Researching a Property's Permit History Before You Buy

Any good Realtor will tell you that a home inspection is an important step when purchasing a property. A step in this process that often seems to be missed is checking the permit history of a property.

Why is this important?

  • Even if you have the disclosures from the seller's reporting updates for the items in their home, it is still helpful to verify the dates of things like a roof replacement, electrical work, a new furnace, etc. based on the date of the permit. 
  • It can let you know if there may be issues with the work holding up or there could be hidden issues if it was not inspected. 
  • If you intend to remodel the home you may have to redo things that were not permitted which could add significant cost.
  • The property may actually be worth less than they are asking if the space is not finished up to code but they are counting it as finished square feet. 
  • There may be outstanding fees still due on the permits on the property.
  • Having the written history can help in negotiations if an issue comes to light during your inspection period. 

How to find permit information:

Take a look at the city’s website. Many have a way for you to search for permits both past and present. If there is not a way to look it up online, there is often an email address for someone at the city that can tell you about the history. If you are still not able to find this information you may need to hire someone to do the research for you. 

Keep in mind that every city may have a different process and each property is unique. Make sure to consult with your Realtor, home inspector, title company, and real estate attorney to ensure the proper procedure for your home purchase.