How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

Should I buy a house that has been remodeled/renovated without building permits or has open permits?

Friday, June 22, 2018

There are three issues related to buying a house that has had improvements that were done without building permits or the permits are in limbo:

Inability to confirm that concealed parts of the improvements were done correctly - Home inspectors like us can examine the visible parts of the house and tell you if they are adequate and meet safety standards. But we don’t have x-ray vision. When a remodeling is done with building permits there are multiple intermediate inspections done by the building inspector for the local government jurisdiction while the work is still in progress and walls, ceilings, and roofs are opened up. They confirm things like that wiring inside the wall is installed correctly and that wall and roof components have connections that resist uplift in a windstorm. A building permit and inspections does not guarantee that all the parts of the home you can’t see were done correctly, but it greatly increases the odds that they were.

• Problems when you sell the house later - The standard FARBAR residential real estate contract used in Florida specifies that any open permits (not closed out by a final inspection) must be closed out by the building department and any work already done that required a permit should be permitted and finalized. It is a recent addition to the contract and many homebuyers ignore this clause; but, if the future buyer of your home takes it seriously, cleaning up the loose ends of the permits will postpone the closing and possibly kill the deal.

Open permits must be finalized before a new permit can be issued - When your contractor files for a permit to remodel the kitchen or build a pool, any open permits left behind by the previous owner will have to be resolved before a new permit can be issued.

    So, you can buy a home with non-permitted work, or permits that have not been closed out with a final inspection, but it may come back to bite you later.

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

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