Should I Buy A Home with an Unpermitted Addition?

Do you want to buy a home with an unpermitted addition?

Unpermitted additions and improvements are common in Glendale.  In fact, most of our homes are over 80 years old.  It is pretty hard to find a house without something that is unpermitted.  While I generally think you should “buy the home”, there are some very important questions you should ask.

But first, let me get this out of the way.  No, the owner is not going to get permits. They are perfectly fine with the home as it is. Most Glendale buyers (in today’s market) are also fine with an unpermitted addition as long as it is reasonably well done. This means the seller has no incentive to get permits – if you don’t buy the home, someone else will.

What Are The Risks Of Unpermitted Additions?

Every buyer asks the same questions:

  1. Will I have problems with the unpermitted addition while I own it and
  2. Will I the unpermitted addition cause problems when I sell the home?

In order to assess this you need to look at the following:

  1. How important is the space?
    1. How big? Any plumbing? Is the added space a key area like a bathroom or bedroom suite?
  2. How does it look?
    1. Does it look like it is quality workmanship or just slapped together?
  3. Is it too close to the lot lines?
    1. If the addition pushed the exterior of the home too close to the neighbor, there could be trouble down the line
  4. What does your home inspector think?
    1. Is the space done in a workmanship like manner?  Does it violate current building and safety codes?

What Are The Most Common Unpermitted Additions in Glendale?

The most common unpermitted addition is enclosing and incorporating an outdoor porch into living space. This might be a service porch incorporated into the kitchen, a patio improved into a family room or a summer porch turned into an office or craft room.

The second most common unpermitted space is converting a garage into living space – anything from a finished multi-purpose room to full blown in-law quarters. Converting the garage was traditionally almost impossible to do with a permit, but recent changes in California has dramatically changed that situation. Read: Everything You Need To Know About ADUs

How To Calculate The Risks Of An Unpermitted Addition

If everything looks good to you, then it is time to make a decision- do the benefits of the addition outweigh potential risks?

The risk, of course, is that the city could force you to make a change.  This is possible if the city is alerted to the unpermitted addition- either by neighbor complaint or because you bring a city inspector into your home.  Assessing this risk is highly individual and you should counsel with your real estate professional.

The additional risk is that Glendale could change it’s enforcement standard from passive to active. This would mean some sort of systematic identification and permit enforcement. While we do not see that change on the horizon in Glendale, the wise buyer prepares for the worst.

The benefit is that you are likely paying far less for the addition than a similar house with a permitted addition.  Does having a dedicated home office (as an example) have a lot of benefit for you?  If so, than the lower cost of the home might outweigh the (relatively low) risk of being forced to convert back to a garage.

Last – in the unlikely event (under today’s conditions) that you are forced to remove or modify the unpermitted addition, would you still want to own this home?

What Happens When You Sell A Home With An Unpermitted Addition?

When you sell the home, make sure you disclose the unpermitted space as soon as possible. As a professional, I have to say there are no guarantees and you always take a risk with unpermitted space. Only you can assess if the risk is worth the house.

 

About Kendyl Young

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