This is a question more people should be asking as a principal of an Architectural and Construction firm we are faced with this question daily. So, you are not alone. Essentially, a code violation is an action placed against the property for work performed without permits. Most of the time what this means for you is that you just need to know what and how severe the violation is. A licensed General Contractor can evaluate the costs of these violations and can be used as a bargaining tool to purchase the property at a lower cost. As a matter of discussion, I have assisted many of my clients and the reduction helped pay for a heed percentage of their home renovation after purchasing the property. Sometimes it is a win win. But be sure that if any structural damage and electrical violations be thoroughly analyzed.
Most code enforcement officers will be accommodating in resolving these violations but keep in mind that their job in in the business of identifying these practices and at time other things will uncover itself. So, you are best once the report has been written, have your Architect, Engineer or General Contractor do the talking. Code enforcement officers will tend to work a little different with these professionals as any unfair treatment will be delt with at a higher level.
Finally, a very high percentage of code violations are the direct result of an unlicensed contractor and millions of dollars are lost in the Dade & Broward County areas so you should be protected. And, when tackling on a project like this make sure that your contractor is licensed and insured. Also, the license holders name and license number should be imprinted on every page of the contract as well as a copy of the contractors license.
Good luck with your home purchase and if you have any question please free to call me at 305-776-8921. Scavuzzo & Associates, Architecture, Engineering and Construction