Homeowners love to renovate and add on to their homes. However, occasionally homeowners will add square footage to their house without securing the proper permitting and paperwork. As a home buyer, you need to be aware of how to check for unpermitted square footage, and what it could mean about the property. Here are a few things to look for.
- Does the square footage on the (online) listing match the footage listed on tax records? Local governments should have square footage information on file. While a small footage discrepancy is quite common, if the difference is hundreds of square feet, it is very likely that the house has had unpermitted additions – like garages and decks. Checking local records will help you to get the correct information about a property.
- Unpermitted square footage can bring a number of headaches. The most obvious one is that the work performed may have been inferior. Experienced contractors will always ensure that work is done according to proper building codes. If the work was not permitted, there is a real chance that it was done by an amateur or under qualified contractor. Additionally, once the city becomes aware that there is unpermitted work on any give property, inspectors may be required to come by and examine the work. Often these inspectors will be required to remove drywall and partially demolish an area to perform the inspection. This can be big hassle and an expensive one!
- Finally, insurance claims could be denied if the insurance company becomes aware of unpermitted work. The insurance company can (gladly) argue that the inferior work is what caused the problem. For example, a fire caused by an electrical failure could be the result of substandard work that does not meet code. Making sure that your house is completely permitted is the best way to ensure that your insurance will fully cover what you are paying for.
So, as a home buyer, be on the alert for unpermitted square footage. If there are discrepancies between the square footage on record and the square footage quoted by the seller, start digging into the details. As always, do your homework and never buy a home with unpermitted square footage unprepared.