Selling a House with Unpermitted Work In California

Imagine this: you’re excited as you prepare to put your house on the market. It used to be your ideal home, but now you’re ready for a change. You highlight the features, certain that you’ll fetch a fantastic price for it:

  • An extended deck where you spent plenty of afternoons reading.
  • A game room in the basement with a working bathroom.
  • Oh, and also that sunroom you were enjoying.

Maybe your home came with these things when you bought it. But now, looking at the plans, those upgrades seem missing! It’s unclear if the old owners got permits for them. You may find unpermitted work when selling your home!

What’s next?

To assist you, we’ve created a guide on selling a house with unpermitted work and your options.

Selling a House with Unpermitted Work In California

Unpermitted work is simply home improvements done without obtaining the necessary permits from government entities.
You may think this is just a trivial paperwork issue, but that is not how permits work.

A building permit, a legal document issued by local building authorities, lets you start construction. It makes sure your project meets safety standards, preventing accidents like building collapse or fires. If you’re planning home improvements, budget around $400 to $2,300 for permits.

Permits shield homeowners from poor craftsmanship by contractors, keeping you safe. Inspectors check work to ensure it follows codes, safeguarding lives. You wouldn’t trust an unskilled worker with your electrical system, right?

Still curious?

What are Construction Permits and What is Their Purpose In California

Permits Can Add a Substantial Cost to the Project

The cost of permits are usually based on the scale of the alteration. The bigger the work, the more expensive the permit, so many homeowners choose to do away with it because they’d rather be spending money on the actual work.

Permits Can Cause Property Taxes to Go Up

Home improvements like adding on a wing, completing a basement home theater, or expanding a deck can boost its worth. Consequently, this uptick in worth may lead to a rise in property taxes too.
Hence, it may be tempting to skip getting a building permit to avoid the town recording these improvements, keeping the assessed real estate value steady.

Permits are a Hassle to Get

Sometimes getting permits involves multiple trips to the city’s building department, and this hassle can discourage homeowners from going through the proper channels.

Permits Take a While to Obtain, Causing Delays

When applying for permits, you may need to provide engineering blueprints for the local board to assess. This assessment can take time, and sometimes adjustments are necessary. These changes will undergo another review, potentially prolonging the project’s commencement.

Many homeowners believe they can save money by skipping permits, or they inherit unpermitted work from previous owners.
But even if you plan to keep the property long-term after unpermitted work, it could still cause issues later on. You may unexpectedly need to sell due to external factors.
When selling, buyers often check permit history. They can also order inspections. If they discover problems or code violations from previous unpermitted work, you’ll deal with the fallout from your choices.

Permit requirements vary from state to state, and the only way for you to find out whether your remodeling project will require permits is to get in touch with the local building permit office or check out their website.

Generally, home improvements that involve changing something in the structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems of a house need a permit. These include:

  • Demolition
  • Addition of a shed
  • Home expansions – additional wing, deck, or patio
  • Fences over a certain height, usually six feet
  • New electrical wirings or upgrading to a higher amperage
  • Changes in the ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems
  • Additional bathroom or bathroom remodeling

Still, there are other projects that may seem like minor work, but they would still require permits:

  • Adding partition walls
  • Replacing windows and doors
  • Relocating plumbing fixtures
  • Removing a tree in your yard

Like most homeowners, it’s tough to know what fixes need permission. If you’re planning DIY renovations, it’s best to reach out to the local building authority.

Typical basic repairs and remodeling like minor electric fixes, painting, carpet swapping, driveway repaving, hardwood floor fitting, carpeting, and cabinet swaps usually don’t need permits.

Alternatively, you can hire a contractor for the job. Just ensure they’re a licensed home improvement contractor. Some contractors lack licenses, so hiring a registered one reduces the risk of shoddy work. Plus, they often handle permits for a fee, sparing you the permit paperwork hassle.

Since there is no one to check the quality of work, you can’t be sure if it complies with local building codes.

Unpermitted work presents dangers such as:

  • Faulty electrical systems installation – fire or electrocution
  • Incorrect plumbing work – burst pipes or leaks, which can provide an environment conducive to mold growth
  • Improper roof installation – the roof may be blown away or may have leaks
  • Inadequate carpentry work – structural collapse

Furthermore, damages arising from faulty unpermitted work won’t be covered by your home insurance. To avoid flirting with danger and literally playing with fire, it is better to get permits before starting anything.

Dangers of Unpermitted Improvements In California

Yes, you can sell your house with unpermitted work! There are two options open to you: deal with the unpermitted work yourself by getting a new permit and redoing the work or sell as is and let the buyer fix it themselves.

Option #1: Obtain Building Permits and
Redo the Work Before Selling

Many home buyers depend on bank loans to buy homes, and often their loan approval relies on the property’s condition. If buyers buy a house with unpermitted work, their lender can ask for the loan back. To avoid this, mortgage companies arrange a home inspection. If the inspector finds faulty repairs from unpermitted work, you must fix it.

To avoid this trouble, you can schedule the inspection yourself. A home inspection costs $250-$600 and the report tell you current issues and solutions. If the unpermitted work is safe, you can ask the government for a retroactive permit. Otherwise, redo the work. Contact them to confirm. Then, find reliable contractors for renovation estimates and timelines to plan for selling your house. Fixing everything could raise your home’s value. Calculate how much you’ll get back from repairs.

If this seems too much work, then you can just…

Obtain Building Permits and 
Redo the Work Before Selling in  California

Option #2: Sell the House As-Is

Sell the property in its current condition to avoid the hassle of inspections, permits, and finding qualified contractors.

For a quick sale, consider selling to cash buyers like house flippers and companies that buy houses for cash. They seek out problem properties, including those with unpermitted work, to buy below market value. They’ll handle repairs and either flip the property or rent it out.

The cost of repairs is included in their cash offer, so while you may sell for less, you save time and effort. Cash buyers can close quickly, often within a week, as they don’t need mortgage approval.

Cash buyers have the funds to buy your property and a skilled crew ready for renovations. Plus, they cover all closing costs.

Sell the House AS-IS In California

Selling a property with unpermitted work can be managed by a real estate agent. However, this approach appeals mainly to traditional buyers. We’ll go over the obstacles involved and explain why it’s typical to sell directly to a cash buyer when dealing with such properties.

Selling through a Real Estate Agent In California

You may face some obstacles selling the old-fashioned way with real estate agents. Many buyers prefer homes they can move into right away without needing repairs, so selling as-is can be tougher.
As a result, agents in your area may ask you to make repairs so they can prepare the home for sale and host open houses, or they may suggest listing below market value. Once the sale is done, you’ll have to cover their fees and all the other costs of selling a house.

Selling to a Cash Home Buyer or a Real Estate Investor

Selling to a cash buyer means you receive cash for your home with minimal property updates needed. You won’t need to fix unpermitted work—it’s the buyer’s job. Plus, no agent fees or closing costs, saving you money on repairs and giving you quick cash for your home.

If you discover unpermitted work on your property, it’s wise to get them checked out. If they’re deemed safe, you can seek a retroactive permit. Retroactive permitting is like applying for regular construction permits, but instead of proposed plans, city officials review what’s already built and inspect the work.

Getting a retroactive permit saves you from redoing unpermitted work and can increase your property’s value!

If you discover unpermitted work on your property, it’s wise to get them checked out. If they’re deemed safe, you can seek a retroactive permit. Retroactive permitting is like applying for regular construction permits, but instead of proposed plans, city officials review what’s already built and inspect the work.If you don’t tell buyers about unpermitted work on your property, you could get into legal trouble. Even in caveat emptor states where buyers are mainly responsible for checking the property’s condition, it’s wise to disclose things like asbestos, lead paint, or mold.

Being upfront about these issues demonstrates fairness and honesty to potential buyers, which is crucial for building trust in any real estate deal.

If you unknowingly bought your home with unpermitted work, you could try getting in touch with the previous owner. It can be worthwhile to meet with a real estate attorney so they can help you explore your options.

Skipping building permits for your home improvement project doesn’t save you money. It only delays problems, causing headaches later. However, if your property has unpermitted work, you can still sell it. Cash buyers specialize in such properties.

At JiT Home Buyers, we help distressed homeowners by buying problem properties. No need for inspections or retroactive permits. We handle everything! We buy houses in any condition, even those with unpermitted work or code violations.

To get a cash offer for your home, fill out the form with your email and property address.
Questions? Call us at (510) 473-5885. We’re happy to help!

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We Buy Houses AS-IS In California

We are a local real estate investment company in California that buys houses in any condition. We also buy mobile homes and condos in any condition. You can sell your house fast for cash regardless of the condition.

Our service area includes homes in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and throughout California. Our goal is to serve homeowners with a simple solution when selling there house fast.

You can start the process to sell your house fast by calling us or filling in the online form. We will respond back to you the same day and present you with a fair cash offer for your house. If you accept our cash offer for your home, you can schedule a closing date and get cash for your house.

The Easiest Way To Sell Your House Fast In California

You’re in the driver’s seat when you accept our cash offer for your house. We make the process simple, fast, and easy to follow when working with us. You have no obligation to accept our cash offer for your home when contacting us for a fair cash offer for your home. No matter the reason you want to sell your house, we want to buy your home as is. Remember that you get many benefits that include no real estate agent commissions, no cleaning, no improvements, and no stress. Our cash offer for your as-is house assures you of fast cash payment at closing with a reputable Title company. You can count on our company to give you a fair cash offer for your home! If you’re still thinking, “I need to sell my house fast”, calling us could be your best decision all day. 🙂

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Author: Saini

My name is Saini, and I founded the JiT Home Buyers team with years of experience in the real estate industry. I have assisted numerous sellers in selling their homes quickly, “AS-IS”, and for a fair price.

He’s been featured in multiple publications including Yahoo Finance, GoBankingRates, LegalZoom, The Mortgage Report, Apartment Therapy, US News and World Report, and SuperMoney among others.

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