Home Buying in 94080>Question Details

Henry, Home Buyer in South San Francisco,...

Can having an addition to a house in 1975 with no permit be grandfathered in?

Asked by Henry, South San Francisco, CA Wed May 1, 2013

We are about to purchase a house with no contingency and recently found out that they had an addition back in 1975 with no permit. I was told that it might be grandfathered in with the purchased and we won't have to worry about it but i wanted to make sure before moving forward with this.

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The single most important thing to consider is to what extent they went on the foundation. The cities in the Bay area are all skiddish about stability what with that area being classified a Zone 4 seismic risk. I would definitely heed the advice Walter has offerred up.

The tax assessors office would also be a good place to check as they assess properties based on square footage. Additionally, should you ever want to sell and there was never a permit pulled you would only be able to declare the original square footage which is technically all this seller is entitiled to.

If he's listing it as a 3ksf home and it's original footprint was only 2500sf then technically that's all he can really claim in the listing. Another thing you may want to do is go to the City building jurisdiction and find out what the parameters would be for an "AS BUILT" permit. They may want to take a look at the foundation just to make sure it was done properly. This would require some destructive inspection whereby it would be necessary to dig a hole down to the bottom of the footing to verify footing depth. and to remove some drywall on the inside or some stucco or siding on the outside to verify proper tie down and anchor bolting patterns.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Well we are moving forward with the purchase as there is a permit. We are in the process of closing escrow. It sucks that it takes so long as we want to move in as soon as possible. Thanks for everyone's responses!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 6, 2013
And the answer to your other question:
NO! You probably cannot back out if you don't have a CONTINGENCY. That is the reason for having a contingency.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Sorry, i forgot to mention that we did not sign any paper work yet but they accepted our offer. That's what I met by if there is a way to still back out. Sorry for the lack of details, everything is moving so fast right now.
Flag Thu May 2, 2013
You need to obtain a copy of the permit in order to study the dynamics of what was actually done including sf. You can go to the building department and request a copy. I don't know why they would make you do that yourself. There's usually a charge for those types of services though.

A note of caution, however, don't be surprised if they don't have a copy on file. Even in their microfish. I deal with permits on old structures daily and you'd be surprised how many get tossed after a decade or so.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Thanks for this info John. If we check the records with our county and they do not have the permit but states the house is at 1600 sq ft. (this is with the addition) versus 1200 sq ft. (without the addition), does that mean the county does in fact recorded the renovation but do not have the permit on file? If this is the case, should I be worried?
Flag Thu May 2, 2013
Is there a place where we can look up county records? Can we find sq ft information on what's record in the county so we can double check if everything is recorded within the county?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Not in terms of buying the property, but in the long run, it doesn't hurt to have the physical copy. If you ever go to get a permit for anything else and they say there wasn't one for the previous work, you've got the copy to prove them wrong. That's the big benefit, and in some places, where record-keeping wasn't so good by the municipality, it's good to be able to prove them wrong...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Just an update! So the good news is that when they said they had no permit, they met that they don't have the physical copy but it's registered with the county as the space with the addition is recorded.

my next question is, is there an advantage of having the psychical permit? If so, i'll have to go thru a bunch of microfilm to find it from the county since this was from 1975.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Thanks for all the answers. First off, the house has been updated with permits so it's a semi newer home with a 6 year old roof. The addition was done by the owners father back in 1975 which was in construction.

With buying homes without contingency, it's been the norm in the bay area to be more competitive with 20 to 40 offers on a home. We went to the house and everything looked perfected. In the disclosures, there were no section 1 items which we thought was also good.

All in all, if we can purchase the house without a permit, would that be okay? Without a permit on that addition, are we able to purchase Home owners insurance? I know if there are no permits for some areas, we won't be covered but can we get insurance on the permitted areas?

Can we still back out if we have not signed the agreement or the contract?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Well, if it all gets too scary, it sounds as though you may have sufficient cause to cancel the contract and get your deposit back. Failure to disclose such a fact is a no-no, and "I didn't know" just wouldn't cut it, IMHO. Best of luck with your transaction...Jim
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
I cannot imagine anyone buying a 30+ year old house in San Francisco without a Contingency!
Isn't a little late to be asking this question?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
I would check with the city's building department. Once you purchase the property, the unpermitted addition becomes your problem. When you go to sell it, the buyer will have the same issues you are dealing with. You may also check with the county regarding property tax issues for nonpermitted work.
Good luck,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 2, 2013
Also the work from our view was done very nice. Within the disclosure, there was not a lot said about the addition. Any advice would be appreciated as we are in the process of signing the agreement before we start having our loan company send an appraiser.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 1, 2013
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