Last updated on July 27th, 2023 at 05:36 pm

Quick Facts

  • According to the National Association of Realtors, approximately 10% of all homes have unpermitted work.
  • According to the National Association of Realtors, the average cost to obtain permits for unpermitted work is $2,000.
  • In San Francisco, the average cost to obtain permits for unpermitted work is $5,000.

Have you recently discovered that your home has unpermitted work? It can be a stressful situation, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Let’s discuss what unpermitted work is and provide examples of common projects.

We will also guide you on how to determine if your home it and explore the best options for selling a house.

We will share some valuable tips for selling a house with unpermitted work, including how to market your home effectively and disclose this to potential buyers.

What is unpermitted work

Unpermitted work refers to construction or renovations carried out without obtaining the required permits from local authorities.

In California, an estimated 20% of all homes have unpermitted work.

Usually the owner didn’t want to pay money to do it the correct way or they just didn’t know.

This includes alterations, electrical or plumbing work, and modifications needing approval.

 It is illegal and may lead to fines, penalties, or even demolition.

 Always check with your local building department and obtain permits before starting any construction project.

In some cases, the unpermitted work may need to be brought up to code before the sale can be completed.

Examples of work that needs permits

Work without getting permits refers to construction or renovation activities carried out without obtaining the necessary permits or approvals from local government or relevant authorities.

Examples of unpermitted work include building additions, remodeling projects, electrical or plumbing work, and structural changes done without proper permits.

It is not uncommon or a homeowner to do some kind of addition in their garage. These types of improvements probably require some sort of permit process.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the homeowner may also be required to pay fines or other fees related to the unpermitted work.

Check with the local building department and obtain the required permits before starting any construction or renovation project to ensure compliance with regulations.

Failure to do so can lead to complications during the selling process, potential issues with home insurers, and difficulties with mortgage lenders.

A homeowners should know this will certainly lower the value of the house. 

Does window work require permits

Window work generally does not require a permit if it involves replacing windows with ones of the same size and style.

However, there are certain instances where permits may be necessary.

For example, if you’re enlarging or modifying the window openings, adding or removing windows, or installing windows in new construction, you will likely need to obtain permits.

How to find out if your home is missing permits 

When you’re looking to sell a house with unpermitted work, find out the extent of the work before proceeding.

  • This can be done by reviewing your property’s historical records and permits with the local building department, which will give you insights into any past work that may have been done without proper approvals.

  • Another option is to reach out to neighbors or previous owners to see if they have any knowledge of what was done on the property.
  • Hiring a professional home inspector or contractor can also help identify any signs or issues that needs to be addressed.They can thoroughly examine your property and identify any construction or renovation projects

By taking these steps, you can ensure that you have a clear understanding what was going on with the property before you purchases it and make informed decisions during the selling process.

Best options for selling homes like this

Fully grasp the potential consequences surrounding the sale of a property with unpermitted work.

Homeowners should carefully determine if they are legally obligated to tell anything to potential buyers. 

 Remember disclosure is always the best option. 

In some cases, it may be wise to explore the possibility of legalizing the  work before proceeding with the sale.

Alternatively, homeowners can opt to sell the property “as-is” to a cash buyer who may be more inclined to overlook any defects.

There are plenty of house buyers in places like Austin that will get a house like this under contract.  More on this next. 

Sell as-is to a cash buyer

There are a few options to consider. One option is to sell the property as-is to a cash buyer who may be more willing to take on the risks associated with unpermitted work.

By selling to a cash buyer, you can potentially have a quicker and hassle-free sale without the need for extensive inspections or repairs.

Remember, disclose all known issues to potential buyers to avoid any legal troubles in the future. You don’t want any issues creeping up before closing.

Cash buyers in Fort Worth TX can close quickly, but expect a hard negotiation process. 

The buyer of the house may also need to sign a waiver acknowledging that the work was done without a permit.

List your home as-is with a realtor

Listing your home as-is with a realtor is a viable option for homeowners dealing with issues.

By partnering with a qualified real estate agent, you can effectively market your property and attract potential buyers who are willing to overlook these issues.

It may be necessary to adjust your asking price to reflect the potential costs associated with addressing the unpermitted work and bringing the property up to code. 

Buyers will have an inspection done and may request you pay for a survey. 

In addition, an appraisal will be required if the buyer needs a loan.

The inspection may cover any termite issues too.

By leveraging the expertise of a realtor, you can successfully navigate the legal and regulatory complexities that may arise throughout the selling process.

Get the proper permits and then list your home

If you’re selling a house with unpermitted work, one option is to obtain the necessary permits for the work and then list your home.

By getting the proper permits, you can ensure it is brought up to code and meets the requirements set by your local government.

It’s important to notify any buyers and provide any documentation or receipts for the work, even if it was not permitted.

Buyers may still be interested in purchasing a house. Be transparent about the challenges and costs involved.

Tips for selling a house with unpermitted work

Depending on the type of work that was done, the local government may require certain steps to be taken before the sale of the house can be completed.

Selling a house with unpermitted work can be a complex process, but there are tips that can help you navigate through it successfully.

It is important to understand the potential consequences associated with selling a house with these types of issues, including legal issues and complications during the selling process.

Depending on the nature of the work, you may want to explore options for legalizing it, such as obtaining retroactive permits or making necessary repairs.

Market your home to investors

To attract potential investors, market your home as a valuable opportunity for renovation or enhancement. Showcase the benefits of the unpermitted work, like increased living space or modernized features.

Consider obtaining retroactive permits to ensure peace of mind for buyers and showcase your commitment to compliance. 

Offering a discounted price or allowing negotiations accounts for any potential issues or costs related to the unpermitted work. 

Disclose anything you are aware of

Disclosing any unpermitted work when selling a house. Potential buyers need to know about any renovations or additions that were done without the necessary permits. 

This transparency builds trust and prevents legal trouble down the line.

Make sure to document the unpermitted work with photos or receipts and be prepared for inspections or further inquiries.

Seeking advice from real estate professionals, such as agents and attorneys, can help you navigate the process and comply with local regulations. 

Contact a local realtor for expert advice

Guidance from a local realtor with experience in real estate practices concerning unpermitted work will help.

When un-permitted work exists, it can create concerns for potential buyers and lenders. 

However, a seasoned real estate agent can offer valuable advice on how to tackle such challenges.

If you have a house you want to sell fast in San Antonio, our agents can help you.

They can also provide insight into strategies problems and challenges and connect you with buyers who may be interested in purchasing properties with such issues.

Can you sell a house with unpermitted work

Yes you can; selling a home with unpermitted work can be difficult.

Inform potential buyers.

 Buyers may request inspections and permits for the unpermitted work before they put money in escrow.

How do I legalize this type of work

To legalize unpermitted work, consult with a professional to assess the project and determine the necessary steps.

Prepare all required documentation and contact the local building department for information on the process and requirements.

Applying for permits retroactively is typically involved in legalizing unpermitted work.

Do I have to disclose  to a home buyer

It is advisable to disclose any unpermitted work to a home buyer.

Failure to do so can result in legal and financial repercussions.

Being transparent upfront helps build trust with the buyer.

When in doubt, disclose. 

Would the buyer be responsible for bringing the house up to code

The responsibility for bringing the property up to code typically falls on the seller rather than the buyer.

This is because unpermitted work is considered a pre-existing condition of the home.

However, it’s important to note that each real estate transaction can be different, and there may be negotiations between the buyer and seller regarding who will address any necessary code violations.

What are the home improvement laws in Texas

It’s important to be aware of the regulations and requirements that govern construction and renovation projects.

In Texas, there are specific provisions outlined in the Residential Construction Liability Act (RCLA) that provide consumer protection for homeowners. 

The RCLA requires contractors to provide written warranties for their work and outlines guidelines for resolving construction defects.

Texas also has a statewide building code known as the International Residential Code (IRC), which sets standards for construction, plumbing, electrical systems, and other aspects of residential buildings.

However, it’s important to note that enforcement of building codes can vary depending on the jurisdiction, as local municipalities may have additional requirements or amendments to the statewide code.

 Texas also has specific laws regarding contractor licensing and registration.

Contractors are required to be licensed or registered with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) if they are working on projects that exceed a certain monetary threshold.

Homeowners should ensure that any contractor they hire is properly licensed or registered before beginning any home improvement project.

Can you retroactively buy permits in texas 

In Texas, homeowners do have the option to retroactively obtain permits for unpermitted work. This process is known as “permitting after the fact” or “retroactive permitting.”

However, it’s important to note that not all jurisdictions in Texas offer this option, and there may be specific limitations and requirements that vary from city to city.

Before considering retroactive permitting, homeowners should contact their local building department or permitting authority to understand the specific procedures and criteria involved.

In some cases, homeowners may need to provide detailed documentation of the unpermitted work, such as architectural plans, inspections,

Are there any liens or other legal issues

To determine if there are any liens or legal issues associated with the unpermitted work, it is recommended to conduct a thorough title search.

A title search will reveal any existing liens or encumbrances on the property.

Are there any other risks associated with selling a house like this

Yes, there are additional risks associated with selling a house with unpermitted work. These risks include:

  1.  Legal Consequences: Selling a house with unpermitted work can expose both the seller and the buyer to potential legal issues. Local authorities have the power to impose fines, penalties, or even require the demolition of unauthorized structures.
  2. Buyer Concerns: Buyers may be hesitant to purchase a property with unpermitted work due to the uncertainties surrounding its safety, structural integrity, and compliance with building codes. This can result in a smaller pool of potential buyers or lower offers.
  3. Insurance Concerns: Insurance companies may be reluctant to provide coverage for properties with unpermitted work. This can leave both the seller and the buyer without adequate protection in case of accidents or damages.

What Should You Do If You Have Unpermitted Work

If you come across unpermitted work done by a previous owner or yourself, take immediate action. Research local building codes and permit requirements.

Contact your local building department to discuss the situation and find out what steps are necessary to fix the issue.

Depending on the severity, you may need retroactive permits or even have to redo the work to meet code requirements.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, dealing with unpermitted work can be a challenging situation for homeowners.

Understand the risks involved and explore your options when selling a house with unpermitted work.

You can choose to sell your home as-is to a cash buyer or list it with a realtor. 

If you’re considering legalizing the work, follow the proper permit requirements in your area.