Why No One Talks About Building Permits for Remodels

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Why No One Talks About Building Permits for Remodels

If you own a home or are considering purchasing one, a remodeling project may be on the horizon. In the age of DIY, many people skip the building permit and do the remodel themselves. But is this a wise choice? As a homeowner, you can increase the value of your home especially when updating rooms like the kitchen or bathroom, which typically yield the highest return. As a future home buyer, you can get a better deal on a home that needs some work and, once remodeled, it may appraise at a much higher value. Let's take a look at why you might need a permit, when you can get by without one, and what happens when you get caught without one.

When you're preparing to update and sell your home, first make sure the structure of your home is sound. Choosing to update a bathroom may seem like the ideal choice with the greatest potential for return, but if there is an issue with the foundation, that should be the priority. In other words, focus on getting a permit to fix existing structural issues before going for the more luxurious and cosmetic changes.  The same holds true if you're purchasing a fixer-upper. Get an inspection before purchasing a home, especially if it needs obvious repairs.  Once you see the list of repairs and how much you'll need to pay to get permits to fix the issues, you may not want to purchase the home. 

When to Forget the Permit

Not all projects will require a permit. Small projects like repainting a room, along with the following projects, will most likely not require one:

  • Installing floors (linoleum, carpeting, hardwoods)
  • Replacing counter tops
  • Wallpapering
  • Replacing a faucet
When to Get the Permit

Large projects, like building a new fence or gutting and remodeling a kitchen, will most likely require a building permit. Talk to your local municipality about permits if you're taking on large projects like the following:

  • Adding/replacing a deck
  • Building an addition (ex. bedroom, garage, some sheds)
  • New windows/skylights/doors
  • Plumbing (new or changes to existing)
  • Structural changes (ex. tearing down load-bearing walls)
  • Replacing siding
  • Replacing the water heater

In the state we live in, we contact the Building Codes Bureau to see if our projects require a building permit. The point of contact in your state may differ, but you will have to pay a fee and there will be a waiting period before the permit's officially issued. After your permit has been issued and work has been performed on your project, inspections may be required throughout and once the project's completed.

Permit Costs

You might be wondering what you're going to end up paying for a permit to remodel your bathroom or have a load-bearing wall removed.  According to fixr.com, the average national cost for a permit is $430.  They indicate most borrowers will pay approximately $0.79/sq. ft. for new construction.  If you're creating an addition to your home or making repairs, the average permit cost will likely be $200-$500.

No Permit Ramifications

What happens if you don't research county or city regulations and neglect to get a permit for your project? In many cases, you will face a penalty if a neighbor reports you or an inspector suspects work is being done without a permit. Consider this: if someone down the street has a building permit to replace their deck, the city will make visits to their home. If they drive by your place and notice you're working on a remodel project (ex. piles of 2x4's and drywall in the yard), they will look up your property to see if a permit has been issued. If they don't find a permit, you could face a significant fine. Other consequences you may face if you do not obtain a building permit include the following:

  • Refinancing issues when the house goes up for sale
  • Home appraisal will not reflect un-permitted improvements resulting in a lower home value
  • Damage to home, due to faulty work, may not be covered by insurance

If you're buying or selling and want to remodel your home, you'll want to contact your local municipality to see if you need a building permit for your project. By obtaining the proper permits, you're following laws set in place by your local municipalities, reducing the chances of a fine, and increasing your chances of a higher appraised home value when the time comes to sell your home. Without permits, you may complicate the sale of your home and the buyer may back out of the contract. To save yourself a lot of hassle, determine whether or not you need a permit to make improvements to your home before beginning the project.

Janelle D.

I've worked in the real estate sector for more than a decade and enjoy sharing my knowledge on the subject and researching the latest trends. In my free time I like to craft, spend time with my family and dog, participate in outdoor activities like hiking, and I'm passionate about photography.

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