Don’t Overlook Building Permits and Certificates of Occupancy on Home Purchase

Buying a resale or new construction home today requires homebuyers to be aware if remodeling or new construction was completed. It most likely was if you are buying a updated resale home. New kitchen, bathrooms and circuit breaker electric systems all require a building permit from the local building department. Educate yourself before house hunting about the factors involved in federal, state, county and local building codes that govern residential buildings.

Building code is the law or ordinance that requires electric plugs every eight feet or that electric plugs within ten feet of a sink or other water source be ground fault interrupt (GFI). What homebuyers should understand that if you are purchasing a resale home, what may or may not be required by local laws relating to building codes today. Building codes are in a constant state of being upgraded, so it can be difficult for home sellers to be knowledgeable about every change to code. Mark Nash author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home provides insight to homebuyers on building permits and certificates of occupancy.

-When you need a building permit. Footing or foundation work, structural work, adding new plumbing, electrical or changing the use of a space. Converting a garage to a family room or bedroom.

-Building permits are not required for routine maintenance, repairs or decorating. If you are painting the interior or exterior of a home, repairing your furnace or repairing a leaky roof no permit is required.

-Getting a building permit. Typically your village hall has a building and zoning department where you go to apply for a building permit. Permits have fees associated with them. Have drawings and blueprints with you and it is a good idea to bring a property survey just in case when you apply for a permit. You or your contractor will have to pull the permit required before you start work. Most municipalities require that the permits be posted in a visible location on the work site.

-The building inspector will monitor construction. Manual J At each stage when foundation, framing, electrical, mechanical, plumbing work is completed your local building inspector will visit the site and sign off on completed work before the next phase is started. These visits can impact the timeline of a project. Inspectors will look at electrical work before allowing drywall to be hung.

-The certificate of occupancy. All new construction and any renovation that requires a building permit must have a certificate of occupancy issued before it is habitable. Your mortgage lender will require one from the developer if you are purchasing new construction prior to closing on your loan.

-Penalties and costs are steep if you are working without a building permit. Some homeowners try to save money and property taxes by avoiding the permit process. If your project is discovered not to have the required permits the building department might require you to open newly drywalled interior walls or re-excavate foundations. On top of these remedies they will also cite you for violations of code and issue you substantial fines.

-When buying a home ask for proof of permits. Whether your buying a new construction home or a resale always ask the seller if building permits and certificates of occupancy were issued, and get copies of them before closing.

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