3 Reasons You Need a Permit

It all started with a shelf.

You just bought your home and, though it needed a little surface work, you were pretty proud of it. It was yours, to do with as you wanted. So the first thing you did was run out and bought some lumber to construct a custom, built-in shelf system in your living room.

Oh, man, that was a breeze, you thought to yourself as you sat watching television and admiring the shelving. That was when you realized how much your house would benefit from knocking the wall out between the kitchen and the living room. After all, if Vanilla Ice can do it, surely you can.

If you had to look back and pick the moment when everything went south for you, that would be it. Thanks, Vanilla Ice. Thank you.

Instead of getting a permit for this major structural modification to your home, you just started smashing. After all, they don’t get permits for this stuff on television, so why bother with it?

Now you know why. Oh, now you know.

Many DIY Jobs Require a Permit

Whether you’re a trained carpenter or a DIYer that binges HGTV, there are certain kinds of home remodeling that will always require a permit. This ensures that someone is looking over your shoulder to make sure that you’re doing the work correctly.

Advanced jobs in plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other specialty fields always require a permit to ensure that the home is and will remain safe for the occupants. Other jobs, like those that involve making structural changes, may or may not need a permit. That’s usually at the discretion of the permitting body.

You’ll want to speak to your municipal planning and zoning department to determine whether or not your job needs to be permitted. Typically, getting a permit requires that you describe the work you plan to do and pay a small fee that covers, in part, the cost of having expert inspectors ensure that your worksite is safe and your repairs are done correctly.

This is Why You Need a Permit

It can be a pain to go down to P&Z (or planning and development in some areas), but it’s really worth the effort in the long run. Despite the amount of documentation these can require, depending on the complexity of your project, you’ll find that going through the process properly will force you to really think about each step in your process.

Of course, that’s just one reason to get a permit, there are plenty more, like:

1. Avoiding serious legal ramifications. In any municipality that requires permits, there’s some kind of severe punishment for not getting one.

For example, in Dallas, Texas, the ordinance reads like this: “Punishment. Any person who knowingly violates a provision of this chapter or the codes is guilty of a separate offense for each day or portion of a day during which the violation is committed, continued, or permitted, and each offense is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000. (Ord. 26029; 26286).”

Or, if you’re in St. Paul, Minnesota, you can be charged with a misdemeanor — along with a stiff fine — for any work exceeding $500 that hasn’t been permitted first. Do you really want a criminal record because you wanted to install a bay window where two tiny windows used to be?

2. Being confident the work you’ve done is done right. Unless you have an expertise in construction, you probably have a lot of gaps in your knowledge base, including how to tell if a wall is a load-bearing (aka. structural) wall. This sort of mistake is more common than you might imagine and can be devastating to a home.

For example, when you pulled that wall down in the opening scenario, you didn’t know it was a structural wall. Now, months later, you’ve been noticing an increasingly deep sag where the wall used to be and the floor tiles are cracking here and there. The reason? Your house is under a lot more stress now because you took out a wall it needed and didn’t replace it with something to help carry the weight.

Had you sought a building permit, a housing inspector would have come by to check your work and advised you to put a 10-inch header up to make the project work without compromising the house’s structure. Inspectors aren’t always there to bust your chops, they can actually help.

In addition, when you go to sell your home, you will now have to disclose that you did this work without a permit and that it has caused some pretty serious problems. It’s a complete no-win and it’s going to be costly to have an expert come in and fix what your demo saw or sledge destroyed for peanuts..

3. Ensuring that all work is safe and up to code. If home pros shared some of the most terrifying things they’ve ever seen in homes, you would understand in an instant why permits keep you and your neighbors safe. These are the times when you can’t do much besides shake your head and laugh, because human ingenuity plus human sloth makes some really crazy work arounds.

Had these creative types of work been inspected, of course they wouldn’t have passed. Today’s building inspector and the permit office attached can prevent tomorrow’s house fire, ceiling collapse, or rapid structural degradation.

Not Sure If You Need a Permit…?

If you don’t know if you need a permit, call the authorities that issue building permits for your area. This is typically Planning and Zoning or Planning and Development within your city or county’s offices. They can explain what’s permitted and what isn’t, or at very least, send you some literature.

When the permit process seems impossible, the actual work you have planned may be more than you really are ready to handle. This is a great time to reach out to your HomeKeepr community for help. Recommended pros like general contractors, electricians and HVAC experts are ready to take up the torch, including getting that permit you need.

You don’t need more stress in your life. Relax while trusted pros make your house into a home.

Find Out More About Permits In Brevard: Brevard County Permit Department

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Look at Your Home Through a Buyer’s Eyes: Making Your To-Do List

Selling your home is one of the most tricky parts of owning a home, really. There are always little projects that you meant to get to and didn’t, and things that probably weren’t perfect, but didn’t bother you enough to fix. You can’t possibly do everything to make your house like new before putting it on the market, but there’s a minimum level that most buyers will expect.

How many of those things left on your “to do” list absolutely need to become “to dones?”

Getting Ready to Sell that Home Sweet Home

Before you get too serious about selling, it’s a good idea to have your Realtor over for a quick walkthrough. They can give you a punch list of items they think should be updated, fixed or addressed in some other way before you sell your home. You never know when the right buyer will walk through the door, your house needs to be ready to go from the moment you put it on the market. Putting your best foot forward is key to sales success.

That doesn’t mean you need to completely gut and remodel your home, but you should make sure everything is in proper working order and ready for a new occupant. That can be a lot to wrap your head around, though. If you get overwhelmed, start with the list below.

Entry / Living Room

For most homes, the living room and foyer are a combo unit, but if yours are separate understand that this same advice applies to both. The moment that door opens, and even before it does, your potential buyers are forming an opinion of your home. What the open door reveals had better pack a punch (or at least not terrify them).

Make sure that the windows are very clean to let in as much light as possible, that all your light bulbs are in good working order, the flooring is clean and in good shape, any tile grout is intact and the walls are flawless. A neutral color is always a good idea, but white is kind of a turn-off for a lot of buyers. Blues, light grays, beige and creams are all good choices for paint colors.

Dining Room

Your dining room should follow the same advice as your living room, with one exception. Since there’s probably some amount of eating that happens in this part of the house, you’ll want to check the flooring to ensure there’s no staining or spots under the table.

This is a particular problem if there’s carpet. Do not attempt to cover spots with a rug, this could be considered a “hidden, latent defect.” Basically, it means that you’re hiding damage from a potential buyer. That’s a big fat no go.

Instead, call a professional carpet cleaner (you can meet one in the HomeKeepr community!) or just own it and try not to panic if the buyer asks for the carpet to be replaced or cleaned before closing.

Kitchen

The list of things in your kitchen can be long, but we’ll try to make it reasonable. Check all the items on this list, one at a time:

Appliances that stay with the home
• Are they fully functional?
• Do they have an attractive appearance?
• Do they match one another?
• Are they clean?

Kitchen sink area:
• Is the sink free of damage?
• Does it drain well?
• Does the disposal work?
• Does the sprayer work?
• Is the faucet leaking?

Counters, backsplash and cabinets:
• Do the counters have worn or burned spots?
• Are there grouted areas that are needing regrouted?
• Do the cabinet doors open and close properly?
• Is there water damage anywhere?
• Is everything clean and not tacky to touch?
• Do the cabinets have worn finish?

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are by far the hardest, especially if you have kids. If you’re going to have to live in the house until you find a buyer, invest in some storage systems — they’ll pay off in the long run. Organize everything as best you can to give the rooms the appearance of more space, clean the windows, install the lightbulbs, clean the carpets and instruct everyone to keep it tidy. If anything can be moved out to a storage unit, do it.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms are much like kitchens, they have a lot of wet, moving parts. That being said, they also have basically the same punch list. The only addition would be the shower or tub units. Check the faucets and showerheads for leakage and make sure there’s no mold on your tub or shower surrounds. Clean that stuff within an inch of its life and if you can’t get rid of the stains, recaulk. It’s an easy way to make that tub or shower look like you’ve never even used it.

Garage

There’s not a lot to do in the garage, but do make sure your door opener is functioning properly, that the wheels on the door are lubricated if it’s making a terrible sound when you open it or close it and that you’ve tidied the things inside as best as you can. If you don’t really use your garage, you can dress it up a lot by applying an epoxy coating to the floor. The DIY kits run around $100 and, although they don’t add any value to your home, they’re far more impressive than an old, stained concrete floor.

General Indoors

Overall, it’ll help a lot if you run around your house and make sure that all your lightbulbs are fresh, all the windows are cleaned, you remember to leave the blinds open during the day and that the paint makes each room feel bigger. The key is to bring in more light and then use lighter colors to keep it bouncing around the room. A new coat of white ceiling paint won’t hurt your efforts, either.

Paint is great for a lot of reasons. It can seal in smells you might have never noticed, as well as giving the house the scent of fresh construction. That smell paints a picture for a buyer that says this house has been taken care of and they can trust that it’s in great shape!

General Outdoors

When it comes to the great outdoors, keep your lawn mowed, trim your hedges, clean up any projects that you started and never finished. Landscapers, trash haulers and metal scrappers can help a lot with these tasks. You’ll also want to check out your roof and gutters to make sure they’re in good shape because your potential buyers will be doing the same thing.

The first thing a buyer sees is the view from the street, make sure you run out there during the outdoor prep work to check your look. When you start to wonder if you should actually sell this amazing house at all, you’ve probably got the curb appeal knocked out.

When You Can’t Get It All Done

You don’t have an unlimited timeline, that’s completely understandable, but your home should be ready to sell if you want to get top dollar. If you can’t do the work, just call on someone who can. Your HomeKeepr community is full of professionals who can do specific tasks like cleaning your carpets or help with more general things on your list, like ensuring the whole kitchen is in ready-to-show condition.

Log on, search for the home pro you need right now and let them take it from there. You know they’re going to do great work because your Realtor recommended them!

What Upgrades Give the Best Return?

 

You’ve lived in your home a little while and you think you sort of understand how it should flow. You’re starting to see the warts and little bits of rough that people tend to gloss over when the neighbors pop by to borrow the lawnmower. It’s not that these things make your home flawed — all homes are flawed, they’re made from flawed materials, after all — it’s just that your home could be better and like a skilled craftsman, you’re starting to see places where you could bring out greater potential.

But, which projects make the most sense to do first? Will any of them actually pay for themselves in gained home equity, or are these changes things you’ll have to consider sunk costs in your home and investments strictly in your own enjoyment? And furthermore, are there even changes you can make yourself that will be worth the bother? (Check out our downloadable guide for help in determining which projects are best left to the pros!)

Say Hello to Renovation Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report

For the past 31 years, Renovation Magazine has been trying to answer these and other questions by performing a national survey about home renovations and the resell values that tended to accompany them. It comes out early in the new year, giving everyone in the industry something to look forward to after the holiday season. The 2018 report was no less exciting than any other year has been, though there were few surprises.

For example, the top returns in 2016 and 2017 came from midrange fiberglass attic insulation, at 116.9 percent and 107.7 percent, respectively. This year, the number one spot went to another small project: upscale garage door replacements, recouping 98.3 percent of the job cost. In fact, this year’s Top 10 is almost entirely made up of smaller, more simple projects, just like the last two years have been, many of them the same projects, just in different slots.

What does this mean? Well, it means two things, especially if you dig deeper into the data. As a national average, the same projects have been worth making the investment in for the last few years and secondly, there are very few things you can do to your home and get the full cost back out.

Your home is like a piggy bank, but it has some sort of containment issue. You put in a dollar, it only manages to hold on to 90 cents. But, you can think of that loss as the price you pay for getting to use all that cool new stuff while you’re there. Maybe that’ll soften the blow a bit.

Ok, So What Bigger Projects Will Help My Home’s Value?

Again, according to the data provided by Remodeling Magazine’s well-respected survey, bigger projects that should get you some attention (and recoup decently on their own costs) this year include:

#4. Adding on a wooden deck. (82.8 percent)
#5. A minor midrange kitchen remodel. (81.1 percent)
#7. Replacing your windows with vinyl thermopanes. (74.3 percent)
#8. Upgrading your bathroom to a universal design. (70.6 percent)
#9. Just upgrading your bathroom, period. (70.1 percent)

You may notice a trend here. Kitchens and bathrooms are a big deal. They’re always a big deal. In fact, for most houses, it’s the kitchen and the bathroom that really sell the house. You can have the best curb appeal possible, but if your bathroom is difficult to use or your kitchen has no cabinets or non-functional work spaces, you put your money in the wrong places.

Curb appeal does matter, otherwise, that garage door and the stone veneer wouldn’t appear in the chart above so many times. People want to buy a nice looking home, which is what your home values are really based on. An appraisal is nothing more than a complicated calculation that determines what an average buyer would give for your house in its current condition in the current market, after all.

When you’re thinking about putting money into your home to increase the equity you hold or to improve its value for a sale down the line, just ask yourself if the thing you’re about to do is something that a random person off the street could appreciate. For example, do not paint your ceiling blood red. No matter what HDTV says. Do paint an accent wall red if you really need to paint something.

How Do I Get Started on Bigger Projects?

If you’ve never been part of a larger remodeling project, you will most definitely need the guidance of a pro, at minimum. There’s a lot of planning and a whole box of tools (both literal and metaphorical) that it takes to put together an effort like that. After all, you want your project to look like it does in your mind’s eye, don’t you?

Don’t worry, the home pros of the HomeKeepr community are there to help. They have the skills and experience to explain the remodeling process to you and even take the wheel if you feel like it’s a bigger task than you can handle. They come recommended, so you know you can trust them with your home and your vision.