In the past few weeks I have had issues come up both with a listing and a potential buy side transaction regarding valid permits for construction work. While not a new problem, I am always surprised at how few of my fellow Realtors pay little or no attention to this important step in the due-diligence process.

    Plymouth MA & Cape Cod Homes for sale

I always tell my clients that you make money when you buy a property. To support this a good inspection process is important. Let me use my transactions as examples.

    1) A listing we took on has been owned by the seller for the past 4 years. As we made our way around the property getting it ready for sale, we noticed new construction and remodeling that was not on the as-built plans of the original house. This included a finished basement with a bath and a room above the garage. A review of the file at the local building department had no permits issued for any of this work. No plumbing, electrical or general construction.

    In pointing this out to the seller I informed him that he may get asked for these permits during the selling process and he should get them now post-sale to make sure this work was all to code. It would eliminate any issues to selling the home. Something the prior seller did not do and he, then as a buyer, was not informed about.

    Of course when the seller called in various workers he discovered the bath was not to code, not vented properly and the concrete floor had to be jack hammered to repair it. Also the electrical work both in the basement and above the garage contained no junction boxes but was cobbled together using only wire nuts! A fire danger at a minimum.

    We also had to verify and work around a three bedroom septic system with a home that had four bedrooms on the prior listing when our seller bought the house. The Board of Health was helpful and we resolved this one.

    A month later and with several thousand dollars, the seller now has a fully permitted home that will pass any inspection.

    2) Working with a buyer we are in the inspection phase and we noticed the same thing. A review of the file at the building department of the town revealed no permits for a large addition. Added to this was questionable wiring found during inspection and numerous loose and inoperable wall switches. Also called into question now is the plumbing in the addition. Who did this work?

    Our buyer is looking to do some additional work after purchase and does not want to have to pay for work that should have been done prior to his ownership. Many towns will use a new permit pulled by a new owner to require the owner to bring the property up to code. A potential surprise and added expense an owner does not want.

    At this stage we will ask the seller to bring in an electrician and plumber to inspect for code and look to anything that may be dangerous. We hope the seller will understand and work with us but it could kill a sale if not. Our buyer does not want to pay for faulty wiring or plumbing.

As ethical Realtors we owe it to our clients and ourselves to protect sellers and buyers. Yes we could ignore the lack of permits and adopt a “caveat emptor” attitude. This only becomes an issue when a property sells and sometmes no one is made aware. Personally I would err on the side of protecting my reputation and professionalism. We are better than this and should include a review of permits in our inspections and sale of properties.

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