I love the ‘do it your self’ mentality, however, when it comes to tricking out a space without a permit….STOP! Get online and/or call your local permit office and ask questions and yes, pull a permit…..seriously. You could easily be saving yourself thousands of dollars in having to retro-permit or if you sell and don’t disclose, a lawsuit.

What could possibly go wrong? A lot!

As a Realtor, I can, most of the time, figure out if the space is permitted or not and like most top agents, I will search to see if the permit was pulled. Yes, we go back to the beginning of time on that house to see if anything has changed and if it has, we look for permits….kind of like detectives. I also encourage my clients buyers to do as much research in advance of an offer including talking to the permit office as well.

Bet you didn’t know this, your agent is required to do a “reasonable investigation” of the property and that can mean trying to find “material facts” like any visible damage to the structure (broken window seals for example) or mechanical aspects of the home. Please know, agents are not mechanical engineers, we are not home inspectors, plumbers or electricians. We do our best to discover what we can but hire professionals like home inspectors, etc. Most of us can spot settlement cracks and other damages that could indicate other structural problems.

On the North Carolina Residential Property Disclosure Form that sellers fill out, they are asked to disclose. They are not obligated to fill out that form though. They are asked if there are any violations of building codes, zoning ordinances, restrictive covenants, or other land use restrictions. They can respond to with a Yes, No or No Representation. So here is the tricky part, the seller can say No Representation, however that does not relieve the agent/ Realtor from their obligation…..its a material face and if that agent knows there is an issue, they are, by law, required to disclose.

So If the Realtor knows the third floor was done without a permit, that Realtor HAS TO disclose…..and determine if the changes to the structure of the home are/were lawful under the building code.

Don’t forget the screened porch, it should have been done WITH a permit.

According to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, “Improvements made in violation of the building code can be, and usually are, ordered to be removed or brought into code compliance at the expense of the property owner.” The law is no different than the speed limit, or no parking zones. If you do it, it is not legal, and if you are caught, you will have to pay the penalty which can be substantial.

“Representing the heated living area in a manner that misleads a prospective purchaser into believing that he or she is acquiring the lawful use and ownership of this space when that is not what is transpiring, constitutes several different violations of the NC License Law.”-The North Carolina Real Estate Commission

If you selling……..I know it may be expensive and time consuming, but go ahead and get it retro-permitted. If you have an agent who tells you ‘its not a big deal’ find another agent, because it IS a big deal. Several years ago, a client of mine sold a home that had an un-permitted porch, it cost her thousands of dollars to retro-permit the space.

Take time before you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and do some research, contact your planning / zoning department.Different municipalities and states have different rules on permits. In a real estate transaction, if the seller says its permitted, get it in writing and see the permit!