Chris' Corner: Looking to buy a home with a finished basement? Are there proper permits?

Looking to buy a home with a finished basement? Are there proper permits?

Jay Markanich, a Virginia are Home Inspector makes a very good point that many of us fail to account for when we are looking for a home.  Were the proper permits acquired?  This is the type of thing that most people never bother about until there is a problem...

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Things have gotten to the point where I can walk into a basement and almost smell if there's no permit pulled when they finished it.  It's like the basement is saying, "Permits?  We don't need no stinkin' permits!"

BUT YOU DO!  A PERMIT SHOULD ALWAYS BE PULLED!

If for no other reason to make sure you don't do something that makes it impossible to do future repairs!

Backing up the wagon now.  Case in point.

This is a finished bathroom.  They used the roughed-in plumbing left by the builder.  Fine and dandy.

The plumbing hardware is all along an interior wall.  Perfect!  The builder left it that way for two reasons -

1.  So it would never freeze (if above ground) and so you can get to the plumbing.
2.  Because the back side is in the furnace room, which they ASSUMED would never be finished.  That way the plumbing hardware would always be available for repairs, replacement, etc.

Well, don'tcha know, that the furnace room had so much room, the homeowner decided they would move the laundry room just off the garage entrance into the basement AND, since the lady has a dog-grooming business, add a dog grooming sink beside it! 

Well, don'tcha know, all that plumbing is there, and they could just tap into the drains left by the builder, which were then behind the bathroom.

But that would require it's own wall behind the laundry/sink area.

Then, veeeola!  We got us a basement amusement park!

Problem is the laundry room wall is 9" from the backside of the bathroom wall!

And all the drain lines make it impossible to even see back there to get to plumbing fixtures for repairs or replacement!

No point in showing the plumbing fixtures for the laundry room/grooming sink!  But the handles for everything barely protrude the drywall and the washing machine hook drain goes through a hole in the drywall!

WHEN A PERMIT IS PULLED, THE FIRST STEP IS TO PRESENT A DRAWING OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO TO THE LOCAL JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORITY SO THEY CAN LOOK AT IT, MAYBE COME TO YOUR SITE, AND THEN APPROVE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

Then they make a pre-drywall and final inspection to insure that you aren't doing stuff like this!

I always get the same question from clients.  "Can a permit be pulled now?  Will the county come out now to look at it?" 

Some yes, some no.  But there is no way this would be approved.  To do repairs on one side, you would have to tear the other side out!

WE HAVE A CLASSIC DILEMMA HERE! 

My clients are thinking, should we buy knowing this and try to fix it later, or pass altogether?

You can see the wheels turning inside the clients heads when we get to this point in the inspection.  And believe me, A LOT of homeowners finish their own basements without permits!

Believe me when I say this was only one problem found in this basement!  It is a shame, because this is a very nice house, in a wonderful location, and gorgeous throughout.  But this is a basement with so many problems, and some dangerous problems, that the house has been altered dramatically for the worse.  This is a problem!

My recommendation:  when you see remodeling, of course permits are essential.  They protect your buyers from unsafe or unthinking construction.  Ask for copies of the permits, with all the county inspections verified.   Very importantly, permits make sure insurance coverages are in place and no insurance issues will arise in the future!  And this is all a very, very big deal!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

www.jaymarinspect.com


Chris Smith CSSBB
          Sales Representative

Interested in Buying or Selling Real Estate?

  ph: 1.866.936.3500

Re/Max
Chay Realty Inc.,
Brokerage

Comment balloon 0 commentsChris Smith • September 22 2011 12:32PM

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