It seems like a no-brainer. You’re a handy person, and you’re simply building a little screened porch onto your family room area. None of your neighbors can see it, and it’s not going to have anything more inside except for a few electrical outlets and a ceiling fan. Plus, maybe some vinyl planking, walls, and windows. Even the roof is just corrugated metal. You’re following the instructions on a YouTube DIY video, and it’s going great so far.
But what happens if you get caught without a building permit? Can you get in trouble for this very straight-forward and unobtrusive project? Why do building permits exist in the first place? Changes to your home go on the record because it’s important that homeowners do things correctly, following the current safety codes for electrical, plumbing, and structure. Doing it wrong could mean exposed wires, short-circuiting, and extensive repairs that could translate into thousands of dollars in damage. Worse yet, potential damage to your neighbors’ property as well.
Failing to follow the rules and get signed off on some projects may mean having to rip it all out and start again when selling your home after an inspection is done, costing hundreds to thousands of dollars. Even if you have an inspector enter your home to sign off on a permitted project, they may notice something else amiss with another part of your house. You may or may not have been the person who did the work, but that doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is the structure. If they research and discover non-permitted work was done, there may be consequences. Trying to sell a home with non-permitted rooms or work may also find you have to reduce the price of your home significantly. Realtors may not include non-permitted bedrooms and baths (or the correlating square footage) in their listings and must disclose the anomalies in the listing description in most states. In some areas, even removing the closet in a given room to make it into an office means you’ve automatically lost a bedroom in the count.
The general rule of thumb is that structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical work will require a permit, but here is a breakdown:
Installing fencing or repairing it is something you would not think requires a permit. But there are height restrictions in many locales. Especially if you have neighborhood rules about aesthetics. Installing a fence that does not match those around it, you might be forced to take it down and start again. Check with a local fencing contractor, even if you are doing the work yourself.
If you are installing windows that are larger than the current opening, a permit is required. Even a retrofit for newer windows may require one. You won’t know unless you call your local building permit office. Same for skylights and new doors. There are several reasons for this, including energy calculations for how much glass exposure your house is permitted without having to upgrade your HVAC system.
As for plumbing and electrical work, you’ll need permits when installing or replacing wiring for an outlet, a ceiling fan or overhead lighting — especially recessed or can lights. Smaller projects like repairs and light fixture switch-outs probably won’t require it. As for plumbing, codes often change, which means you usually can’t just replace pipes and fittings with the same kinds that have been in your house for decades. A plumber can tell you what is being used now.
Structural changes are without a doubt the most noticeable renovations you can make to your home — things like changes to any load-bearing walls, adding or repairing balconies, decks, porches, roofs or foundation flooring. Additions, new construction, remodels, repairs, replacements, and upgrades totaling $5,000 or more will require a permit, including detached structures like garages, sheds, and platforms. Exceptions to this rule include construction less than 200 square feet.
As for heating and cooling, the person you hire to replace your water cooler will get a permit for you, as will the contractor making changes to your heating and air conditioning. Changes to the ventilation system, gas and wood fireplaces and ducts will also require a permit. This does not include filter changes, motor lubrication or equipment cleaning.
So, what can you do WITHOUT a permit? Plenty. Replacing flooring, doing minor electrical repairs, installing new countertops, replacing bathroom fixtures (faucets, showerheads, painting and wallpapering, as well as landscaping work, are all exempt from permit requirements.
The best rule of thumb is to with check with or hire a professional, who will have the experience to determine if your project requires an inspector to check for any red flags afterward. Professionals are always under strict scrutiny by the areas in which they do their work and will usually be the ones to procure the permits. They understand the bureaucracy, know the personnel at city hall, can do the paperwork in their sleep, and will no doubt take less time to get the job done.
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Ah, yes! It’s an exciting time. You’ve finally closed on that new house and now you get to move in. However, packing and unpacking aren’t the only things you need to think about during this transition period.
Watch our short video here highlighting ten things you can do during the move in process that will save you some potential trouble later on.
You’ve decided to buy your first house and you’re probably very excited about it. Without the right guidance, buying a house can be a long and stressful process that requires a lot of money and decisions. Here are some tips you’ll want to look over as you dive into the home buying process.
Know What you can Afford: Make sure you look at ALL of the expenses when you’re budgeting for a house. Calculate what your monthly payment will be with all the additional costs that come with a new home such as property taxes, interest, insurance premiums, homeowner’s insurance, and so on. Also consider cost of commuting, utilities, and upgrades. Factor these into your currently monthly budget to see how your mortgage payment will fit into it.
Get Pre-Approved: What this means is that a mortgage lender has checked your credit and verified your income and assets. This will help you to further determine what you can afford and how much you’re eligible to work with. This will also give you an edge with sellers who are looking for a quick and smooth deal.
Learn About the Neighborhood: Remember, you’re not just moving into a house, but into a community, so it’s important that you know what kind of place you’re moving to. Visit at different times of day to get a sense of the noise and traffic level. Determine the distance from various stores and the type of neighbors you’ll have. If the amenities and the demographic don’t fit your lifestyle then you might not be comfortable here no matter how perfect the house might be.
Work with a Local Agent: Once you find a neighborhood that works for you, look for an agent who has worked there for a while and has knowledge of all the different aspects of the community. Be sure to ask them any questions you have about the area that may be important to the contract process.
Identify your Potential Down Payment: Depending on your comfort level, there are many programs available with varying down payment. We have home financing program that offer zero and low-down payment options as well as the standard 20% down payment options. Your Loan Originator can help you review your situation and find the best solution to fit your needs.
Have the House Inspected: No matter how perfect a home may appear to be, it’s a safe idea to have a trained professional inspect the overall condition of the property. This could help you avoid a lot of unexpected future repairs that might have cost you a fortune. If the inspection unveils serious issues that the seller did not disclose, you should be able to withdraw your offer and get your deposit back, or you can negotiate to have the seller pay for the repairs.
Keep Saving: Just because you bought your home doesn’t mean you should stop putting money aside. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund ready for any sudden home repairs or other emergencies that might occur.
Those gleaming stone countertops and the state-of-the-art appliances. The wide-plank hardwood floors. Hmmm. What a gorgeous fireplace. You’d think those would be the things today’s homebuyers’ value most. But you’d be wrong. It’s green grass.
According to a recent survey from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), 79% of Americans say that the lawn is one of the most important features of a house when purchasing a place to live. The bigger surprise is that millennials value a gorgeous lawn even more than their parents.
So, what is it about an expanse of green that is such a turn-on? House Beautiful magazine says that perhaps buyers value appearances even more these days than they did before, and curb appeal matters more than we ever would have thought. In these days of outdoor kitchens and living rooms, however, it makes sense. Having a space to hang outdoors might be one of the reasons this feature is so important to prospective homeowners. The survey also said that 77% of people enjoy relaxing in their yards at least once a month and that more people visited public parks and playgrounds than movie theaters, pools, bowling alleys, museums, and even beaches. While the source for these stats might be a bit biased, if this survey is accurate at all, it has to make you think. A generation obsessed with all things tech is nostalgic for running through the grass? And they are willing to spend their Saturdays mowing it?
A recent realtor.com article by Lisa Johnson Mandel tells of a millennial California couple as classic examples of lawn-lovers. In their late 20s and with one toddler, they bought a fixer-upper with a good-sized yard rather than a brand-new home in a tight-knit housing development, saying that you can always remodel a kitchen, but you can’t change the size of your yard. She also cited the couple’s desire to plant a garden, have room for pets and add a few solar panels — all part of her generation’s penchant for self-sufficiency. Surprisingly enough, the couple is also not in favor of raising children whose idea of recreation is computer gaming.
The survey also found that 47% of Americans said they entertain in their yards at least once a month, while 57% said they use their yards for recreation at least monthly. When you think fire pits and water features, it all makes sense that Americans are increasingly celebrating the moments of their lives outdoors in their own yards.
Of course, the same research showed that plant and grass-gazing even through a window can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. But it goes one farther, says that neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and larger yard trees have reduced crime rates.
So, if you are a Realtor offering advice to sellers at this point, you may want to bump up the emphasis on green. Instead of spending so much money inside the house, have your clients hire some lawn and garden pros to spiff up the outside. It is, after all, the first thing potential buyers will notice.
Source: House Beautiful, Realtor, Multivu, TBWS