Call us: 1-800-366-7515

Second Best Elite Permits Logo

Elite Permits

Blogs , Videos, News & Updates

What to look for when buying a house… from a permitting point of view.

september 2022, issue 2



Written by TATIANA gUSt

It is important to understand that when you buy a house, the new owner becomes responsible for any and all potential issues that the house may have, including unpermitted work that may have been done by the previous owner or even a couple of prior owners. 

So, in this article, I will mention a few things you can do to watch out for when buying a property. 

The first thing you can do is to look at the property appraiser’s website within the jurisdiction; many appraisers include a rough sketch of the floor plan for the house.

It is not always accurate, but if you compare the floor plan of the potential house with the schematics from the appraisers, you can spot differences easily. If something is different, at this point, you can ask the seller for the permit that shows the changes that are not currently reflected in the appraisals. If they didn’t know about the changes, it could have been a previous homeowner who made the changes. At this point, the owner is made aware and will have to disclose this to any potential new buyer.

Check appraiser online

I wish what I recommended above would always work, but that is not always the case. Government agencies don’t always talk to each other. The appraisers normally check the properties more often than the building departments, and for a good reason, they want to get the value of the property with any additional improvements as accurate as possible, so the taxes are as precise as possible. On the other hand, the building department can only visit the property if there is an active permit. Therefore, in this scenario, the following can happen, the previous owner did an addition/remodel without a permit. The appraiser visited the property and discovered the addition/remodel, so the appraisers updated their schematics. Then, when you do your due diligence, by comparing the layout, the property, and the appraiser’s match. You think this is good, but in reality, the addition was never permitted. How do you prevent this?

Always ask your local building department for a list of any previous permits; even if they don’t have the plans, they have numbers and descriptions that identify the improvements. Another suggestion is to ask the seller if they have made any improvements; they will usually tell you without considering the permits. 

Inspect home documents

Another good catch is to look for pictures of the properties online; many sellers will update the kitchen or bathroom, indicating a newly remodeled unit…and when you ask for the permit many times, they don’t have it. If you buy the building, you now become responsible for getting the permit. Most jurisdictions require a permit for a remodel, especially in condos, because that may affect your unit and others. The last suggestion is to ask your home inspector to check for any non-code compliance they may see. Code violations are often very easily identifiable by a professional, which indicates that something was done without a permit. It is not always hard to correct, but it is a headache nonetheless, so if it is something that you are willing to take on and you identify it early in your buying process, you may use the knowledge to negotiate a price that is worth the trouble of doing an after-the-fact permit. 

Let me know if you have additional questions about the building permits or construction process. Follow us for more and share our blog!

Share this Post

Related Articles

home vs building inspector

Understanding the differences between Building Inspectors and Home Inspectors

Building inspectors and home inspectors may have similar backgrounds, but they serve different roles. A building inspector works for a municipal entity or private company and inspects buildings during the construction process, whereas a home inspector is usually an independent contractor hired by buyers to evaluate existing buildings for safety and soundness. In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the differences between the two professions.

Read More »
What inspectors look for at final inspection.

What inspectors look for at final inspection.

Today we will be discussing about inspections related to a building permit from a building code point of view. As we have discussed in other blogs, there are different departments that also review and inspect as part of the building process. There could be other inspections such as final site inspections, final fire inspection, or final health inspection, etc.

Read More »
building codes

Base Building Codes

Base Building Codes

As a code consulting professional, I like to explain how the state-specific codes are developed and how to use them.

I live in the beautiful state of Florida, and before 2002 there were building codes in the state, but pretty much each jurisdiction had their own codes and local requirements regarding the building portion of the code.

Read More »
what is a storm surge

Understanding Storm Surge

With another storm on the horizon, I want to take this time to explain storm surges:
The news in their desire to provide information, often do so in a context that is not clear for everyone. I have been working in construction and everything associated to the building codes for over 18 years, I’m accustomed to the language and what it meant, but never thought about explaining it to the people closest to me.

Read More »

Online Resources for Codes

Today I want to share some helpful information about what is available to anyone online. In our last blog we talked about the zoning codes and the building codes, so I decided to provide helpful links here to the resources for those codes. I will start with the simple single statewide code, the Florida Building Code. This link allows you to see all the building codes which includes about eight books, all of which you can electronically search and read about what applies under each category.

Read More »
Elite Permit Favorites
Social Media

Like Us On Facebook

Stay in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter for more updates

icon About
Exposure represents the adjustments due the characteristics of the terrain surrounding the building.

Exposure B.For buildings with a mean roof height of less than or equal to 30 feet (9144 mm), Exposure B shall apply where the ground surface roughness, as defined by Surface Roughness B, prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 1,500 feet (457 m). For buildings with a mean roof height greater than 30 feet (9144 mm), Exposure B shall apply where Surface Roughness B prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 2,600 feet (792 m) or 20 times the height of the building, whichever is greater.

Exposure C.Exposure C shall apply for all cases where Exposure B or D does not apply.

Exposure D.Exposure D shall apply where the ground surface roughness, as defined by Surface Roughness D, prevails in the upwind direction for a distance of at least 5,000 feet (1524 m) or 20 times the height of the building, whichever is greater. Exposure D shall also apply where the ground surface roughness immediately upwind of the site is B or C, and the site is within a distance of 600 feet (183 m) or 20 times the building height, whichever is greater, from an Exposure D condition as defined in the previous sentence.