Updated: Jul 22
What happens if you buy a house with unpermitted additions?
When buying a home reviewing what recent work has been completed and pulling the permits to ensure they were done correctly is important to do while reviewing a home under contract. This generally occurs during the home inspection process and a good home inspection will including pulling recent permits.
When purchasing a property, you will also inherent any risks that come with any not permitted work. This can include if the city comes after you. Depending on the work that was completed, you may be required to hire an architect, make changes or open up the walls for inspections.
Homeowners policies may also not insure any unpermitted work. It can be reasonable for an insurance company to question any unpermitted electrical work that could cause a fire increasing the risk on the home. It would be worth verifying any of these tasks with your insurance company to ensure that you are on the same page
Mortgage Note Called
Many mortgage contracts have a clause that can allow them to call the mortgage note and demand immediate repayment of the entire cost of the loan if unpermitted work is completed. This could degrade the value of the property that they have a lien against and could risk their investment. This is an unlikely but possible scenario.
Many neighbors are very aware of everything that is happening in their neighborhood including any construction. Especially if you have a large dumpster outside for a few days it wouldn't be uncommon for a nosy neighbor to call the city for them to investigate farther.
Buyers How to handle unpermitted work
Accepting the offer
Although there are risks, accepting unpermitted work can sometimes get you a great deal. If you are able to purchase the property ignoring the value of the unpermitted edition you can score a good deal. From there you may contact the city and go through the process to get the permits that are needed. If there is some additional work it should be minimal since you already costed that into your purchase price.
Seller Fixes The Issue
While under contract you may ask the seller to solve the problem. This could include them going to the city and ensuring all permits and inspections are complete before the closing. Since many homes sold without permitting are sold "as is" or the seller didn't want to get permits in the first place, it is unlikely they will get the permits during the home sale process.
If you don't feel comfortable taking on the unpermitted work or if the seller won't cut you a break on the price it can be worth it to move on from the transaction and find a new home.
What happens if you do work without a permit?
Completing work without a permit can cause city fines and could backfire when you attempt to sell the property. Not only do you have to disclose unpermitted work when selling the house, but many buyers will also check for them during the due diligence process. This may have you sell the house "as-is" which will need a steep discount for many buyers to take on the additional risk and liability.
Can I sell my home with unpermitted work?
Homes sold with unpermitted work can be sold however the unpermitted work must be disclosed and will often be sold "as-is". This can cause a major reduction of the price it is sold.
Do I need a building permit if I do the work myself?
Yes, in many cities you need a permit to complete anything that includes alterations to the existing floor plan, structure changes, new or rerouted duct work, electrical or plumbing fixtures. Denver has a project remodel site that helps layout the steps to complete a home owners exam and any other questions you may have.
Do I need a permit to renovate my basement?
Yes, many cities including Denver require a permit to renovate your basement. By doing so you are altering the exsisting floor plan. However if you are doing it yourself you can still take out permits and complete the process without hiring a contractor. Denver will have you complete a home owners exam and even easily outlines the steps to complete for a basement remodeling.
Does finishing a basement increase property taxes?
When a basement is finished, it becomes additional living space and can increase it's assessed value. Because of an increased assessed value, property taxes will also likely increase. This increase however is generally much less than the discount you'll take when you sell your home with unpermitted work. Unpermitted finished basement also isn't worth the risk of possible safety hazards that an inspection would notice and stop.