Your concerns are very valid, and - yes, some building departments will have all brought up to code (not necesserily torn down), in FL. There are serious fines and liens that go with it. Yet, most homes here have problems you described...The work could have been done by the previous, not current, owners also. But, the current owner is the one responsible for all work done and will pay fines/bring the building to code.
Questions by building department usually come up when the new owner goes to the building department to apply for a new job permit. The inspector comes out and finds "problems". Depending on the building department, and if they even have their paperwork (they often loose or misplace it), some "problems" are grandfathered in.
It's also possible that work was done "to code", so you might just pay some minor "fine" to formalize the remodel done on the property. Or, the building inspector might require an engineer or an architect prepare the plan etc...which you'll find reasonable.
What you can do is have a building department "courtesy" inspection done, along with your inspection, to see if all is done to code. If not, it's up to your risk tolerance and seller motivation to sell...Yes, some sellers will prefer the buyer not asking questions, but some are very motivated to sell.
My buyer recentlly purchased a condo with a huge discount because of the work there not having any permits. We also found out, during the courtesy inspection, that there was no file on the condo in the building department...
Hope this helps,
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
I don't think "less informed buyer" is the correct term for what you are proposing. The remedy for no permits is not "lower price", and looks more like an excuse to renegotiate the original agreed upon price.
If you asked how you might be able to get permits, after the fact, and have the owner-seller cover that cost, then your question would make more sense. Merely trying to use the issue as a bargaining chip? Not usually appropriate.
As example, you say "new deck" but if there was a previously permitted deck of the same configuration, the repair or replacement of wood in whole or in part, may not require a permit. Even if you don't see a permit for the original deck that was 95% improved (using same footings) that old deck may have been approved as part of the original build out.
You can easily raise the issue of "where are the permits?" so the seller might explain why those improvements did not need a permit. But to raise it as a money issue looks disingenuous as to the concern of "no permits" vs using it merely as an excuse to re-open price negotiations.
If you were truly concerned about lack of permits, you would be figuring out how to get permits...not how to get money. Perhaps you didn't know that there is a process for getting permits for work after the fact. There usually is, and asking for permits prior to closing would be more appropriate than using the issue "as a bargaining chip", unless the Home Inspector has indicated that the work was substandard vs merely "un-permitted".
Although you may not be able to find a permit on line it may still exist. The on line records only go back a few years and so to really find out if a permit was obtained, first ask the seller. Then if they do not know (often the case) go to the building department directly and ask for old permit records. Often these are on microfich.
Failing those steps you should prepare a list of real concerns and determine if it is a house you would want to own is one you would want to repair/replace/update to your requirements. Then it is a matter of negotiation. Hope you have a good agent that doesn't lead you down a rabit hole of failed negotiations.
If permits are a major hot point for you you may be better off buying a new house with all permits and inspections, however even that doesn't guarantee that everything was done correct. I once sold a new construction house that went through county and a detailed private inspection and a year later the foundation became an issue that needed addressing.
Always remember; no property is perfect, so you have a choice of older homes that are tried and true or new home with a short warranty. Best of luck.
The first place to start would be to make sure you receive a copy of the "Sellers' Disclosure Statement", which have questions of the seller. You do not have to have an offer written to request this form, if it isn't voluntarily furnished. The law requires the seller to fill it out accurately, and if it
has "gaps", be sure to ask your agent to have the seller correct or complete it.
You may be able to decide if you want to proceed with the property or not, without even wasting any time or money on it.
These other agents also have good advice,
Jean Bradford, SFR, CRS, CRB,ABR, GRI
Managing Broker Associate
John L. Scott RE
I have been buying and selling homes for over 20 years, and many of these homes have never even seen a permit. This would include just about every old home, and the rare permitted home would be an exception. This has never been an issue of any significance in my career. Not once. Never.
Earlier this year I put one of my homes on the market, and this was a 1920's home with many upgrades and a few items that to many of today's buyers (and an entire bureacratic industry at city hall) would call for a permit. This home was priced competitively and there was a fair bit of interest. One homebuying wag was extremely interested, until he went to city hall and found a lack of permits. This lead to a sense of vulnerability the buyer (and his rookie agent) felt was a bargaining chip. Or so he thought.
I sold this home to a different and very happy young couple who didn't care one iota that some changes made in the 1970's escaped the permit process. Needless to say, the much chagrinned first buyer felt cheated...after all he had paid for an inspection and although this home was very well built and maintained he and his agent thought they could push the proverbial envelope a bit due to this lack of permits. This was a bad move on their part.
Of course I will relay this story in a professional sense to any buyers I represent, and of course I will tell them that in today's world of lawyers and city hall and county paper pushers that if they are concerned then they might want to consider a home that has every permit the home might ever need.
If the renovation performed results in a dangerous condition, I could see it. To force removal simply because a permit was not issued, is something I have never heard of.
Has anyone heard of this ever happening?
I have never considered this to be a risk.
Homes that have been remodelled without all the necessary permits would probably be the majority of old homes in Seattle.
A good building inspector would be able to identify dangerous conditions.
I suggest that you or your agent approach the seller's agent regarding the non-permitted work stating that you checked the local building department for a permit and certificate of occupancy and none exists. The seller may be willing to go through the process of having the work properly permitted as this issue would probably come up with other potential buyers.
If the seller is unwilling to do this then you can always request a credit from the seller so that you can pay for the proper permits and any possible penalties involved.
I also suggest that you check with the actual building department and not rely on the internet as the site may not be entirely updated.
Good luck to you!
Prudential Connecticut Realty