Let's talk about permits. There are a lot of different permits related to real estate. It is pretty obvious that if you are going to build a new house you have to go to your town or municipality and get the necessary building permits. The town wants to make sure everything is done to code and constructed correctly. Some people think requiring permits is just a way for the town to butt into your business, raise money, and annoy you – which they probably will do – but it really is all about your safety. You don't want your home falling down, structurally unsafe, or burning down around you some night from improperly installed wiring or heating devices. That's why permits are issued and plumbers and electricians need licenses. Buyers want to know that any work done on a home was permitted, done correctly, and inspected. Sounds fair, right?
What about renovations? You are also going to need permits to do renovations around the house like adding a room, building a deck, remodeling a bathroom, putting in a wood stove, taking out a wall and, yes, finishing off your basement. The general rule of thumb is that structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical work will require a permit. If you are dealing with a reputable contractor to do the work, he will know what is required for permits.
But, you'd be amazed how many times real estate agents run across homes with fully finished basements and the town tax card lists the basement as unfinished. Now what? The seller's property disclosure has a question on it where the seller is required to answer whether he or she got all the necessary permits for any work to be done on the property. Sometimes the homeowners didn't know that a permit was required because they did the work themselves piecemeal over time and never gave it a thought. A trip down to the local building department to set the record straight and perhaps get an inspection and permit after the fact is my preferred approach to keeping everyone out of trouble in these cases.
Septic permits and plans are another important piece of paperwork to have whether buying or selling. It is nice to have the proof of when the septic system was built and that it was installed properly and inspected. Occasionally I see "construction approval" permits on file but there is no "operational approval" indicating that the State inspector never saw the system before it was covered over. Some systems were built prior to the State approval process and are still in use today. That's okay as long as the system isn't failing but its longevity might not be all that good. A septic inspection will help clarify the situation and is an extremely important part of the home purchase process. Any septic repairs done recently should have been permitted and as a buyer you'll want to make sure you see the documentation.
Another big permitting issue these days is waterfront Shoreland Permits and dock permits. Any work done on the shore front recently should have had a permit to cover the work done. If there is a permanent dock or boathouse on the property, you'll want to see a permit or proof that the dock or structure is "grandfathered." I like that term. The rules about waterfront structures and docks have changed over the years and our grandfathers did a lot of things that we couldn't get away with today! God love 'em. If a dock, boathouse, or deck on the shoreline was in place in 1969 it is "grandfathered" no matter what the size, shape, or configuration. They really did some pretty cool stuff before Big Brother got involved.
So if you are selling your home, make sure you have permits available for any work you've done recently to give to your agent. A copy of your septic plan and lot survey are pretty helpful, too. The more information you can provide to a buyer the better. If you are going to purchase a home and the seller doesn't have any documents available, you can check with the local building department to see if there is anything on file. Weather permitting, of course.
There were 89 residential homes sales in April in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The average sales price came in at $352,884 and the median price point was $220,000. That's a lot better than the total of 63 homes sold last April an average price of $341,682.
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of May 15, 2016. Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 677-7012
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