Does your City require an inspection before you sell your home?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA CalBRE# 01433049

Does your City require an inspection before you sell your home?

Surprise!! Oh wait ... when you are selling your home surprises are the worst thing in the world. Imagine your home is on the market, you receive a purchase offer and accept it. Then the buyer's agent asks for the City inspection report for their review.

The what? What are you talking about? Well, some Cities require a mandatory re-sale (also known as point of sale) inspection prior to the sale of a home. One such City is Novato, California.

If done correctly, the seller or seller's agent fills out Novato's "Application for Residential Property Inspection and Report". The application and payment (currently $274 for a single family residence, $236 for a condo) must be received by the City before they will schedule an appointment, usually a week or so in the future.

Prior to the appointment, the code enforcement inspector who is assigned to your property will research any permits issued, permit status and/or code violations. They will also review any previous re-sale inspections for your property if there are any on file. (This program started in 1988).

The inspector is now armed with what your property should look like in terms of building materials, number of beds, number of baths, etc. Do you see where I'm going with this? If the seller has "improved" the property during their ownership and didn't obtain any necessary permits, the inspector will make note of that in their report.

So what happens if there is a violation? It depends. I've seen sellers get socked with a bill for the permit they should have obtained at 4 times the cost. Any improvements need to conform to today's building codes regardless of when the work was done. Some code violations require a re-inspection to make sure the violation is corrected.

Don't get caught by surprise, check with your City to find out if there are any re-sale requirements that you should know about. And before you modify your home, it's always a good idea to check whether permits are required.

 

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Rainmaker
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Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Lynn - LOL, that is exactly why I put quotes around the word "improved" in my blog post!

Betsie - many Cities have tried to implement point of sale requirements, this City was successful and it seems to work well. And what an extra source of revenue!

Jun 28, 2011 04:25 PM #3
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Paul Henderson
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
I always put my clients first in any transaction!

Cynthia, well home inspections are still not mandatory the city of Tacoma passed a mandate for side sewer inspections.

Now instead of being mandatory it is suggested and the permit fee was waived.

We will see how long the moratorium lasts... 

Jun 28, 2011 04:45 PM #4
Rainmaker
495,205
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Cynthia, in Rockland County many of the municipalities require a municipal inspection in order to sell.  The seller is required to clear all violations.  As a sellers agent it's important to check and make sure all C of O's are in place in order not to dealy a sale.

Jun 28, 2011 04:49 PM #5
Rainmaker
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Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Paul - several Cities near me have tried to implement a sewer lateral inspection but have failed so far. Sounds like Tacoma is back peddling, I take it they had some strong resistance?

Leah - I could see where a sale could get delayed, easily!

Jun 28, 2011 04:55 PM #6
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Anna Banana Kruchten
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana of Real Estate!

Cynthia we do not have city insections. I learned about these several years ago while assiting my sister to sell a property in MPLS....I had no idea they existed before that.  I highly doubt that we'll see city inspections here.

Jun 28, 2011 06:36 PM #7
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Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.265.3004 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

One MORE reason to live in the country! :)

Jun 28, 2011 08:08 PM #8
Rainmaker
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Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Anna Banana - The two largest Cities in my County have tried multiple times to implement mandatory inspections but have failed to do so. Basically, it was deemed unfair for these inspections to be point of sale. Either everyone gets them or nobody gets them.

BLiz - I hear ya!

Jun 28, 2011 08:32 PM #9
Rainmaker
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John M. Scott
BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties - San Francisco, CA
Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area

Cynthia, I've met with the inspector in Novato 4 times, and she is always great. I know Richmond, San Pablo and Berkeley require a sewer lateral inspection. San Francisco requires a 3R report (record of permits) and an Energy and Water conservation inspection (the energy part has a max of $1300 spending limit, but the water part requires ALL toilets to be low flush, often requiring replacement of toilets in the home. South San Francisco requires a home inspection, and if the owner has done any non permitted work, they will have to correct / remove it. It's always something!

Jun 28, 2011 10:41 PM #10
Rainmaker
598,882
Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

Cynthia - While I don't know of any cities here in Los Angeles or Ventura county that require the city inspection before sale, I do know for a fact that all of the dpa programs that I work with will check the city permit files and bldg code records for all the properties that they approve for their programs.  They will not approve any properties that have bldg code violations or unpermitted work until the violations are satisfied and the permit fees are collected. 

Furthermore, here in Simi Valley (where hubby and I live) where they have a local dpa program, if it is discovered that a subject property has unpermitted work, the city will fine the seller.  I speak from experience when I say this and needless to say, the sellers for these properties quickly develop some serious regrets and attitudes about getting into escrow with a dpa borrower. 

One particular seller got so pissed off at me and my borrowers because he got fined for unpermitted work, he demanded that my borrower pay for the fine because he said it was my borrowers fault he got fine.  SERIOUSLY???  Blaming the borrower because he chose to illegally add a room to his home?

Jun 28, 2011 11:59 PM #11
Rainmaker
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Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

John - Are you talking about Alison? She's wonderful! I had no idea about your inspections, that is why I would refer business down there instead of trying to figure it out myself. San Francisco is whole 'nother world even though it's only 45 miles away.

Donne - A buyer ( I was representing the seller ) invited the government into their home after closing to inspect their County funded energy improvements. While the inspectors were there, they found a large concrete patio with walls, a ceiling, 220 outlet for a dryer and water for a washer. Without permits. Oops. Who ya gonna call? Of course they called me and accused my clients. Oops again, those "improvements" were already there when my clients bought the house, it was on their appraisal.

Jun 29, 2011 01:24 AM #12
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Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Cynthia I view these required inspections as being just another way for municipalties to suck blood out of a turnip.  Sure it's very good for the buyer and perhaps the seller, but we all know that the municipality could give less than a d*&^n about that.

Jun 29, 2011 09:02 AM #13
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Chris Ann Cleland
Long & Foster REALTORS®, Manassas, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Northern VA

Well that's something I never thought of.  A city requiring resale inspections.  Not a bad idea.

Jun 29, 2011 10:35 AM #14
Rainmaker
544,535
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Charita - it is a municipal revenue source, that's for sure. As far as sewer lateral testing goes, pipes are aging and the City wants the seller to fix any leaks (if there are any) from the house to the street before they can sell their house.

Chris Ann - wow, another big difference in our market areas once again. Interesting!

Jun 29, 2011 11:27 AM #15
Rainmaker
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Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

Cynthia - WOW!!!  It appears that this issue can go both ways.  Frankly, the buyer has no one to blame but themself because they should have done their due diligence prior to closing escrow.  This is something I advise all my borrowers (not just my dpa borrowers) to do during escrow, especially ones that are buying REO's.  REO bank sellers seem to be the biggest offenders of bldg codes violations and non-payment of said violations.

Jun 29, 2011 11:57 AM #16
Rainmaker
544,535
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Donne - up until now, our County didn't really care much about unpermitted work. Usually the only time someone would get into trouble is when a neighbor, watching the work going on without a permit notice pinned to the front door, would call the County and tattle. The County would show up to investigate and catch the property owner red-handed and the matter would be taken care of immediately. But now, with the County and Cities hurting for money, everyone has their eyes wide open and buyers are very leery about buying a house with obvious additions and/or rooms being used for an unintended purpose. We have a LOT of garages here that have been turned into bedrooms with a portable heater as the only heat source. It's just an accident waiting to happen.

Jun 29, 2011 12:26 PM #17
Rainer
242,098
David Ames
Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco - San Francisco, CA
San Francisco

Wow!  Cynthia, I can't imagine having a "City" inspection here in SF.  I'd bet more than half the housing stock would come under some kind of code violation (lol).   The City changes code more often than some folks change underwear (Ok, that would be gross, but you get the idea).  Then again, San Francisco could probably solve their budget deficit in two weeks by implementing such a scheme.  I know they made some bucks the past year citing "buckled" sidewalks all over town.  (Grrrr....)

Jun 29, 2011 03:18 PM #18
Rainmaker
544,535
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

David - buckled sidewalks? I'm sure there are millions of them still left over from the Loma Prieta earthquake! Shiver ...

Jun 29, 2011 03:50 PM #19
Rainmaker
222,733
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Cynthia, wow!  I guess that's one way to make sure the permits get pulled.

I wonder what happens if an estate inherits a house that had multiple non-permitted improvements.  Would they have to upgrade to all up to code and pay those fees just to sell?  Yipes!

Jun 29, 2011 09:03 PM #20
Rainmaker
544,535
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty | 707-332-2560 | Serving all of Sonoma County, CA - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker/Owner

Jeremy - I'm not sure, but if the improvements were done a long time ago by a DIY'er there could be some issues, huh?

Jun 29, 2011 09:39 PM #21
Rainmaker
222,733
Jeremy Wrenn
Wrenn Home Improvements - Wake Forest, NC
President, Wrenn Home Improvements

Yeah, that was instantly where my mind went to.  I'm always thinking about worst case scenarios when it comes to law.  Hopefully they'd have some grace in that situation!

I always tell my clients, it's better to ask the city if you need a permit, than to find out later you did need one!

Jun 29, 2011 09:47 PM #22
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Rainmaker
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Cynthia Larsen

Independent Broker/Owner
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