Permits in San Antonio

9 Replies

Anyone from San Antonio have experience with pulling permits vs not pulling them?  Here's my situation... I'm currently flipping a house built in the 1930s.  Pulling permits means I would have to bring electrical up to code, possibly plumbing and who knows what else.  I'm installing a central AC unit, so electrical upgrades are required.  To bring it up to code I'm looking at an extra $1500 minimum.  I'm trying to keep the costs to a minimum so need some advice on what to do.  I've been quoted a price for functional vs up to code.  I've also done roof, foundation, drywall etc…

IMHO you are being pennywise and pound foolish if you're going to try doing fix and flips without proper permits.  What's the worst that could happen?  Let's see.  Building inspectors notice you doing work, issue a stop work and you have to pay penalties and maybe redo work.  Or you get a buyer and they and their inspector finds out about the unpermitted work and you have to lower the price or redo work to close the deal.  Nope. How about the house burns, people die, and you get sued for doing the unpermitted work that was the cause of the fire?

Not San Antonio, but yes, I've dealt with cleaning up unpermitted work.  I wrote about it when it happened:

Pull the permits.

Agree with Jon, it is foolish not to pull the permits and do the job correctly.

If your margins are that small, you might be better off finding a buyer to take the house as is and find yourself a better deal with a better profit margin.

thanks for the info.  Can I pull permits after the fact?  I'm confident the work we've done will meet code, and was more concerned that a city inspector will come to check electricity and find other things wrong that we never touched...for example, the studs of the house not meeting today's standards since its a really old house etc...

I agree with all about pulling permits. However, there is some leniency when you are the home owner as to what you are able to do when you own the home. This means doing the work yourself. Originally from the Northeast and a commercial GC and developer of some housing I would never have ever dreamed of not pulling a permit (permits). I am in the middle of a flip in San Antonio and I would be happy to share more on the skinny here. So, for the time being let's just say that if you are adding on to a dwelling or: doing electrical work with panels, adding plumbing, changing gas lines, etc. - Stick to pulling a permit or at least use a licensed and insured technician that will warranty his work. Until my flip is completed and sold that is the best I advice I can give you here. Remember to do your due diligence when purchasing a SFR to flip or anything else for that matter.

You may be able to pull permits after the fact.  But you may encounter the same issue I did.  The inspectors made us dig up plumbing, remove cabinets and open walls to inspect the work.  And they did require changes.  This was a fairly complete remodel, so they did make us bring old work up to code.  That is just part of what you sign up for doing fix and flips.  Studs are unlikely to be a problem.   Plumbing, HVAC and electrical is where you will have problems.

Some cities do allow owners to pull their own permits.  However, around here you can only do that if you are living in the house.  And, at least in my city, you cannot sell for a year after pulling homeowner permits.

 I'm confident the work we've done will meet code

Do you have a general contractors license?  Can you quote the relevant building codes chapter and verse?  If not you might be surprised by some of the things that can trip you up.  I have been more than once.  I have found, however, that if you talk to the inspector(s) and show you want to do things correctly and safely they will usually be reasonable.  Get them upset?  Well that's how you end up jackhammering trenches in a finished basement.

I also invest in San Antonio, and all I can say is, you better be 100% positive that your property is up to code once the inspectors (some not all) show up for the final.   Let's just say I have the knowledge and years of experience along with my Dad, to do just about anything as far as construction and remodeling goes (although I usually hire 90% out to subs), but I used to do everything WITHOUT PERMITS.  I learned the hard way that if the inspector wants to be an &^%$#!! He does have the power to make you tear everything done and redo the whole project, but if you just let him do his job and politely ask questions, they tend to be very nice individuals with lots of experience and tips.  They might even do you a favor by just going straight for the requested permit and not look at the rest of the house.  I'm very new to Investing so take my advice for what it is, my personal experiences.

sorry for the dumb questions...I'm new to this and learning as I go.  If the electrical has been done, and the drywall isn't up yet. Can I pull a permit to have it inspected without penalty? I'm not doing any plumbing work btw, but some rewiring has been done.  

I assume you mean the rough electrical has been done.  Yes, this is a good point to pull a permit.  A typical sequence of inspections for a rehab/remodelling situation would be:

Do any demo, framing, and rough work.  For plumbing, that means supply lines in place, capped or with shutoff valves and "charged" (i.e., full of water).  Drains in place.  A test ball in the line somewhere and tubs and showers filled with water prior to the inspection.  For electrical, the cables and boxes should be in place and the wires pigtailed and ready for devices.  Depending on the situation, you may have some devices (receptacles, switches, lights) installed if you need to use them.  HVAC would have gas and electric in place,furnace in place and ducts ready for inspection.

Rough electrical, plumbing and HVAC - three separate inspections, though the same person may do more than one.

Framing - Comes after the roughs because you may have to cut holes or move framing members to get the other stuff done.


Drywall screw - not sure if this happens everywhere but its common here.

Finals - done after everything is finished.

IDK about San Antonio, but around here you would need a general contractors license to pull permits for a fix and flip.  If you were doing minor work (e.g., adding an outlet for a dryer or installing a new furnace) the tradesman could pull the permit for that specific job.  But if you are down to the studs you're doing a remodel and may need a GC to pull the overall permits, then licensed subs for the specific trades that require licensing.   Call the building department and have a discussion with them.

Personally, I'd strongly recommend having permits pulled, as my first GC did NOT pull the permits, and left me in a potentially very bad legal situation after he completed his shoddy work on top of it. Got it all worked out, thankfully, but not somewhere I ever want to be again (sooo many lessons learned on that one!). That said, I spoke with the lead electrical code inspector in San Antonio and, as I understood it, updating ALL the electrical is only required where modifications are made i.e. you put in a three prong plug where there was only ungrounded wiring before, that circuit needs to be rewired. Basically, anything you touch regarding electrical upgrades would need to be brought up to current code, but not necessarily everything in the house. If I'm incorrect in this, please someone correct me, but that is my understanding. When in doubt, permits. 

One other item; San Antonio has a website for looking up contractors' licenses; it is NOT 100% reliable, as demonstrated by a few followup calls I made. In fact, the four unrelated contractors I looked up were up to date on their licenses according to the website, but when I called all four were expired! My lesson learned there? CALL! :-P Good luck, and always keep moving forward!

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