What I'm Seeing Now

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A Front Staircase Disaster - A Follow Up

This blog concerns a previous post and could be called A Front Staircase Disaster - A Follow Up.

Getting an email from the agent it simply asked my opinion asking, "Do you think the items in this invoice will result in a good deck?"

The last thing I said to my clients before leaving after the inspection was not to accept a proposal from a contractor saying they would jack up the posts and repair the stairs, that the repairs for this porch needed to be done with a permit.

Reading the proposal attached to the email it said, "Repair/replace footings under the landing.  Attach the stair stringers to both decks."

What I didn't see is anything about pulling a permit.

The proposal also said to hurry, hurry and accept this so they could fit this work into their busy, busy, busy upcoming schedule.  Hurry!

So, will this proposed work result in a good deck, as the agent asks?

THAT ISN'T MY CALL!  I HAVE NO JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORITY!  MY OPINION WAS AND IS THAT A PERMIT NEEDS TO BE PULLED (AND CLOSED - MEANING THE COUNTY APPROVED THE WORK) AND THEN THINGS WOULD BE DONE PROPERLY.

So I sent the agent back the link I put on the report.  It is to the County website that defines when permits need to be pulled.  On that page is a place to click to see what the County requires regarding decks and stairs.  And on that page is a place to click showing diagrams as to how they expect things to be done.  It's pretty clear.  So I sent him those two links also.

And I replied basically, "Call the County to see if a permit is needed.  You can send the County my photos if you want."

Later I got back a text (don't get me started on texts as being business communication).  It said, "Thanks very much Jay.  I called the county and they said that yes, a permit is required.  We are expressing this in the buyer's home inspection response to the seller."

I thought WOW, THEY LISTENED!  So often people discount what I say in favor of a contractor's very official proposal.  The contractor is the "expert," no matter who it is.  And so often I am completely discounted.

My recommendation:  I have to tell you how good it feels when clients listen to their home inspector!  We home inspectors have nothing to gain, and a lot to lose, from offering a document which observes and reports the conditions of a given house.  Beyond our fee, we have no financial interest!  Are we willing to offer follow-up opinions?  Yes, within restraints.  But any such opinions will be just as objective, and client-leaning, as they can be.  The buyer is our client!  The client's understanding of the property's condition before purchase is our goal.

 

 

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 34 commentsJay Markanich • December 26 2014 04:11AM

Comments

I rarely get into whether permits are required or not. If there is a situation where it's clear permits weren't pulled or more importantly closed I discuss it with my clients. I generally don't get into if a permit is needed or not. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

When the client asks I send them a county link on the report.  That link itemizes when and not when permits are needed, Jim.  Keeps me in touch with the client, but out of the jurisdictional loop!

Around here if a buyer doesn't realize a permit is not needed they inherit whatever the work, and the ramifications.  There is a LOT of work done without permits!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

We make a lot of phone calls to find out about permits and it generally ends with grief for someone.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

 Good luck with the Hurry and Permit thing...it isn't pulling the permit that takes the time...the government authority is always quick to take your money and application...it is getting them back there to inspect and sign off on the work that is time consuming...albeit...necessary.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 4 years ago

So glad to hear that.  Sounds like the agent and buyers are taking things seriously and respecting your opinion.  Your opinion counts as it is both knowledgeable and objective.  No hidden agenda.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

Raymond - it's the circumspect thing to do.  I have seen disasters where the new buyer is forced to tear off a deck or rip out a basement to start over.

S&D - the hurry up thing is simply the contractor's way to get themselves started and done before people realize anything further is needed, like a permit.  If the county takes a week to approve it then it takes a week.  Here's another rub here - the other agent is on the proposal as the accepting authority!  That seems a bit outside the agent's purview to me, but what do I know.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

That is very true Debbie.  We really do care about the best interests of our clients.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

G'mornin' Boss. Needless to say that "Codes Inspectors" are not the brightest bulb in the string. If they were, they would not be working for a municipality. I stay clear of this arena.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

To disbelieve the importance of a county inspection in this case is to say, "Don't believe your lying eyes".

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

The positive to the buyer is that the agent attempted to do something right. You did well to stay clear of making a judgment on permits and make the agent do their own home work.  A lot of work is done without permits and if not done right, the home owner has a double bill at some point in time

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 4 years ago

Michael - I have CEU classes with the County inspectors here all the time.  They know me by name!  They really like us home inspectors, considering us to be additional eyes.  They simply can't cover it all here.  If you work out the math for just new construction alone, based on a 40 hour week and 50 weeks a year, that leaves about 8 minutes a property for them!  That's not a lot of time.

Lenn - really they are the only people who can determine if it is a "good" deck.

I do stay clear Ed.  I simply provide the links and they need to be proactive as regards the rest.  The links are clear about what does and does not require a permit.  Buyers can get stuck, as you suggest!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I must have receievd 10 " offers" of great deals sincemid December. They all said the same thing, " this offer expires Monday dec 29th, so hurry up and order today to lock in this great deal" blah, blah. One actually said he was doubling his price. I wouldn't have paid the price he was asking now, much less double. Always be careful of people who try to rush you to sign anything. And it's really not that hjard to get a permit. There are even people you can hire to get it for you. I use to use" Gopher Permit" I think it was.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 4 years ago

Jeff - in the olden days, I used to consult and teach sales training to business executives.  That is called "the impending event!"  Buy now!  Quantities are limited!  The first 200 to call...  And so on.

When the contractor says no permit is needed, that is the real indicator.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Well I just say 'duh' Jay. The other agent should know that beyond a small repair a permit is needed on a deck & many other items. I think it is part of our basic knowledge. Why would you suggest otherwise?

I feel sorry for you sometimes as advice & common sense is not listened to.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 4 years ago

Jay, many times clients ask something that we are not prepared to answer. We may have an opinion, but they often think the opinion is fact. We're better off going the direction you did, which is to say what we do know--that a permit is required for this type of work.

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 4 years ago

Thanks Lynn.  At least take a proactive stance and see if a permit is required!

I agree Tom, but what is in black and white, like the county webstie, is the ultimate authority.  In that county all decks, and deck remodeling, require a permit (unless they are on the soil) because it is considered structural, but seeing sometimes is believing.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay:

Good to hear that the seller's listened to your advice.  So many property owners do not want to pull permits because of the cost, no matter that a stair case requires it for safety issues.  I will often email the informaton from my community as to what job requires a permit and hope they do pull permits if the work requires a permit.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 4 years ago

This is a tough one because most repairs of porches and decks in my city are done without permits.  Very reputable contractors will give a bid and have two prices - with or with out permits.  Our permits are very expensive and cause delays and also trigger other required work.  Since most of the homes are 75 plus years old, there are a lot of code corrections that might be called out.   We always know that a permit is required 99% of the time and leave it up to the client and their contractor to determine how they proceed.  

Posted by Ann Wilkins, Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont CA (Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty) over 4 years ago

Evelyn - a permit here to do this would be about $50.  But pulling one locks the contractor into doing it right!  Hence the rub, and additional expense.

Wow, Ann, that is a tough one.  So a deck could be finished and unsafe?  Would insurance cover a deck finished without a permit there?  Here I hear not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I don't understand why a Client will not listed when they are paying for your opinion.

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Most porches and decks were initially part of the permit when the house was built providing permits were issued or grand fathered in.

I agree for most people a repair with a permit might provide the contractor to do a safe repair or remodel.

Not all contractors are there to do a sham job. Most builders and contractors take pride and don't want any liabilities hence do a good job.

If a permit is pulled, a set of plans will be needed, time for the permit will be required. Not only the price of permits can be added but also time for permits and drawing plans.



Posted by Rod Pierson, Northern California (Results Real Estate Inc) over 4 years ago

Many do, Evelyn, and many don't.

If you read the previous post Rod you'll see that most of the front porches in this neighborhood look like this one.  And many have been completely rebuilt by the owners.  Careful of work that does require a permit and the contractor says one isn't needed...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Morning Jay I'm happy to see the follow up.  I prefer to call people you can get a lot more accomplished by a simple call.  Most of the people now prefer to text.  Just don't understand that logic while doing business.  

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 4 years ago

I will have a future post about texting James.  I don't consider it to be business communication.

And I'm glad they followed up too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, I would always get suspicious if a contractor is too busy to get a permit. There are a few I trust enough to go without a permit, but I would still require one. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 4 years ago

If the county requires one, the job requires one Mike, I mean Graaaaanpaaaah.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I don't know why a Buyer who hired you wouldn't take your recommendations, that doesn't make sense.

Posted by Janice Soard, The People you Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) over 4 years ago

This one did Janice!  And I'm glad.  Hopefully now they will get the job done correctly.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Congratulation on the feature!  You are right, often a buyer will pay you for your opinion and ask lots of questions, then for some unknown reason not listen.  Listening creates a win-win situation.  

Posted by Anna Hatridge, Missouri Realtor with Goodson Realty (Goodson Realty) over 4 years ago

Thank you Anna.  I think this was one of the win, wins.

Nice avatar, by the way!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hi Jay, so glad they listened and took the necessary action. Happy New Year.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty) over 4 years ago

The work isn't done yet Rebecca.  Would love to see it when it is!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay Markanich what a way to encourage them to do it right. Ultimately it's up to them but when we do things the right way it doesn't cause issues later down the road and we don't fall for people's sales tactics.

Posted by RVA HomePRO Michael Hottman, Helping you achieve goals in life & real estate (RVA HomePRO Realtor with Keller Williams serving Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfiled and Richmond, Virginia) over 4 years ago

Send them in the right direction Michael, and hopefully they will continue.

Like horses to water, I guess!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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