Thursday, September 23, 2010

Check The Permit Record!!!

I've mentioned this is the past but I think I need to re-enforce the message...

Check The Permit Record Of Any House You Are Considering Purchasing!!!

If you are looking at a house in the city of Alameda you can go here to find the permit record. Yes, supposedly this online data base only goes back to 89 but I've personally seen records online from the 40's and 50's.

Of course if there was work done 20+ years ago that's a different thing...but work done in the last couple of years should absolutely be permitted. I'm sorry, but ignorance, is NO excuse!!

Here's what I've learned in the last few days about the consequences of buying a house with work done without permits.

  1. You, the new owner, will be absolutely responsible for fixing any unpermitted work issues. That means, if you unwittingly buy a house with extensive recent work done without permits and you pull a permit for something simple like adding an exhaust fan in a bath and the inspector sees all the unpermitted work, you, the new owner will be responsible for fixing it.
  2. Fixing unpermitted work can be a very expensive can of worms. The city will make you pay all the permit fees and possibly 4x all the fees and that's just the start. Then, you'll have to open up a bunch of the walls to expose the work and then, who knows what messes the inspector will find? Then you'll have to pay someone to fix them all and patch back up the walls.
  3. Some changes might not be able to be remedied. The new place you just bought has a fabulous man cave in the basement? If the ceiling isn't the right height there is no way you can make that legal habitable space. You'll have to remove all the lights, outlets, flat-screen TV, that fancy built-in bar with sink. It will all have to come out and you'll be left with one over-head light and one outlet.
  4. Getting a loan might be impossible. I spoke with 2 mortgage brokers who said that if the bank knows about the unpermitted work that the bank will require the work be permitted before a loan can be issued! How do they find out? They check the official spec's of the house against what it's being sold as against the permit record.

So, don't be fooled by pretty counter tops and fancy tumbled marble baths! If the work was done recently without permits you are buying a huge can of worms.

If you're in escrow and you find this out make the seller fix everything before the close of escrow! Or, make them cut enough off the price so you can take care of it yourself afterwards.

If your Realtor tries to gloss over this, find a new Realtor! as they are more concerned about their commission than your safety.


Anonymous said...

Yiiikes! Love your Knifecatching stuff, but you totally freaked me out about the tile work I did throughout the years on my house without getting permits. And replacing sinks and light fixtures. I promise, I didn't change anything structural! Do you think I'm screwed?

-Heather (in Marin)

The MadScientist said...

I don't think tile work is a big deal. If you changed out sinks and replaced lights thats not an issue I think.
If you had gutted your kitchen, adding all new plumbing and electrical, that would be an issue.

But, I don't live in Marin so YMMV.

Anonymous said...

Aw, thanks for talking me down. Hope all is well in real-estate land, esp. with the new house.