Handyman making a repair

Many Sunnyvale homeowners are electing to upgrade versus move to a larger home in today's challenging real estate environment. The thought is “Let’s upgrade the kitchen, add on a master bedroom with a second bath”. The focus becomes finding the right light fixtures or choosing a granite counter top for a kitchen. The thought of obtaining a building permit is not part of the conversation. This could be a huge mistake down the road when that Sunnyvale CA home is put up for sale. Ignoring local building permit requirements not only poses safety and legal issues, but it can also potentially derail an otherwise smooth real estate transaction.

When homeowners use licensed contractors for remodeling work, they typically do not have to worry about permitting procedure. The general contractor should handle the process for them – filling out the paperwork with the local planning departments in Sunnyvale, Mountain View, or Cupertino and paying the required fees. But when homeowners tackle do-it-yourself projects or use unlicensed contractors they risk problems in the future.

As a REALTOR, when I list a home, I always ask sellers what work was done to the home and by whom. Was the work done by a licensed contractor? And were permits pulled in final at the conclusion of the project(s)? California real estate law requires this information be documented and disclosed to any future buyer. Failing to provide this information during escrow or after the home sells can result in legal action and fines.

Some homeowners, however, are tempted to sidestep the permit process not wanting to pay the fees. In Sunnyvale CA, for example, the minimum permit fee is $25. However, extensive work can be as much as 1% of the total project cost. In addition, the permit process can delay a project a few days to a few weeks.

People have an incentive to cheat as the permit process can be time consuming and frustrating; however, not having the proper permits when a home is being sold can cost the seller thousands of dollars in a lower sales price. If faulty work is discovered after the home is sold, and this information is not properly disclosed to the new buyer, the cost to the seller can be much more than a few thousand dollars. In cases of obvious known fraud it could result in criminal charges.

No project is too small

Sunnyvale homeowners making any changes to the structure of a house will likely need a permit – and may need more than one permit if the project is extensive. While kitchen and bath remodels and room editions are obvious permit candidates, homeowners need to realize they also need a permit for such projects as adding a new roof, installing a new window or even adding new light switches.

It's better to be safe than sorry. For local resources, contact the Sunnyvale planning department, Mountain View planning department, Cupertino planning department, Los Altos planning department, or call StynesGroup and we will do our best to guide you to the best resources.

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