To permit or not to permit construction?

12 Replies

Hello BP fam! I own a SFH in Los Angeles and am thinking of making some upgrades- 1) opening up a retaining wall that leads into the backyard and install a sliding glass door 2) adding a 10x12 wood floating deck My questions are: 1) How would I calculate the increase in value for these upgrades? 2) Does doing this type of upgrade without a permit dissuade future buyers?

As an appraiser, I can assure you, increases in actual value MUST be supportable. Usually, you'd run a comps search without the feature and one with the feature and the difference in median value is the contributory value of the feature. Get it?

The deck would likely add value. The door... not at all.

Generally speaking, a deck is added for enjoyment and not value as the cost to build (especially if opening up a wall) outweighs the added value. Of course, in Cali, that deck could double the value. ;-)

As for permitting... YES.

Anything you do on the exterior of the home you should ALWAYS permit. Prevents any issues coming up later when you want to sell the property or when the county sends drones through your neighborhood looking for unpermitted pools/decks/carports, etc to try to raise revenue to cover unfunded liabilities in government spending. ;-)

@Jessica Chow Unpermitted work is common in CA, if they don’t like to pay for it, on to the next buyer. 80% of the buyers in CA will not care about permits, to other states its the other way around probably. I’m confused of why you would bust out a retaining wall and/or put a door. Does that mean you want remove and push back the retaining wall so you can have your deck? That’s a weird and expensive move. It’s a retaining wall for a reason, flooding, landslides, a structure push back, whatever, if you’re removing it, you need someone to do it correctly esp if you’re going to do it without permits. Permits is your protection against shady contractors, the city inspectors will be your first line of defense to sub par quality. While i’m saying you don’t need permits for the deck, i can say you need them for ret walls. I suggest you pull both but not necessary.

@Manolo D. Right now the retaining wall has 1 window and a non-glass door that looks out into the backyard. We are trying to open up the space to the deck by adding the sliding doors. 

@Jason D. and @Seth Nadreau - really really appreciate your insights! I think we will move forward with permitted work since reselling is such a big part of our long term strategy here in CA. 

I agree with Seth. Appraisers often don't assign any value to unpermitted construction and it can create a mess of problems with municipalities. 

I had a client who purchased land to build a house on. He told me he was going to do some clearing and place a temporary trailer on the property. I told him not to do anything until he received the permits, but unfortunately, he didn't listen to me, claiming he was out in a rural area and the county would never know.. When he went to get his building permits, they brought out an aerial photo and asked what the clearing and structure on the property was, and why permits had not been obtained? He had to pay fines and his house project got drug out months behind schedule. 

Here in Maricopa County, they do an aerial survey of the county every year. All the county has to do is compare the current photograph from a previous one to see the illegal structure. Here is a sample of what they can see:

2015

2017

2018

@Jessica Chow I was kind of curious anout that retaining wall comment having a door and window hehe. It is a load bearing wall not retaining wall. A decent contractor will be able to determine how tall the header and stud jacks he need for simply opening that up a little more, nothing that concerning.

Deck might add some value and would advise to get a permit if you are increasing opening size and I would definitely get a permit if the deck is raised to the level of the current step  landing. However it doesn't look like you have the space for a slider unless you get rid of the window. An alternate and cheaper plan for the door would be to change it to glass or add a glass side panel too. Or maybe my perception is off on the space.  Anyway to your  question deck=permit in most places.  

Originally posted by @Jessica Chow :
Hello BP fam! I own a SFH in Los Angeles and am thinking of making some upgrades-

1) opening up a retaining wall that leads into the backyard and install a sliding glass door 2) adding a 10x12 wood floating deck

My questions are:

1) How would I calculate the increase in value for these upgrades? 2) Does doing this type of upgrade without a permit dissuade future buyers?

old thread but let me give you my 2 cent if you're still around or for the lucky others who may read this post

Let me tell you this loud and clear, If you can, RUN away from the building and safety dpt. Do not do any business with them. The work you mentioned is absolutely negligible and you will open a real pandora's box bringing inspectors into your home and start an endless stream of trouble. Just make sure the work is made up to code

My experience over the year is that the city of LA has the most corrupt, inefficient, overpriced, and bureaucratic building and safety dpt i've ever delt with in my life. Even in Sri lanka, it takes about 1/20 th of the time to get a new construction permit and France only 3 months free and clear. 

Even the LADWP is a pain to deal with and anything electric can linger for months if not years in this city

For that reason, i would recommend to absolutely avoid any interaction with the city unless you do really heavy work that would have significant impact on the appraisal like maybe adding bedrooms and bathrooms or adding lots of square feet

The current system doesn't reward doing the things by the book; you actually will be way ahead doing things on your own and just comply if you get an order to comply one day (very unlikely anyway). Even caught red handed you would be way ahead and wouldn't have to go through all their non sense permitting process and very likely wouldn't be fined if you retroactively comply with their inquiries.

Hi Jessica, I co-own a landscape design company in Central Ohio and I get this question a lot. "How much will this landscaping / patio / deck increase the value of my home. The truth is, not much. I always say redo your outdoor living space for your own enjoyment. If you are looking to sell your home, don't bother wasting your money, stay inside. As for the permits, they will be fairly easy to get and its worth the extra 20 mins and $200 fee rather then getting a stop work order.

For example, here is a picture of a project nearly 100k for the patio and overhead structure. Increased value? Home appraisal, maybe 1-5k but the enjoyment the family gets out of it? priceless!

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