How to Sell a Home with Unpermitted Work

What to Do When Your Home Has Unpermitted WorkWhen it comes to renovating or improving a home, owners are supposed to complete all work within the letter of the law. This means they may need official permits granted by the city in order to add on a new bathroom, break ground on a pool, or install a skylight in the ceiling. Because different neighborhoods have different rulings and homes can frequently change hands, it's not uncommon for homes to have unpermitted work. Learn more about what constitutes unpermitted work, how it affects the buyer's decision, and what sellers can do about it.

The Nature of Permits

No matter how skilled a contractor a homeowner might be, a local official has no way of verifying just how safe their work is. Permits are designed to ensure the stability of the home isn't compromised during a renovation or repair, and the specific rules about which jobs need them and which jobs don't are determined at the local level. In certain cases, owners may be required to hire professionals, regardless of their own expertise when it comes to the work.

The Nature of Homes

Homeowners, in Cherry Grove or elsewhere, may choose to complete renovations without a permit for any number of reason. They may be trying to skirt property taxes or just save money on hiring contractors. Some owners don't know that they need to get permits, and some just flat out ignore the rules. If there's no one around to discover the work, then it can be difficult to determine what was done, when it was done, and how safe the workers were at the time of completion.

Finding the Truth

Sellers often don't even realize they're selling a home with unpermitted work and may be thrown off if they're even asked the question. Unfortunately, the answers to this question can be extremely difficult to find. Sellers may need to check the home's original blueprints to figure out what was done, and then check county records to find out if a permit was filed for it. This can become extremely messy if the home still has open permits from previous owners that need to be closed.

Retroactive Permits

Sellers generally have one of two options when it comes to addressing this problem, though the specifics of these options will vary from state to state. Sellers may be able to get retroactive permits for the work that was already done, which means having city inspectors come to the home to check the work. In this case, either the city inspector will sign off on the original work, or they'll recommend additional repairs and improvements to get it up to code. This is usually the best-case scenario because it assures the buyers that regardless of when the work was done, it was completed properly (or subsequently fixed.)

Selling As-Is

A seller also has the choice to sell their home as-is. In this case, they're not required to let the buyer or the city know that they believe there's unpermitted work to the home, though they are required to answer direct questions from the buyer. Selling a home as-is is usually only recommended if a seller needs to get rid of the home as quickly as possible. Buyers are understandably hesitant to purchase these homes because they're afraid that the work is shoddy and that their inspector may not be able to discover the extent of the potential damage done to the home.

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