Profile picture for ushanarayanan

Buying a property with some unpermitted work

We are considering putting an offer for a house with some un-permitted work. In this case the un-permitted wok includes a basement addition of 420 sq foot. Any thoughts,comments, advice greatly appreciated.
  • April 21 2009 - Belmont
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Answers (5)

Profile picture for Lawsen
Makes the sellers get permits and get the permits fully signed off before you buy. It is far worse than the simple fact that some of the work may be shoddy. What if the addition violates zoning - like it's too close to the neighbor's property line or too tall or too much square footage for the size of the lot. I've seen cities make people cut two feet off of a completed house that was over the setback line. Don't get stuck with the previous owner's problems.

Lemmee guess - my peninsula home search I bet not getting permits was as much about not wanting to pay their property taxes as it was about not wanting to deal with inspectors.
  • October 01 2009
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As a buyer's agent, I use unpermitted work as a bargaining tool.  Especially if it required electrical, plumbing, and structural work.  If the seller is charging extra for unpermitted work, I do not feel it is worth the full value.

First make sure you have a good home inspector, if it is minor work not a big deal... but say its a deck that has been done in a very uncraftsmen like manner, no permit... I am not going to allow my buyer to pay for that deck. 

Use common sense and listen to your home inspector.  Good Luck.

  • April 21 2009
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The basement likely supports the weight of construction above. If we assume the addition is structurally sound, then why are there no permits? I suggest some apprentice engineering of your own. In and around the addition, check windows and doors to see if they stick, will not latch or are out-of-square. Walk the floor above (with eyes forward): is the floor level? Will your homeowners insurance deny a damage claim if they find an unpermitted addition?
  • April 21 2009
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To expand on what Greg posted, I would be concerned that the work that was completed might not have been approved had permits been pulled due to zoning regulations.

We had an example many years ago in Minneapolis where an unpermitted attached garage was built right on the property line, which never would have been approved. The error was caught only when the owners attempted to build a room atop the garage (garage was at foundation level). The city almost made the homeowner tear down the garage but relented. However he was not allowed to build atop the garage.
  • April 21 2009
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If you are planning to finance the property, chances are the appraiser will check for permits. If you are considering FHA financing (3.5% down) the owner will have to get it permitted before closing.
If it is a bank owned property, you can use FHA 203k financing, to include the cost of bringing the property up to city code and any other repairs or improvements you would like. With the 203k this can be done after closing.
It's important you do it right, because it will be an issue for you when you try to sell.

  • April 21 2009
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