BUILDING PERMITS - Permitting yourself is NOT the same!

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Cathy Ashley McAlister, GRI CDPE - Broker / Sacramento

BUILDING PERMITS - Permitting yourself is NOT the same!


Obtaining a loan for a property with an unpermitted addition or space has become quite problematic.   There is little to none purchase funds allowed for loans on homes that have unpermitted additions.  Makes no matter if the addition is of excellent quality or junk.  No permit - no money.   Sellers limit themselves to cash buyers and have huge disclosure issues.  Buyer's who think they will try their hand at home improvement projects may only create a host of future problems.

Last year I represented a buyer on a small home in a modest neighborhood.  She was buying as an investment for her retired mother and siblings.   She wrote five offers before she finally acquired her home.    One of the homes had an issue with unpermitted space.  Lender would not touch it and we moved on.   The home she settled on had the original bones, in good condition, and would serve her family well.

Her bother like to tease me about permits.    He was actual a fun fellow, but he did have a thing about building permits.  We would banter a bit about the permit process and how most people don't find it a pleasant experience.  Understood.  During escrow he would go on about converting the garage after close of escrow or adding on a room in the back, because.... he didn't need a permit ... He knew all kinds of people that could do the work and he would just permit himself.   There was much more of that joking than normal, so I made sure my buyer understood that if she allowed those remodels to go forward, to make sure she checked with the building department.  If she proceeded without a permit, she may not be able to sell in the future.  I went so far as to put it in writing, just to be sure. 

I do not know if they ever did any work.  But, what if they did?  Even if it the quality was professional and up to code; the building department would probably have something to say about it.  They will want to inspect to verify the work is up to code and, of course, collect fees.   Probably the strongest punishment could be requiring removal of the addition and restoring to original condition.  Permitting yourself just doesn't pay.  

I wondered about that client the other day as I drove through the neighborhood.   Hypothetically, what if I noticed where the garage door had been was now a professionally finished wall, with large sunny windows and beautiful flower boxes.   I wonder if they went through the permit process or "permitted themselves"?   I don't believe I would ask that question.   

Comments (5)

Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Cathy, so true----the hassle and the cost is minimal compared to having to rip the drywall all off so it can be inspected later.

Nov 15, 2010 02:11 PM
Cathy McAlister
Cathy Ashley McAlister, GRI CDPE - Broker / Sacramento - Sacramento, CA
Sacramento DRE#00648507

Charles:  I am rather surprise that some people still think they can "game" the process.  It's just not worth it anymore.  Just play by the rules and life is happier.

Nov 15, 2010 05:14 PM
Mary Douglas
United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado - Red Feather Lakes, CO
REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

Hi Cathy, it's a sticky wicket for sure. I understand the maverick mentality quite well- unfortunately the consequences are not usually favorable. 

Nov 16, 2010 01:47 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Cathy - Oh yes, the ole non-permitted addition can put many a wrench into the machinery.  You can't even install a new water heater without a permit these days!  At least not here in Sacramento.

Nov 16, 2010 01:41 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

That would make it quite tough, not getting a loan.    Here in Denver, we do not have those same rules.

Nov 21, 2010 02:16 AM