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Homeowners who want to renovate their properties or build additions are generally required to obtain permits from their local government, but many skip that step. That can lead to an array of problems when a house is put on the market.

Why Some Homeowners Don’t Get Permits
Homeowners are often overwhelmed by the cost of a remodeling project and want to save some money by not paying a fee for a permit. They may also be concerned about potential delays while they wait to have the work inspected or worried about finding that the way work was completed doesn’t meet requirements and having to make expensive changes to pass an inspection.

Reasons to Think Twice
If you’re considering buying a house that had work done without a permit, the renovations might not have been done correctly, which means you and your family could be at risk. If someone were injured because of unpermitted and uninspected work, your homeowners insurance might not pay related bills, even if the previous owner was the one who failed to get a permit.

If an appraiser discovers that an addition was built without a permit, the square footage of that area will not be included in the appraised value of the house. Lenders decide how much money to allow mortgage applicants to borrow based on a house’s appraised value. If you want to buy a house and the seller wants you to pay for the entire square footage, but the appraised value is much lower than the purchase price because part of the house isn’t included, you might not be able to obtain a mortgage for enough money to purchase the house.

How to Protect Yourself
A seller is required to provide a buyer with a property disclosure that includes information on all work the seller had done to a property during the period of ownership, including renovations that were done without permits. Even if a seller says the proper permits were obtained, check with your local building department to verify that.

If work was done without a permit and you have not yet signed a purchase agreement, you can insert language in the contract stipulating that the seller must obtain permits and have the work inspected before you close on the house. If you already signed a contract but the inspector or appraiser later uncovers evidence that renovations were done without permits, you might be able to terminate the deal, depending on the law in your state.

Be Careful
Buying a house that had work completed without a permit is risky. If you have found your dream home but the seller didn’t secure the necessary permits for renovations, discuss your options with your real estate agent and be prepared to walk away if you’re unable to rectify the situation before closing.