Having Civil Engineer approve plans/construction vs. Getting Permits for resale in CA??

3 Replies

Hi Guys,

My client and I have a project and I'm trying to give her some help, so naturally I come to BP!

She is looking to remodel the kitchen by knocking down a load bearing wall, as well as move the kitchen sink/dishwasher plumbing from one end of the kitchen to the other (about 10 ft). At first we thought that we could apply for just a load bearing wall replacement permit, over the counter. That way we could avoid applying for a plumbing permit as well. 

However the load bearing wall also has the sink/dishwasher on that side, so the inspector will most likely deduct that we are also planning some plumbing renovations and will require permits. We want to avoid this if possible. 

Our goal now is to go the civil engineer route, where we have the plans for the load bearing wall approved by the civil engineer, and have him supervise the construction. We will document the entire process and have the engineer sign off on all aspects that could cause concern. In this sense it would be just as detailed, if not more so, then acquiring a permit through the city.

My question is: What would be the downside to this? If asked by potential buyers, we could supply the documentation that the load bearing wall was constructed to code/was done correctly. Is this a feasible option? We have a family friend who is a civil engineer, and has experience in both residential and commercial capacities. 

But before going down this road,  I wanted to get some experienced opinions about whether or not this will work for re-sale. Will lenders/appraisers discount the remodel work due to not having permits vs. having engineering sign off? The house is in Orange, CA.  

Thanks for the help as always, and I look forward to your comments!

Hi @Sean H.

Great question. You don't have to get permits but obviously you'd have to disclose that since it's a material fact. Then it's up to the buyer to move forward or not. Or request that permits are applied for which could be a rabbit hole of your seller obliges. I'd say err on the side of caution but use common sense. For example you're supposed to get a permit for changing the hot water heater but nobody does and not one single buyer will ever ask you if you did. I would think you're covering yourself and your seller pretty well by getting civil engineer plans and any savvy buyer would see that, especially if they could have a conversation with the engineer and or contractor that did the work.  But again it all depends on the buyer. In this market I'd say you're probably ok but that could change if the project isn't finished until the holidays. See what others have to say. I love the topic. 

Either way good luck!

Brett Synicky, Real Estate Agent in CA (#01956059)

That's a dangerous move, those permits can be pulled over the counter, why not just pull them? unless you're adding a bathroom or something, its just a few hundred to pull the load bearing and plumbing at the same time. If the city found out, documented or not, they might let you re-do the whole thing if they feel like it. Good luck.

@Manolo D. is right that you are taking a big gamble.  You have to determine if not getting a permit now is worth what it might cost you in the future, especially if city finds out you are moving a wall and the plumbing without a permit.

Assuming your friend will disclose the improvements at the time of sale: As a buyer, I would be fine with a civil engineer's sign off on the wall vs. from a city inspector (probably more so).  However, I wouldn't want to take a chance on unpermitted plumbing and would adjust my offer accordingly.