Should I Buy That Glendale Home with an Unpermitted Addition?

“The Glendale home I want to buy has an unpermitted addition. What should I do?”

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.

Every buyer asks the same questions:

  1. will I have problems while I own it and
  2. will I have problems when I sell?

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?

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 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.

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.


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