Stories & Advice for Homeowners

Unpermitted Home Renovations; What You Should Know Before Buying A Home

Unpermitted home renovations haunting your dream home?

Before you make that offer, make sure you’re going to be able to do the renovations you want to really make that house yours.

And, more importantly, that unpermitted home renovations don’t leave you with expensive surprises.

And the tricky thing about prior unpermitted renovations is that those renovations are often inside the walls with electrical or plumbing. These jobs may have been done unsafely or without the help of a professional who can make it safe. 

So here are a few things you can do to protect yourself against these renovations and the costly work to fix them.

Hire A Good Home Inspector

unpermitted home renovations, hire a home inspector
Hire a good home inspector to protect your interests.

Don’t just go with your real estate agent’s first recommendation (not that it’s a bad one). Just investigate your options and hire an inspector who holds more than minimum state regulatory requirements

Requirements vary by state and not every state requires home inspectors have a license.

It’s also good if your home inspector continually updates their education and are a part of organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (these organizations require their members to follow a code of ethics).

Your home inspection should take hours and include a detailed write-up at the end. Of course there aren’t any perfect guarantees, but a good home inspector will catch more issues and problems that would be looked over by an unlicensed “budget” home inspector or one that is helping a real estate agent close a sale. 

Paperwork On Past Renovations

unpermitted home renovations, home inspection report

Seller full disclosure should include documents for any and all home improvements that require a permit. But that’s not necessarily a guarantee. 

You should ask the seller about any remodels and improvements made to the home. Get the hired professional name and company and find out if permits were issued for the projects. 

It doesn’t matter if the home is new or old, you should be careful to thoroughly evaluate the house before you buy or move in. 

Code Violations

unpermitted home renovations, home inspection report

Code violations include drains that don’t “drain” properly, electrical work that is improper or not permitted, and other similar issues.

Even if these violations are downplayed, you should reduce your offer to include the money you’ll spend fixing these or request the seller fix these issues before you close.

Home Warranty

Home warranties can be a bit hit or miss. Do your research on the warranty company and read the fine print. 

It may not be worth it if you’re not fixing costly repairs during the warranty period. 

Before You Close

After taking care of and/or considering unpermitted home renovations in your final offer, do a final walk through of the home.

Make sure all agreed “fix-it”s are done and follow code before you close. Take plenty of time in your final walk-through to really make sure all problems are resolved and questions answered.

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