You just got a dream listing. The house is gorgeous and you go about doing what you do to get it ready to market. Minor repairs, painting, staging. And yes, it’s in the city limits so you order the resale inspection. Dang, there is no record of a permit for that obvious bathroom remodel. Or the hot tub out back. Or those retaining walls holding back the hillside. Or that fabulous new kitchen. And by the way, the hot water heater isn’t elevated and there are no smoke detectors. Your seller really wants to move on, so what to do?
When you put a house on the market, a resale inspection will be performed by your local building department. The realtor or the homeowner can initiate this process. An inspector will come out and look at the house and compare the state of the house with the permits that have been pulled on the house. The report will be broken up into several sections. It will contain:
- a list of issued permits
- information about the type of property and accessory structures
- a checklist of items that are in violation and may or may not require correction
- a list of items that require correction and re-inspection
- a list of items that require submission of plans for a complete permit review
This last item is what causes fear and hand wringing. One through four you can take care of on your own. Number five might be a whole other can of fish.
they just needed a new refrigerator
Often your client doesn’t know when a permit is required. Or they were just going to replace the fridge and it turned into all new appliances, light fixtures, flooring, and a sink in the island. Or maybe they just decided to replace those old aluminum windows with something that didn’t scream 1952. And that hot tub in the back yard….no one said a permit was required! Yup….a permit was required. But what’s done is done. And now you’ve got buyers chomping at the bit and you need to draw the un-permitted work and get it approved. You need a retro permit. You’ve got this. First, take a breath.
Call your local building department. Ask them to direct you to their submission requirements….they probably have a web page. If you have the ability to draw to scale and follow the rest of their instructions, then get out your straight edge and start drawing. Do some research into codes that are applicable to your client’s situation (building, fire, electrical and plumbing) and include this information on your drawings. Hopefully the work was done to code…. Once you have all of the information on the drawings, create as many sets as the building department requires (usually 3 or 4) and check their website to find out when they have ‘counter hours’. Every building department has certain hours, ‘counter hours’, during which they will approve plans on the spot. Reserve a few hours to go down and talk with your building official. With luck your plans will be approved and a permit will be issued. Often, however, there will be questions. Especially if you are new at this. If there are questions you will need to go back to the drawing board.
This is where calm and finesse come in. And a great deal of patience. You will need to follow one of two paths:
- but wait there’s more: Perhaps your building official just needed more information (you forgot to show the electrical outlets?) You will need to gather information and revise your drawings. If you received written comments from the building department then in addition to your revised drawings create a narrative to respond to each item. Again you’ll need to create as many sets as the building department requires. When you’re ready, try to set a meeting with your building official to review your revised drawings. Go through each question or comment, respond to it on your drawing as well as in a narrative, and very nicely respond to whatever questions remain. Hopefully this will be the end of this part of the process and your permit will be issued. At this point you will make a final payment for your permit.
- it may require a hammer: Is there something at the house that is not built to code and was flagged by the building official? That will need to be fixed. If work needs to be done, revise your plans and show the work completed. Add any other information that the building department requested and create a narrative if you received written comments. Create as many sets as the building department requires. Now take your drawings back to the building department and with all the sugar you can muster have another go. Once the building department is satisfied, you will make a final payment and the permit will be issued. Now hire the necessary professionals to complete the work you showed on your plans.
Once you’ve completed either path one or path two, schedule a final inspection. If the planets are aligned, the inspector will sign your permit and this will be the end of the process. Now pop that champagne!
if this all sounds like just too much…
Contact me. I’ve pulled permits….lots of permits. While this part of my job may not be very creative on the one hand, it does require a certain finesse and definitely a great deal of calm. And the ability to create drawings that satisfy the building department. I get them and I’ve got this. You are busy….you have hands to hold and marketing to do.I have skills to get you a retro permit. Let me help. Click To Tweet
Keep in touch,