WHAT DO YOU MEAN My Kitchen/Bathroom/Basement/Deck Isn’t Legal??
OK< house is ready-nice listing photos, everyone is remembering to keep the house neat, there are good showings.
YAY! There is an acceptable offer!!
DOUBLE YAY!! Buyer financials are looking good, and since your agent priced it accordingly (I know, sorry, that’s a whole other post), inspection and appraisal should go right through, right?
As a seller you may be thinking hoo-rah, but agents know better. Ownership of your property needs to be easily and readily transferrable.
Properties that have had work done without the proper permit and inspection process can get derailed in the blink of an eye. When caught by an appraiser, inspector or title company, everyone in the sale is notified, and no one is happy.
It comes up most often when houses have had one owner for a long time, but ownership means responsibility, so newer sellers can be on the hook for past owners’ oversights/misdeeds as well. Things that may have been missed/misfiled in in the busy/crazy markets past now have..shall we say… very dedicated…people looking at them.
Key is understanding the process so you are prepared. Architect Steven Secon AIA, friend, colleague and principle of Steven Secon Architect in Dobbs Ferry NY explains it best:
“Many home and builing improvements require building permits. Before a project begins, an application is submitted to the municipality that the property is located in. When issued, the permit indicates the project has been reviewed and approved for conformance with the building code and zoning regulations; this is when the work can actually start.
“There are inspections throughout the process, and when the project is complete, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is issued, and municipality records are updated. Having accurate and completed COs on file is a valuable asset; it tells appraisers, attorneys, title agents and buyers that all work was done in accordance with local regulations.
It is against the law to make most non-cosmetic improvements without these approvals or permits, period. Bringing work without prior, necessary permits/approvals into conformance is called legalization-it’s completing the approval process after the work is done.
No matter what you may think of the permit process (and yes, I do know) the bottom line is if you want to sell your property it needs to be compliant, or else it will cost you-time, money, and yes, even the deal. Often there are penalties, and perhaps some additional work will be needed to make it legal… NOT what buyers or lenders want to hear, especially when there are a lot of other properties out there.
Steve sums it up: “Moral of the story-whether you are re-financing or just doing some updates to get your property ready for sale- do your homework. Check with the municipality, take the time to get project approvals in order- or make sure the property is legalized before you get it on the market.”