Selling a House With Unpermitted Work in Your State

Selling a house with unpermitted work presents a unique challenge for homeowners. Whether in Florida, California, or any state in between, navigating the complexities of real estate transactions under these circumstances requires careful consideration.

Unpermitted work can affect your home’s market value, complicate dealings with potential buyers, and even involve legal trouble. However, understanding the permitting process, local building codes, and how to address these issues upfront can make the sale possible.

This guide provides essential insights for homeowners looking to sell a property “as-is,” emphasizing the role of real estate agents, attorneys, and inspectors in ensuring a smooth transaction.

Selling a House With Unpermitted Work in Your State

Can You Sell a House With Unpermitted Work?

Can you sell a house with unpermitted work? The straightforward answer is yes, but it comes with its set of challenges and considerations. As a homeowner, if you’re looking to sell your house “as-is” you need to understand the implications of unpermitted work on the sale process.

Unpermitted additions or remodels can impact the home’s market value, potentially lowering the sale price. Sellers must be upfront about unpermitted work with potential buyers, real estate agents, and legal advisors.

Addressing unpermitted work before listing your home involves contacting your local building department to understand the necessary permits and the potential for retroactive permits. 

This step may be time-consuming but is essential for ensuring compliance with local building codes and zoning regulations. A real estate attorney can offer guidance through this process, helping mitigate legal risks and advising on disclosures during the sale.

Homeowners have options such as selling the home as-is to a real estate investor who may offer a cash offer, accepting the risks associated with unpermitted work. Alternatively, obtaining the proper permits and making the required upgrades can enhance the home’s value and appeal to a broader range of home buyers.

Regardless of the path chosen, thorough home inspections and transparent communication with all parties involved are paramount to a successful transaction.

How to Identify Unpermitted Work on Your House

Identifying unpermitted work on your house is critical for homeowners planning to sell their property. This process ensures transparency and compliance with local building codes, ultimately facilitating a smoother sale. Here’s how you can identify unpermitted work:

Review City Records

Start by checking your home’s official records with your local building department or municipality. These records include permits and blueprints filed for previous construction or remodeling. Discrepancies between the documents and the current state of your home may indicate unpermitted work.

Hire a Home Inspector

A professional home inspector can identify modifications or additions that likely require a permit. Their expertise helps uncover hidden issues that are not immediately evident, such as electrical work or structural changes.

Consult a Real Estate Attorney

For clarity on local regulations, a real estate attorney can provide insights into zoning, building codes, and permit requirements. They can advise on the legal implications of selling a house with unpermitted work and the steps to rectify the situation.

Compare with Building Codes

Familiarize yourself with local building codes and zoning regulations. This knowledge can help you pinpoint areas of your home that may not comply with current standards, suggesting potential unpermitted work.

How to Rectify Unpermitted Work

Rectifying unpermitted work on your property is crucial for homeowners aiming to sell their house. This process ensures compliance with local regulations, potentially enhancing the home’s value and appeal to potential buyers. Here’s a concise guide to rectifying unpermitted work:

  1. Consult the Local Building Department: Contact your city or local building department to disclose the unpermitted work. They can guide the steps needed to obtain the necessary permits.
  2. Hire Licensed Contractors: Engage licensed professionals to assess and correct the unpermitted work. They can ensure that any modifications meet current building codes and standards.
  3. Apply for Permits: Submit applications for the required permits detailing the work to be rectified. This step may involve fees and waiting periods, depending on the complexity of the work.
  4. Undergo Inspections: Once the work is completed, the local building department will conduct inspections to verify building codes and regulations compliance. Passing these inspections is crucial for obtaining approval and official documentation.
  5. Keep Detailed Records: Maintain thorough records of the rectification process, including permits, inspection reports, and contractor invoices. These documents are valuable for future reference and can reassure potential buyers and real estate agents.
Can You Sell A House With Unpermitted Work In Your State

Retrospective Permit

A retrospective permit, often called an after-the-fact permit, is a type of building permit obtained for construction work or home improvements completed without the required permits at the time of construction. 

Obtaining a retrospective permit is a viable solution for homeowners dealing with unpermitted work on their property. This process involves legalizing modifications or additions made without prior approval from the local building department.

Here’s how to navigate obtaining a retrospective permit:

  1. Document the Unpermitted Work: Take detailed notes and photographs of the work in question. This documentation will be necessary when applying for the retrospective permit.
  2. Contact Your Local Building Department: Contact your municipality or city building department to discuss the steps for applying for a retrospective permit. They will outline specific requirements, fees, and the documentation needed.
  3. Submit the Application: Complete the application for the retrospective permit, including all required documents and fees. The complexity of the work will dictate the application’s review process.
  4. Schedule an Inspection: The local building department will inspect to assess the unpermitted work against current building codes and safety standards. Be prepared for the possibility that modifications may be required to meet these standards.
  5. Address Any Issues: If the inspection identifies areas not complying with local codes, you must hire licensed contractors to make the necessary adjustments.
  6. Final Approval: Once the work meets all regulations and standards, the building department will issue a retrospective permit, bringing your property into compliance.

Repair Contingency

A repair contingency is a critical clause in a home sale agreement, particularly relevant for homeowners selling a property with unpermitted work. If you want to repair fire damage in your house or perform modifications based on the findings of a home inspection, this clause is vital. Here’s how it plays into selling a house with unpermitted work:

Negotiation Tool

A repair contingency provides a framework for negotiating repairs between the homeowner and the buyer. If unpermitted work is discovered, the buyer can request that the seller obtain the necessary permits and make the work compliant with local building codes.

Protecting Both Parties

This contingency protects the buyer from inheriting legal and financial responsibilities related to unpermitted work. It offers sellers a clear path to resolving issues without derailing the sale.


Homeowners can negotiate how to address the unpermitted work, whether by adjusting the sale price, offering a cash credit at closing, or completing the required fixes and obtaining retrospective permits.

Closing the Sale

Including a repair contingency related to unpermitted work can facilitate a smoother closing process, assuring the buyer that the property meets their standards and regulatory compliance.

Getting Unpermitted Work Appraised

Getting unpermitted work appraised is a pivotal step for homeowners aiming to sell their property, ensuring a fair assessment of the home’s market value. Here’s how to approach this process effectively:

  1. Hire a Professional Appraiser: Choose an appraiser experienced with local real estate and knowledgeable about the implications of unpermitted work. Their expertise will be invaluable in accurately evaluating your property.
  2. Disclose Unpermitted Work: Transparency is crucial. Fully disclose all unpermitted work to the appraiser to ensure an accurate assessment. This honesty will aid in determining the true value of your home and guide potential negotiations with buyers.
  3. Understand the Impact: Unpermitted work can affect your home’s value differently, depending on local market conditions, the nature of the unpermitted work, and the potential costs to rectify it. An appraiser can help you understand these variables.
  4. Consider Rectification Costs: The appraisal should consider the cost of obtaining retroactive permits and bringing the work up to code. These factors can significantly influence the final valuation of your home.
  5. Use Appraisal in Negotiations: A professional appraisal provides a solid foundation for price negotiations with potential buyers, especially when dealing with the complexities of unpermitted work.

Suing the Previous Owner for Not Disclosing Unpermitted Work

Suing the previous owner for not disclosing unpermitted work is an option if you’ve purchased a home only to discover undisclosed, unpermitted modifications. 

Legal action hinges on proving the previous owner knowingly withheld information about the unpermitted work during the sale process. Engaging a real estate attorney is crucial; they can assess your case’s strength, guide you through legal proceedings, and help gather necessary evidence. 

Success in such cases typically requires demonstrating that the previous homeowner was aware of the unpermitted work and intentionally failed to disclose it, impacting the home’s value or safety. While potentially time-consuming and complex, this route may offer recourse for recovering costs associated with rectifying the unpermitted work.


Navigating the sale of a house with unpermitted work requires understanding the implications, identifying the work, and taking steps to rectify it, ensuring compliance and enhancing value. Whether you repair, disclose, or negotiate, the goal is a smooth transaction. 

If you’re looking to sell your house in Fox Point or sell your house in Brookfield and want a hassle-free experience, consider contacting Cream City Home Buyers. We specialize in buying homes “as-is,” offering a straightforward path to sell your house without the complexities of unpermitted work.

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