Obtaining proper home improvement permits is the only way to go

When I first entered the real estate business in 1993 it was common to find improvements in homes that were completed without a required permit. At the time, it just wasn’t a big deal to move ahead with your basement development without one. Almost everyone did it.

In recent years, the failure to obtain proper permits has become a much bigger deal, and in fact, a point of contention that has caused many residential sale transactions to collapse at the last minute. In instances where the transaction can be salvaged (the seller agrees to obtain and close the required permits and the buyer agrees to complete the purchase), it often involves lots of “jumping through hoops” for homeowners and real estate agents. Occasionally, these hoops are hard, if not impossible to clear in a short period of time.

Let’s not debate whether the government has a place in regulating what we do with our private property. As a real estate agent, I’m likely at least as geeked up about your property rights as you are. Insisting that the government has no place to tell you what to do and refusing to play by the rules may be an example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” when it comes to the resale value of your home.

Building codes are intended to ensure safe construction standards are met to protect occupants from structural failures, potential fire hazards and electrical shock. When a Saskatoon home owner, or a contractor acting on behalf of a home owner obtains a permit for home improvements they commit to completing the work in accordance with current building codes. Ultimately, they allow access to a qualified inspector who inspects the work and verifies that the improvements meet the code. Where deficiencies exist, the inspector will require adequate repairs before the permit can be closed.

When a potential home buyer discovers that improvements were completed in your home without the required permits, they lose the assurances that the work was done correctly and safely. Even if the buyer is comfortable moving forward on that basis, a lender may refuse to provide financing, or an insurer may refuse to insure the home. On the other hand, if the proper permits were obtained everyone who has an interest in the purchase can have some reasonable measure of confidence that the improvements are durable, valuable, and most importantly, safe. Simply put, your home improvements add more value to your property when they are completed with a permit.

More and more, home buyers who discover missing permits after entering into a conditional purchase agreement are insisting that the proper permits be obtained and closed by the seller before the purchase is completed. In most cases, this is completely possible but it is almost always far more difficult and costly to do after the fact. It’s not something that you want to be doing when you’re trying to coordinate a move.

In a short series of future posts we’ll talk about which home improvements require a permit and how home buyers might discover that your home improvements were completed without one.

Mean time, here’s some building permit information from the City of Saskatoon and some electrical/gas permit information from SaskPower.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate