require one.  If they do pull it!  If not, don't!

Derrick Team - for sure!  Flipper doesn't WANT to pull a permit!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Kent - hence what I say in the post and what I said to him!

Thanks Tamara.  And it depends on what needs doing.  Replacing a switch is one thing, but putting in 8 canister lights in the ceiling is something else!

Jim - a general contractor permit to finish a basement here is about $150, including all the systems.  Nashville is making it expensive!

Really Bob?  So I am a Renaissance fellow saying what they say elsewhere?  Wow!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jayne - probably better that than inheriting a nightmare!

Steve - ha!  Agreed!  I have seen them do things incorrectly on those shows and even contacted them about it!  They have NEVER responded back to me...

Thanks Christine.  Funny comment!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay -  One of the worst is Ron Hazelton's House Calls.  I have writtent the show so many times it isn't funny.  These shows really do need someone familiar with basic building codes and building science before letting them on the air.  Strange thing, I have never gotten an answer either...  ;)

Posted by Stephen Stanczyk, Home Inspector - Puyallup WA (Safe Haven Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

I have a picture of a sink that I will be sending you by separate email that I would love for you to comment on. It's in a newly "remodeled" and expanded hospital that shall go nameless for the moment.

Posted by Steven Pahl, Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423 (Keller Williams Tampa Properties) almost 7 years ago

Another agent I know just told me about a deal that fell through because of work done in a basement without permits. The buyer demanded permits be presented for the work and of course there were none. In order to get the permits, the owner will have to take the walls apart. Would've been much smarter to get the permits in the first place.

Posted by Patric Santo Pietro (RE/MAX Competitive Edge) almost 7 years ago

Steve S. - I once saw him "clean" the algae on his roof, that he called tree sap with no trees around, with some of that "oxygen cleaner."  It's really sodium percolenate, but he thinks it's oxygen in powder form.  He spreads it on the roof and brushes it with a long push broom.  That totally destroys the roof, but who cares!  It cleans, but for about 2 weeks!

Steven P. - sinks are really fun!  I have seen a few classics!  Please send your photos!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Patric - it is smarter!  And for many reasons, just like this one.  Deals can readily fall through without permits.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

It's so true, permits are very important!!! I always get nervous when an owner has done some "remodelling" without them. I just put up a wood fence against an existing chain-link fence in my yard, which required a permit in my city, so I got it. Seems silly, but always worth it!

Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) almost 7 years ago

Permits are over rated. Had an inspection this morning, permit in the window, LOTS of things wrong. This house was done by our favorite contractor, Flipper. I made a point of telling the client that piece of paper means nothing unless the works been inspected. Guess what we found out? Can you guess? I think you already know the answer.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Sylvie - you need the permits when your jurisdiction says that to do that thing, whatever "that thing" is, you are required to have a permit for it.

Jim - I hear you!  The final is the key.  To answer your question - wow, you mean Flipper was the inspector!?

;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Good post and so true.  A bad remodel/addition does not help the homes value.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

I permit can save the homeowner so much down the road.

Posted by Michael Singh,Broker (Singh Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Gene - at least if they get caught!  An inspection will usually reveal the flaws.

Michael - not only the permit, but the final inspection by the local jurisdiction and the entry into the MLS.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Permits certainly are important.In my area we can check online to see if permits were pulled and completed.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) almost 6 years ago

All the counties do that here too Wayne, and people only have to search by address.  Most people don't do that prior to inspections though.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

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