When purchasing a house, it’s important to do your due diligence to ensure there are no issues with permits or construction work done without proper documents. Checking permits helps protect homebuyers by uncovering any work not done to code or safety standards. While the process of permit research seems daunting, there are steps we can take to check permits and feel confident about the permit history of a home.
Obtaining Property Information
Before we start looking into permits, we first need to gather some basic information about the property. This includes the property address and parcel number or lot number. The parcel or lot number is especially helpful in finding permit records. We can usually find this information through property records on the county assessor’s website or real estate listings. Once we have the address and parcel number, we’ll use those to search for permits.
Contacting The Local Building Department
The next step is to contact the local building department that handles permits for the property’s jurisdiction. Building departments manage permits and inspect work requiring permits. Give them a call, explain you are looking into the permit history on a home, and provide the address and parcel number. Departments can look up the property in their system and let us know if they have any permit records associated with the address. They can often mail or email copies of permit documents they have on file. These records request only take a few minutes, and it’s the most direct way to find documents.
Searching Online Permit Databases
Many local governments now have online databases where we can search for permits issued at specific addresses. Look on the county or city website for links to permit records or permit search portals. If we don’t see an obvious link, Google “[City] permits” or “[County] GIS permits” to find the database. Enter the property address or parcel number into the portal to pull up associated permits. Depending on the portal, we may see info like permit type, date issued, description of work, and inspection status. Print or save copies of any permits related to the property.
Using Permitting Software
In addition to going directly to the local building department and searching online government databases, we can also use permitting software to look into permit history. Permitting software contains extensive national permit data aggregated from various jurisdiction sources. We simply enter the property address and the software will show us filed permits, with details like the scope of work and contractor. This consolidated view from permitting software can help uncover permits that may have been missed through other methods. The advanced technology makes permit research much more efficient.
Once we gather permit records from the various available sources, we can compare the information side by side. Making sure the records match up is an important verification step. If we notice missing permits in one source that are present in another, that could indicate an issue. For example, if the building department has no deck permit on file but we find a deck permit in the online portal, that discrepancy deserves a closer look. Any red flags or inconsistencies uncovered should be addressed with the seller.
Understanding Permit Requirements
As we examine the permit history, it helps to have a basic knowledge of common projects that require permits. Major structural renovations like remodeling a kitchen or bath, adding a room, finishing a basement, and building decks typically need permits. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, and swimming pool work also often require permitting. If we identify any significant construction on the home that doesn’t have documents, that could be a concern. The local building department can clarify if certain projects require permits.
Asking The Seller For Information
In addition to conducting our own permit research, we can also simply ask the seller for any permit documentation they have. The seller may have records handy on work done while they owned the home. Examining seller permit docs can supplement the permit research we conduct independently. Some sellers even provide official permit histories as part of the seller disclosure.
Hiring A Professional Inspector
If we need assistance making sense of the permit history and identifying any red flags, consider hiring a professional home inspector. Inspectors regularly examine permits as part of their standard home inspections. They have extensive knowledge of building codes and permit requirements. An inspector can take a close look at the permits we uncovered and point out any missing or questionable permits based on their inspection findings. Their expertise helps us see issues we may have overlooked on our own.