Change of Use or Just Abuse?

Real Estate Agent with Lake and Lodge Realty LLC

Living in a University town, a good part of our real estate sales are students and parents of students looking for housing. I found a perfect house for my students close to campus and even zoned R3 allowing for student rental. We negotiated down to a reasonable price and during our inspection period I checked with the City to be sure zoning was correct for students. It it comes....because the home had been single family it would have to go through a "Change of Use" process. Even though it was Zoned correctly it would need zoning approval of the change of use and an inspection by both County Building Department and City Fire Department. This is fairly new to the Big Rapids market so I am learning as we go. Zoning approval was pretty painless, next the County. Enter frustration.

I explained to the person at the County Building Department our intent to rent to students and was told I needed a rental inspection that would cost $50. I paid the fee and agreed to meet the inspector at the home. Next morning right on schedule the inspector arrived and before we left the roadside he told me it would not be cost effective to use this building as a rental. When I asked him why, he said we would need to use fireproof drywall in each bedroom, install a fire sprinkler system and have an architect draw up a blueprint of the home for the building departments review. So off he went. I did question why the Building Department had not told me BEFORE they took my non refundable $50 fee and he had no idea and was of course $50 worth of sorry.

First zoning, then parking issues and now change of use has all but stopped new rentals in our town for students and best of all when I contacted the City, they told me the County Inspector is not even contracted to do inspections yet. You tell me, Change of Use or Abuse? I can see with new construction the need for making sure homes are built to meet code but to demand $30K worth of repairs on a home that has never had an issue seems a little over the top to me. This is not a 30 unit motel but a home to be occupied by the buyers daughters and a friend. Best of luck in all you do and thanks for reading.

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As always if you think the Big Rapids area is a place you would like to live give us a call (231) 796-5253 or check out either link below and we will help you find a house so the Big Rapids area can be your home too. Thanks for reading. 

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Randy Ostrander
Lake and Lodge Realty
107 N. Michigan Suite B
Big Rapids, MI 49307
(231) 796-5253


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Paige Walker
Paige Walker - Pineville, LA
Real Estate Guru - Alexandria Pineville LA

Randy that does bite! Since it is the owners daughter and one non related person why do you even need that variance?? Why can't they just occupy the home as a sfd??

Aug 04, 2010 02:29 PM #1
Jack Mossman - The Nines Team at Keller Williams in Lodi
The Nines Team at Keller Williams in Lodi - Lodi, CA
The Nines Team in Lodi

Sorry Randy, but it "feels" like perhaps the county is looking for revenue.  Is the buyer trying to make this a commercial enterprise?  I fear that I'm missing somwthing - what prevents the daughter from moving in and having roommates like half the world going to school? 

Aug 04, 2010 02:33 PM #2
Matt Grohe
RE/MAX Concepts - Des Moines, IA
Serving the metro since 2003

Randy: What we need is an oversight committe to review this. First we need to have a few meetings to field a team that will conduct feasibility studies.

Aug 04, 2010 04:18 PM #3
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty 916.408.5500 - Roseville, CA
Greater Sacramento Area Homes, Land & Investments

Randy, it sounds like a typical government-run rhyme or reason, whatsoever. Sorry to hear about your experience. :(


Aug 05, 2010 07:50 PM #4
Richard Glesser
North Country Appraisal Services - Gaylord, MI

Randy, I know Big Rapids seems to be over-reacting to student housing conformity.  There needs to be some common sense applied.  Several years ago, my wife & I rented an old American Legion Hall in Houghton Lake with the intent of her opening a ceramic business.  After signing the lease, the township stepped in with required updates before the business could be opened.  This was located in an old commercial district they were trying to revitalize.  Long story short, we dissolved the lease and to this day, more than 10 years later, it remains a semi-boarded up storage building with surrounding building falling into decline also. 

Aug 06, 2010 07:05 AM #5
Maya Thomas, Broker
Tampa, FL
Please see my client recommendations.

That's aweful!  How frustrating!  Can't the owner just have room mates the way they did it in the old days when I was in college?

Aug 07, 2010 01:59 PM #6
Don Sabinske
Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc. - Zimmerman, MN
Sabinske & Associates Inc.

It is abuse.  The regulations are in place to fleece the public with the fees, and then deny, deny, deny.  And, residents wonder why all the buildings are abandoned and don't contribute to the tax base.  Because they CAN'T.

Aug 07, 2010 03:00 PM #7
Ray Saenz
Exit Realty Laredo - Laredo, TX
Homes for Sale in Laredo, TX - Texas, Realtor

Sorry to hear this, but seems that you know very well that you do and what you have learned, this is an abuse hope that gets better :) take care!

Aug 07, 2010 11:50 PM #8
Houman Shahi
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Irvine, CA

I have never heard or experienced this, though I deal with tons of students on a monthly basis. I will definitely be ready for it when the city asks for the $50 fee. thanks for sharing, sorry for the experience.

Aug 11, 2010 05:59 PM #9
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Randy Ostrander

Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI
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