Home Selling in 94087>Question Details

Wing, Both Buyer and Seller in Sunnyvale, CA

Questions about room addition

Asked by Wing, Sunnyvale, CA Tue Sep 11, 2007

My house in Sunnyvale had only 2 bedrooms. I remodeled it into 3 without getting a permit by dividing one huge BR into 2 BRs. I have two questions:
1) When I sell the house, how much value can the addition without permit add?
2) How hard/easy to get a permit now?


Help the community by answering this question:


The house is on public record as two bedrooms. Your square footage decides value therefore no value added per square footage increase. It is not easy to get a permit now but attainable if you hire a dedicated professional.


R & G Builders Inc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 1, 2015
It is a liability if you do not have permits on an addition to your property. If there is a fire or some other hazard while renting your property, not only can you be sued by your tenants but your insurance company will not pay out on your claim. This did happen in Alameda. There was a fire on a large home and because rooms were being used as bedrooms and not permitted to be bedrooms, the insurance company only paid 30% of the claim. Permits are very important when doing repairs and additions. If the city gets wind of this you will be penalized and possibly made to tear down all of your addition.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 27, 2007
I know that there are some places in CA that require you to have permits to get credit for the extra sq ft. Check with your local realtor board as they can help....
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2007
You might have a discussion with your insurance carrier. As I understand it, if you made modifications to the home that weren't permitted and then something happens (ie. fire) your insurance carrier may not pay out. The problem is how to get the information from the insurance carrier without tipping them off that the home has had some non-permitted work done to it. Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2007
My 3 bedrooms are "real" bedrooms in very good sizes. :)

All in all, I guess I'll plan not to get the permit at this time. I don't want to pay the extra property tax when I'm renting it out while the tenants don't care.

Thanks everyone again.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 25, 2007
Jason, Just make sure you DON'T tell the tenants it's not a permitted 3 bedrooms! Tenants love to have an ace in the hole over a landlord! You tick them off and the first thing you know the City of Santa Clara will come knocking!!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 24, 2007
Oops your bad....just kidding. Jason you may have reduced the value of the home by changing it from a 2 bedroom (with normal sized bedrooms) to a three bedroom with 3 really small bedrooms. Is the flow of each room (and the house) good or does it look like someone chopped the room in half? Do each of these rooms have closets (or other areas for storage)? how much space is there in each room? For example, can you put a full bed, dresser and night stand in the room? If they are too small they may be functionally obsolete. Assuming that they are a good size and the work was done correctly (and safe), you can go back to the city of Sunnyvale and get permits pulled retroactively. The city of Sunnyvale is extremely easy to work with to get this done. Usually the potential problems that come up are with the title 24 requirements (mainly electrical stuuf). To tell you how easy it can be, I had a client who did a major remodel and didn't want his house reassessed (property taxes are increased by the market value of the addition). So he did not pull permits (this was over a 200k remodel). Everything was built to code but again he got no permits. When we sold the house, the buyer wanted permits on the house, so we had to go back and get them pulled. We applied for the permits, showed the city the blue prints and had the house re-inspected. My buyer did have to dig around the foundation (to show that it was poured correctly) and he had to change out several lights to flouresent. It took about 3 weeks and 5k in permit fees but we got it done (during escrow). The buyer was happy because he got what he thought he was getting, a remodeled home with permits. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 24, 2007
Hi Jason and Jason,

We do need permits for room addition in Marin and my assumption that it's true in Sunnyvale also.

No, tenants won't care about the permits, they will like 3 BRs more than 2BRs.

Good suggestion about safety issues for none-permitted job. My reasons would not be because I am worried about being sued, my reasons for doing it would be because it is a safety issue.

How would you feel if somebody getting hurt, being sued or not?

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 22, 2007
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Marin, CA
Thank you everyone. My intention is to rent it out after about 1-2 years. I guess the perspective tenants won't care about permit. They'll treat it as a 3-br house. But Jason Todd did make a good point about getting sued. I may have to worry about that before renting out. Right?

0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 21, 2007
I would definitely get the permit.

I have had clients with this very issue. In Sacramento County, their experiences have been pretty positive. Obtaining the permits was a simple over-the-counter process. In both instances, interior walls were rearranged (no additional square footage) in a similar fashion to what you described, so no formal plans were required. They both submitted hand sketched drawings on gridded paper. Both instances, they had inspectors out and some minor modifications were required (both electrical - arc-fault receptacles were required in bedrooms, some 3-way switching was incorrect, etc). Both passed inspection with little hoopla.

I would suggest you go speak with your local building departments. Research costs and procedures associated with obtaining your permits. Perhaps seek counsel from a general contractor who may be able to advise you in what ways you can bring your remodel up to code if it is not already.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 20, 2007
Erin Stumpf…, Real Estate Pro in Sacramento, CA
Hi guys -

I am by no means stating that the previous answers are incorrect, but I think it depends 100% on the location of the situation and the local codes, regulations, and requirements. maybe you guys that already answered are from the same area and have a knowledge of local codes, but around here it is not required to pull a permit for many things.
I might also be incorrect on this thought, but in the event a private appraiser comes through and appraises the homewith the new bedroom count, the value can be proven at a higher price and in the fire example below it could certainly be rebuilt (to its new appraised value) in the event the current homeowner adjusted the insurance coverage to the new appraised value.

My suggestion would be AGAINST attempting to pull a permit after the work is completed. If you sell, I would suggest havign your home pre-inspected (in particular electrical and plumbing that you might have changed) to make sure that any work that you did on your own is not a safety concern that could lead to you getting sued in the future.

I would also suggest full disclosure regarding the fact that no permit was pulled for the work. As long as you can get an appraiser to verify increased value, licensed contractors to state the work is done properly and is not a safety hazard, and you inform the new buyers of all of the preceeding information, you probably will be ok...

Just my opinion -

Jason Todd
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 20, 2007
I wish you had written us BEFORE you did the work.
Building permits are filed and recorded. That means there is no official record of your home having three bedrooms. So assessors give the change NO VALUE.

If there was a fire, and the home was rebuilt, it would be rebuilt as a two bedroom.

Getting a building permit retroactively is not easy. Particularly because the work is probably not to code, so you'd have to re-do everything.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 20, 2007
Keith Sorem, Real Estate Pro in Glendale, CA
Hi Jason:

Patti is right. A room without permit can not be noted as such on the listing. In you case, if the house is listed, the agent can only write how many permitted rooms you have (2), instead of 3 bedrooms..

Whe you have to sell your house, they can either ask you to take that dividing wall down (assuming that's the case), or you will have to go and get the permit to that portion of the house with penalty. That's why it's always good to get permit when you do major work to the house.

Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 19, 2007
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Marin, CA
Jason, If you don't have a permit and sell it that way you must disclose that to the buyer. The appraiser can't count it as an extra bedroom and add value to the home if that is the case. In some cases, municipalities are actually requiring that unpermitted areas be returned to the previous status before they can be listed for sale. A few of the cities in San Diego County have started to move in that direction- so beware! I don't know the policy where you are.

As far as retroactively permitting? Again, it is up to the particular jurisdiction. They may be as simple as charging you 2 x the original permit fee- or for more stringent areas, since they don't know what was done structurally, etc. they can make you open up walls, etc. to see how the work was completed- effectively possibly costing you to undo and re-do work already completed, and then you don't know if it will pass the inspection at that time.

You are always much better to do the permits at the time work is completed,rather than later on!
Patti Phillips
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 11, 2007
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